Tom Scudamore will feel privileged when he wears the colours of the late Trevor Hemmings as Cloth Cap makes an emotional return to action in the 888Sport What’s Your Thinking Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday.
It will be the first time the iconic silks have been seen on a racecourse since the triple Grand National-winning owner died earlier this month at the age of 86.
Cloth Cap was strongly-fancied to give Hemmings a fourth win in the Aintree spectacular in April, after winning the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury and the Premier Chase at Kelso, but was pulled up by Scudamore before the third-last fence after running well for a long way. He was found to have a respiratory problem and underwent wind surgery a few days later.
“It will be lovely to put those colours back on again. Let’s hope it’s very fitting to Trevor, and we can go and do him proud,” said Scudamore.
“I’ve not sat on him so far this year. I’ve been into Jonjo’s (O’Neill, trainer) but I didn’t get to sit on him — but that doesn’t bother me at all. Jonjo’s very happy with him.
“Let’s hope we can get back on track tomorrow. There will be lots of different emotions, mainly for the Hemmings family, and we just want to do Trevor proud.
“It was a tremendous thrill (to win at Newbury). He jumped from fence to fence. He gave me two great days and gave me such a great ride in the National for a long way as well — and he was fabulous at Kelso.
“There’s plenty more in front of him. He’s in his prime. The way he went through last season showed us he’s got plenty more to offer.
“He had a great year last year, and let’s hope he can do more of the same this time.”
Among Cloth Cap’s opposition, John McConnell reports Go Another One to be in fine shape after a successful summer campaign.
“It’s competitive. He ran very well in the Kim Muir in the spring. That’s pretty good form to bring into the race. He’s obviously in form after his win in Perth,” said the Co Meath trainer.
“We haven’t got much up our sleeve handicap mark wise, but he should run another good race. He’s in great nick.”
Oliver Sherwood feels Jersey Bean will come on for the run. although he expects the eight-year-old to do himself justice on his first start for 192 days.
“He did us proud last year. He does love the better ground. He’s won at Cheltenham. This is a big step up — he’s on a career high (over fences) at the moment,” said the Upper Lambourn handler.
“Whether he’s up to this, I couldn’t tell you. He stays well — his jumping has got good.
“He’s not wound up. He will definitely improve for his first run. He’s entitled to be there — and where else do you go when you’re rated 137? It’s nice to get him back on the track. He’s been a good servant.”
Paul Nicholls has warned he may not run Truckers Lodge if he considers the ground is not soft enough.
“He is a regular at Chepstow, where he excels in the mud, and he was due to run there a fortnight ago until I withdrew him with the ground drying out,” Nicholls told Betfair.
“Although he has been dropped a couple of pounds recently, I fear he is still too high in the handicap to be competitive. But he is ready to run, and his long-term aim is another crack at the Coral Welsh National — which he so nearly won in 2019.
“I hope they have had enough rain at Cheltenham for Truckers Lodge and will check out the going when I get there. If there are any doubts I will pull him out again.”
Alan King is delighted to get Tritonic back for his second season over jumps, in the Masterson Holdings Hurdle.
The four-year-old was a leading juvenile last term, winning the Grade Two Adonis Hurdle. He was only fifth in the Triumph at Cheltenham, but had a legitimate excuse.
“He was under the weather after that race (Triumph Hurdle) and scoped badly,” the Barbury Castle trainer told www.alankingracing.co.uk.
“It took him a long time to get over that, and he hadn’t recovered in time for Aintree, so we drew a line through that jumps season.
“We’ve been happy with Tritonic this autumn, and the ground could well be good at Cheltenham, which will suit him because he has plenty of pace.”
Dan Skelton has aimed Stepney Causeway at this race for some time, after he chalked up a four-timer in the spring.
“I’m looking forward to it — he’s in great form,” said the trainer.
“He goes well left-handed. He’s facing a hot one in Tritonic, but this is where we were always going to go.
Skelton expects Hatcher to put a disappointing run behind him when he lines up for the 888Sport Handicap Chase.
The eight-year-old was a tailed-off last of six when bidding for a four-timer at Cartmel in August, but Skelton put that down to Hatcher not taking the long journey up to Cumbria well.
“He’s hiding nothing from the handicapper off 150, but he loves decent ground,” said the Alcester handler.
“He was below his best the other day — he didn’t perform at all.
“He’s better not travelling too far from home, and this is only down the road. For him, that’s a good thing.”
Among the opposition is the O’Neill-trained top weight Sky Pirate, who has not run since lifting the Grand Annual Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.