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Waley-Cohen outlines options for Noble Yeats

Noble Yeats (right) and Sean Bowen beating Dashel Drasher on SaturdayNoble Yeats (right) and Sean Bowen beating Dashel Drasher on Saturday
© Photo Healy Racing

Owner Robert Waley-Cohen says he is “a bit astonished” that Noble Yeats has developed into a Cheltenham Gold Cup contender after all but ruling him out of a crack at the King George VI Chase at Kempton on St Stephen's Day.

The seven-year-old, winner of last season’s Grand National, made a successful return to Aintree as he stayed on stoutly to take the Many Clouds Chase on Saturday.

Sean Bowen’s mount went clear of Dashel Drasher approaching the final fence, going on to record a three-and-a-quarter-length success in the three-mile-one-furlong Grade Two contest, as he successfully followed up a Listed win at Wexford.

“It was absolutely fantastic,” said Waley-Cohen of the gelding’s fourth career chase victory.

“Coming over the second-last, I thought he was going to be OK, but a not-very-exciting third.

“When you pull him out, he does take off like that.”

Noble Yeats is developing into one of the most versatile chasers in training, having won over an extended two and a quarter miles up to an extended four and a quarter miles, and all ground appears alike to him.

“He has now won on heavy ground, on good to soft and you have got to remember it is only just over 12 months since he won his first steeplechase,” added the owner.

“He has had massive improvement over the summer, I think. He gained a lot in self-belief when winning races. It gives him confidence.”

Waley-Cohen says trainer Emmet Mullins will now target the Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 17, for which he is a general 10-1 chance.

“I don’t think we will go to the King George. I think we’ll skip that and have one run on our way to the Gold Cup,” said Waley-Cohen.

“I don’t think three miles on a dead-flat track is quite his scene. Aintree is flat, but Saturday’s victory was over three miles and one furlong and it was good to soft.

“Kempton is a faster-drying track and anyhow, the King George is not very far away. There is a lot of travelling and not a lot of time between races.”

Noble Yeats could next head to the Grade Two Fleur de Lys Chase at Lingfield on January 22 en route to the Gold Cup.

Waley-Cohen said: “No one makes very firm plans at this stage, but it will either be that new race at Lingfield over two miles and six furlongs, which will probably be the equivalent of three miles and one on another course. I suspect the ground will be soft, but he handles soft — it was heavy when he won the Listed race at Wexford.

“Or, I suppose, we will go for the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham (January 28). At the moment, I am leaning towards the Lingfield race.”

The gelding who famously gave the owner’s son, amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen, the dream send-off by winning the Grand National on his last ride before retiring, is now poised to run in chasing’s blue riband event before a potential return to Aintree.

“He is entitled to take his chance in the Gold Cup,” added Waley-Cohen. “You need a ton of stamina for the Gold Cup and we know he’s got that, and he appears to have the pace to go with them as well.

“I have to say, I’m a bit astonished to find that he has turned into a Gold Cup horse. That wasn’t what I anticipated when I bought him.

“He has improved over the summer — he had a good, long summer at home with us — and to be fair, the trainer is brilliant!

“The horse is seven and he is entitled to improve. We will take one thing at a time, but the immediate target is the Gold Cup and I feel rather like Michael O’Leary, saying ‘it rather depends on what weight he gets for the National’.

“I rather suspect he might be going to run (at Aintree) whatever happens. If he is in good order, he’ll take his chance.”