Trainer Stuart Edmunds is confident Gentleman At Arms can enhance his prospects of an outing in the Doom Bar Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree by taking a step up in trip in his stride in the Grade Two Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock Park next month.
The Newport Pagnell handler has earmarked the extended three mile Grade One prize on the second day of the Randox Grand National Festival on Friday 8th April as the “long term” plan for the gelded son of Reliable Man.
Ahead of a potential trip to Aintree the former Harry Dunlop-trained five year old will bid to go one better than on his Grade Two debut in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick on Saturday when upped to an extended three miles at Haydock on Saturday 19th February, Grand National Trial Day.
Edmunds said: “I was a bit worried entering him in a Grade Two that he would be out of his depth but he wasn’t. To be honest, he improved stepping up in trip and I think he will improve stepping up in trip again as he was a proper two miler on the Flat.
“In my mind I have the Sefton at Aintree as the long-term plan. We will go to Haydock in the middle of next month for the Grade Two novice there, unless it is bottomless, then miss the Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham and go straight to Aintree.
“He stayed on very well at Warwick and the winner (Stag Horn) is a decent Flat horse that was rated a lot higher than our horse on the Flat.
“I think he will go on good ground as he is not slow but he handles soft ground. I don’t think he needs soft ground as he works like a nice horse.”
It can sometimes take a horse time to adjust from racing on the Flat to tackling jumps, but Edmunds insists that Gentleman At Arms has been a natural over obstacles from day one.
He added: “He is a very straightforward horse that is a pleasure to have about the place. The first morning he jumped the hurdles at our place he took to them immediately.
“He has always looked where he has put his feet and has not stepped on top of the hurdles which they can sometimes do. He has been straightforward since the day he has arrived.
“As a juvenile he would have been a lot of money but we got him cheaper as he was a four year old. He was a good purchase by J D Moore and the owners (D & B Partnership) are new to the yard but are nice people to train for.”
Meanwhile Edmunds is considering giving stablemate Maskada an outing in the Listed Pertemps Lady Protectress Mares’ Steeple Chase at Huntingdon on Friday 28th January.
The six year old daughter of Masked Marvel opened her account over fences at the fourth time of asking with a game success in a two mile Listed event at Leicester on January 12th.
Edmunds added: “Maskada will have an entry in the mares’ Listed race at Huntingdon at the end of the month.
“She just goes her own gallop but she jumped so much better at Leicester the other day than she did at Exeter which made a big difference. There is definitely more to come with her.”
Although this will be only the second time Maskada has tackled the extended 2m 3f trip, Edmunds believes she will have no problems seeing it out.
The trainer continued: “The way she galloped all the way through to the line at Leicester over a stiff two miles I don’t think this trip will be a problem.
“They missed the last fence the other day which made it even more of a stamina test.
“She has only run over the trip once and I was disappointed but it was behind Molly Ollys Wishes so the form wasn’t bad and I don’t think my horses were 100 per cent at the time as well. I think this trip around Huntingdon will be fine for her.”
A return to Exeter on Friday 25th February for a tilt at the Virgin Bet Devon National Handicap Chase is on the cards for Classic Ben, who suffered a late fall when still holding every chance in a 3m handicap chase at the track earlier this month.
Edmunds added: “You would have had a job to say he wouldn’t have won the other day until he fell three out as he was travelling so well.
“He did sustain a cut as a result of the fall but he is fine and the plan is to go back for the Devon National as we know he handles the track.”