four weeks have passed since Guiseley-born Dominic Elsworth landed a notable success on Somersby in Exeter’s Haldon Gold Cup.
In two days’ time the duo will bid for an even bigger prize in Sandown’s Tingle Creek Chase (3pm).
The mighty Sprinter Sacre might present a rather large problem if running but Somersby’s former trainer Henrietta Knight is in upbeat mood ahead of this Saturday’s assignment.
Somersby has always been extremely well regarded and while in the care of Knight it was clear the horse was the apple of her eye.
And Knight feels that Somersby is simply getting better as he gets older ahead of this weekend’s Grade One assignment. The nine-year-old illustrated the point at Exeter last month when he won the Grade Two Haldon Gold Cup by a head from Module on his seasonal bow. The form has been franked in no uncertain terms with the third-placed horse – Cue Card – going on to land the Betfair Chase beating the likes of Bobs Worth, Silvinaico Conti and Dynaste.
There’s more to that form than meets the eye with Cue Card giving Somersby a whopping 17lbs in weight that day but Knight still expects a decent run from her former favourite this weekend.
Somersby is now trained by Mick Channon following the retirement of Knight who has reminded us that Edredon Bleu had to wait until he was 12 years old until winning the King George. A relative youngster comparably speaking, Somersby is only nine.
“I think steeplechasers get better as they get older,” said Knight.
“Take Edredon Bleu – he was 12 when he won the King George. I think there is plenty more ahead of Somersby. We just decided to miss Ascot to give him more time between his races. That is what he needs. He will have an extra two weeks since Exeter. He is not an easy horse to train because he is quite delicate and a bit neurotic. He does not take too many races but Mick says he is in very good form again so hopefully he will put up another good performance.”
As you would expect for a Grade One race, Saturday’s Tingle Creek is not just the Somersby and Sprinter Sacre show.
Realistically, if Sprinter Sacre turns up and runs anywhere near his best then the others are playing for places. After all, we are talking about a machine that has won 10 races in a row and seven consecutive Grade Ones.
But Sprinter Sacre’s trainer Nicky Henderson said earlier this week that his two-mile chasing star was “not a certain participant” in Saturday’s Sandown feature after he returned “unsatisfactory figures” from a tracheal wash.
That clouds the issue and for all of Henderson’s achievements last weekend, he has experienced a few long odds on reversals lately including 1-6 shot West Wizard.
Sprinter Sacre, if he runs, will also be long odds on but there are some smart horses entered against him including Sire De Grugy, Captain Conan and Hinterland.
And Elsworth’s mount Somersby – who might only now be fulfilling his potential at nine-years-old.