Saphir Du Rheu on the road to recovery at Ascot

Paul Nicholls celebrates winning

Paul Nicholls has a good record of reviving chasers who have struggled

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)  

GRADE 1 winner Saphir Du Rheu starts the season rated 11lb lower than last, which says plenty about his struggles to find a place in open company, but he returns in Saturday’s Grade 3 Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot in a bid to set the record straight.

The former top hurdler made a bright start last autumn with a win at Carlisle on the corresponding weekend, but was only fifth as favourite for the Hennessy next time and did not make the winner’s enclosure in four further starts.

“After last year I was pulling my hair out and really didn’t know where to start him,” said Nicholls, “so I entered him everywhere to cover my options.”

Saphir Du Rheu could have run in races at Wetherby too, but Nicholls explained: “He obviously had no chance in the Charlie Hall with the weights. We think this is a good starting point and the right race to run him in.”

Nicholls has a track record of bringing back chasers who have struggled and added: “We’ve worked him hard and he looks great and a lot of the horses are running better than last year. Nick [Scholfield] is adamant he likes good ground, so we’ll see.”

The market on Friday evening had Tea For Two, winner of the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase last season, as Saphir Du Rheu’s main rival.

His regular rider Lizzie Kelly said: “I think he’s got a favourite’s chance in what looks a good race, but you have to be a bit frightened of Saphir Du Rheu and Voix D’Eau. We’ve done a lot work with him since last year and he feels ready to run.”

Read more on the Sodexo Gold Cup and other big races in Saturday’s Racing Post – get the edition on iPad from 8pm Friday

 

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