Delta Work and Santini set for RSA showdown

Delta Work and Davy Russell winning the Drinmore Novice

Gordon Elliott has no regrets about giving Delta Work a break before his date in the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on Wednesday.

The six-year-old is unbeaten in three starts over fences and brings two Grade One victories to the table, the most recent of those being the Neville Hotels Novices Chase at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival.

He is in fact following a path trodden by a certain Presenting Percy, who like the Gigginstown House Stud-owned gelding won the Pertemps Final at the Festival before going back for the RSA.

Delta Work (left) on his way to victory at Leopardstown's Christmas meeting
Delta Work (left) on his way to victory at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting (Niall Carson/PA)

The County Meath trainer said: “Delta Work is very well. I did not run him at the Dublin Racing Festival (at Leopardstown in February) as I just feared the ground was a bit too quick for him.

“He has plenty of experience over fences with three runs under his belt and two Grade One wins to his name. I thought I had everything to lose and nothing to gain by running him.”

Santini has not had an ideal preparation, having suffered a brusied foot
Santini has not had an ideal preparation, having suffered a brusied foot (Julian Herbert/PA)

Santini has long been seen as an ideal type for the race.

Third in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle 12 months ago and successful in Grade One company at Aintree following that, he made a winning chasing bow but had to settle for third to classy mare La Bague Au Roi at Kempton over Christmas.

That did not shake Nicky Henderson’s confidence unduly – but a setback with a bruised foot last week has rocked the boat.

Henderson said in his Unibet blog on Tuesday evening: “Everyone knows what a frustrating 8/9 days it’s been with this horse and we’ve had shoes on, shoes off, poultices on and poultices off which is absolutely not ideal going into a race like this.

“But he’s perfectly sound now and seems to be over his troubles so we are going to Cheltenham.”

He added: “He jumped and worked beautifully at Newbury two Sunday’s ago which is ironic as that is where all our problems started and ideally I would have liked to run him in the Reynoldstown, but due to the equine flu we were forced to miss that engagement. I’m now completely happy with him and am looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

Nicky Henderson is hoping On The Blind Side can progress over fences
Nicky Henderson is hoping On The Blind Side can progress over fences (Julian Herbert/PA)

Henderson also runs On The Blind Side, a smart hurdler who has won one of his two starts over fences but has frustrated his trainer a touch.

He said: “He was diabolical at Cheltenham the time before. They had finished the race before he had even got over the third.

“We were practising at Newbury the other day and the same thing happened, in that Santini left him behind after three fences of the first five they jumped.

“We went back round and did it again and he warmed up and was good. We are going to put cheekpieces on him and I think he has always needed them.

“He looked like being one of the top novice hurdlers last year. A fortnight ago I thought this was crazy, but the cheekpieces will help him a lot.

“He is a bit like a car that you need to pull the choke out and if it ain’t out over the first four fences he will be out of the race. We are hoping the cheekpieces will keep him in it over the first four and that he can then get into a rhythm.”

Topofthegame (right) found only La Bague Au Roi too good at Kempton on Boxing Day
Topofthegame (right) found only La Bague Au Roi too good at Kempton on Boxing Day (Julian Herbert/PA)

Paul Nicholls rightly harbours high hopes in the future for Topofthegame, who ran an extraordinary race to be second at Exeter after losing lots of ground at the start and was one place in front of Santini at Kempton.

The Ditcheat trainer said: “He won his point-to-point and he was a good novice hurdler. He won a £100,000 handicap over hurdles and then got beat a neck in the Coral Cup.

“He looked the winner turning in at Kempton last time. Harry (Cobden) sent him on and the minute he hit the front, as he has done in the past, he was a little bit green and he finished second.

“We’ve purposely not run him since, as he goes well fresh, and hopefully we can go to Aintree afterwards.

“He is a high-class chaser in the making.”

The Worlds End represents Tom George