10th - 13th March

Mister Whitaker camp to target handicap pots

Assistant trainer Channon enthuses over career-best performance.

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Connections of Mister Whitaker are confident he can pick up another big prize next season, following his encouraging effort in defeat at the Cheltenham Festival.

Having pulled up in the Cotswold Chase over an extended three miles, the Mick Channon-trained eight-year-old returned to something close to his best – dropped in trip and finishing a three-length third in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase.

With that effort confirming his previous ability remains intact, a return to the top spot in the winner’s enclosure is expected of Mister Whitaker next season.

Assistant trainer Jack Channon said: “He will be competing in all those big handicaps again next season, because we know now he is not quite good enough for the championship races.

“He will be very competitive in handicaps if everything falls right on the day. He might be frustrating for a couple of starts, but he will pick up another competitive race.

“I think we will see him back in the winner’s enclosure sooner rather than later.”

Although Mister Whitaker has a Festival win next to his name, in the 2018 edition of what was formerly the Close Brothers Novices’ Chase, along with a Grade Two victory at the track, Channon junior feels his latest effort was a career best.

He added: “It was a ridiculous run – and it was probably his best ever run if you look at it on the ratings.

“I know he has won at the Festival before, but that was off a 16lb lower mark than what he is rated now. It was great to see him back to his best.

“I thought he might get up the hill. But the weight just told, and the ground had not quite dried out enough for him, and that was enough to hold off his finishing kick.”

Mister Whitaker’s best form to date is over trips around two and a half miles, but Channon junior is convinced that on the right ground he will stay further.

He said: “I keep saying he will get three miles. When we have tried it before, we have either gone too far up in grade or the ground has not been quite right.

“If it is good spring ground I’d like to think he will get it. I’d imagine he would start back off over two and a half – but if the right race popped over three, we could look at it.”

Stablemate Hold The Note is expected to take another step forward over fences next season, and build on his third in the Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase at the Festival.

Channon said: “He jumped like a stag and ran an absolute belter. We probably didn’t handicap him the best, and if he was 5lb lower he might have been more competitive, but he still ran well.

“He is still very raw and unfurnished, and I think on what he has done this season he will better next season.”

With Hold The Note retaining his novice status next season Channon junior hopes he can put his experience over fences to good use and play a prominent role in the division.

Channon said: “The great thing is he is still a novice next season, and hopefully he can put that to good use.

“I think two and a half is fine – but I think three miles will be, especially when he has strengthened up again over the summer.

“I think first time out we would find a nice novice chase and then build him up before having a crack at another big one.”

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