Alan King welcomes Medermit return
Last Updated: 14/02/14 10:55am
Medermit: Returns at Ascot
Trainer Alan King admits it is not ideal for Medermit to have his first run for nearly two years on heavy ground in the Betfair Ascot Chase on Saturday.
The popular grey has not been seen since finishing a close fourth in the Betfred Bowl at the Grand National meeting of 2012.
He met with a setback at the start of the following season and his return this campaign was delayed slightly by a pulled muscle which prevented him from running at Cheltenham's meeting on New Year's Day.
Now a 10-year-old, Medermit has been second in a Supreme Novices' Hurdle and fourth in an Arkle in his pomp and holds an entry in the Gold Cup next month.
King is, however, just keen to get him back on a racetrack.
"He's obviously been off a very long time," said the Barbury Castle handler.
"He's in good order, though, and we need to get a run into him if we've got any plans of sending him to Cheltenham.
"I would have preferred better ground to bring him back on but we've just got no option.
"If we want a run it will have to be on this ground."
Another much-discussed chaser making a return in the Grade One is Hunt Ball.
He sprang to prominence in the 2011-12 season when with Keiran Burke, winning seven races which culminated in a keynote success at the Cheltenham Festival.
Things were tougher the following campaign, but he performed with credit at a much loftier level before his owner, Anthony Knott, decided to sell.
While the plan was for him to go through the sales ring, he was bought privately to go to America.
But that venture did not work and he has ended up with champion trainer Nicky Henderson.
"I love Hunt Ball - he's a gorgeous person and looks great," said Henderson.
"I've got to break cover with him sooner or later.
"He has been in America and had to do quarantine so didn't really start to get going until after Christmas."
Hunt Ball has been entered in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham and the Crabbie's Grand National, while Henderson also runs Riverside Theatre, a two-times winner of this race.
The hot favourite is the Philip Hobbs-trained Captain Chris, second to Cue Card in this race 12 months ago when he made a late mistake.
A former winner of the Arkle, it is no secret that he much prefers going right-handed and is probably stretched by the trip in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in which he finished sixth last year.
Narrowly beaten on his return in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon, when attempting to give 10lb to Riverside Theatre, he looked imperious at Kempton last time out, strolling to a 23-length win over a solid yardstick in Champion Court.
"I'm very pleased with him and Ascot is ideal, as it's right-handed and he's always inclined to go right - two-miles-six is his perfect trip, probably," Hobbs told At The Races.
"He won very nicely the last day and has been in good form since.
"We've always liked him very much and he's been a great horse to have."