Jumping 20 fences loose was not the plan but it might just prove the ideal bet365 Gold Cup preparation for The Young Master.
After unseating Sam Waley-Cohen at the first in Saturday’s Ayr Gold Cup the nine-year-old went off and enjoyed himself by completing two more circuits.
Prudently, trainer Neil Mulholland had also entered him in this Saturday’s marathon at Sandown, so the season could still end on a high in a race he won two years ago.
Mulholland thinks the prospect of a quicker surface at Sandown, where the jumps track is being watered to maintain good ground, will also be in his favour.
“The plan was Ayr and it was just unfortunate what happened, but he travelled up and back to Scotland really well and was out in the paddock all day on Sunday,” said Mulholland about the general 14-1 chance.
“We’ll give him a nice easy week as we know he’s fit and ready, and I would like to think he’s got a very good chance."
The Young Master has not won since his 2016 success and was ninth in the race last year, but he looked more like his old self when staying on promisingly to be sixth behind Missed Approach – who he tackles again on Saturday – in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham.
That was his first run since wind surgery and Mulholland said: “The Young Master is coming back to himself and we think he would have run a huge race in Ayr. That didn’t happen but he’s won the bet365 before. The better ground will suit him because he’s able to breath a bit better.”
Carole’s Destrier, second to Native River in the Hennessy Gold Cup 18 months ago but disappointing since, will also represent Mulholland, who is hoping to set the seal on a season in which he has earned more than £500,000 in prize-money for the third year in a row.
He said about the general 20-1 chance: “Hopefully the faster ground will help Carole’s Destrier. It will be his first time on it for a long time.
"I’ve also got Solighoster in the Josh Gifford Novices’ Handicap Chase, a race we won last year with Shantou Village. Dropping back in trip will help him.
“We’ve had 85 Flat and jumps winners in the last year and if you do that for a yard that doesn’t spend big money, you’ve got to be happy. We’ve bought the yard and we’re making improvements to have hopefully more better-class horses next season.”
The Celebration Chase – due to feature Altior – and Oaksey Chase were reopened on Monday and entries will be published on Tuesday.
Sandown clerk of the course Andrew Cooper said: "We started watering the take-off and landing areas in the middle of last week and now it's the whole course. Apart from the thunderstorm on Saturday night with 6mm of rain it's been a dry fortnight.
"The jumps course is good all round and we're watering to maintain it, with only some light rain forecast at most.
"For Friday's Flat meeting we're good to soft overall, with better ground in places on the round course and softer parts on the sprint course. But it's drying all the time."