Dan Skelton is pleased with Allmankind as his flamboyant prospect prepares to make his seasonal debut in the Masterson Holdings Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday.
The Alcester trainer earmarked this contest as a launching pad some time ago for his four-year-old, who was one of the leading juvenile hurdlers last term.
Allmankind won his first three starts, culminating in the Grade One Finale Hurdle at Chepstow and wound up with third place in a dramatic running of the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival in March.
“Allmankind is in good form and Saturday’s contest has been the plan since the start of the season,” said Skelton.
“It’s an ideal race to run in given it is against four-year-olds, so he can take on his age group one last time before he takes on the older horses.
“He has to carry a penalty, but he is a Grade One winner. I am really happy with him at home and he is ready to start.
“He just ran quite flat at Cheltenham in the Triumph Hurdle. I am not saying he would have beaten Goshen in any case, but he just ran very flat in that race.
“There is no point dwelling on the past and we are looking forward to getting him started. It is a new season, with a new start and new objectives.”
Neil King’s Nordano finished behind Allmankind twice last season, but won a valuable handicap hurdle at Ascot in February and had a pipe-opener on the Flat at Pontefract three weeks ago.
Botox Has, trained by Gary Moore, was second to Allmankind on this course in November but has been absent since winning back at Cheltenham in December.
Fergal O’Brien is expecting a decent show from veteran Perfect Candidate in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap Chase.
The 13-year-old has been a stalwart at O’Brien’s Naunton yard for nearly eight years now and has three victories to his credit on this course.
“Perfect Candidate has been a real superstar for the yard, and we are delighted to see him back,” said O’Brien.
“He loves Cheltenham and goes well fresh, so we are hopeful of a good performance.
“We are looking forward to being back racing at Prestbury Park and hopefully we can continue our good start to the season.”
Course specialist Cogry lines up for another local trainer, Nigel Twiston-Daves.
A four-time winner on the track, Cogry is a regular in this race. Successful in 2017, the 11-year-old was second in 2018 and third 12 months ago.
“Cogry loves the track and is a past winner of the race, so we are hopeful. He is a real old favourite in the yard and goes well fresh,” Twiston-Davies said.
“It is great to be back racing at Cheltenham and it is good to go there with plenty of chances this weekend.”
Manofthemountain has also been declared for Wincanton on Sunday, but trainer Emma Lavelle would prefer to run at Cheltenham as long as the ground does not deteriorate.
“Cheltenham is very much the place we want to go. It’s just with the rain that’s forecast on Saturday afternoon, if the ground went very much on the softer side, then we’d look at going to Wincanton instead,” said the Marlborough handler.
“He’s just got better and better – he’s a big, strong horse who is improving all the time.
“I was absolutely delighted with him at Bangor and he had a nice blow after the race and has come on.
“He definitely deserves a step up in class and we’ll see how we go.”
Manofthemountain and Perfect Candidate are 1lb and 2lb out of the handicap respectively as the weights are headed by Frodon, who has to give 17lb and upwards to his rivals.
Paul Nicholls’ classy performer was last seen finishing fourth behind Min in the Ryanair Chase which he had won in 2019.