Santini looked decidedly ring rusty when scrambling home in his seasonal reappearance at Sandown Park on Sunday.
The modest gallop and small field did not appear to suit Nicky Henderson’s Gold Cup hope and he was constantly on and off the bridle.
However, when he moved into a clear lead approaching the last it looked like he had seen off the troublesome Now McGinty. But he failed to pull away on the climb to the line, and Nico de Boinville had to get serious to hold off the rallying Now McGinty by a head.
Henderson said: “It was hard work. He wasn’t jumping out of the ground like he can do. We’ve got a long way to go. You wouldn’t know he is any good at home, so he is probably a hard horse to get proper fit. He was just very rusty. He got away with it today and we have work to do.”
The trainer ruled the seven-year-old out of the Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, saying: “It doesn’t look like he is a King George horse. He looked lost in the Kauto Star [over the same course and distance last year]. That is not his track.”
At Navan, Bacardys inflicted a shock defeat on Apple’s Jade in the Lismullen Hurdle.
Having won this prize in each of the past two seasons Apple’s Jade was sent off at 1-4 and the 10-time Grade One winner went straight to the lead. However, she repeatedly jumped out to her right and could never shake off last year’s Grand National second Magic Of Light. Halfway up the home straight she was clearly struggling and Bacardys eased past her to win comfortably.
Trainer Gordon Elliott was not making any excuses for Apple’s Jade, saying: “We scoped her, and she was clean. The vets examined her, and she was grand. I’ll talk to Michael and Eddie [O’Leary], but she doesn’t owe us anything.”
Today’s meeting at Stratford has been abandoned because of a waterlogged track and the meeting at Fairyhouse must pass an inspection at 7.30 this morning owing to a forecast of further rain on already heavy ground.