Part-owner John Hales is excited about his Grade One-winning novice Protektorat starting his season in the Paddy Power Gold Cup next month.
The Dan Skelton-trained six-year-old, who also counts Sir Alex Ferguson among his owners, enjoyed his finest hour when winning the Manifesto Novices’ Chase at the Grand National meeting.
The first major handicap of the new season has been his aim for some time and the sponsors make him their 7-1 favourite.
“It was an excellent performance at Aintree and, fingers crossed, I genuinely think this is a very good horse. He’s had a few niggling problems, but he was fit that day and produced a lovely performance,” said Hales.
“The Paddy Power Gold Cup is the early season target and this race was always the plan over the summer after that performance. He has matured very well in the summer, grown up physically and developed very well and this was the logical target to go for.”
All Protektorat’s wins have come with the word soft in the description and Hales admits he would not want quick ground.
“I think he is a typical French-bred and likes a bit of cut in the ground. The softer side of good – it doesn’t matter to him,” said Hales.
“I would normally have something in mind (for later in the season) but he likes to go left-handed rather than right-handed.
“If he produced a top performance, I’d say the King George but he won’t be going for that as he doesn’t like going right-handed, so that’s a non-starter and we’ll have to talk to Dan.
“Possibly the Ryanair Chase could be an option later – he’s an improving horse and at this stage we’ll keep all opportunities open and see how he’s running. I’m very confident in this horse and hopefully if he keeps fit, the Ryanair could be one of many options at Cheltenham or Aintree.”