Williams may be two-handed for Gold Cup this season
After winning the Grade I Betfair Chase at Haydock in November, Venetia Williams will be hoping Royale Pagaille can continue his excellent form in the 3m division this season, with the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March being the ultimate goal.
Williams, a winner of the Grand National at Aintree, has yet to win the blue riband event in the sport, but Royal Pagaille could still be one of her best chances to date. He beat a strong but small field at Haydock earlier in the campaign, including last season’s Gold Cup runner-up Bravemansgame, even allowing for no Irish participation in that set piece event.
Next stop Kempton for Haydock hero
Royale Pagaille’s next assignment is set to come in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. He is 9/1 for those who bet on horses for the feature race over the festive period in the UK. Should he win that race, he will become the first horse since Cue Card in 2015 to complete the early Grade I double in the division.
The nine-year-old chaser finished second in the King George in 2022, coming home behind Bravemansgame. It was an excellent run from Williams’ runner, as he had the likes of Ahoy Senor, Frodon, and Envoi Allen behind him that day.
Royale Pagaille knows all about success at Kempton’s festive meeting as he won a handicap race there in 2020 over the King George distance. Connections will be hoping for more of the same from their 166-rated chaser even if Haydock’s galloping track plays better to his advantage than Kempton.
Williams may be double-handed in the Gold Cup
The Betfair Chase winner may not be the only horse Williams saddles ahead of the Cheltenham Gold Cup this season. L’Homme Pressé might also represent her in the blue riband race of the Cheltenham Festival.
Two seasons ago, L’Homme Pressé was one of the leading novice chasers in the UK and Ireland. He won the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the Festival, while further Grade I success also came in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase.
L’Homme Pressé is set to make his return to action in the second half of the season. He has not featured since he unseated his rider at the final fence in the 2022 King George VI Chase. If Williams can get the eight-year-old back to his best again, she will feel he is a equally strong contender to land the Gold Cup in March. Patience has been Williams’ watchword in bringing her stable star back to the racecourse at the right time and in the right race.
Grand National also a possibility
Although he would need to carry one of the highest weight allocations in the race, Williams will also be considering the Grand National in April for Royale Pagaille. He has shown throughout his career that he has the stamina for the marathon races on the calendar, and there is no stiffer task than Aintree.
Royale Pagaille is twice a winner of the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock, a race known to pose a serious stamina test, often in testing ground. Although he has yet to encounter the Grand National fences, his jumping has always been exemplary, so the bigger obstacles should not be a problem for him, and unlike many others seeking a suitable handicap mark, his rating will ensure a run even now.
After making a fantastic start to the 2023/24 campaign, Williams is on course for one of her best seasons on the track, and wins in either the Gold Cup or the Grand National will provide a big boost to her prize money tally. Her 22 winners to date are half the volume of winners of other stables but nevertheless have catapulted her into a 6th place position in the Trainers’ Championship, where graded, big handicap or Festival winners can shift your position very readily.