Anthony Honeyball’s veteran chaser Regal Encore may yet contest the Grand National for a third time this season.
The 12-year-old, whose two attempts at the Aintree spectacular so far have come in 2017 and 2019, could make his seasonal reappearance in the Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot on Saturday.
Having finished second behind Kim Bailey’s Vinndication in the same race last season, Regal Encore will aim to go one better before moving on to the Becher Chase at Aintree.
“He might well go to Ascot on Saturday for the race he was second in last season, the Sodexo,” said Honeyball.
“He could then back that up a month later in something like the Becher Chase.
“That could well be his two-race plan – go to Ascot, and if he came out of it well then have a break through to the Becher Chase, which would be a nice target for him.”
Regal Encore has finished eighth and seventh so far in his two National bids, and Honeyball remains open to the idea of a third tilt at the race – if he makes the cut from his rating.
“His mark is such that he’s just on the cusp right now,” said the Dorset trainer.
“He just might squeak in off his mark, but obviously in the races he’s running in it’s going to be tough – these handicaps are tough.
“He might end up dropping a few pounds – so it would be nice, during the course of the season, if he could once again win one of these nice races and then that would just about get him in.
“We’ll just have to see how he goes. He’s 12 rising 13 now, but if his handicap was such that he could get in the National then he would run in it again.”
Honeyball has also issued an update on the promising Acey Milan, who impressed with a winning chasing debut at Aintree on Saturday.
A run in Newbury’s John Francome Novices’ Chase is now pencilled in for the six-year-old, who already has two Listed bumper wins and a second-placed finish in the Grade Three Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle at Haydock on his CV.
“He’s looking very good – he came out of (Aintree) really well,” said Honeyball.
“The earliest he’d probably run again would be a race at Newbury that we’ve got in mind, a Grade Two three-mile novice chase.
“It’s a bit of a leap up – obviously it was a handicap the other day, and his rating will be such that we’d probably be looking more to towards handicaps, but he’s got that high-quality back form from his bumpers.
“We just might be inclined to go there if it came up with very soft ground. It’s a possible for him next, because he’s come out of the race very well.”