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“I might come back for the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham” – John McConnell considering Cheltenham raid with Mahler Mission

Irish trainer John McConnell is eyeing up a return to Cheltenham Racecourse in the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase with Coral Gold Cup runner-up Mahler Mission. 

The seven-year-old gelding has visited Prestbury Park on three occasions during his career, notably in the Grade 2 National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival when falling at the second-last fence despite his four-length advantage over the field.

Although the Grade 2-winning hurdler didn’t succeed in Newbury’s £250,000 feature contest on Saturday, McConnell remains upbeat about his long-term prospects and has a few options to consider for his next step.

“He’s very classy and I might come back for the Cotswold Chase [January 27th] at Cheltenham to test the waters,” said McConnell. “If he is now a 155-rated horse, it’ll be hard in handicaps with him.

“We have plenty of options with him going forward, but today was undoubtedly a big effort, so we’ll be in no rush to make our minds up.”

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The highly progressive chaser came into Saturday’s prestigious Coral Gold Cup as a fancied 15/2-shot and ran a superb race under Ben Harvey to finish second to Datsalrightgino despite losing both of his front shoes. 

Both this performance over three-mile two-furlongs and his race at Cheltenham over three-mile six-furlongs shows the immense stamina Mahler Mission has which has opened up a possibility to run in one of the world’s most famous races later this season. 

“We’re going to have to look at the Grand National,” continued McConnell. “It’s such a huge race, so do you just tee him up for one big day and then maybe fall at the first? But with these good horses, you have to do that because they don’t run that often.”

Following the Coral Gold Cup, McConnell explained to Racing TV that due to his unusually flat front feet, his stable star had to have “special shoes fitted”, so losing both of his front shoes during the race wouldn’t have helped his chances. 

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Furthermore, it had been 52 days since McConnell last landed a winner in the National Hunt sphere prior to Newbury’s feature contest, so his second-place effort can be upgraded due to a lack of yard form. 

“Some of the horses seem to have had a little bug, others seem to have scoped clean – and their bloods have also come back clean – and some of Flat horses are just not that good,” the dual-purpose trained said. 

“We had a winner in Dundalk on Friday, but I think that was the biggest gap we’ve ever had without a winner in a good six or seven years. 

“Even with him, we didn’t have the clearest route in preparation for this race, so maybe we were 98% ready for it rather than 100. However, he’s still run a cracker.” 

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