sport

Regal Encore 'sound and bright'

Anthony Honeyball is considering Aintree and Punchestown for Regal Encore following his Imperial Cup fourth at Sandown.

Last season's Champion Bumper runner-up was beaten at long odds-on on his penultimate start over hurdles at Hexham, but the form has worked out well, with his conqueror, Seeyouatmidnight, now rated in the 150s.

Regal Encore looked potentially well treated off a mark of 130 on his handicap bow, but the JP McManus-owned six-year-old could only finish fourth in Sandown's feature, beaten a little under six lengths.

While he still holds entries at Cheltenham, Honeyball said his inmate is set to bypass the Festival and wait for one of the other big meetings this spring.

The Dorset handler said: "He's come out of the race in good order. We've had him out and he's sound and bright, so we're happy.

"Obviously there is a hint of disappointment as we hoped he could go there and do it, but JP certainly wasn't disappointed after the race and neither was AP (McCoy).

"They went a bit slow and a stronger gallop would definitely have helped him.

"He was a bit slow over one or two (hurdles) down the back, but on the whole he did everything right.

"He'll definitely stay a bit further, but because he is still quite a keen horse, AP thinks we should stay at two miles for now and just hope we get a stronger gallop.

"It was his handicap debut in a Grade Three and he ran a nice race, so overall we're happy and we'll look forward to the rest of the season with him.

"We'll see how he is over the next couple of weeks, but there could be options for him at Aintree and Punchestown.

"With a rating of 130 he's not going to get in at Cheltenham, and we're not too worried anyway.

"Things can always change, but he's a nice horse and we'll look after him as best we can."