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Ahoy Senor's Big Comeback

Lucinda Russell sets sights on Cheltenham's prize.

Lucinda Russell is gearing up with optimism as Ahoy Senor shows promising signs of returning to form, just in time for the high-stakes atmosphere of Saturday's Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase. The seasoned trainer has been closely monitoring Ahoy Senor's progress and is encouraged by his recent performances, especially after a notable improvement in last month's Cotswold Chase. Russell shared her enthusiasm, stating, "He's only just started to come back to himself," highlighting the significance of this upcoming race in setting the stage for Ahoy Senor's season.

Ahoy Senor, a horse with a history of peaking in the latter half of the season, has faced some challenges earlier in the term, including being pulled up in both the Coral Gold Cup and Charlie Hall Chase. However, his resilience and potential for a comeback were on full display in his last outing, signaling a return to the competitive spirit that has characterized his career thus far. Russell's strategy is to harness this momentum, with the Ascot Chase serving as a critical juncture in deciding Ahoy Senor's path forward, particularly with the Cheltenham Festival on the horizon. She elaborated on the decision-making process, saying, "The plan is to give him a run at Ascot...I don't know which of the two races we're going to go for at Cheltenham yet."

The challenge of the Ascot Chase, particularly its shorter 2m5f trip, marks a significant test for Ahoy Senor, diverging from his previous races. This shift in strategy is not just about the distance; it's about adapting to the right-handed track of Ascot, a departure from the left-handed courses Ahoy Senor prefers. Russell expressed her concerns but also noted the positives from his last performance, "It's not ideal going right-handed...But it was much more like it last time." This resilience, even in the face of an equipment malfunction during the Cotswold Chase, underscores Ahoy Senor's fighting spirit and adaptability, qualities that Russell and her team are banking on.

Reuniting with jockey Derek Fox, who is returning from injury, adds another layer of anticipation to the upcoming race. Fox and Ahoy Senor have a history of strong performances, and their partnership will be crucial as they prepare to face off against Ascot Chase favourite L'Homme Presse, a formidable rival. The dynamic between these competitors is not new; they have previously clashed in high-profile races, with each having their share of victories. Russell reflected on this rivalry with respect, noting, "I respect L'Homme Presse hugely...they've gone different ways in between times and it'll be interesting to see how they get on."

In addition to Ahoy Senor's campaign, Russell is also focusing on Apple Away, another promising talent in her stable, who is set to compete in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown Novices' Chase over 3m at Ascot. Coming off a strong second-place finish in the Grade 2 Hampton Novices' Chase at Warwick, Apple Away is in peak condition and ready for the challenges ahead. Russell's approach reflects a blend of strategic planning and adaptability, as she considers the mares' allowance a significant advantage for Apple Away's upcoming engagements, including potential races at the Cheltenham Festival. Russell's confidence in her charge is palpable, "She's very likely to go and a bit more experience will be good for her...She's very fit and looks fantastic."

As the racing community turns its attention to Ascot, Russell and her team are poised for a pivotal moment in their season. With Ahoy Senor and Apple Away both showcasing their readiness for competition, the stakes are high but so is the optimism within Russell's camp. The outcomes of these races will not only shape their immediate future but also set the tone for their pursuits at the Cheltenham Festival, underscoring the importance of adaptability, preparation, and the relentless pursuit of excellence that defines the sport of horse racing.