Mister Whitaker is being lined up for a tilt at the £250,000 Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury on Saturday 30 November in the belief he has untapped potential over trips beyond three miles.
The 2018 Cheltenham Festival winner has recorded all five of his victories at distances around two and a half miles but as he begins his third season over fences there are fresh ambitions for the seven-year-old.
In the weights for the 3m2f Ladbrokes Trophy, the feature event of the two day Ladbrokes Winter Carnival at Newbury, which are published today, Mister Whitaker, trained by Mick Channon for Tim Radford, has been set 11st 5lb in the handicap.
There are three top weights, the Willie Mullins-trained Rathvinden, last year’s race runner-up Elegant Escape, trained by Colin Tizzard, and Real Steel, who won at Down Royal on Saturday and is also trained by Mullins, on 11st 12lb.
The sponsors’ 8-1 favourite Cabaret Queen, another from the Mullins stable, has been set 10st 12lb. The Nicky Henderson-trained second favourite OK Corral, who is 10-1, has 11st 3lb.
Mister Whitaker won the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase at Cheltenham and bookended his most recent campaign with wins in the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle in November and the Silver Trophy at Cheltenham in April.
He has only raced beyond three miles once when he was pulled up in the Ultima Handicap Chase in March but connections are ready to try again.
Channon’s son and assistant Jack said: “We feel that three miles can bring a bit of improvement out of him as he gets older. We are targeting the three mile division with him so we are very seriously considering the Ladbrokes Trophy.
“If he runs then he will go straight there. That gives us a couple of weeks to get him ready. He is schooling on Thursday and we could give him a racecourse gallop at the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival Gallops Morning on Tuesday 19 November.
“He started off last season in great form but we sort of lost him through December. He ran creditably in the BetVictor Gold Cup and at Ascot behind Cyrname but he just lost that bit of zip.
“I thought we had him back perfectly for Cheltenham but things just never went right. He jumped off in behind and all he saw were the backsides of other horses. There was a deluge of rain just before the first day and even though he likes soft ground nothing went to plan.
“Thankfully he proved he was back to his best when he won at Cheltenham in April. In all those races I always felt a bit further could be the key to him as he steps up to the next level. He has proven he is a solid 150 horse at two and a half miles but we are hoping he can progress again over three miles.”