French trainer Francois Doumen is pointing Kelami at Haydock Park’s richest handicap chase, the £125,000 Grade Three Red Square Vodka Gold Cup, which is run over three miles, four and a half furlongs on Saturday, February 17.
Red Square Vodka is a Halewood International Ltd brand, and the parent company also owns the nine-year-old, who is currently allotted 10st 7lb.
Doumen is understandably keen to run the gelding, who was headed close home by Rambling Minster in the Agfa Diamond Handicap Chase at Sandown on February 3.
Doumen revealed today: “Kelami was unlucky not to win the other day at Sandown. I don’t know what the reaction of the handicapper will be to that effort.
“I would like to run him in the Red Square Vodka Gold Cup, especially as he belongs to the owner of the race sponsor. He should run.
“He came back out of his race at Sandown pretty well so I’m looking to Haydock. He ran third in this race two years ago and the course and trip will not be a problem. There are a lot of things in his favour in the Red Square Vodka Gold Cup.”
Halewood International Ltd, headed by racing enthusiast John Halewood, owned 2004 John Smith’s Grand National winner Amberleigh House, and the hope is that Kelami, winner of the William Hill Trophy at the 2005 Cheltenham Festival, could emulate that Aintree success.
Doumen reported: “The Grand National is a big wish of the owner. He has won it once and he would like to do it again so that is Kelami’s ultimate target.”
The trainer could field a select but classy team at Haydock, with Enghien Grade Two winner Parrain, who was under two lengths third to Poquelin on his British debut at Kempton on December 27, likely to make the journey from France along with Grade One winner Millenium Royal.
Doumen continued: “I hope to run my nice four-year-old Parrain in the Polyflor Victor Ludorum Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle and I have Millenium Royal in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle.
“Millenium Royal has really come back into very good shape. He has had a difficult time but he seems to be coming back to form so I want to give him a race and see how well he is.
“He needs a bit of soft ground because he’s really a soft ground specialist, so if he gets it at Haydock and runs well I will see what the handicapper does and consider Cheltenham.”
The Red Square Vodka Gold Cup has attracted a high-class entry of 48, which includes last year’s winner Ossmoses (10st 6lb), who gave County Durham handler Don Forster his biggest success as a trainer and owner.
The Alan King-trained Coral Welsh National winner Halcon Genelardais (11st 12lb) could bid for another prestigious staying prize, while stablemate Kandjar d’Allier has winning form at Haydock Park, having landed the three-mile Sodexho Prestige Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase on December 16.
The high-class field for Haydock’s most valuable handicap chase could also include the Paul Nicholls-trained quintet of Neptune Collonges (11st 12lb), successful in the Rehearsal Chase in November, totesport.com Classic Chase winner Ladalko (11st 2lb), Cornish Rebel (11st 2lb), winner of the Unicoin Homes Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in January, Royal Auclair (11st 1lb) and L’Aventure (9st 10lb) who was fourth and fifth in the last two renewals.
John Smith’s Grand National fourth Nil Desperandum (10st 6lb) may take his chance, as could 2006 Scottish Grand National victor Run For Paddy (10st 3lb).
Other possible contenders include totesport.com Becher Chase runner-up Bewleys Berry, Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup third Preacher Boy, 2005 Betfred Gold Cup winner Jack High, classy Irish novice Patsy Hall, Welsh National runner-up Mon Mome, Grade One winner Southern Vic, BGC Silver Cup winner Billyvoddan, Sir Rembrandt who was third in the race last year, and Agfa Diamond Handicap Chase winner Rambling Minster.