Shantou goes down handicap route
Neil Mulholland is looking to place Shantou Village in handicap company to see where he is with him.
Shantou Village: Set to go down the handicap route
The six-year-old has already had three novice chases this season after reappearing in August, winning his first two before falling at the final fence when seemingly held by Frodon in the Wincanton Rising Stars Novices' Chase.
However, Shantou Village was conceding 9lb to Frodon that day and Mulholland was happy with his charge up until that final fence blunder.
"Shantou Village came out of the race fine," he said. "He was trying to concede 9lb to Frodon and Frodon's a fair little tool; he's rated the same as him over hurdles.
"Noel mentioned to me that Wincanton probably wouldn't be his track anyway but if he had been racing off level weights, he'd have given him a good race.
"We'll put him away now. He had a few days around the roads and he seems very good. I just don't think I had him 100% right after Fontwell either. I did mention that I was going to run him at Fontwell before Cheltenham and I made it clear to the press that I wasn't happy with him.
"I'm not making excuses for him but I still think there'll be better to come after a break. His bloods were fine, he was scoping fine but he just didn't have the sparkle.
"He hasn't done much wrong. He's been good to us but he obviously has to step up to the next stage too.
"They haven't given us a handicap mark yet. We'll have to go looking for one and that could all depend on where he goes. We could just be putting that to good use in a nice handicap or else we have to go to the big novices so it's very hard to say where he's going to go but I suppose his handicap mark will tell us that.
"I suspect he'll be about the same as his hurdles mark (145-146)".
Meanwhile, stablemate The Druids Nephew is likely to skip Aintree this season after running in the last two Grand Nationals.
In the 2015 renewal he fell five out when going well, but was pulled up in the race last season off a 9lb higher handicap mark.
This time around his campaign is likely to revolve around the bet365 Handicap Chase at Sandown in April, via the Festival Trophy Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, a race he won the season before last.
"I would think The Druids Nephew would end up in the bet365, he was only beaten seven lengths in it this year," Mulholland continued.
"If we hadn't won it with The Young Master, I'd definitely have been tearing my hair out over him because two horses fell in front of him and he had very, very bad luck in running. He didn't have the best preparation after running in the Grand National.
"He will probably be aimed back at that three mile handicap which he won at the Cheltenham Festival and then we'll go to the bet365. I think he can make his presence felt. I think he'd miss Aintree unless the ground came up really good. "He had a couple of tidy up jobs over the summer which is why he hasn't been out since. We just feel that the first time he's going to get his ground is in those showcase races at Cheltenham and so on."