THE Wye Valley trainer who gave Abergavenny Gold Cup-winning jockey Sam Thomas his professional start is backing her horse L’Homme Presse to challenge for the prize this Friday (March 15).

Ross-on-Wye based Venetia Williams’ stable star spent 391 days off the track before returning in January to win the Fleur De Lys Chase at Lingfield, installing the horse among the festival favourites.

A 5 1/2L loss to Pic D’Orhy at Ascot on February 17 saw bookmakers lengthen his odds, but Williams believes the shorter race in unfavourable conditions was ideal preparation for L’Homme Presse, which made waves winning the Brown Advisory Chase at Cheltenham in 2022.

“There’s no way I cannot be delighted with that run at Ascot,” she told The Racing Post.

“It was an interim race. When you’ve got a horse at that level, inevitably there are only a handful of races in a year, let alone at the time that we wanted, and he took on Pic D’Orhy.

“I know Pic D’Orhy was a long way behind L’Homme Presse in the Scilly Isles two years ago, but that was a long time ago and at that point Pic D’Orhy wasn’t jumping as well as he is now. That was a completely different race and environment to the Ascot race.

“The ground at Ascot nearly ended up being good, which is not for L’Homme Presse, particularly when you’re coming back in trip against a Grade 1 horse whose trip and ground that very much is, so I was delighted with it.”

Thomas famously won the Gold Cup in 2008 on Denman.

The festival starts today (March 12) with the blue riband Gold Cup on Friday (March 15), and the clerk to the course has predicted conditions will be on the “easier side”, which could suit L’Homme Presse.

Williams also has several other horses with chances at the festival, including Funambule Sivola for the third time in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and Djelo in the My Pension Expert Arkle or the Turners Novices’ Chase.

Funambule Sivola finished second in the Championship in 2022 behind Energumeme, while Djelo came second in the recent Grade One Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown,

As well as L’Homme Presse’s win in the 2022 Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, Venetia had a double at the 2009 Festival in the Freddie Williams Festival Plate and Pertemps Final, the same year that her horse Mon Mome won the Grand National.