I attended a Press Day at Kempton Park on Monday and trainer Nicky Henderson confirmed that Rather Be would be his sole representative for Saturday’s BetVictor Gold Cup.
The gelding should be well served by the forecast good ground – no rain is forecast for the rest of the week – and he is BetVictor’s new 5/1 favourite (e/w five places with the sponsors) with Mick Channon’s Mister Whitaker 8s, Kalondra 8s and 10/1 Bar.
Bryony Frost rode out her claim (75th career win) at Kempton with another exemplary ride aboard Neil King’s Marienstar. She is a credit to herself and her family although she will find life harder now without her 3lbs claim. That said she is a wonderful jockey with a personality to match – a rare talent.
At Kempton this evening, Scentasia (5.00) is taken to build on his promising racecourse debut when third at Nottingham last month. The filly (20/1) was largely ignored in the betting on that occasion and was slowly away, but she travelled well through her race and has a decent draw in stall six. Tom Marquand keeps the ride for Ismail Mohammed.
Caspar The Cub (7.30) is stepped up in class for his hat-trick bid but he looked well ahead of the handicapper when scoring over course and distance last month and I feel a 5lbs rise is fair such was the authority of his win.
There is a cracking card at Bangor-on-Dee and the highlight is a listed Mares’ Novices Chase where Maria’s Benefit will be a short price to follow up her Newton Abbot success on her first start over the larger obstacles. She is likely to be a short price, however, and over this extended 2m 1f I just feel the value may lie with Jester Jet (1.20) who ran a terrific race behind Bags Groove – very impressive at Wincanton on Saturday – at Ffos Las and will certainly be staying all the way to the line.
The best race on the card is the Anne Duchess of Westminster Memorial Handicap Chase and it is a wonderful renewal of this prestigious event named after the owner of the great Arkle. Full Irish has had a wind operation since his last start and should be noted for a market move.
I feel there is more to come from Rolling Dylan (1.50) on soft ground this season for Philip Hobbs and hope the ground – described as good to soft in advance – is soft enough for this seven-year-old who is an each way recommendation. I am surprised the gelding does not have an entry in the Ladbrokes Trophy which is a surprise, but I feel he can make up into a very decent staying chaser this season and something like the Welsh National could be his mid-term objective.
At Exeter, Indian Hercules is worth a market check on his chase debut for Warren Greatrex, but I felt Just A Sting (2.35) looked ready for a step up to 3m when winning a good race at Uttoxeter last month for Harry Fry – a 6lbs rise looks fair. The ground in Staffordshire was given as good to soft and conditions should be ideal this afternoon.
I’m A Game Changer makes his chase debut and he looks sure to win his fair share of races over fences but Black Op (3.10) won the Grade 1 Novice Hurdle at Aintree in the spring having chased home Samcro at Cheltenham. A winning-pointer the seven-year-old is 16/1 with BetVictor for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham in March and 8/1 for the JLT over the Intermediate 2m 4f trip.
Casterly Rock (3.40) has been raised 3lbs for finishing second at Bangor last month and he is entitled to come on for that run, his first in five months. The winner (Royal Ruby) has been subsequently beaten from a 7lbs higher mark but I feel the Hobbs-runner is open to further improvement and can go one better.
At Ayr, I felt Nakadam (3.20) ran well on his reappearance on ground faster than ideal and over an inadequate trip. He will only carry 9st 11lbs this afternoon and should have the race run to suit.
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