Saturday brings the curtain down on another excellent National Hunt season, and having already banked well over £3,000,000 in prize money, The Master Of Ditcheat, Paul Nicholls, has yet another Trainer’s Title safely in the bag. However, as a man who has won Saturday’s valuable prize four times, he is not averse to adding another substantial Pot to his seasonal winnings, and of his 4 contenders at the time of writing, the 9yo, Give Me A Copper, looks the most interesting.
A winner of his only PTP, he made his debut under rules a winning one, easily landing a Cork Bumper in March 2016. Having moved to the Nicholls yard, he followed up with a facile victory in an Exeter Maiden (December 2016). Sent off a hot 5/4 favourite for a Doncaster Grade2 the following month, there was clearly something amiss, as he finished tailed off with the “also rans”but redeemed himself with a comfortable Ayr victory, 83 days later. He made an inauspicious start to his chasing career, unseating pilot, Sean Bowen in a Kelso Novice’s at odds of 30/100, but made no mistake when landing similar odds in a better race at Kempton 16 days later, easily beating the 135 rated, Three Ways. Having suffered a setback, he was off the course for 446 days, and despite the long layoff, ran an excellent race over Saturday’s course on his reappearance to finish 4th of the 20 runners (Sandown 3m Soft 2Feb 19). He was a beaten horse when falling at the last on soft ground in The Ultima Handicap at The Cheltenham Festival last time, but his shrewd connections have persevered with this stoutly bred individual, and back on good ground, up in trip, and going right handed, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if their patience was rewarded.
The Nicky Henderson trained 9yo, Beware The Bear, is improving at a rate of knots, and having made a decidedly tardy start to The Ultima Handicap at The Festival last time, finished with a wet sail on a mark of 151, to win by 1 1/4L and 2L from Vintage Clouds and the 155 rated Lake View Lad. A 9lbs rise on Saturday looks quite harsh, but the son of Shantou has probably earned it, and, out of the talented, Be My Native mare, Native Bid, (won all 3 of her starts) he is from a good staying NH family, and should be well suited by Saturday’s trip. He could be the first, since Tidal Bay 7 years ago, to carry top weight to victory.
The Neil Mulholland trained 11yo, The Young Master, won this 3 years ago off a mark of 148, and following a couple of seasons in the Doldrums, has come back to form with a bang, and gets into this year’s renewal on a 6 lbs lower mark. He won 2 of his first 3 starts on Good ground this term, and having got stuck in the Newbury mud in The Ladbroke in December, ran another fine race last time out, to finish 3rd in The Kim Muir at The Festival. Obviously well suited by Sandown, if he gets his preferred good ground is definitely one to be interested in, especially as he will have the benefit of the excellent 3lbs claiming amateur, Sam Whaley-Cohen in the plate.
The Mark Bradstock trained 9yo Step Back won last year’s race on soft ground under an inspired ride from Jamie Moore. He took it up at the 5th fence and always in the first two throughout, drew right away after the 3rd last to win by 13L from Rock The Casbah. He seems to have been aimed at this all season, and even off a 10 lbs higher mark looks a danger to all.
Philip Hobbs has taken the prize back to Somerset on 2 previous occasions, and if
Rock The Kasbah gets his preferred good ground he could take his score to 3. He ran well to finish 2nd on soft ground last year, and on 2 lbs better terms on decent ground, must have serious prospects of reversing the form with the Bradstock horse. He had also run well in the 2017 renewal, finishing 2 1/2L behind the winner in 5th place, running on strongly on the good ground, and if Richard Johnson can keep him closer to the pace this time, could be interesting.
Nicky Henderson’s 10yo, Vyta Du Roc, also finished with a flourish in that 2017 renewal, just failing to overhaul the winner, Hennlan Harri and is actually 4lbs better off with Rock The Kasbah who finished 2L behind him. However he has failed to fire in his last 3 races, but that said, they certainly know the time of day at Seven Barrows, and it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see this current 25/1 shot, involved, particularly if the ground softens.
The Alan King trained Novice, Talkischeap, is very stoutly bred and could be well suited by Saturday’s trip. He was only having his 5th race over fences last time, contesting a handicap for the first time, he finished a respectable 5th in a valuable Sandown Grade3 off a mark of 145. He had earlier got to within 7L of the talented mare, La Bag Au Roi, giving her 7lbs over an inadequate 2 1/2miles, and had the 149 rated Lostintranslation, 6L back in third place. He looks fairly treated on 145, and despite his inexperience is a sound jumper and has to be considered.
Selection : Beware The Bear
EW. : Rock The Kasbah