Our racing expert marks your card for Friday's action at Wetherby.
There is a decent turnout for the feature 2m3f handicap chase with ten set to go to post, eight of whom are returning after breaks. None of these look particularly well handicapped, whereas COPAIN DE CLASSE is well-in under a 6lb penalty for winning at Kempton 12 days ago, which also gives him a fitness advantage.
Paul Nicholls’ six-year-old has now won five of his 11 starts under Rules but he has run some shockers in defeat too, including when letting down favourite backers on his final two starts of last season. Clearly something was holding him back and it came to light over the summer that he had an entrapped epiglottis, which was “sorted out” according to his trainer.
That operation has worked a treat judging by his latest success at the Surrey venue, where he travelled well and, having got the better of the favourite after a sustained duel, sealed the deal with a bold jump at the last to score by ten lengths with the rest well strung out.
Nicholls was impressed enough afterwards to enter him in the BetVictor Gold Cup run at Cheltenham later this month. He would have to be of interest in that contest, especially as it’s an early closing race and he can run off his old mark, so it makes sense to have a little each-way on at the sponsor’s 20/1 given that he’s strongly fancied to get the job done this afternoon.
There is an even better handicapped runner on the card as Dr Richard Newland’s STORM RISING escapes a penalty for his easy success against a big field at Cheltenham seven days ago when he goes again in the 2m handicap hurdle. Having been raised a stone for future races, the five-year-old looks thrown in here off his old mark and he also benefits from Charlie Hammond’s 5lb claim.
Formerly a smart performer on the Flat for Richard Hannon before embarking on a hurdles campaign in Ireland, winning twice, he was debuting for a yard renowned for improving horses at Prestbury Park. Given the way he shot clear nearing the final flight to win eased down at the finish, he’s no exception and looks extremely well bought for £20,000.
He’s already recouped half in that winning prize money and if turning up in anywhere near the same sort of form just a week later, over the same trip and on similar ground, he’s going to take plenty of stopping. It’s just a shame he’s as short as he is – I was genuinely hoping for bigger than 8/15 when I started writing this piece – but the bookmakers aren’t known for their generosity.
BetVictor Gold Cup: Copain De Classe each-way @ 20/1 BetVictor (1/4 odds, 188.8.131.52)
All odds were correct at time of posting.