What are the best bets in Sunday's Summer Cup at Uttoxeter?
I’ll be attending my local track on Sunday and the race I’m most looking forward to is the feature Summer Cup (due off 3.30pm), which has attracted some classy sorts including Philip Hobbs’ Menorah.
The eleven-year-old is clearly in great form at present as he followed up his victory in the Grade 2 Oaksey Chase at Sandown in April with a fine second at Perth earlier this month, when finding the concession of 24lb to the progressive Gold Futures just beyond him. No wonder his trainer has kept him going for this contest, which carries first prize money of £45k, and his presence at the head of the weights keeps half his rivals out of the handicap proper.
That will please several rival trainers and in particular David Pipe, who supplies the next three horses at the top of the handicap; Ballynagour, Katkeau and Top Wood. The former is a bit of an enigma and showed little interest when last sighted in France, while Top Wood is another in-and-out performer who has something to prove after falling in two of his last three starts. Katkeau at least arrives here on the back of a win and it came over 3m here , having patently failed to stay in the Midlands National at the track previously. However, he’s gone up another 7lb for his troubles and others are preferred.
Paul Nicholls is another trainer with a strong hand and both his runners – Saint Roque and Pacha Du Polder – are in the weights proper. The former was a beaten favourite over a half furlong shorter trip at Fontwell last time, however, giving the impression a slight ease in distance would see him to better effect, rather than stepping up here. Pacha Du Polder has been amateur ridden on his last ten starts, including when famously carrying Victoria Pendleton to fifth place in the Cheltenham Foxhunter, and he might benefit from Sam Twiston-Davies taking over in the saddle and being 10lb lower than when he last competed in a handicap chase.
However, he could be vulnerable to a more progressive rival and it might be worth taking a chance on the baby in the field, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained BALLYKAN, who has been keeping very good company since landing a beginners’ chase at this track last September (jumped well) and then following up in a novice handicap at Chepstow. On his next start at Cheltenham, he wasn’t beaten far into fourth just a short head behind Vicente, who progressed to win the Scottish National off a mark of 146, and he then ran excellent race for a novice when fourth in the Betbright Chase on his next start.
The six-year-old has been well beaten at the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals since then, but he should be all the fresher for a 79-day break and, having proved his liking for the track, he has likely been aimed at this contest by his in-form trainer, who has a good record here – he can boast a healthy 21% strike rate since 2012, with all his runners yielding a £28.46 profit to £1 level-stakes). His decision to employ Jamie Bargary looks a smart move as the rider’s 5lb claim helps offset the fact he’s 7lb ‘wrong’ at the weights here and the partnership look sure to go well, providing the ground isn’t any slower than ‘good to soft’ (‘good’ currently with showers forecast).
Ballykan each-way @ 20/1 bet365 (¼ odds, 18.104.22.168)