Racing: Advantage in weight makes Farmer Jack pick of crop in Post

With just 17 days to go until the opening day of jump racing's holy grail, the Cheltenham Festival, much of the i-dotting and t-crossing in stables up and down the land is already complete. But not all, as proceedings at Kempton this afternoon may reveal. In the past 10 years, high-class horses to have scored both there and at Prestbury Park include Baracouda, Balasani, Mysilv, Katarino, Snow Drop, Monsieur Le Cure, Brief Gale and Antonin.

No fewer than 16 of the record 18 competitors in this afternoon's feature Grade Three handicap, the Racing Post Chase, also hold Festival engagements, and six of them are in the Grand National. But before thoughts turn to the future, today is the plan. A £58,000 first prize is no small lure in its own right.

The three-miler has been won by some class acts, notably ill-fated novice Gloria Victis five years ago and Rough Quest in 1996, before he beat all bar Imperial Call in the Gold Cup. The pair who come under the better-than-ordinary-handicap-pers-heading today are, unsurprisingly, the two who head the weights, Farmer Jack and Colonel Frank and both are, apparently, improvers. Both Farmer Jack's victories this term have come in Grade Two company, most recently when he produced a career-best to account for Strong Flow and Celestial Gold in the Aon Chase at Newbury two weeks ago.

It was the nine-year-old's first win over today's distance; all his eight victories before that had come over a maximum of two and a half miles, and stamina doubts had been expressed on his behalf. But in absolute fairness to the gelding, it should be pointed out that his most recent effort was not only his first win over three miles, it was the first time he had run that far. And although Farmer Jack is top of the pile, he is actually favoured by the weights, as after today he will have to race from an 11lb higher mark.

He operates on soft ground, likes a flat track, has won over this one and his trainer, Philip Hobbs, has won the race twice in the past six years, with Dr Leunt in 1999 and Gunther McBride, runner-up in the past two renewals, three years ago.

Colonel Frank's colours have been lowered only once this season, his second over fences, but in retrospect failing to give 18lb to Oneway was hardly a disgrace. Today's distance could be considered something of a minimum trip for the eight-year-old; his three wins this term have come over further and his future entries include the National. The ground, which is sure to be testing (and with sleet and rain forecast overnight, there is an inspection at 7.30 this morning), may be more problematic, as all Colonel Frank's best form has come on a sounder surface. The other question mark is over how he will handle the hustle of the biggest field he has faced in a chase. But he is a notably good jumper and is the most unexposed of today's competitors.

At the other end of the weights, the Irish raider Be My Better Half, who had the alternative engagement today of a hurdle race at Thurles, deserves respect; his victory on soft ground last time was an easy one and the form has been franked since. But Farmer Jack (3.45) has ticks in most of the right boxes and with others in the field who like to figure prominently may not have to do all the work himself.

The jumping of former point-to-pointer Duncliffe (2.40) is sometimes sketchy, but he was considered worthy of an entry in the big handicap and will have an easier task against his fellow novices. He has won his last three races by an aggregate 49 lengths, including one over today's course and distance.

All five runners in the Rendlesham Hurdle, saved from yesterday's abandoned card, met in a contest of the same grade and distance at Cheltenham last month. Today, the one who was only fourth-best of them on that occasion, Royal Rosa (2.10), can show the benefit of that run and set himself up for the opportunity to show he will be the chief danger to Baracouda for the stayers' crown.

On the novice hurdles front Forager (1.35) can prove his 50-1 success last time was no fluke and Etendard Indien (4.15) can take another step along the road to the Triumph Hurdle. Reveillez (3.10) looks the answer to the handicap.

Cheltenham and Liverpool are uppermost in the mind of jumping aficionados but tucked between those twin peaks comes the climax of the all-weather season, though the Winter Derby is a version of the real thing only in name. Two of the past three winners also took the trial, in which the classy filly Tahtheeb is an interesting contender, though on this occasion she may have to bow to the sand experience of Compton Bolter (Lingfield 3.35).

News
news
Voices
voicesThe Ukip leader on why he's done nothing illegal
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
News
peopleRyan Gosling says yes, science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
Sport
video
News
Paul Weller, aka the Modfather, performing at last year’s Isle of Wight Festival in Newport
people
News
Supermarkets are running out of Easter Eggs
Deals make eggs cheaper than normal chocolate
Arts & Entertainment
artYouth club owner says mural is 'gift from the sky' so he can prevent closure of venue
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Online Advertising Account Executive , St Pauls , London

£26K-30k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Advertising Account Executive - Online, Central London

£25K-28k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Senior Infrastructure Consultant

£50000 - £65000 Per Annum potentially flexible for the right candidate: Clearw...

Public Sector Audit - Bristol

£38000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have experience of ...

Day In a Page

Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

Politicians urged to find radical solution
Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

Ukraine crisis

How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

A history of the First World War in 100 moments
Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?