A gluttonous weekend for televised racing has as its main course the Betfair Lancashire Chase at Haydock this afternoon, which itself holds the promise of the most fattening prize ever offered in jumps racing.
Any horse which wins today's Grade One Chase and then completes the devilishly difficult trinity of the King George VI Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup will qualify for a £1m bonus.
The most probable animal to win this most improbable of series is Kicking King, who comes here a different horse to the relatively obese creature which surrendered his winning sequence to War Of Attrition in the Daily Star Chase at Punchestown. In what is a near-dress rehearsal for the Gold Cup, the Blue Riband holder possesses the brightest credentials, even if there are worthy adversaries behind every tree. This is the contest in which we should discover the real merit of Ollie Magern, the little horse with the opposite amount of skill and tenacity.
The three-mile exercise should also be the best forum for Keen Leader, as expert at Haydock as he is useless at Cheltenham. Jonjo O'Neill's runner is ridden for the first time in public by Noel Fehily, as stable jockey Tony McCoy is at Windsor.
"It's great," Fehily said. "I found out yesterday I was riding him. I sat on him this morning. He looks great and feels great." Nothing, though, looked greater than the horse which won jumping's most prestigious prize in the spring. Kicking King (next best 2.20) is unavoidable.
The feature race at Windsor carries such an abomination of a title that it is kinder all round to refer to it as the former First National Chase. Stripped off again quickly here is the Philip Hobbs pairing of Made In Japan and Lacdoudal, both of whom were in action at last weekend's Open meeting in the Cotswolds .
"They are both fine after running at Cheltenham last week," Hobbs said yesterday. "They are second- season novices and this seemed the right race for them." If his energy bank has been restored then this is certainly the right race for LACDOUDAL (nap 1.35). His sixth in the Paddy Power Gold Cup was testament enough and today's extra distance should play to his advantage.
Huntingdon's premier offering is the Peterborough Chase, in which one stable has an extraordinary recent record. Edredon Bleu's four straight wins (1998-2001) and Best Mate's victory in 2002 means this has become little more than a Henrietta Knight benefit.
West Lockinge stables are represented this time by the Liverpool winner Impek, who will have at least one old friend with which to joust. "Impek is in good form and fresh from his Aintree victory," Jim Lewis, the owner, said yesterday. "One of the horses we are taking on is Le Roi Miguel and he and Impek have been duelling since they were kids. Let's hope it's our turn tomorrow." But if Monkerhostin (3.00) is even a shadow of the horse which was second to Our Vic in the Paddy Power Gold Cup then victory should be his.
The novelty at Liverpool tomorrow is the offering of two races over the mountainous National fences. Cassia Heights (1.40) won the Topham Trophy over course and distance last year and is a sporting alternative for the first, the Grand Sefton, while the main event is the Becher Chase.
The one to concentrate on here is Forest Gunner (2.50), fifth to Hedgehunter in the National itself in April, under the much-scrutinised handling of Carrie Ford. Forest Gunner will still get the tender touch as Nina Carberry will be conducting the ministrations.
Ms Carberry may well be on the receiving end of inside information as her brother, Paul, won the National in 1999 on Bobbyjo. "I think Nina is brilliant," Mrs Ford said yesterday. "Michael Hourigan paid her the biggest compliment anyone could in the Limerick report from Sunday when he said there's no difference between her and Paul, and that about sums it up."
Nap: Lacdoudal (Windsor 1.35)
NB: Kicking King
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