Merry King ready to revel in mud of Chepstow marathon


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The Independent Online

In keeping with everything else about Christmas, there’s almost too much for the racing fan to appreciate and digest at the moment.

No sooner have we absorbed dramatic events at Kempton than Bobs Worth and Sir Des Champs, first and second in last season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup and with new points to prove, lock horns again in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown today. And if big handicap puzzles are your bag, there’s the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow to get your teeth into.

Gary Moore already has good cause for festive celebrations and this is potentially another massive day for the West Sussex trainer with Well Refreshed backed into favouritism for the marathon chase and an exciting juvenile hurdler, Violet Dancer (2.00, Chepstow), a serious contender for the Finale Juvenile Hurdle.

Well Refreshed’s jumping technique is best described as crash, bang, wallop, but that did not stop him winning three on the bounce last season and he gave the impression he was ready to go in again when placed at Sandown earlier this month.

But it may be time for Merry King (2.35 Chepstow) to deliver on his promise. Jonjo O’Neill’s six-year-old finished a creditable fifth in the Hennessy Gold Cup last time, but the run that marked him down as the winner of a race of this gruelling nature was his near miss in the Haydock mud this time last year.

Paul Nicholls decided to run Tidal Bay here, rather than in the Lexus Chase, which he won last year, when the handicapper dropped him a few pounds and I would suggest that, whatever you back, you have a saver on this marvellous old boy.

Ugly Bug (1.30, Chepstow) finished quite a way behind a few of today’s rivals when reappearing after a lengthy break over course and distance early this month, but it may well be a very different story on the deep ground he revels in.

On this day last year, Coverholder was claimed by Harvey Smith for 6,000gns after winning a Catterick selling hurdle off a mark of 70. Six wins later  Coverholder (3.10, Chepstow) has doubled his rating to 140 and does not seem like he has finished yet.

Oscar Rock (1.45, Newbury) was surprisingly beaten at Newcastle last time, but the ground was livelier than he prefers and that form is working out extremely well.

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