Somersby can advance his King George case
The race itself is back where it belongs – and if Somersby can win it, perhaps the same might also be said of his trainer. Having lost its way a few years back, when joining the heedless rush to Saturdays, the Betfred Peterborough Chase today continues its resurgence in the sort of midweek slot that can sometimes serve the sport's grass roots much better. But if Henrietta Knight has remained supportive throughout, saddling four different horses to win eight runnings between 1998 and 2007, then her own fortunes have proved nothing like so constant.
Mysteriously neglected since her ground-breaking achievements with Best Mate, Knight has had any professional grievances placed in perspective by the stroke suffered by her husband, Terry Biddlecombe, in October. The old boy is said to be rallying well, but success for Somersby today would clearly represent a welcome tonic to everyone at their stables near Wantage.
If he is to vindicate his standing as one of very few horses remotely entitled to intrude on a rematch between Kauto Star and Long Run, Somersby will have to find improvement for what looks an overdue step up to three miles at Kempton on Boxing Day. For now, however, it must be hoped that he has the legs of these rivals in a test that always puts an emphasis on speed.
He has jumped well in both starts this season, having resumed an old partnership with Dominic Elsworth, and is readily exonerated for his failure to see off Master Minded at Ascot last time. When in that kind of form, Master Minded is pretty invincible, and you would like to think Somersby will have too much class for this solid, but plain, field. He should be in his prime, rising eight, and remember, even over an inadequate trip he was good enough to close down Sizing Europe to barely a length in their Arkle.
Even so, Knight did not sound terribly confident yesterday. "He's very consistent, but he's not like the other winners of this race I've had," she said. "The others were nippier. He's a big, long, strapping horse and I hope he won't get into a muddle over the fences like he has in the past. I'm really looking forward to running him over three miles [in the King George] because I think everything will be more at his pace."
While defeat this time would compound Somersby's reputation as a "nearly" horse, at least his continued wait for the big breakthrough leaves him well treated by the conditions of the race. He receives 4lb, for instance, from The Nightingale, who was pulled up in the King George last season but shaped with some promise when resurfacing at Down Royal last month.
Gauvain, a winner on his reappearance, is turned out quickly after his fall at Sandown on Saturday, but did not build on a similarly impressive comeback last season, while the fitting of blinkers implies that a decline in Tartak's form reflects something similar in his attitude.
The ups and downs of Knight's career provide a valid measure of the relentless achievements of Richard Hannon, who yesterday equalled the British record of 216 winners in a calendar year – set by Mark Johnston in 2009 – when Numeral won at Lingfield.
Chris McGrath's Nap
City Ground (1.30 Huntingdon) On a very fair mark on form in novice hurdles and, having finished lame in his first handicap, can return fresh.
Spirit Of Barbados (1.20 Taunton) Bolted up at Worcester in the summer, but failed to stay next time. Can progress.
One to watch
Simonside (Brian Ellison) can stay ahead of his mark judged on his narrow failure under a penalty at Wetherby on Friday.
Where the money's going
Great Endeavour is 7-1 from 9-1 with Paddy Power for the Spinal Research Atlantic 4 Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday.
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