Published 19 February
A bruised foot last Saturday may prove a blessing in disguise for GOLD PRESENT now he looks set to go for the Betdaq Handicap Chase at Kempton.
Nicky Henderson’s highly progressive 8yo would almost certainly have started a warm favourite for the Keltbray Swinley Chase at Ascot won by Regal Encore, but at least the late hiccup spared him a race in testing conditions.
Previously at his best on good or good to soft ground, he’s set to get a more favourable surface at Kempton which drains well and should dry out sufficiently with no more significant rain forecast and even sunshine due in the second half of the week.
A smart novice last season when campaigned at around 2m4f (won at Doncaster, finished second in a Grade 2 at this track and the Close Brothers’ Novices’ Handicap Chase at the Festival), he’s taken his form to an even higher level upped in trip.
Despite market weakness suggesting he might the need the run, and forfeiting ground by jumping to the right on occasions, he was a tenacious winner on his reappearance at Newbury and followed up in really good style in Ascot’s three-mile Silver Cup just before Christmas.
It’s not surprising then his trainer seems keen to stick to a right-handed track for what could be his last run before he goes back the other way round for his main target of the season, the Randox Health Grand National.
This race has proved a pretty good guide to Aintree over the years, during which time plenty of class acts have defied big weights, and in Gold Present’s case we have a horse with the size, scope, jumping prowess and form to successfully carry 11st 12lb.
The Silver Cup got an immediate boost when runner-up Frodon made light of a 3lb higher mark under top weight at Cheltenham on festival trials day - a performance that saw his official rating shoot up 13lb from Ascot.
Regal Encore, pulled up that day at Ascot, has since done his bit by winning - as have unplaced finishers Yala Enki, Fortunate George and Bigbadjohn.
The selection himself has gone up a further 8lb but the strength of that form, combined with the style of victory, suggests it may not be enough to halt his rampant progress.
Recommended Bet (scale 1-5 points):
Betdaq Handicap Chase, Kempton, February 24
2pts each way GOLD PRESENT ( 9-2 general (5-1 Betvictor, Boylesports) )
Published 17 February
Now may be the time to back VINNIE LEWIS for the Betfred Eider Handicap Chase with his opening-show price of over a week ago still available.
Harry Whittington’s progressive novice was a top-priced 10-1 when the bookies chalked up but we know a bit more about the race now with the likes of The Dutchman and last year’s winner Mysteree declared in preference for the sponsors’ Grand National trial at Haydock today.
Their likely absence should make life a little easier for the 7yo, who has a similar profile to the last horse of his age to land the Newcastle marathon, Portrait King.
Like the Irish-trained grey, Vinnie Lewis goes into the race on the back of a decisive victory against more experienced rivals in a good-class handicap.
In the case of Portrait King it was the Grand National trial at Punchestown. With the selection it’s the Sussex National which followed a similarly emphatic success in much lesser company at Sedgefield.
On both occasions he impressed with the quality of his jumping for a novice and that’s going to stand him in good stead tackling the stiff fences at the Gosforth Park venue.
Vinnie Lewis easily brushed aside a stone ratings hike at Plumpton and has the scope/potential to cope with a further 9lb rise here, especially as the more galloping track should play to his strengths.
Portrait King defied the same combined impost six years ago (up 23lb over the course of his two previous starts) so the signs are promising this latest novice challenger can follow suit.
Recommended Bet (scale 1-5 points):
Betfred Eider Handicap Chase at Newcastle on February 24
1pt each way VINNIE LEWIS ( 10-1 advised)
Gary provides regular ante-post updates on Twitter. His username is @horsetraderinfo.@horsetraderinfo