Last year’s winner Francky Du Berlais and the consistent Statuario give trainer Peter Bowen a strong hand in his bid for an eighth victory in the Unibet Summer Plate at Market Rasen on Saturday.
It is 25 years since the Pembrokeshire handler first landed the recently upgraded Grade Three contest with Stately Home. He doubled to his tally with the high-class Ballycassidy in 2003 before landing three successive renewals between 2006 and 2008 with Yes Sir, Iron Man and Snoopy Loopy.
More Buck’s ended Bowen’s 10-year wait for win number six in 2018 before Francky Du Berlais made it seven with a comfortable success 12 months ago.
The nine-year-old is only 2lb higher for the defence of his crown, but does have to carry the welter burden of 12 stone.
Bowen said: “Francky is in good form. He’s only 2lb higher than last year, but he does have to carry a lot more weight as last year there was a 150-rated horse in it.
“He’s top-weight off 139 this time, but there’s a couple of others running off that mark as well, so we’ll see what happens.
“I was happy with his last run at Uttoxeter (third in Summer Cup). I think he just bumped into two very well handicapped horses and I’m not sure if three and a quarter miles just stretches his stamina.
“I think coming back in trip will help him.”
With the trainer’s youngest son James Bowen on board Francky Du Berlais, his older brother Sean partners his stablemate Statuario.
The latter is a maiden after 13 starts over fences, but has filled the runner-up spot on his last three starts – most recently chasing home the reopposing Mahler’s Promise over this course and distance.
“James wanted to ride Francky and Sean wanted to ride the other one, so that was perfect,” Bowen added.
“Statuario is in good form. I know he hasn’t won a chase, but the last time James rode him over that trip he said the Summer Plate would be ideal as there’ll be a good gallop on and that’s what he needs.”
Challenging Francky Du Berlais for favouritism in the £55,000 feature is the fast-improving Mortlach, who has won his last four starts for Fergal O’Brien and Paddy Brennan.
The Yeats gelding was rated just 109 when making a successful chase debut at Huntingdon in May and on Saturday competes off 130, so O’Brien is fully aware he will need to raise his game.
He said: “He’s in good old form and hopefully there’s still a bit of improvement in him because he’ll need to improve again.
“He’s been very good for us and won a hurdle race before his three chase wins, so he arrives here looking for a five-timer. It’s just whether the handicapper has got hold of him or not really and we’ll have to wait and see on Saturday.
“He’s been winning small field chases but he’s been doing it the hard way and has had to make his own running, so we’re hoping the bigger field will make life a bit easier for him in a lot of ways.
“If he’s still on a good mark he’s in great form and hopefully he’ll run a big race. Paddy Brennan believes so much in the horse, so that’s a huge feather in his cap.”
Irish hopes are carried by the Jessica Harrington-trained Rapid Response and Peter Fahey’s stable stalwart Peregrine Run, who is bidding for a 19th victory under Rules.
“Peregrine Run came out of his last race at Cartmel very well and it looks like he’s going to have good ground at the weekend. He is in great form and we are looking forward to running him,” said Fahey.
“His two runs this season were good ones in two competitive races and the ground went completely against us at Cartmel. In my opinion, it cost us a good bit. We weren’t beaten a long way in the end and I feel we could definitely have been a lot closer if the rain hadn’t have come just before racing.
“There are not many horses who have won 18 races and he has won under all of the codes – he’s won on the Flat, over hurdles and over fences. He’s won Graded races over hurdles and fences.
“He’s a lovely horse and he has been a huge horse for the yard. It’s great that he’s still enjoying it as he has still got as much enthusiasm as he did as a five- year-old.”