It’s the prestigious ‘Badger Ales Chase Day’ at Wincanton tomorrow. With two Grade 2 races along with the listed main feature, the event is sure to attract talented horses from the leading stables.
The meeting is usually targeted by Champion trainer Paul Nicholls. Indeed he has saddled the winner of the Rising Stars Novices’ Chase in two of the last three renewals. He also trained the winner of the feature race in 2012, when The Minack was successful.
But it’s the David Pipe team that have done best in the Badger Ales of late, thanks to back to back victories for The Package and Standing Ovation. The latter is set to try and follow-up after a promising pipe-opener at Cheltenham in October. His handicap mark is now 11lbs higher than when winning this race last November, but that looks to be fair enough for the seven-year-old. He looks to be capable of going close again.
Nicholls is set to run Just A Par and Benvolio. Also seven-year-olds they have the potential to be ahead of the handicapper. The latter is two from two at the course, and had a promising first season over fences. He defeated Alan King’s smart chaser Midnight Prayer at Newbury last December over this trip. A repeat of that kind of performance is sure to see him in the mix here.
Just A Par failed to build on his promising start as a chaser, though he was very highly tried. Three times a runner in Grade 1’s, he should find this far more to his liking.
Philip Hobbs has his horses firing on all cylinders, and has two entered for this. Lamb Or Cod chased home The Romford Pele last time at Cheltenham. He has undoubted talent, but can be prone to the odd error. If his jumping holds up, he could run a huge race. Duke Of Lucca could also represent the Hobbs team. He was behind Standing Ovation at Cheltenham but has a slight pull in the weights. He won his only previous race at the track back in 2011.
Finally Opening Batsman has to be of interest. He has good form at the course and is back on a very attractive handicap mark. Harry Fry is another trainer that can do no wrong at present. The horse ran poorly last year, but if back to anything like his best he has to have a serious chance.
Expect winners for Nicholls and Pipe. Look out for emerging talents especially in the opening novice hurdle and the Rising Stars Novices’ Chase. Be prepared for a thrilling Elite Hurdle with ‘old stager’ Rock On Ruby taking on several talented youngsters. Most of all, enjoy yet another terrific Saturday over the jumps.