Annacotty to reach for the Sky
Martin Keighley could be tempted to try his Grade One winner Annacotty back in handicap company in the £75,000 Listed Sky Bet Chase over three miles at Doncaster on January 25.
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The son of Beneficial improved dramatically for the application of first-time blinkers in the Kauto Star Novices' Chase (formerly the Feltham) at Kempton on Boxing Day.
The handicapper reacted to that win by putting him up 14lb to a mark of 144, a rating that Keighley feels may underestimate his ability.
The Gloucestershire handler said: "Annacotty is a possible for the Sky Bet Chase as I think the flat, galloping track at Doncaster will really suit him, though he will have an entry at Cheltenham the same day.
"The handicapper would love me to run him in a handicap to see if he's got him right and it is tempting. A mark of 144 could be workable as he's still improving.
"He's not an ungenuine horse, he just needs the headgear to keep him focused and it was a good performance at Kempton."
Annacotty is 16/1 with the sponsors for the Sky Bet Chase, with stablemate Faultless Feelings, narrowly beaten in the Mandarin Handicap Chase at Newbury on December 28, a 25/1 chance. However, they won't both be lining up.
"Faultless Feelings has the same owner as Annacotty and they wouldn't both run in the same race," Keighley explained. "He's improving and ran a cracking race at Newbury, though it's frustrating he went up 5lb for coming second."
The Paul Nicholls-trained pair of Unioniste (12/1 joint-favourite with Sky Bet) and exciting novice Sam Winner (12/1 joint-favourite) are also among the 50 high-class entries for the Sky Bet Chase.
Unioniste was last seen finishing eighth in the Grade One Lexus Chase at Leopardstown on December 28, having previously captured a Listed Chase at Aintree by seven lengths, while Sam Winner, a Grade Two winner over hurdles, landed a novices' chase at Cheltenham on December 12.
Nicholls' six-strong entry, the most of any trainer, also includes dual Listed chase scorer The Minack (16/1), the highly-regarded pair of Pacha Du Polder (25/1) and Mon Parrain (20/1) as well as course and distance winner Harry The Viking (20/1).
Night In Milan (16/1), trained by Keith Reveley, is also a course and distance victor following a spectacular performance at Town Moor on December 14. The eight-year-old made all the running under regular rider James Reveley to triumph by six lengths from De Boitron (20/1) and is now on course for the Sky Bet Chase.
Keith Reveley reported: "The Sky Bet Chase is the plan for Night In Milan. He won really well last time and deserved to win a nice handicap because he is a solid, consistent horse.
"He has been good form since and obviously likes the track at Doncaster, so fingers crossed. He has gone up the weights a little bit, but is still a young horse and there might be a little bit of improvement there.
"Things just did not pan out for him in the fixed brush hurdle at Haydock. He had a different jockey on and got a little bit buzzed up beforehand and then did too much in front. We will just draw a line through that and, if you ignore that, he has done nothing wrong.
"The only slight concern would be that he is unlikely to get an easy lead in a race like the Sky Bet. He is definitely happier out in front, bowling along with an easy lead, but he won't get that. We will just have to hope he settles in second or third and takes a lead."
Hadrian's Approach (14/1) headlines four entries in the prestigious handicap chase for the Lambourn stable of Nicky Henderson following a gutsy win over Super Duty (16/1) in a graduation chase at Newbury on December 18. The champion trainer could also be represented by Roberto Goldback (25/1), Ma Filleule (25/1) and Giorgio Quercus (20/1).
Donald McCain has entered Kruzhlinin (16/1), twice a winner at Kelso this term, Our Mick (20/1) and the unexposed Super Duty.
Grade One-winning hurdler Walkon (16/1) is one of three entries for Alan King, but has not been seen since unseating his rider in the Grade Two Old Roan Chase at Aintree in October.
Grand National hero Auroras Encore (25/1) is one of three entries for Sue Smith, while other notables include Cheltenham Festival scorer Teaforthree (16/1), eye-catching Haydock winner Night Alliance (16/1) and Paddy Power Gold Cup fourth Attaglance (20/1).
Michael Shinners of Sky Bet said: "We are delighted with the entries for this year's Sky Bet Chase and it will be fascinating to see what Paul Nicholls runs as he has six in the race. The Ditcheat trainer won the Sky Bet Chase in 2009 with Big Fella Thanks and, with such a strong hand, he could well hold the key to the race once again.
"At the moment, we are 12/1 the field, which highlights how competitive the contest looks at this early stage and it will be interesting to see what horses are confirmed by their trainers as definite runners for Doncaster."
Weights for the Sky Bet Chase will be revealed on Wednesday, January 15.
Sky Bet Chase, Sky Bet bet: 12/1 Unioniste, Sam Winner; 14/1 Hadrian's Approach, Court By Surprise; 16/1 The Minack, Walkon, Teaforthree, Super Duty, Annacotty, Kruzhlinin, Mart Lane, Quartz de Thaix, Vintage Star, Night In Milan, Muldoon's Picnic, The Druids Nephew, Night Alliance, Loch Ba; 20/1 Big Fella Thanks, Mon Parrain, De Boitron, Gullinbursti, Time For Rupert, Our Mick, Attaglance, Fruity O'Rooney, Giorgio Quercus, Noble Legend, Relax, Storm Survivor, Zaru, Harry The Viking, Baile Anrai; 25/1 Roberto Goldback, Pacha du Polder, Auroras Encore, Kumbeshwar, Ma Filleule, Niceonefrankie, Lost Glory, Midnight Appeal, The Rainbow Hunter, According To Trev, Faultless Feelings, Tullamore Dew, Major Malarkey; 33/1 Trustan Times, Native Gallery, Solix, Wiesentraum.