Racing journalist and popular blogger Stu Williams looks ahead to Saturday's Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster and fancied Nicky Richard to plunder the prize.
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Sky Bet Handicap Chase (Listed) 2m7f214y
Sir AP McCoy won 20 consecutive champion jockey titles through sheer grit, determination and an unrelenting thirst for winners. Indeed, his attitude alone carried many a horse home in front, and it was those characteristics that aided 'the champ' in steering home the often clumsy, but equally talented, If In Doubt in the 2015 Sky Bet Chase.
I'm sure that many diehard racing enthusiasts with a longer memory than I will readily recount tales of Pridwell, Mini Sensation, Wichita Lineman and Synchronised - to name but a few. However, watching the winning-most jump jockey of all time kid and cajole Philip Hobbs' charge from the rear of the field to a cosy three-and-a-half-length success will always be my abiding memory of both the man and this race when I sit down and attempt to solve the latest Town Moor puzzle.
This year's renewal can most certainly be described as such with 21 still engaged after the five-day declarations and L'Ami Serge currently heading the market despite having not having jumped a fence in public since placing third as the 13/8 favourite in the corresponding contest in 2018.
2018 Cheltenham Festival scorer Mister Whitaker, who would shoulder top-weight following the defection of Top Ville Ben, is also prominent in the betting and is only 3lbs above his last winning mark. While last year's third Calipto could attempt to go two places better in spite of being 3lb higher in the ratings.
Last year's winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies could saddle Count Meribel, who has held more engagements than Dell Boy since placing sixth in the BetVictor Gold Cup and would therefore be of interest if given the green light to run.
Alan King also knows what it takes to succeed in this race having plundered the valuable prize twice with Ziga Boy (2016 and 2017). The Barbury Castle-based handler has two live contenders in the form of Azzerti and Dingo Dollar, and both boast sound claims off their respective handicap ratings.
The former has kept good company of late and is only 2lbs above the mark from which he scored at Newbury in November. While the latter, who could only finish sixth when sent off a well-supported 3/1 favourite 12 months ago, could also feature, but often flatters to deceive and can be over-bet as a result.
Sametegal bumped into a very well handicapped rival when placing second on his return from a 665-day absence at Newbury in November, and his latest effort at Kempton suggested that this three mile trip may well be within the parameters of his stamina.
Paul Nicholls' charge boasts form figures of his 12132128122 on decent ground, therefore connections will be buoyed by the drying conditions and he would be of significant interest if lining up.
However, I am particularly interested in the progressive MY OLD GOLD, who was more than value for the narrow margin of success when defeating Cloth Cap, who received 5lbs, over this course and distance last month.
My Old Gold travelled comfortably throughout and breezed upsides the eventual runner-up before getting in close to the penultimate fence and landing on all fours - which cost her momentum and roughly five lengths. The front pair pulled 36 lengths clear of the third and I'm confident My Old Gold would have won with much more authority barring her minor mishap. Therefore a 3lbs rise may still underestimate her true level of ability.
Brian Hughes was noticeably calm in the closing stages and clearly felt that he had plenty of horse underneath him. Indeed, he was happy to let his mount take her time at the last and he even snatched her up and re-directed her challenge in the final furlong of the race. Which again supports the theory that she won a shade cosily.
The Gold Well mare didn't see a point-to-point field or indeed a racetrack until the age of seven and is therefore incredibly lightly raced for her age (just 12 starts under rules, 15 in total). Needless to say, she is open to further improvement with so few miles on the clock and her record of three wins from six starts over fences - and two victories from three outings in point-to-points - also suggests that she possesses plenty of ability.
My Old Gold boasts form figures of 2111251211 over 3 miles (including points) and she is versatile in terms of ground, so the drying Doncaster surface is no cause for concern.
You can easily put a line through her seasonal reappearance at Carlisle when finishing last of the four runners behind subsequent Betfair Chase scorer Lostintranslation over a trip short of her best. However, the fact that her Greystoke-based trainer felt that she was good enough to contest the Colin Parker Memorial Chase is a clear indication of the regard in which she is held.
Neither Nicky Richards nor Brian Hughes, who knows the mare well and will likely maintain their partnership on Saturday, have landed this race before - what better way to break their respective ducks than doing it together.
Hughes is embroiled in a ding-dong battle with Richard Johnson to become champion jockey and drew level (both on 111 winners) with the reigning champ courtesy of a double on Richards-trained horses at Ayr on Sunday, which is also an indication of the wellbeing of the latter's string.
The first of those winners, namely Mayo Star, was returning from an absence of 883 days, which demonstrates the trainer's ability to prepare those in his care for the day.
Posted at 1340 GMT on 20/01/20