Racing commentator Simon Holt previews the feature action at three meetings on Saturday, with Khalidi fancied at Lingfield and Art Mauresque on the radar at Kempton.
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ART MAURESQUE, a creditable second to last week’s high-class Ascot Chase winner Waiting Patiently at Kempton on effectively his first run of the season at Kempton last month, returns to the Sunbury course with decent claims in Saturday’s Betdaq Handicap Chase in which he steps up to three miles.
Clearly, trainer Paul Nicholls feels this horse could be better over a bit further now, but the theory was untested when the eight-year-old fell at the first fence when first tried at the trip at Ascot in November.
Normally a fluent jumper, Art Mauresque defied odds of 16/1 on that subsequent effort, finishing in front of much higher-rated rivals Gods Own, Smad Place and the re-opposing Josses Hill.
Of course, one must always be wary of horses who appear to run above themselves in conditions races but, even if he’d wanted to, the handicapper is now unable to raise any beaten horses in these contests in an effort to drive up field sizes.
So Art Mauresque remains on a mark of 150 which is 6lb lower than his career-high. Moreover, he boasts two wins from three course visits and I feel an each-way interest at double-figure odds in what looks an open renewal could well be rewarded.
Another stepping up in trip is the favourite Acting Lass, and a 6lb rise for his latest victory at Ascot looks fair enough.
It took Harry Fry’s promising chaser a little while to warm up that day but he was well on top come the finish, though the form is nothing out of the ordinary.
Acting Lass could easily improve again but doesn’t appeal at the odds available and a better value suggestion might be the lightly-weighted mare Theatre Territory, another up in distance (now wearing cheekpieces for the first time), who has run two solid races at Cheltenham in her last three starts.
At Lingfield, a chance is taken on KHALIDI handling the Polytrack on his first try on an all-weather surface in the Group Three Betway Winter Derby.
The son of High Chaparral developed into a smart three-year-old last season when trained by John Gosden, winning Listed races at Newmarket (9f) and Goodwood (1m3f), splitting Permian and Crystal Ocean at Royal Ascot and then chasing home the latter (subsequently a very good second in the St Leger) on his final start back at Goodwood.
That looks high quality form and, switched to Clive Cox subsequently, Khalidi is the highest-rated runner in the field and gets the invaluable assistance of Adam Kirby, a master on the course.
The main threat could be the Aidan O’Brien-trained mount Clear Skies, a five-time winner at Dundalk, though she is rated some 18lb below the selection and receives only the 3lb mare’s allowance under a back-from-Japan Ryan Moore.
The O’Brien-Moore axis is hardly one to turn against lightly but this does look a much stiffer task stepping out of handicap company for the first time.
Sir Michael Stoute fields two with live chances in Autocratic, second only to Khalidi in the ratings but awkwardly drawn on the wide outside here, and last year’s winner Convey who it was reported, a couple of weeks ago, has been a bit behind schedule this time.
It’s possible the latter will be better for the run with a repeat win in the Easter Classic on Finals Day in April very high on the agenda.
Meanwhile, Utmost got a great front-running ride from Robert Havlin when landing a listed event over the course and distance earlier in the month. The John Gosden-handled son of Giants Causeway is on the up but this will demand much more.
At Newcastle, the four-mile Betfred Eider Handicap Chase is bound to produce its usual attritional test, especially as the ground is described as heavy.
There are one or two progressive stayers in the field, perhaps most notably Vinnie Lewis who bids for a hat-trick after victories at Sedgefield and Plumpton, but this race has seen a few surprises in the past and, among the lightweights, BORIC has proven stamina having won over the trip at Perth last April.
That victory was achieved on much better ground, but Callum Bewley’s mount acts on a softer surface and has decent form at Newcastle, including when fourth to Beware The Bear, Bishops Road and last week’s Haydock winner Yala Enki in the Rehearsal Chase in early December.
Now off a 3lb lower mark, and with just 10 stone to carry less his rider’s 3lb allowance, a small each-way bet at big odds could prove a worthwhile shy at the stumps.
Posted at 1235 GMT on 23/02/18.