Rory Delargy has just the one jumps meeting to get his teeth into on Friday, but he's hopeful of a winner...
"With Midnight Charmer also looking flattered by a recent win at Uttoxeter, and the tricky Roc de Guye up 21 lb for winning 3 on the bounce, this looks something of a penalty kick for Plum Pudding, and he can get the job done with the minimum of fuss..."
Every year, there are certain races so competitive that a blanket approach of backing all the runners in subsequent contests pays off. This is particularly true of novice events at the Cheltenham Festival, and those who banked on the 2011 Supreme being strong form have been handsomely rewarded, as an example. Similarly, those who took a view that the best National Hunt Flat races would, by their nature, be populated by progressive jumping sorts have historically done well tracking the fortunes of the Champion Bumper runners over the years.
Another relatively new race which is showing similar traits is the Centenary Novices' Handicap, won in March by Rajdhani Express (as the Rewards4racing Novices' Handicap Chase). That horse is one who I'm confident can make the jump from talented handicapper to live Ryanair prospect, and he heads my list of likely contenders for the Paddy Power Gold Cup, for which he trades at 12/1 with Betfair's Sportsbook.
He's not the only one from that race to have caught the eye, though, and after Johns Spirit won well at Cheltenham last week, it's the turn of Forgotten Gold to boost the form at Fakenham (15:25) today. Tom George's charge was only ninth in March, but was better than the bare result, and would have finished closer but for a couple of mistakes, notably at the tricky second last. He's only had a handful of races over fences, winning at Aintree and Market Rasen, and looks just the sort to progress again in his second season. He ought to go very close on his seasonal return, particularly with his stable having a double at Southwell yesterday.
Dawn Commander is his main rival on the book, but Charlie Longsdon's grey didn't impress with his jumping in a small field at Exeter, and will be tested fully against experienced rivals. Of the others, The Rainbow Hunter is reported to need the run by Kim Bailey, and Dover's Hill ran well below expectations on debut for Nigel Twiston-Davies at Market Rasen. My idea of the biggest threat is Wiesentraum, who was a winner for this column in the summer, and remains on a fair mark.
In the later handicap chase (16:30), Plum Pudding looks to have an excellent chance of making up for an unfortunate defeat on his debut for David Bridgwater at Huntingdon. On that occasion, he shaped like much the best horse, but was simply given an overly aggressive ride by Tom Scudamore as he battled with Darnborough for early supremacy. That effort eventually told as he was caught close home by Riddlestown, but he's confidently expected to reverse that form, with the winner's penalty another help in that regard. With Midnight Charmer also looking flattered by a recent win at Uttoxeter (another race that fell apart after a strong early pace), and the tricky Roc de Guye up 21 lb for winning 3 on the bounce, this looks something of a penalty kick for Plum Pudding, and he can get the job done with the minimum of fuss.