Cheltenham Gold Cup hope Definitly Red tops the 45 entries for the £80,000 Listed Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster on Saturday, January 27, and the sponsors make him their 10/1 co-favourite to land the prestigious prize.
The three-mile contest is the centrepiece of an excellent seven-race card which also features three Grade Two contests and the £50,000 Sky Bet Britain’s Most Popular Online Bookmaker Handicap Chase over two miles.
Definitly Red, 10/1 co-favourite with Sky Bet, an impressive 14-length winner of the Grimthorpe Handicap Chase at Doncaster in March, looked as good as ever last time out when defeating Cloudy Dream by seven lengths in the G2 Many Clouds Chase at Aintree on December 9.
Trainer Brian Ellison said: “We are weighing up the options with Definitly Red at the moment.
“He could either go for the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster or to Cheltenham on the same day.
“Where we go will be ground dependent as he doesn’t want the going too testing.”
L’Ami Serge (Nicky Henderson, 12/1) could revert back to fences after a string of fine efforts over hurdles.
The eight-year-old captured the G1 French Champion Hurdle at Auteuil in June, and was second, beaten two and a three quarter lengths, behind Sam Spinner on his latest start in the G1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot on December 23.
L’Ami Serge has not raced over fences since December, 2016, when runner-up to Le Prezien in a graduation chase at Exeter. The pick of his six chase performances so far saw him finish third behind Black Hercules and Bristol De Mai in the G1 JLT Novices’ Chase at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival.
Anthony Bromley, racing manager for owners Simon Munir & Isaac Souede, said: “We are strongly considering the Sky Bet Chase for L’Ami Serge, although we will see how he schools over the next fortnight.
“Now he is settling better over hurdles, the consideration is to try him back over a fence. Nicky thinks he is a better hurdler than chaser and the handicapper agrees as well, but there is not anything very suitable for him over hurdles between now and The Festival.
“He has a G1 penalty over hurdles and the ground at Cheltenham has been very testing in December and on New Year’s Day, so the thinking was to bypass the Cleeve and also the Rendlesham, as both could be on testing ground, and look at other angles. He is a versatile horse and jumps French hurdles very well.
“Provided Nicky and Daryl are happy with his schooling, we will probably use the Sky Bet as a prep run for the Stayers’ Hurdle. We have also put him in the Ryanair Chase, but that was a very tentative entry.”
Nicky Henderson’s three entries also include Gold Present (10/1 co favourite) who has looked good in winning competitive handicap chases at Newbury and Ascot so far this season.
The third 10/1 co-favourite is Ballyalton (Ian Williams), successful in the Listed novices’ handicap chase at The Festival in 2016 and fourth in a pair of G3 handicap chases at Cheltenham so far this season. Also on 12/1 is Go Conquer (12/1), a G3 scorer at Ascot in November.
Ziga Boy last year provided trainer Alan King with back-to-back victories in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase. King’s three entries this time around are led by the Dingo Dollar (16/1) who was a 15-length novice handicap chase victor at Newbury on December 20.
Sky Bet Chase, Sky Bet odds: 10/1 Ballyalton, Definitly Red, Gold Present; 12/1 Go Conquer, L’Ami Serge; 14/1 Frodon, Master Dee, Missed Approach, O O Seven, Walk In The Mill, Yala Enki; 16/1 Beeves, Bishops Road, Dingo Dollar, Flying Angel, Long House Hall, Mustmeetalady, Sametegal, Tenor Nivernais, Vibrato Valtat, Wakanda, Warriors Tale; 20/1 As de Mee, Bigbadjohn, Caroles Destrier, Coologue, Marcilhac, Pilgrims Bay, Present Man, Sizing Codelco, Thumb Stone Blues; 25/1 Aloomomo, Art Mauresque, Champagne At Tara, I Just Know, Katachenko, Label des Obeaux, Minella On Line, Ptit Zig, Sego Success, The Young Master; 33/1 Join The Clan, Silver Tassie, What Happens Now, Federici; 40/1 Federici