Curtis’ high hopes for Sky Bet
View from connections ahead of Saturday's Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster where Rebecca Curtis has high hopes for her duo.
Rebecca Curtis runs two in the Sky Bet Chase
Rebecca Curtis has high hopes for her two runners in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster on Saturday.
The first of the Newport handler's duo is the novice Bigbadjohn, who was second behind the brilliant King George VI Chase winner Thistlecrack on his latest start at Newbury in November.
Curtis also saddles Potters Cross, who advertised his claims when winning the Mandarin Handicap Chase at Newbury on New Year's Eve.
"Bigbadjohn is in very good form and the horses around him have gone on to do good things," said Curtis. "He's still on quite a nice mark.
"Potters Cross ran really well the last day. The track should suit him. The two of them should have nice chances."
Ziga Boy, trained by Alan King, attempts to lift this prize for the second year running after beating Coologue 12 months ago.
"It would be lovely if he could win it again," said Dan Downie, racing manager for owners Axom.
"We know he loves Doncaster. Last time out was the first time he's been beaten there but it was still a good run.
"It has always been the plan to go back for it and we're looking forward to it. Good ground is fine for him, so there'll be no excuses."
Coologue bids to go one better and his trainer Charlie Longsdon has had another crack at this race in mind for some time.
"This race has been the plan all the way through for Coologue," said Longsdon.
"He's a few pounds higher than last year, but not a lot. He's improved this season and I'd be disappointed if he doesn't run a decent race.
"He loves the ground and he likes the course."
Longsdon has a second string to his bow in Long Lunch, whom he thinks can also put up a good show.
"He's in good form and he's got a good, strong each-way chance," said the Chipping Norton handler.
Southfield Royale had Coologue back in second place when landing a Grade Two novice chase over the course and distance in December 2015.
However, Neil Mulholland's charge is having his first race since Punchestown in April, when he was tailed off in a Grade One contest won by Zabana.
"He just pulled a few muscles earlier in the season, which is why he hasn't been out until now," said Mulholland.
"This has been his aim for a while and he's fit to go. He is as ready as we can get him at home. We haven't had the most straightforward of preparations, but he has schooled well and we are happy with him.
"He was fourth in the four-miler (at Cheltenham) last year and that form could barely have worked out any better so we know he's capable."
He added: "We have the likes of the bet365 Gold Cup and Scottish Grand National as possible targets in the spring.
"We will get Saturday out of the way first and see where we go."
Nicky Richards expects his two runners, Ballyboker Breeze and Looking Well, to run well as the Greystoke trainer tries to win this historic race, formerly known as the Great Yorkshire Chase, for the first time.
"I think Ballyboker Breeze is a progressive horse going the right way and I think he's still going places," said Richards.
"I think he's that kind of horse that wants better ground so we've been a little restricted where we could run him. He's not a horse you'd want to be running every fortnight.
"Looking Well will have a big say in some of the better handicaps going into the spring and I think he'll run a good one."
Warren Greatrex feels Out Sam should not be underestimated and was delighted with his latest performance at Kempton, where he stayed on well to take third place behind Double Shuffle.
"It was a huge step in the right direction last time and I was really happy with it. He tended to jump left, which didn't help him," said the Lambourn trainer.
"He was the fastest finisher and if you put into context the ground he has given away he would have been bang there. If he can put it altogether he will win a big race. A flat track going left-handed will be in his favour.
"The cheekpieces are going back on and Andrew Tinkler got a really good vibe out of him last time and is back on board.
"He has been favourite for some big handicaps, so it is not just me believing what he is capable of. It is not misleading as he shows plenty at home and if he does win a big one he could go on from there.
"This is one plan and the Eider is another one as I do think he is a proper stayer, but we will see how he gets on at the weekend."
The Jonjo O'Neill-trained pair of Holywell and Another Hero are heading to this race in the search of better ground.
"They both want decent ground and hopefully they will get that there," said O'Neill's assistant Guy Upton.
"Another Hero ran very well at Ascot and if he steps up on that, hopefully he'd have a nice chance. Holywell usually comes to himself in the spring and he's in good form at home."
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