Race Time: 2.40pm Meeting: Newcastle Day: Saturday 28th November Full Race Name: At The Races Rehearsal Chase Handicap (Listed Race) Class One
A three mile chase give or take a few yards, and with some classy combatants set to go to war headed in the weights by Virak who is the chosen runner from the Paul Nicholls yard from his early entries. Eleven stone twelve is quite a steadier as is giving eight pounds and more to all his rivals, but he earned his rating of 153 with wins over fences at Fontwell, Doncaster, and Haydock (twice). Still only a six year old, he has already surpassed his hurdling form by a stone or so and may have even more to offer this year, though his supporters will need to forgive his seventh of twelve to Pendra when last seen at Ascot in the Sodexo Chase last month. Easy to back that day, the implication has to be that he needed the run (unless something else was wrong of course?), and if he improves as we expect he ought to be on the scene at the business end providing his jumping holds up, which could be the big question carrying this weight.
With so much experience among most of the runners, finding a well handicapped option proved more than a little difficult, but Cloudy Too could be an interesting outsider at a big price for Sue Smith IF he can return to his best, that is. Now a nine year old, he was pulled up at Bangor when adrift of the field when last seen, but has won at Carlisle off a rating of 147 and at Wetherby of 148 (though both were in 2013), and gets in off 142 today, so you can see why he may have chances of a place at a massive price for those who like to play to smaller stakes at the bigger prices.
Kim Bailey is known for his superb abilities when handling chasers and if he has The Last Samuri fit to run for his life, he could well make the frame. His five runs over fences have yielded three wins, a second to the classy Puffin Billy, and one blip when unseating at Kelso, but they were with Donald McCain so it will be interesting to see if Kim can get any more out of the seven year old son of Flemensfirth. Problem today is that we would need to guess yes or No to get involved and although he could go and win by a street, there is no evidence to back that up and all we can suggest is a watching brief today.
Wakanda could be interesting as well for trainer Sue Smith even if we are yet to be convinced he can stay this trip at the highest level. He has won over it at Kelso but in general they have campaigned him over shorter which must be for a reason, and with such a big field we expect a furious pace which may just find him out, especially running off a mark six pounds higher than when winning over shorter at Wetherby last month.
Lastly, but most certainly NOT leastly, David Pipe sends Shotavodka here after his second to One For Harry four weeks ago, showing he is still in good heart. He is another yet to win at this trip with his two career chase wins over two miles and two miles six, but if he gets home (which we think he will), there is little doubt he is well weighted off a rating of 137 having won off of four pounds higher at Kempton last May, and at his price we cant resist him as an each way selection.