Perth lays claim to strongest chase of the summer season as Charbel returns
Forget mundane Monday. Perth, offering £25,000 for its feature handicap chase, has attracted what one trainer justifiably describes as the classiest cast of the summer.
Charbel, who fell in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March after similarly exiting in the Arkle the year before when still leading Altior at the second-last, does not even head the weights in the Sodexo Prestige Venues And Events Killiecrankie Handicap Chase (3.45).
There is also another Altior connection in Marracudja, who makes his debut for Dan and Harry Skelton after leaving Paul Nicholls, who trained him to win the Scottish Champion Chase at Musselburgh in February.
Marracudja had chased home Altior in the Wayward Lad Novice Chase at Kempton in 2016 during a successful novice chase campaign.
Even he does not top the weights, as it is last year's winner Hammersly Lake who has that honour as he returns rated 10lb higher than for his defeat of subsequent Caspian Caviar Gold Cup winner Guitar Pete.
Charlie Longsdon, who holds his annual open day at the weekend, said: "It has to be the strongest race of the summer – three horses rated in the 150s – not even the Summer Plate at Market Rasen had a runner rated in the 150s.
"It's going to be tough for him to win it again, rated 10lb higher than last year in a tougher race and having to give a horse of Charbel’s class 5lb.
"There’s no reason why he won’t run another good race. He's been running well off big weights this summer and the quicker the pace the more it will help him, as he comes from off the pace in his races."
Charbel runs in a handicap for the first time, having contested top Grade races with honour since his beginners' chase win at Uttoxeter two year ago.
The seven-year-old's trainer Kim Bailey said: "It’s a good race for him and we've aimed him at it, as there are few races for him before November.
"He's done loads of schooling and he's stepping up to two and a half miles for the first time. We'll see if he gets that trip and also see if he's in as good a form as before, which we think he is.
"The handicapper has given him a bit of a chance.”
Gordon Elliott, who has won with his last six jumpers in Britain, all at Sedgefield, whittled down his seven entries to just Rightdownthemiddle, who won a three-runner hurdle at the course last month.
Elliott is returning to the track with five runners, 23 days after sending out a five-timer at the last meeting.
Topper looking to lord it again at Newton Abbot
Lord Topper and conditional Page Fuller put their unbeaten record together at Newton Abbot on the line in the feature newtonabbotracing.com Handicap Hurdle (3.25).
Trainer Jamie Snowden is under no illusions about the task the five-year-old faces for completing his course-and-distance hat-trick.
"He's got to improve again," said Snowden. "But I think he has every chance again. He's been a star for us over the summer and the step up in trip and fast ground has contributed to his improvement."
King's Lad, one of two runners for Colin Tizzard, is another on a hat-trick mission, and Irish import Perfect Man bids to back up a winning start for his new trainer Olly Murphy.
Moqarrab defends unbeaten all-weather record
Saeed Bin Suroor has sent out seven winners and seven seconds from his last 28 runners and sends Moqarrab down the road from Newmarket to try to make it three out of three on the all-weather in the Chelmsford feature Irish Lotto At totesport.com Handicap (7.15).
The three-year-old, beaten behind another Godolphin runner at Newmarket last time, sports cheekpieces for the first time.
He has won his two Tapeta races at Wolverhampton and was a late withdrawal from the UAE 2,000 Guineas Trial at Meydan in January.
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