Rita the miniature Shetland pony key to Thaqaffa revival
A miniature Shetland pony named Rita is the key to the success story behind Thaqaffa, who bids to reprise his recent course win at Kempton in the 32Red Casino Handicap (7.45).
Amy Murphy's five-year-old is a bit of a worrier in his box at home in Newmarket, so he has the diminutive Rita for company on a daily basis including when going to the races.
After a couple of disappointing efforts, Thaqaffa bucked up his ideas when trouncing Conkering Hero by two and a half lengths over 1m3f last time and was not stopping, which suggests the extra furlong will be well within his compass on his return to the track.
Although he is up in grade and has risen 6lb, Thaqaffa is in the right hands as Murphy has her team in top order, scoring with Lazarus at Chelmsford on Sunday.
She said: "Thaqaffa has had Rita in his box since we got him, which is nearly a year now, and it seems to work for him as he's a bit of a hothead. He's up in grade to a 0-70 but if he runs as he did last time there's no reason why he can't be competitive."
Gold goes right in hat-trick bid
Charlie Fellowes is trying something new with his Southwell specialist Spun Gold by sending him to Kempton.
Formerly trained by Luca Cumani, the four-year-old is at last realising his potential after some frustrating times and is on a hat-trick in the 7f 32Red Handicap (7.15).
The son of Exceed And Excel has never won anywhere other than on Fibresand, where he completed back-to-back wins over this trip ten days ago.
Spun Gold hung right in the straight on both occasions before winning and Fellowes is hoping going that way round in his races may help his chances at Kempton.
The Newmarket trainer said: "As much as we like going to Southwell, the owner wanted to try running Spun Gold somewhere else for a change. The headgear and tongue-tie seems to have helped him realise his potential and as he hangs right we're giving Kempton a go. If he runs poorly then we might have to go back to Southwell with him."
Cheltenham aim with novice
Charlie Longsdon is keen to take Bentelimar to a handicap at the Cheltenham Festival in March and is hoping the novice can advertise his prospects by overcoming just three opponents in the Watch Racing UK Anywhere Chase at Catterick (3.00).
The topweight may be giving upwards of a stone away to his rivals in the novices' limited handicap but Longsdon reckons he has the build and profile to register his first British victory.
The nine-year-old has been placed at Cheltenham and Huntingdon in the latest of his three starts for Longsdon, who purchased him at the sales in Ireland last year.
He said: "The race has cut up and Bentelimar is carrying a lot of weight as a consequence but he deserves to win one of these and his recent form, when third at Cheltenham and then second at Huntingdon, has been strong. He's built to carry big weights and hopefully should be up to the job. The long-term aim is to run him in one of those nice handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival."
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