Staying riches in plentiful supply for Lee on a Classic Saturday
Scott Burton on a pair of pearlers for punters and a possible northern star
When the weather put back the Welsh Grand National for more than a week it could have left the cupboard short of staying chasers for Warwick's Betfred Classic, one of two standout betting dishes to nourish punters on these short winter Saturdays.
But 14 runners will face the Warwick starter with legitimate hopes of victory, with three representing marathon specialist Kerry Lee.
The trainer seems to have near-endless candidates for this kind of affair and, seven days after sending out Alfie Spinner to chase home Chepstow hero Raz De Maree, all her runners hold live chances in what is bound to be another attritional test.
Goodtoknow found only One For Arthur too good here 12 months ago, form that received the ultimate upgrade when the winner landed the Grand National in April, and is the choice of Jamie Moore, Lee’s partner-in-crime on so many of the yard’s biggest days.
The judge rarely records a winning distance of 99 lengths, but that’s what went in the book when Lee’s progressive Krackatoa King made light of heavy ground at Warwick last March and, on a track at which jumping rhythm is so important, it is not hard to envisage 5lb claimer Richard Patrick enjoying the experience to the full.
And then there's Russe Blanc, the hero here two years ago and now reunited with his partner that day, Charlie Poste.
Lee is far from the only trainer to be able to call on rich resources in the staying department, with Nigel Twiston-Davies entertaining major hopes for both Cogry and Ballycross, while another specialist in Venetia Williams chases quick compensation with Emperor's Choice, who got no further than the first in the Welsh National.
Bowen out to scoop another big Saturday pot
Sharing top billing on ITV4 is Kempton, where the 32Red Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle (2.40) has a similarly open look to it.
The starting point for many in such races is to side with lightly raced novices trained by Nicky Henderson and there is no disappointment on that front, with Diese Des Bieffes returning to the scene of his second behind If The Cap Fits over two miles at Christmas.
This will be only the fourth start over hurdles for William Henry and, while the handicapper has taken no chances with him, Bowen's talent – as well as his red-hot form – will convince many to alight on him.
Is north's patient wait for a star over?
In last weekend's RP Sunday the Malcolm Jefferson-trained Waiting Patiently was the name on many lips as the best chance for a northern-based jumper to light up the spring festivals.
Mixing it with the likes of God's Own and Smad Place in the Listed 32Red Chase (2.05, Kempton) should give Jefferson and jockey Brian Hughes a fair idea where their big hope stands in the chasing firmament.
Make no mistake, Waiting Patiently is among the most exciting horses trained anywhere in Britain, no matter which junction of the A1 you turn off at.
All eyes on whether Mengli can
If one of the things that first attracts us to jump racing is its unpredictability, then Mengli Khan is on his way to earning a place right beside Might Bite on every young fan’s bedroom wall.
Near foot-perfect when landing the Royal Bond at Fairyhouse, he then proceeded to kick virtually every flight of hurdles out of the ground at Leopardstown, before crashing out through the wing of the second-last in a race where the drama was only just getting started.
Gordon Elliott bids to reassert the five-year-old's Cheltenham credentials in the Grade 2 Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle (2.10) – a race with a fine recent pedigree in that department – although the suspended Jack Kennedy won’t be the one to find out whether Mengli Khan is on his best behaviour, with Davy Russell the man in the hot seat.
When the exciting duo of Getabird and Carter McKay board the lorry at the Mullins yard on Saturday morning they will be setting out on a journey that has ended in victory for future festival stars Mikael D’Haguenet, Vautour and Douvan, as well as 2016 Supreme runner-up Min.
With the ante-post markets yet to settle on an Irish standard bearer for the festival opener, now wouldn't be a bad time for unpredictability to take a back seat and a 'no-excuses' leader to emerge.
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