Flying Award to make light work of rivals
NOEL FEHILY, last year's Champion Hurdle-winning jockey, has the plum mount on the rapidly progressing Pete The Feat in this afternoon's Betfred Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick.
Unbeaten in five starts since joining Charlie Longsdon's burgeoning stable, the late-blooming nine-year-old's aggregate winning margin stands at a massive 92 lengths.
Under west Cork-born Fehily at Newbury last time, he made all to run out a decisive winner over an extended three-and-a-quarter miles.
Pete The Feat steps up to three miles and five furlongs now, which may not necessarily suit a horse that tends to race with the clutch out.
While he had the race sewn up in the straight at Newbury, over today's extra distance, it may be significant that his lead was diminishing rather than extending on the run to the line on that occasion.
Moreover, a 9lb hike means that he is now 40lb higher than when he began his prolific spree for Longsdon, and 11st 4lb is plenty to carry in this competitive heat.
At his age, improvement could be about to plateau now, while best-priced odds of 4/1 represent little value when you balance the many potential negatives against his obvious well-being.
Further up the page, Restless Harry is hard to ignore off a rating of 140. Robin Dickin and Henry Oliver are rarely associated with major Saturday winners, but this fellow made the frame three times in Grade Ones over flights, including twice behind the mighty Big Buck's.
In an aborted first period over fences last season, Restless Harry was placed behind Join Together and Teaforthree on his only two attempts. He returned to the bigger obstacles in November, finishing fourth at Ascot and then scooting up from Tullamore Dew at Newbury.
This will be an altogether more thorough test, but stamina has always looked Restless Harry's best attribute, and his handicap rating is very favourable in relation to his best hurdling form. There are certainly worse each-way options among the 13-strong field.
Still, at up to 12/1, Flying Award appeals as by far the best value on offer in this Grade Three.
Another nine-year-old that has belatedly come into its own, the Susan Gardner-trained son of Oscar has had just five starts over fences, winning three and finishing second once.
Just held on its fencing bow off 105 at Ffos Las last February, Flying Award got off the mark off the same rating over three-and-a-quarter miles next time.
A spin each over hurdles and fences knocked off the cobwebs this term, before he relished the step-up to this sort of extreme trip in testing going at Bangor to score off 110 and then turned in his most authoritative display yet to quicken clear at the end of a gruelling Exeter test off a 3lb higher figure.
Inexplicably, he has just a 6lb hike to defy in his bid for a hat-trick, which means he has gone up 7lb less than Pete The Feat had done after winning two on the spin.
With that in mind, the price discrepancy is unwarranted, so Flying Award cannot go unsupported off a feather-weight 10st 3lb, with Aidan Coleman taking over from the trainer's daughter Lucy.
Fehily has a decent book of rides at the midlands venue, with George Nympton possibly the pick of the lot in the two-mile handicap chase.
Other recent winners Rody and Eastlake, which both beat Rouge Et Blanc on their respective last starts, are obvious dangers.
Top-weight Rody is the least exposed of that duo, but neither appeals as having quite as much scope to improve as the selection.
Nick Williams' promising seven-year-old has only twice been ridden by Fehily, resulting in two taking wins over this course and distance.
Having won here in December 2011, George Nympton's form tailed off a little. However, he relished his return last month, overcoming a mark of 115 to score in fine style. He is up 7lb now, but has the potential to defy that hike with everything in his favour.
In the three-mile novice chase that follows, Highland Lodge is fancied to collect again. Granted, this five-runner affair is well contested, but Emma Lavelle's charge really looked the part when thrashing the highly regarded Our Father at Cheltenham in December.
Best Bet: Highland Lodge