McCoy can go distance with rising Benefficient
TONY MARTIN pits Benefficient in against Long Run and Co for his first chasing start of the campaign under AP McCoy in the Bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby this afternoon.
There is decent racing on both sides of the Irish Sea, and the latest edition of this three-mile-one-furlong Grade Two will be as informative as anything.
On his first start since chasing Sir Des Champs home at Punchestown in April, Long Run certainly sets a tall standard.
The brilliant 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup victor has been third in the last two renewals of the blue riband event, and Nicky Henderson's willingness to get him out early is surely a positive sign.
That said, his heroics in slamming Denman and Kauto Star in that thrilling spectacle two and a half years ago have left him a shadow of his former self.
For all that Long Run continues to grind out decent results, he has become laborious in his performances under Sam Waley-Cohen, so he is opposable at short odds.
Of the other locals, Unioniste and Harry Topper are respected, but both have a preference for testing ground. Conditions today are described as good to soft, and it might be that the combination of a decent surface and a return to this trip could be ideal for Benefficient.
The only other time that irrepressible perennial champion jockey McCoy rode him before, he tired on deep ground over three miles to give best to Harry Topper in a decent novice chase at Newbury a year ago.
That certainly raised question marks about his stamina, with a fine Grade One win over two miles in the Irish Arkle Chase reinforcing that notion.
Nonetheless, that success came in heavy ground, and he went on to show an abundance of reserves when delivering a famous win over two and a half miles on slow going in the Jewson Chase at Cheltenham in March.
Benefficient then showed the effects of a long season when pulling up at Punchestown subsequently, but he remains a progressive sort that might yet prove to be really well suited to these conditions.
He will be sharper for his spin on the Flat at Listowel, and the booking of the on-fire McCoy is a major plus, especially as he now knows the horse.
Taking all that into account, odds of up to 9/1 seem overly generous if the ground holds up.
At Ascot, 16 horses will do battle in the United House Gold Cup over a similar trip, with Bouggler the favourite to augment his taking Market Rasen success in September.
JP McManus' dour Wyck Hill is one with real each-way appeal back at the scene of his determined win last Christmas, but fancied for the win is Opening Batsman.
Harry Fry's seven-year-old developed into a proper horse over fences last term, scoring for a third time in four starts when defying Rolling Aces in a decent handicap at Kempton in February.
Pulled up when he clearly wasn't right on his only start after that at Aintree, Opening Batsman remains just eight pounds higher than when victorious at Kempton. Given his unexposed profile, he is trusted to exploit that mark under the excellent Noel Fehily now.
The preceding William Hill Handicap Hurdle is another cracking contest, with David Pipe's Shotavodka likely to be happier back on a stiff track after proving one-paced at Aintree in the spring.
Barry Geraghty has opted for Nicky Henderson's April Sandown winner Gibb River, but the suspicion is that his hat-trick-seeking stablemate Makari will collect.
The French-bred six-year-old twice disappointed after making a smooth debut for the champion trainer at Fakenham 12 months ago.
However, he has been an absolute revelation this term, barely breaking out of a canter to secure a pair of modest handicaps.
This is a far better contest and Makari must compete off a 12lb higher mark than when he scooted up at Ludlow last week, but he could easily have won with a stone more that day. As such, he appeals as still being potentially well in under Andrew Tinkler here.
Best Bet: Makari