ALAN KING bids for a third successive triumph in the Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick this afternoon with his game old stayer Blazing Bailey.
Pulled up in the Welsh National, the 2006 Triumph Hurdle third has yet to recapture his sparkle this term. Prior to Chepstow, however, he was an encouraging eighth in the Hennessy Gold Cup, which suggested there might still be another day in him.
Following those two outings, the handicapper has dropped Blazing Bailey 5lbs.
Added to the 2lbs that he was lowered at the end of April, the 10-year-old is back down to the mark of 146 that he won off quite stoutly at Ffos Las a year ago, so he has each-way appeal at 10/1 for his 3lb-claiming rider.
Blazing Bailey is one of just eight of the 14 runners that compete off their correct ratings. Major Malarkey does not get in off its allotted mark, but the Supreme Leader gelding might still be the horse to beat in the three-mile, five-furlong feature.
Having failed to complete the course in his first two starts of 2011, Major Malarkey rounded off last season with a fine effort to be fifth in the race formerly known as the Whitbread.
On his reappearance in early December, he returned to Sandown, when he ran an absolute blinder before making a mistake at the last and tiring into fifth again.
The handicapper has left him unchanged on 127 after that. When you factor in that he is 3lbs wrong at the weights, the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained nine-year-old is 9lbs higher than when he last won at Newbury in December 2010.
That is far from insurmountable, given that this is just Major Malarkey's 10th start over fences, and that he looked as though he would come on appreciably for his seasonal debut. Equally significant is Twiston-Davies' booking of Paddy Brennan.
The in-form Galway-born jockey hasn't ridden the selection since that Newbury victory in 2010, the second time in three chasing starts that he had won on him, and a third in all. At around 8/1, then, the partnership has serious appeal.
Twiston-Davies' Frascati Park is also fancied to do the business in the three-mile novice chase at the midlands venue. Sporting Barry Connell's familiar yellow and blue silks, Frascati Park won both its first two chasing starts easily at Carlisle.
It subsequently ran really well to finish third at Ascot, having looked less than happy going right-handed, just as it had done at Carlisle. Despite that, only Zaynar and Kumbeshwar -- a winner since and on duty at Kempton today -- finished in front of Frascati Park at Ascot, as he came home 10 lengths clear of the useful Micheal Flips.
Back on a left-handed circuit now, he should be an even more potent prospect on this step up from two-and-a-half miles. Connak and Alfie Spinner are two that are feared in the eight-runner heat, though neither strikes as having Frascati Park's class.
At Kempton, El Dancer is a tentative choice at up to 25/1 in a desperately competitive Lanzarote Hurdle. Stepping up from two miles, Act Of Kalanisi would be another to keep on side here, but El Dancer should defy his price on his return to hurdling.
Placed twice in chases since returning from a 20-month lay-off, Lucy Wadham's charge previously competed well in similar handicaps over flights, and won a conditions race at Cheltenham on his final run before being sidelined.
Just prior to that, he was fifth off 140 in a decent race at Aintree, so a new rating of 135 looks fair.
In the last at Kempton, Xenophon will appreciate the good ground. Twice a winner in the summer, Brendan Powell's unexposed four-year-old should relish the quick track.
Best Bet: Frascati Park