Forpady team eyes Ascot prize
TOM Cooper is poised to let Forpadydeplasterer take his chance in Saturday's Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot.
The big two-mile contest has attracted a classy field, including Nicky Henderson's Champion Chase hope Finian's Rainbow and the exciting novice Al Ferof, after eight stood their ground at yesterday's five-day stage.
Forpadydeplasterer hasn't won a race since landing the 2009 Irish Independent Arkle at Cheltenham but, having been sidelined for over a year, he hinted that he might be returning to his best when third to Big Zeb at Leopardstown last time out.
The galloping nature of Ascot is likely to suit Cooper's charge, but he faces a tough task in taking on the likes of Finian's Rainbow, which is likely to be the mount of Barry Geraghty.
Henderson's charge, runner-up in last season's Arkle, made a winning reappearance at Kempton over Christmas, despite a bad blunder at the fourth-last fence. He managed to reorganise himself and rallied well to beat two of his possible rivals on Saturday, Wishfull Thinking and Oiseau De Nuit, and owner Michael Buckley has high expectations. "I hope he's got a good chance. If he's got any pretensions of running in the Champion Chase, he has to have a good chance of winning this," Buckley stated.
"He's a changed character this year. Having been a bit of a tearaway, he's much more laid back now. He's quietened down considerably."
Paul Nicholls is taking the view that Al Ferof, last year's Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner and unbeaten in two starts over fences, might as well run for a share of Victor Chandler's £105,000 as a novice chase worth peanuts.
Somersby, which ran Master Minded to a neck in this race a year ago, is also among the entries, along with Gauvain and I'm So Lucky.
Meanwhile, Lexus Chase hero Synchronised remains firmly on course for a return to Leopardstown and a crack at next month's Hennessy Gold Cup. Last year's Welsh National scorer handled the better ground to beat the likes of Rubi Light and Quito De La Roque at the venue last month.
The Jonjo O'Neill-trained gelding will be back for his next start on February 12 and Frank Berry, racing manager for owner JP McManus, is keen to see how he fares there before committing him to a run in the Gold Cup.
"All going well he's going for the Irish Hennessy and he's picked up well after his run at Christmas. Jonjo is very happy with him," said Berry.
At Plumpton yesterday, trainer Alison Batchelor got an unexpected bonus when her Golan Guy qualified for an unlikely Cheltenham bonus after his victory in the Timeform Novice Chase.
The former Tony Martin inmate was a distant third best of five in the early betting shows but was the 10/11 favourite by race-time as market leaders Chariot Charger and Owen Glendower were both withdrawn when their connections felt the ground was not suitable.
Golan Guy had won several times for Martin on this side of the Irish Sea and made all the running on his second start for Batchelor to finish seven lengths in front of Hearty Royale.
Ridden by Mark Quinlan, he now qualifies for a £60,000 SIS bonus if he wins a chase at the Cheltenham Festival. "We knew with the two good ones in there we would be looking at third if we got round, but they've all got to be jumped."
Batchelor has no expectations of Golan Guy following in the example of Voy Por Ustedes, which collected the Plumpton-Cheltenham bonus in 2006 when winning the Arkle.
Alain Cawley did not look as if he would be winning on his first Plumpton ride until everything changed for the Galway native at the final flight of the mares' novice hurdle. The 4/6 favourite Lady Kathleen seemed assured of victory until she crumpled on jumping the final hurdle and Cawley, who had been making eyecatching progress aboard Martin Keighley's One More Cookie (9/1), was suddenly in pole position.
"I'd have definitely been a fast-finishing second, although I wouldn't have caught the other horse," said Cawley.
The in-form team of Venetia Williams and Aidan Coleman struck with Niceonefrankie (evens favourite) as he shouldered a 7lb penalty in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase.
Victor Chandler Chase -- Paddy Power bet: 7/4 Finian's Rainbow, 11/4 Al Ferof, 6/1 Somersby 13/2 Wishfull Thinking, 7/1 Gauvain, 10/1 Forpadydeplasterer 16/1 bar