Tuesday 23 January 2018

Ranger on happy hunting ground

Denis O'Regan and Insignia plough through the last on the way to winning the Sol Handicap Hurdle at Fontwell Park yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
Denis O'Regan and Insignia plough through the last on the way to winning the Sol Handicap Hurdle at Fontwell Park yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

Keith Hamer

Denis O'Regan believes course form will stand Exmoor Ranger in good stead in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown on Saturday.

The nine-year-old is a hurdles winner at the Esher venue and was only beaten a nose by Monkerhostin, the winner in 2008, in an extended three-mile handicap chase in February 2010.

The Cork-born jockey teams up with Victor Dartnall's charge in the big staying handicap in the knowledge that his mount is at home at Sandown.

"He's got a competitive weight and it's probably not the most top-class chase you'll see," O'Regan said.

"I've been saying all year (he wants) Sandown on good ground. He's won around there before and he only got beat a nose by Monkerhostin there.

"He loves the place and he'll love the ground. It will be safe, they'll have it lovely there."

Sam Twiston-Davies is relishing the prospect of being reunited with Baby Run. Last season he was the regular partner of the leading hunter chaser, owned and trained by his father Nigel, with his younger brother Willie taking over this campaign after he turned professional.

Baby Run returned to winning ways in the Fox Hunters' Chase at Aintree after unseating the younger Twiston-Davies in the Cheltenham equivalent last month.

Now Sam is back in the plate, with Baby Run returning to open handicap company for the first time since December 2006.


"I can't wait to ride him. I think he's got a brilliant chance at the weights," he said. "He's done a lot but it's hard to put the two lines of form together. He's beaten some good horses in what he's done so far. He tries very hard and hopefully he'll do the business."

West End Rocker could seek compensation after being brought down at Becher's during the first circuit in the Grand National at Aintree.

"It would depend on the ground, I would have thought," said Noel Williams, assistant to trainer Alan King.

"He appreciates good ground so as long as it's safe he might well take his chance. Obviously he didn't get very far in the National at Aintree but he took to it like a duck to water up to that point.

"It was just unfortunate there were horses in the way when he landed at Becher's. He had a couple of scratches but he's fine.

"He stays very well and within reason he's versatile ground-wise and his jumping has really improved with racing."

Emma Lavelle has her fingers crossed that Fire And Rain makes the cut and that the weights go up so he is in the handicap proper.

"I think there's a doubt whether (top weight) Siegemaster's going to run or not and the weights will go up that bit more and he'll just scrape in at the bottom," said the trainer.

"He takes an awful lot of work. He's got some very good form prior to having a leg injury but he's in good order. He had a run over hurdles to sharpen him up a bit. If he gets in he probably will run."

Bet365 Gold Cup -- William Hill bet: 11/2 Baby Run, 6/1 Balthazar King, 10/1 Triggerman, 12/1 Aimigayle, Poker De Sivola, 14/1 Iconoclast, Maktu, 16/1 Can't Buy Time, Faasel, Meanus Dandy, West End Rocker, 20/1 bar.

Irish Independent

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