Sport Horse Racing

Thursday 22 March 2018

Willing Foe to strike for Godolphin

Hotpot has credentials to justify sustained support in November Handicap, while Scott has double chance at Wincanton

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Willing Foe, the horse on which Frankie Dettori incurred a careless riding ban that ruled him out of the Breeders' Cup, could make today's television viewing even more uncomfortable for the Italian by winning the November Handicap in his absence.

On a Doncaster programme that brings the curtain down on the British Flat campaign, the 12-furlong feature is typically competitive, with 23 runners set to line out. There is no Irish-based contender, but Kevin Prendergast's apprentice Sam James does fly over to take the ride on the John Quinn-trained Kiama Bay.

Relatively lightly raced in recent months, Kiama Bay is a consistent sort that should run a big race. At up to 14/1, he represents decent each-way value, while Samsons Son and Scrapper Smith are two others expected to push for a place at long odds.

However, it is hard to get away from the Godolphin favourite, which continues to trade at an attractive price of 8/1.

While it is usually advisable to look beyond the market leaders in these handicaps, Willing Foe's credentials stand up well.

Crucially, the Dynaformer four-year-old comes here fresh, with just a solitary start to his name this term. On that occasion at Newbury last month, in what was a decent handicap, he kept on dourly over 10 furlongs to be beaten just a length in fourth.

That should have left Willing Foe spot on for this, and his overall profile is equally attractive. In four starts as a three-year-old in 2010, he won three, twice over 10 furlongs at Doncaster and then on his handicap debut off 92 over today's trip.

His final outing of 2010 came in this afternoon's showpiece, when he ran too badly to be true. That he simply wasn't right that day is confirmed by his subsequent absence, though it is significant that his form was still franked by the winner Times Up, a horse he had beaten into second when they met a month earlier at Newmarket.

A year on, then, with Ian Mongan taking the reins for a first time, Willing Foe has massive appeal off a mark of 98, up a mere pound for his promising reappearance.

Over jumps at Wincanton, the in-form Jeremy Scott again has a couple of eye-catchers that warrant consideration. Scott has saddled no less than seven winners from his past eight runners, and Cool Friend and Gone To Lunch are both of interest here.

The latter tackles the Badger Ales Trophy. Paul Nicholls' The Minack, twice successful last term, will be popular in this, but a mark of 141 looks slightly harsh.

Gone To Lunch gets in off just 10st 12lb for 132, a rating that is a 21lbs lower than the career-high he achieved after finishing second in a Grade One at Punchestown in 2009, and also lower than when he twice finished second in the Scottish Grand National. On his return to the track at Wincanton last month, the 11-year-old danced home by eight lengths in a first-time visor, so he is clearly not done with yet.

Cool Friend is equally intriguing in the mares' handicap hurdle off a rating of 119. When the daughter of Anshan last ran over hurdles two years ago, she won a pair of novices and found just one too good in a handicap off a mark of 110.

Since then, Nick Scholfield's mount has gone on to compete at a high level over fences -- earning a mark of 125 in the process -- before losing her way slightly last spring. With Scott's horses in rude health now, though, there is a chance that she could have a big say off what remains a favourable mark.

Earlier, Silviniaco Conti ought to get off the mark at the second time of asking over fences. A smart hurdler, the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding was an encouraging third behind Cue Card and Micheal Flips at Chepstow -- form that has held up really well in the interim -- and he should be good enough to see off Kilcrea Kim.

Best Bet: Gone To Lunch

Irish Independent

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