Topofthegame has a leading chance

February 3rd, 2018 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

I was greatly relieved when Maria’s Benefit held on at Doncaster last week. She is a very tough and classy mare who took the step up to Grade 2 level in her stride but, when Irish Roe joined her at the last, I thought she would be beaten.

In fact she battled on and was even starting to pull away again at the finish but victory comes at a price and I feel both of the first two will need a long rest now and I wouldn’t be thinking of running them at Cheltenham. There is no telling how long it will take to recover from an all-out effort like that and I shall be a spectator next time.

It was a very good day because Agrapart won at 9/1 and I was greatly taken by Lizzie Kelly’s strength and balance in a tight finish. Agrapart is much travelled and goes to Paris in search of very soft ground in long-distance hurdles. He was not entered for the Stayers’ next month in the belief that the going would be too quick for him, which is probably true.

I don’t know how to catch Philip Hobbs on the right days at present. I made a mistake at Chepstow on Friday when going for Rolling Dylan in a weak-looking novices’ chase. The most experienced in the field, he finished a very moderate third behind a horse ridden by Richard Johnson. It is virtually unheard-of for the champion to prefer something from outside the Minehead yard when Hobbs has a runner but I imagine all parties agreed on this occasion. Remarkably, Ton Lacey’s 6/1 winner had never jumped a fence in public and often starts at 100/1 or bigger but he was still good enough here.

This is a very quiet weekend for me. Staying with Hobbs for a moment, I fancied Westend Story for the valuable long-distance handicap hurdle at Sandown on Saturday but he was not among the final declarations. Maybe not everything is right at the stable even now because he seems to have a very fair chance at the weights. In his absence. Paul Nicholls may have the answer with TOPOFTHEGAME, who finished a very good fourth to William Henry in the Lanzarote at Kempton. That is a reliable form-line but the handicapper has taken no chances, raising Topofthegame by 3lb for finishing fourth. The horse is lightly raced and should stay the extra furlong or so without difficulty.

There is attractive prize-money on offer at Lingfield, where the AW card presages Championships Day. The prices will not be great but you have to follow Ryan Moore’s moves when a new campaign looms into view and both City Dreamer and Victory Bond will take some beating.