TOM Scudamore is hopeful the unbeaten Bidourey can continue his ascent through the ranks by clinching the William Hill Imperial Cup for the Pipe stable at Sandown today.
Trainer David Pipe claimed the fiercely competitive handicap for the third time in eight years when Baltimore Rock struck gold 12 months ago, following in the footsteps of his father, Martin, who sent out six winners of the race from Pond House during his illustrious training career.
With a Ffos Las bumper triumph followed by a hat-trick of novice hurdle victories, French recruit Bidourey heads the market for this year’s renewal and while Scudamore admits this weekend’s assignment is easily his toughest to date, he is expecting the four-year-old to step up to the mark.
He said: “He obviously deserves this step up in class. He’s done everything well and we’re very pleased with him so far as he is still unbeaten.
“He’s a horse who’s just kept on improving through the season. He enjoys his racing and enjoys his jumping, so hopefully he can step up again.”
While the Imperial Cup is a prestigious event in its own right, attracting almost as much attention as the race itself is the £100,000 bonus offered by the sponsors if the winner can follow up in any race at next week’s Cheltenham Festival. Bidourey appears a prime candidate to do so and holds entries in both the Fred Winter and the Triumph Hurdle at Prestbury Park, but Scudamore is not getting ahead of himself. “We’re just concentrating on tomorrow and the rest will look after itself,” said the jockey. “This race is his big target.”
The 24-runner field is headed by the Robert Walford-trained Camping Ground, who created a big impression when making a successful start to his British career over fences at Warwick last month. The five-year-old will have to carry the burden of 11st 12lb under Daryl Jacob.
Nicky Henderson’s West Wizard has always had a huge reputation at Seven Barrrows, but has been turned over at odds-on three times at Kempton since his impressive bumper debut at the track two years ago. He makes his first start in a handicap this weekend and owner Dai Walters is hoping for improvement. He said: “Nicky isn’t really that keen to run him in a big handicap like this, but he’s got to run somewhere and we’ve got to give it a go. He’s been working well at home. He’s been beaten a few times at Kempton, so let’s hope he has better luck at Sandown.”
John Ferguson is keen to find out whether Zip Top is up to this level following a demolition of lesser rivals at Southwell last time.
Champion jockey Tony McCoy is once again in the saddle. “I think Zip Top will stay the two miles at Sandown really well. He hasn’t proved himself in this kind of company so really I’m in the dark, but he’s well and we’ll give it a shot,” said Ferguson.
At Wolverhampton, Scottish trainer Keith Dalgleish feels that Chookie Royale has a big chance of making it back to back victories in the £50,000 Ladbrokes Lady Wulfruna Stakes, having stormed to a three-and-three-quarter-length success in the contest 12 months ago.
The seven-year-old returned to form last time out with a two-length victory over six furlongs at Chelmsford City. Dalgleish said: “It looked like Chookie Royale had a hard race at Chelmsford, but he has come out of it well and goes to Wolverhampton very well in himself.
“Tactically, we are out in stall nine so he is going to have to break fast as he likes to race prominently. If he can do that and get a good position early without doing too much, he should be there at the finish.”
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