“He’s won his two races this season very well and stays well,” said the Minehead handler. “He possibly could have done with softer ground, ideally, but I’m sure he’ll be fine. He’s high in the weights, obviously, but James takes 7lb off, which is a help.”
Spirit Of Adjisa will carry top weight of 11st 12lb, but, despite his generous odds of around 25-1, trainer Tim Vaughan believes his charge has a big chance of glory. The eight-year-old has been sparingly campaigned since his Grade One victory at Punchestown last May – once on the level and once more over hurdles – and Vaughan is bullish ahead of today’s feature race, although frost-threatened Kempton must first pass a morning inspection.
“I’m very excited about running him,” said the Vale of Glamorgan handler. “He needed the run last time at Aintree and the weather turned against us that day as well, so the ground ended up very heavy. Hopefully now he has that run under his belt it will have sharpened him for tomorrow and the rest of the season. You never really want to be top weight in a handicap like this as you’re always vulnerable, but he’s in great form and everything is in his favour. I think he should run a solid race.”
Pipe is responsible for the well-fancied Decoy and Buena Vista, who, since the retirement of Lough Derg, is not far off being the most popular horse in the yard after successive wins at the Cheltenham Festival. “Decoy had two quick races at Cheltenham and Ascot and then we gave him a break,” said Pipe. “He won at Cheltenham and ran very well in defeat at Ascot – the winner that day (Featherbed Lane) has really franked the form. Obviously, we are much better off this time and, while it should bring us closer to Featherbed Lane, that horse looks to be still improving.”
At Kelso tomorrow, Crowning Jewel has been unearthed a fine opportunity in which to set the record straight. Keith Reveley’s six-year-old was turned over as an odds-on chance at Catterick last month, but redemption should be forthcoming in the EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle.
Team Reveley can also get on the scoresheet courtesy of Dancing Art, who looks a player in the Stark Main – UK’s Best Accountancy Practice 2011 Handicap Chase. Araucaria is also worth a bet in the EBF/TBA Mares’ Novices’ Chase, while her trainer Donald McCain is napped to start with a winner as The Weatherman may be able to lower the colours of likely favourite Into Wain.