Trainer Charlie Mann is considering pitching his exciting novice Moon Over Miami against seasoned handicappers in a bid to scoop the inaugural running of Doncaster’s richest-ever jump race, the £100,000 williamhill.co.uk Handicap Chase (3.30pm) on Saturday, February 2.
The seven-year-old is one of 36 classy entries for the fantastic extended two-mile contest, and is also among 22 top-class novices engaged in the £20,000 Watch & Bet - BetliveTV @ williamhill.co.uk Novices’ Chase (1.25pm).
Mann revealed this morning: “The plan is to take Moon Over Miami to Doncaster where he will run in either the williamhill.co.uk Handicap Chase or the Watch & Bet - BetliveTV @ williamhill.co.uk Novices’ Chase. He would need a bit of rain though, as it was quick enough for us there on Saturday.
“He is entered in the handicap and, for £100,000, we will definitely look at it. We certainly have the intention of running at Doncaster if it rains. We will see what is in both races before committing and the most important thing for him of course is Cheltenham - that’s the aim.”
Moon Over Miami, rated a 10/1 chance by William Hill for the £100,000 event, held the well-regarded Paul Nicholls-trained Big Buck’s by half a length in a Newbury novices’ chase on December 29, over an extended two and a quarter miles. The gelding, a classy novice hurdler last term, had previously been the impressive winner of the Grade Two Independent Newspaper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham over two miles, defeating Predateur by eight lengths.
Mann continued: “He is a good horse and he won well at Newbury last time - the second has gone and won since. He did it from the front but he is really a hold-up horse who wants a fast gallop, which he will get in a handicap around Doncaster. He is really a two-miler and what he wants is a fast two miles.”
The entry for the £100,000 williamhill.co.uk Handicap Chase is particularly strong.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls has two to choose from in Andreas, victorious in the Grand Annual Chase at Cheltenham last season, and Saintsaire, a winner at Newbury in December. The in-form David Pipe has a duo of possible starters in Pablo Du Charmil, successful in the Grade Two William Hill Gold Cup at Exeter in November and Helen Wood.
Jack The Giant, last year’s Arkle third who landed a valuable handicap hurdle at Ascot just before Christmas, could represent Nicky Henderson and is the 11/2 market leader with William Hill while North Yorkshire-based Ferdy Murphy has three entered - Paddy Power Gold Cup victor L’Antartique, The Duke’s Speech and Majorca. Fellow North Yorkshire handler Malcolm Jefferson also has a brace entered with soft-ground specialist Roman Ark and Calatagan, triumphant in the Castleford Chase at Wetherby in December.
Other leading contenders include the Alan King-trained Howle Hill, winner of three of his four starts over fences including a Grade Two event at Ascot in November, Lennon from the County Durham stable of Howard Johnson and the Ian Williams-trained Bambi de L’Orme, successful in the Grade Three John Smith’s Red Rum Chase at Aintree last season.
There are seven Irish-trained entries including the likely top-weight Foreman from the Charlie Swan stable, a Grade One winner at Aintree in 2006. The Irish septet also includes Arthur Moore’s pair Tiger Cry and Kranji, a facile winner at Leopardstown’s Christmas Meeting.
OPENING PRICES FROM WILLIAM HILL
Jack The Giant 11/2, Saintsaire 8, Kranji 9, Andreas 10, L'Antartique 10, Moon Over Miami 10, Howle Hill 10, Kruguyrova 10, Wanango 11, Lennon 12, Hasty Prince 12, Tiger Cry 12, Helen Wood 12, Vintage Treasure 12, Lord Henry 14, Pablo du Charmil 16, Tumbling Dice 16, Publican 16, Gentle John 16, Calatagan 20, Bambi de L'Orme 20, Bleu Superbe 20, Foreman 25, Crossbow Creek 25, Roman Ark 25, Oneway 25, Magic Sky 25, Allumee 25, The Duke's Speech 25, Rowdy Yeats 25, Rapide Plaisir 33, Ela Re 33, Pseudonym 33, Its Crucial 33, Majorca 40, Chaninbar 66
Doncaster Racecourse Clerk of the Course and Estates Manager, David Williams, revealed this morning: “I have changed the ground this morning to good, good to firm in places, although we are forecast some rain this week. It is quite ironic that seven days ago we were actually soft with heavy patches, it has been quite a remarkable spell of weather.”
Williams reports the track to be in good condition after last Saturday’s Sky Bet Chase day, which saw 107 horses compete in eight races, and is looking forward to another tremendous day’s racing at redeveloped Doncaster.
He said: “We had a bumper amount of runners on Saturday but the divots are being replaced on the track as we speak and after that amount of horses going over it, the course is in good condition.
“The williamhill.co.uk Handicap Chase is the richest-ever jump race at Doncaster and we are eagerly anticipating its inaugural running. It is fantastic that William Hill is sponsoring such a big prize.”
William Hill sponsor the entire six-race card at Doncaster on Saturday.