Trainer Tom Symonds is hopeful Kaki De La Pree can provide him with big-race success in the totepool Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby today.
The defection of the impressive Kings Palace from the West Yorkshire feature has thrown the Grade Two event wide open and Kaki De La Pree has certainly earned his place in the field with a couple of sound efforts in defeat of late.
A dual winner over hurdles and placed in Graded company, the eight-year-old finished third on his chasing debut at Exeter in November before finding only Gevrey Chambertin too strong at Newbury last month.
Symonds, who took out his licence in 2011, would love to add a big prize to his CV.
He said: “He has been really good since Newbury and we were probably unlucky to bump into an in-form Gevrey Chambertin. Kaki De La Pree is a good horse and a stamina-sapping test is what he needs.
“He needed the run at Exeter and we were never going to do anything quickly with him because he is not the easiest.
“He is quite fragile, so you can’t ever do too much work with him at home and we like to leave plenty to work on.
“He is ready to rock and roll now.”
Alan King is looking forward to seeing Ned Stark test his powers over the longer trip of three miles and a furlong.
The seven-year-old won his first two starts over fences at Huntingdon and Newbury before finishing fourth behind leading novice Ptit Zig at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.
“I probably wouldn’t have declared if Kings Palace had run, but he’s not there and I think we go with a good chance,” said King.
“I think the step up in trip will suit him well.”
The highest-rated horse in a nine-strong field is the Philip Hobbs-trained Return Spring, with James Best taking over in the saddle from Richard Johnson.
The eight-year-old finished a fine third behind Kings Palace at Cheltenham last month, but disappointed when favourite for the Classic Chase at Warwick last month.
Johnson, who is instead in action at Sandown, will be a keen observer of proceedings at Wetherby and fancies Return Spring to bounce back.
Johnson said: “The ground was awful at Warwick, really sticky, and he was struggling to handle it from the off.
“I took the view that he was never going and decided to pull him up, but I would hope you can put a line through that.
“With Kings Palace not running, it looks quite an open race and on his other novice form he’d hopefully have every chance.”
Henry Daly’s Top Totti is not out of it on official ratings and was one place ahead of Ned Stark when third at Cheltenham.
Daly said: “If she runs like most of mine have this season, she’ll probably finish second. That’s the way things have been going.
“She’s in good form and the soft ground and the trip should be fine for her.
“If she can repeat her last run she should be right in the mix, so we’ll see.”
Sue Smith is double-handed, with the hat-trick seeking Straidnahanna joined by stable companion Rattlin.
Brian Ellison’s George Fernbeck, the Micky Hammond-trained Gonow and Tonvadosa from Donald McCain’s yard complete the field.
The race is contingent on a precautionary inspection at the track at 8am.
Clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson checked conditions at 2pm on Friday, having earlier in the day reported various areas of concern and a light dusting of snow after temperatures dropped lower than forecast overnight.
However, favourable conditions through the day have given hope for the card featuring the Towton Novices’ Chase.
A tweet from the track read: “+6 temperatures today & ground significantly improved and raceable.”
Hayley Turner picked up a 10-day ban following her ride on Singular Quest in the coral.co.uk Best Odds Guaranteed On Racing Maiden Stakes at Lingfield.
Turner’s mount was narrowly beaten into fourth, although the stewards ruled she should have finished third and that she was guilty of appearing to stop riding shortly before the winning post.
Having heard her evidence and viewed recordings of the race, the officials found her in breach of Rule (B)126.96.36.199 and guilty of failing to ride out on a horse that would have finished third.