THAT David Pipe is prepared to send stayer Shaking Hands from Devon to contest today’s North Yorkshire Grand National Handicap Chase at Catterick is indicative of a stable in form – and full of confidence.
The trainer would also not be asking stable jockey Tom Scudamore to make a 500-mile round trip if he did not think the eight-year-old had an outstanding chance of beating more local runners like former Bet365 Chase winner Hennessy who is now with Ferdy Murphy.
Scudamore, buoyed by a big-race double at Wincanton on Saturday, has ridden Shaking Hands to three victories over fences and clearly gets on well with this relentless galloper who will like the testing conditions.
Furthermore, Shaking Hands was a creditable third to Honourable Arthur at Wincanton on Boxing Day when Hadden Frost replaced Scudamore who was riding the celebrated Grands Crus to victory in the Grade One Feltham Novices Chase at Kempton.
Unsurprisingly, the galloping grey’s name was included in the list of 34 horses who have taken up provisional entries in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, steeplechasing’s showpiece race of the season.
They are headed by reigning champion Long Run who is set to renew his formidable rivalry with the rejuvenated veteran Kauto Star who, at the age of 12, will be seeking a third Gold Cup.
Another interesting contender would be Jonjo O’Neill’s Synchronised – last season’s Welsh National winner burst onto the Gold Cup scene when winning the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown. The likely mount of AP McCoy, he would favour soft ground.
Back to Catterick where Graham Lee has two chances to join the select band of jump jockeys who have ridden 1,000 career winners – his big race ride is Posh Bird for Peter Niven.
Also taking on Catterick’s three mile six furlong stamina test is Saltburn trainer Keith Reveley’s recent Sedgefield winner Pegasus Prince. He will be ridden by the trainer’s talented son James who made a winning return to the saddle at Doncaster yesterday after suffering a knee injury and concussion at Wetherby’s Boxing Day meeting.
The jockey rode his father’s Corkage to victory in the Pegler Yorkshire Handicap Hurdle, the 6-1 chance showing a nice combination of spirit and style.
“I’ve just been resting and sleeping since I’ve been off, but it’s good to be back,” said Reveley who then completed a quickfire double on Martin Todhunter’s Quetzal.
Meanwhile impressive Sandown winner Hold On Julio has been installed as 5-1 favourite by the sponsors for the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster on January 28.
Alan King’s former point-to-pointer has won twice at the Esher venue this season and took a valuable pot last weekend, despite being out of the handicap.
Henrietta Knight’s Calgary Bay – a New Year’s Day winner at Cheltenham – is also entered while Malcolm Jefferson’s According To Pete, who bounced back to form in the Rowland Meyrick, will be attempting to keep the prize in the north.