Barely a day goes by without another jumps meeting meriting the description of heavy ground, and more squelchy conditions seem likely to prevail at Ascot and Haydock on Saturday. Given that further deluges are predicted at the latter venue in the run-up to the Peter Murray Chase, siding with a confirmed mud lover is essential for this valuable staying handicap.
Indeed, Haydock’s sodden jumps course has endured a monumental 41mm of rain up to and including Wednesday, and after rare day of respite on Thursday, a further 11mm are expected between now and post-time. Such arresting statistics are likely to be manna fromheaven for Venetia Williams, who sends out the mighty Katenly for Haydock’s Peter Murray Chase at 2.15.
The one-time French-trained gelding produced his best effort when hosing up in the mud to land a competitive Cheltenham handicap at this same stage of the season twelve months ago. Considered somewhat fancifully as a Gold Cup candidate in the wake of that fine win, the eight-year-old suffered a life-threatening bout of colic and missed the rest of the season.
Thankfully, Katenly has been restored to full health and was in the process of running a blinding race when tanking along in the Hennessy Gold Cup until parting company with Aidan Coleman at the fourteenth fence just as the big race was beginning to unfold.
A slightly disappointing effort followed seven days later at Aintree but that race came too soon and Ms Smith has wisely given her stable star time to recover from those two efforts and all the signs suggest he is a strong fancy from his in-form yard to resume winning ways at the weekend. Still well treated, he looksthe one to beat.
Of the rest, Buggsy Star rates the main danger but experienced a hard race in the Irish National while Berry King is another coming from the Chepstow cauldron over Christmas while Sydney Stir flopped badly at Wetherby on Boxing Day, and it is hard to imagine him running as well as Katenly managed in a Hennessy. Aintree hero Chance Du Ray is hardly consistent and recent course and distance winner Night Alliance has plenty more on his plate this time around.