Known until recently as the Sodexo Gold Cup, this top three-mile handicap chase has attracted 14 fascinating runners this time around, all fighting for a prize pot of £100,000. We’ve filtered the 2021 field down to the following six horses:
We don’t go for trends too much in this column, but Regal Encore’s win last year at 12 years old and Traffic Fluide’s success in 2018 off 11st12lbs were both highly unusual for this race. This horse however has a great profile for the contest.
Tom Lacey’s Johnbb is just seven years old, a lovely age for progressing chasers over three miles, and has a nice racing weight of just 10-8 under Sam Sheppard.
The rating we’ve given him is possible, one that puts him in our top six, in fact progression puts him right near the win. But, there is no guarantee he’ll stay this trip having done his best work over much shorter and so that tempers enthusiasm.
Gary Moore was responsible for Traffic Fluide’s win three years ago and he must fancy his chances once again with Larry.
The eight-year-old has won two chases, both at Sandown, and earned a much higher rating than what he runs off this time in the recent past, although that was achieved in much quicker events over shorter distances.
This race will take much more getting and we can’t forget that he was a similar price for the 2019 renewal, ultimately being beaten fully 27 lengths that day.
Punters have a puzzle to solve with Mister Malarky, a proven quality chaser trained by a top handler. That puzzle involves deciding whether at 8 years old he has more progression to come, or whether after 28 rules races and a very hard turn around the Grand National in April some of his ability has in fact gone.
Often, he’s run one bad race and then one good, meaning after his poor reappearance he may be ready to go now, but he was tailed off at Chepstow and it would be a brave man who puts good money down on him rediscovering his best form now.
One More Fleurie
Ian Williams’ seven-year-old is very interesting indeed. His most recent form figures read 11F11, the fall coming as a 13/8 favourite, while all the time his numbers are noticeably improving.
His profile shows that he can run well after a break, that he is progressing all the time and needs this trip, though good ground is best and so if any appreciable rain comes, he may just be held back a little. Big shout though.
Easily the most fascinating contender of all. Only nine races into his career (five chases), Sojourn obviously has plenty more to give yet.
At the beginning of last season, he showed his staying prowess when winning over 3m2f at Carlisle by 15 lengths before just running out of steam behind the well-handicapped Sam’s Adventure in the Tommy Whittle.
In checking the form of both races, particularly the Carlisle one, it has been franked time and time again and it could be that Sojourn has already been underestimated by the handicapper before any improvement is taken into account.
He has a light weight, a very good up-and-coming jockey in Rex Dingle on board, he’s had a wind operation to help him out and he goes well when fresh.
Kim Bailey’s topweight has earned his rating having won this race in 2019 and finished second to Cyrname in last year’s Charlie Hall Chase.
This weekend seems to be up his street then, he’s solid in the likely conditions too, but he has shown himself to often be at the end of his tether late on in races when carrying big weights and as we’ve discovered, not many win this event from the top of the handicap.
Vinndication’s credentials are solid and cannot be ignored, but off this weight his price is a crazy one with around 9/4 and 5/2 being quoted at the time of writing. With form figures of /2U60- he shouldn’t be favourite off a mark of 158 but he retains a place chance.
Ian Williams’ One More Fleurie may well prove to be a well-handicapped individual and we like him, but this is a tougher race than he’s had to handle thus far which may yet find him out. Rain would be a negative also.
SOJOURN’s overall form however is excellent. There are no obvious holes in his profile and frankly it was a surprise to see 12/1 and over being offered, making him the best value horse in the line-up so he gets the vote.