UNLIKE his mother Mary, who rarely ventured beyond Aintree with her runners, Keith Reveley is not afraid to take on the big boys in their back yard if he thinks the journey could be worthwhile.
Today, he casts his net as far as Newbury where he has realistic chances in the two main events and I will be surprised and disappointed if his Lingdale duo don’t pick up some prize-money at the very least.
Benny Be Good, who carries top weight in the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase, has been in the grip of the handicapper since landing a valuable Market Rasen handicap in September on his first outing since scoring at Sedgefield in April.
That performance saw his rating raised to 150 but, despite looking as though he was weighted to his best, he ran a blinder off his new mark at Doncaster in December failing by a neck to peg back Qianshan Leader, in receipt of 24lb.
Benny Be Good has been campaigned equally over fences and hurdles this season and it wasn’t until returning to Doncaster three weeks ago that he was back over the bigger obstacles for the Grimthorpe Chase.
Up another 7lb for his earlier narrow defeat over the course, the nine-year-old was well held under top weight and was left to finish a poor third after a tired Pentiffic fell at the last when being pressed by the first two home, Ikorodu Road and Junior.
The assessor has shown some mercy by dropping the Reveley horse 5lb but he is still 9lb higher than his last success. However, he is only a couple of pounds above the mark off which he went so close to winning at Doncaster on his previous visit.
Ikorodu Road was gaining his first win over fences when short-heading Junior at Doncaster and has been given a chance of following up with only a 3lb rise. Benny be Good has an 8lb pull which, strictly on the book, is not enough to turn the tables on the winner.
On the other hand, my selection wasn’t given a hard time after a mistake at the 13th and he ought to finish a lot closer to Ikorodu Road at the revised weights. He is a good ground performer and I fancy he might provide an upset.
Most of the opposition have questions to answer. Pearlysteps jumped badly and was pulled up at Ascot after a solid effort against According To Pete at Haydock and needs to bounce back.
Mon Parrain flopped in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham and again ran below expectations when fading into third on the run-in on a return visit in December. Reveley’s other runner is Cue To Cue in the EBF Ultima Business Solutions mares’ National Hunt Novices Hurdle Finale.
Disappointing in bumpers last season, this well-bred mare was easy to back for her jumping bow at Newcastle in November, but ran out an impressive winner of a maiden hurdle.
She hasn’t managed to add to that but has been far from disgraced in making the frame in her other three starts. This daughter of the classy Marello was stepped up in trip and class for her next outing back at Newcastle and was unable to make much impression from off the pace. She had to settle for third behind a decent yardstick in Fill The Power who took his chance in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham last week.
Back to the minimum distance at Doncaster, Cue To Cue was far from fluent with her jumping when fourth to Alasi, while at Newcastle a month ago, again over the bare minimum despite being bred to stay much further, she couldn’t cope with the ill-fated Palawi and Stormy Weather.
Yet she gives the impression she is going the right way and capable of better.
Nicky Henderson is no stranger to winning this valuable prize and dual winner Heather Royal and Native Beauty represent the stable this time.
The latter will appreciate this stiffer stamina test and makes the greater appeal even though Barry Geraghty has plumped for the other. There may not be much between Alan King’s pair Tante Sissi and Night Rose, while Florafern booked her place with a convincing victory at Exeter last time and her trainer Oliver Sherwood knows what it takes to win this event, having been twice successful with his only two runners in the last 10 years.