FINIAN’S RAINBOW (3.10) can further enhance his burgeoning reputation in a fascinating Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot. Nicky Henderson’s chaser appeared to have blundered away his chance four out in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over the Christmas period but rallied very gamely to catch Wishfull Thinking, who reopposes. Finian’s Rainbow was a brilliant first-season novice over fences, chasing home Captain Chris in the Arkle Trophy and posting wins at Aintree, Warwick and Newbury (twice). Paul Nicholls pitches scintillating novice Al Ferof into the fray, while Gauvain atoned for a fall in the Sportingbet Tingle Creek Chase, won by Sizing Europe, by dishing out an emphatic beating to Somersby in the Betfred Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon.
ZAYNAR (3.45) is taken to supplement last month’s course victory, when he powered into a clear lead before the home turn and never looked likely to be caught. An 8lb rise may not stop him in the Betvictor.com handicap chase, especially since the 2009 JCB Triumph Hurdle hero is gradually finding his feet in the chasing sphere. Zaynar was also classy enough to finish third in the 2010 Champion Hurdle behind Binocular and Khyber Kim, and he could still have a bright future in the hands of patient Nick Williams.
Three miles on heavy ground at Haydock will sort out the men from the boys and conditions shouldn’t inconvenience PEARLYSTEPS (3.30) in the Peter Marsh Chase. Henry Daly’s chaser hasn’t too many miles on the clock and boasts plenty of solid form in the mud. The eight-year-old fell at the last fence here in mid-December after cutting out most of the running in the Tommy Whittle Chase and a similar display puts him bang in the picture.
At Lingfield, CLOCKMAKER (3.35) can further underline his consistency by inflicting another defeat on bang-in-form Lockantanks. My selection conceded 8lb to Lockantanks at Wolverhampton in early December and dished out an extended two-length beating. Clockmaker is 5lb better off here and, although Lockantanks has improved since, the runner-up has a tough task on these terms. This is by no means a two-horse contest and a lively betting market is on the cards.
COMPLEX (4.10) is a filly on the upgrade for in-form trainer David Evans. She showed admirable battling qualities at Wolverhampton 12 days ago when edging out odds-on favourite Gabrial’s King, despite being intimidated and carried right inside the final furlong. The runner-up breezed in earlier this week and Complex should give a good account of herself under regular pilot Luke Morris.
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