Harry Whittington looking to Bigmartre for Imperial Cup boost

Fri 10 Mar 2017

Harry Whittington is hoping Bigmartre can return to winning ways in the Matchbook Imperial Cup at Sandown.

Whittington is only in his fourth season with a licence, but he has maintained a good strike-rate all his career and landed a Grade One at Aintree with Arzal last season.

Arzal unfortunately had to be put down shortly after that victory and Whittington suffered further ill fortune whenhis campaign was brought to a halt after Christmas due to a low-level virus.

After a mid-season hiatus, however, his string appear to be fit and healthy once more and Whittington is looking toBigmartre to bounce back to his best.

"You can draw a line through his last run at Cheltenham as our horses definitely weren't right at the time," said Whittington

"We've given them three weeks off because, even through they weren't sick, they'd just had a low-lying virus.

"We've had our first runners back and somebody said to me the other day they look fresher than they did in September.

"I couldn't be happier with him going into the race and he's only 1lb higher than Kempton when he won a decent race.

"He should have a good chance and while I don't think the ground will be ideal for any of them, he does at least have form on soft and he has a knee action.

" I don't think anyone would mind if it rained to stop it becoming a glue pot."

Behind Bigmartre at Kempton was Alan King's William H Bonney, who then won the Cheltenham race in which Bigmartre disappointed.

King then asked his charge to shoot for gold in the Betfair Hurdle but the trainer felt a quick reappearance took its toll.

"We took a gamble on running William H Bonney in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury just two weeks after he won so well at Cheltenham," he told www.alankingracing.co.uk.

"As we feared it might, the race came too soon, but he's done well to recover from a fractured pelvis, and he's had four weeks to freshen up and seems back in good form.

"He's definitely better than he looked at Newbury, where he travelled well to the third last and then beat a retreat, so we are looking to get back on track in what looks an open race."

Gary Moore usually does well in this type of race and saddles both Darebin and Not Another Muddle.

" Darebin has been running on the Flat of late and he's been doing pretty well," said Moore.

"He's gone well at Sandown before and the key to him is to mix and match to keep him interested.

"Not Another Muddle is stepping up in class.I did have him in the EBF Final as well, but I just felt in an open handicap like this, they are more likely to go the good gallop which he needs.

"I hope both have each-way chances, they are similar prices and I couldn't really split them.

"The only difference is Darebin has the experience which Not Another Muddle lacks. "

Chieftain's Choice won for the first time since his days with John Quinn last time out at Sandown and Kevin Frost is hoping it gives his confidence a boost.

"He just lost his way a little bit last year and we couldn't get to the bottom of it, so we changed tack completely and started riding him totally different and hanging on to him," said Frost.

"He does seem to be a bridle horse and loves going past horses and when he does get to the front, he thinks he's done enough.

"Tom Bellamy, who has ridden him the last twice, and I think he got there a bit too early at Kempton, but he learnt a lot from that at Sandown. I'm hoping he's going to learn again and hold on to him a bit longer and be braver on Saturday.

"The horse (Centurius) that finished second to him at Sandown has won really nicely at Ludlow, so that augurs well and the form stacks up.

"I think he's got a great each-way chance. You just need plenty of luck in races like that."

Graeme McPherson has been enjoying a good spell and his Kayf Blanco would not be winning out of turn after a series of good efforts.

" It certainly doesn't look as strong as previous Imperial Cups and Cheltenham has to be the reason," said McPherson.

"We got a run in the County last year but wouldn't stand much chance this year, so we've always been aiming at this.

"He won't mind the ground and he ran a cracker at Sandown behind Brain Power.

"I'd just like a drop of rain to loosen the ground up a bit."

Nicky Henderson had been aiming Peace And Co at the race but instead relies on Fixe Le Kap, who is also owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.

"Fixe Le Kap is in the Martin Pipe at Cheltenham, as he really needs further than two miles. He might need the run on Saturday," said Anthony Bromley, racing manager to the owners.

"We just thought Sandown would suit him more (than Peace And Co). He's next year's chaser."

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