Honeyball hoping Ascot beats the weather

Horse Racing

Anthony Honeyball is hoping Storm Dennis does not derail his plan to run Sam Brown in the Sodexo Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot on Saturday.

A Grade Two winner already, Honeyball is adamant Sam Brown will be suited by an extra half a mile.

However, should the meeting be lost to the weather, the eight-year-old would probably head straight to the Cheltenham Festival without another run.

“I don’t think there’s another race for him if we lose this. There’s not much point in having a pop around somewhere, so we’d probably go straight to the RSA,” said Honeyball.

“There’s a Grade Two at Kempton next week over two and a half miles (Pendil), but I’m not sure that would suit him as we know he needs three really. He might have an entry, but it’s unlikely.

“Anything after that is getting too close to Cheltenham, so we’ll probably just have to pray and keep him in one piece. It would only be just over three weeks and I think that’s too close, especially for a chaser.

“We’re really excited about this, if it goes ahead, because everything looks set. Everyone knows how much I think of him, we just want to run him.”

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls runs Danny Whizzbang, a Grade Two winner on his chasing debut but only third in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton afterwards.

“He won a Grade Two on his chasing debut at Newbury, then he was third at Kempton in the Kauto Star at Kempton. He was travelling OK when he got into trouble when Master Tommytucker fell in front of him and he was a bit on the back foot,” said Nicholls.

“He gained a bit more experience finishing third. The Ascot track and soft ground will suit him much better as he is a real stayer. So a stamina track like Ascot would suit him much better than Kempton.

“He is also in at Cheltenham in a couple of races. He is in the RSA and the National Hunt Chase. It depends what happens on Saturday whether we go to Cheltenham.”

Kim Bailey’s Two For Gold is unbeaten over fences so far, winning three including a Grade Two at Warwick last time out.

“He’s a very good jumper and he goes to every single race wanting to do his best for you,” Bailey told Sky Sports Racing.

“It looks a tough ask on Saturday. The Reynoldstown has always been a good race and from our point of view, it will lead us to whichever way we go at Cheltenham, if we do go to Cheltenham.

“He’s not good enough for the RSA on all known form, but if he happened to go and win on Saturday, then it becomes a different ball game. Would he stay the three and a half miles in the National Hunt Chase? I don’t know. I think Saturday will lead us one way or the other.

“I’m not terribly sure very testing ground would be ideal, but he seemed to handle it when he won up at Kelso and I think he would go through it.”

Nicky Henderson’s Pym, Colin Tizzard’s Copperhead and Alan King’a Alsa Mix, who has an option at Exeter on Sunday should the meeting be called off, also line up.

Honeyball has has two declared in the Keltbray Swinley Chase, in which only eight are scheduled to line up in the £75,000 affair.

Regal Encore, winner of the race in 2018 and two other valuable prizes at Ascot, and Jepeck, who landed the Veterans’ Final in dramatic circumstances are all set to go if the weather allows.

“Regal Encore seems in good order, he’s won this before, was third in it last year and won a couple of £100,000 handicaps at Ascot,” said Honeyball.

“It wasn’t until his last run that I thought he handled really bad ground. It was nearly off the last day, so he must handle it. He acts on Ascot heavy anyway.

“It’s the right time to run him, the plan was always to go here and then the National, we were happy with his mark of 146.

“We’ve put in Jepeck, who is actually in a Grade Two novice hurdle at Haydock and a veterans’ race at Exeter on Sunday!

“If Ascot is off early enough he’ll go up to Haydock, but Ascot is first preference.

“It’s a valuable race, there’s only eight in it and we’ve got two tickets if you like.”

The weights are headed by Ballyoptic, who is also engaged at Haydock, with Sean Curran’s Domaine De L’Isle on a four-timer.

Sporting John and Master Debonair, who were due to clash at Exeter last week, have both been declared in the opening Thames Materials Novices’ Hurdle, as well as at Exeter on Sunday.

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