It didn’t take Barbury Castle-based trainer Alan King very long to make a decision as to whether or not Saturday’s Grade 1 Totesport Challenger Novices’ Chase winner Medermit should contest the Arkle Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, or go for the Jewson Novices’ Chase instead, writes Elliot Slater.
After discussing the matter with the grey’s owners, and with jockey Robert Thornton who was on board as the seven-year-old came right back to his very best form in the race formerly known as the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase, the decision was made to go for the Arkle Chase over two miles. Bookmaker reaction was swift, Medermit being trimmed to a general price of 13/2 third favourite, (although 7/1 was still available in the odd place), behind Finian’s rainbow (4/1f) and Ghizao (9/2) so there is plenty to think about for those looking to put on horse racing bets.
Medermit had looked an unlikely chasing star after refusing when clear in a novice chase at Huntingdon in November, but since then has done nothing but improve over the larger obstacles, winning at Plumpton, finishing a narrow second to Hell’s Bay in a Grade 2 at Cheltenham, before his brave Grade 1 success at Sandown. It might have been that the two-mile-five-furlong trip at the Esher venue stretched the Medaaly gelding’s stamina to the limit, as having been nicely clear going to the last in a race where he always travelled well and jumped fluently, he began to empty on the uphill run-in and in the end was all out to hold the late rally of Captain Chris.
The run from the last might well have been the deciding factor for the King team in returning to the stiff two miles at Cheltenham, a track that has brought out the best in Medermit over the years, including when beaten only a neck in the 2009 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle by the top class Go Native.