The feature race at Exeter on Tuesday in the Grade 2 Haldon Gold Cup (14:10), a limited handicap chase run over and extended 2m 1f.
In a wide-open renewal, Janika is taken to give weight all-round and provide trainer Nicky Henderson with a fourth winner in the contest.
This six-year-old had some useful form to his name when trained in France by Guy Cherel and winning three of his four starts over fences.
Although he failed to get his head in front last season since joining Seven Barrows handler Henderson, Janika has posted three cracking efforts in defeat in hot handicaps.
After finishing a fine second to Hell’s Kitchen at Ascot, the son of Saddler Maker failed by just a head to overhaul Siruh Du Lac in a competitive 11-runner Grade 3 handicap chase at Cheltenham off a mark of 150.
Janika stayed on strongly to go down fighting. He then ran a cracker off 6lb higher to finish a three-quarters of a length runner-up to the same rival in the 22-runner Brown Advisory Plate Handicap Chase over the same course and distance at the Cheltenham Festival.
Graded winner in waiting
The Simon Munir and Isaac Souede owned gelding got slightly hampered and lost vital ground when taking closer order at the seventh, so it was to his credit that he stuck to the task gamely and managed to get so close at the line.
Siruh Du Lac is also among leading contenders entered for the Grade 3 BetVictor Gold Cup at Cheltenham later this month. The Festival form in particular reads well in relation to this.
Janika went on to round off the campaign with a fine 12 1/2 lengths fourth of 27 to Cadmium in the Topham Handicap Chase at Aintree over the famous Grand National fences when seemingly finding the extended 2m 5f trip a tad too far.
Those efforts have earned him an official rating of 162. As a result, he has to give 4lb and upwards to his five rivals. However, Janika looks a graded winner in waiting and and retains stacks of potential going forward.
The drop back down in trip and return to regulation fences also promise to suit. So, at a best-price 9/2 with William Hill, Janika has lots going for him and looks the one to be on.
God’s Own bidding for third Haldon Gold Cup success
God’s Own won this race for a second time 12 months ago when bearing Ozzie The Oscar by half-a-length, so off just 2lb higher looks sure to make a bold bid to retain his crown.
Trained by the in-form Tom George, this evergreen 11-year-old was then far from disgraced when finding Charbel eight lengths too good in the Grade 2 Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon. He now meets the winner on 3lb better terms in the Haldon Gold Cup.
God’s Own then failed to fire in Grade 1 contests at the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree, but was far from disgraced on his final start of the season when a 5 1/2 lengths third of five to the mighty Altior in the Celebration Chase at Sandown.
That form reads well in relation to this. It commands God’s Own, who has a decent record fresh, the utmost respect. This is, however, a far stronger renewal of the Haldon Gold Cup than 12 months ago.
The likeable son of Oscar could well prove vulnerable to a younger rival open to improvement. On the plus side, the stable has been firmly amongst the winners of late and God’s Own has his ideal underfoot conditions.
Regular pilot Paddy Brennan also gets a good tune out of him and he can generally be relied on to run his race. So, on balance, odds of 13/2 with Coral look a fair reflection of God’s Own and his chances.
Charbel capable of bouncing back
The aforementioned Charbel failed to fire on seasonal reappearance, but is a classy sort capable of bouncing back and is thus another with claims in a competitive renewal of the Haldon Gold Cup.
Trained by Kim Bailey, this eight-year-old showed a tremendous attitude at Chepstow 13 months ago to dig deep and win by a neck off a mark of 154, giving 12lb to subsequent BetVictor Gold Cup winner Baron Alco.
Charbel backed that up with a cracking second in a Grade 2 at Ascot when going down all guns backing by half-a-length to Politologue off an official rating of 159.
The son of Iffraaj then landed the Peterborough Chase in fine style, before being far from disgraced when beaten just over five lengths in third behind Top Notch in a Listed contest at Kempton off an official rating of 162.
Charbel is now able to race off 7lb lower. That makes him a big player at the weights if on a going day – especially on his fine run behind Politologue.
He does have to put an underwhelming effort when only seventh of 10 to The Bay Birch on testing ground at Chepstow last month well and truly behind him. The yard is now in much better form, though, so it would be no surprise to see Charbel do just that.
Indeed, Bailey is operating at a strike rate of 25 per cent at the time of writing. Charbel will also appreciate the return to a sounder surface and cheekpieces also now go back on.
If they have the desired effect, then Charbel could well be capable of outrunning his Haldon Gold Cup odds of 7/1 with Betfred here.