Having shaped with stacks of promise on seasonal reappearance, Ask Ben looks the one to be on now dropped in class in the 3m Citipost Handicap Hurdle that brings proceedings to a close on Cheltenham International Meeting day 1 this Friday (15:40).
This six-year-old ran very well on his second start in an Irish point when keeping on to finish a 2 1/2 lengths runner-up to Danny Whizzbang.
The winner is a smart sort who is unbeaten in four subsequent starts starts for Champion trainer Paul Nicholls and landed a Grade 2 novice chase when last seen in action
Ask Ben then joined shrewd handler Graeme McPherson and showed a good attitude to make a winning deut over hurdles for his new handler when beating the now 140-rated and subsequent Grade 2 winner Beakstown by a head.
He then made all and bolted up by 19 lengths at Ayr, before running a fine race to finish a 10-length second of nine to Lisnagar Oscar in a Grade 2 at Haydock where he had some useful performers in-behind.
Ask Ben went on to round off the campaign with a fair 10th of 20 to Minella Indo in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival off an official rating of 137.
Well-weighted now dropped in class
He looked like the type that would have more to offer this season.
That view was confirmed back at Haydock last month when the son of Ask finished a fine fourth of 17 to Stoney Mountain in the Grade 3 Betfair Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle off an opening mark of 133.
After tracking the leaders going strongly, Ask Ben was produced to throw down a challenge four from home.
He then stayed on strongly after jumping the second last to hold every chance on the long run-in, before being unable to find any extra close home to be beaten just over three lengths.
It was a fine comeback run in what is traditionally a very strong contest that throws-up plenty of subsequent winners.
A 3lb rise in the weight for thus looks fair. This class 2 is easier and Ask Ben is one from one in the grade.
So, with that spin under his belt, he should now be spot on to do himself justice. At 9/2 with SportNation, Ask Ben rates the best bet on Cheltenham International Meeting day one and its cracking seven-race card.
Chantry House fancied for winning hurdles debut
Chantry House makes his eagerly awaited debut over the obstacles in the 2m novice hurdle (12:10) and is fully expected to make it a winning one.
After winning two of his three starts in Irish points, this five-year-old was purchased for a hefty sum by leading owners JP McManus and sent to join trainer Henderson.
He had a huge reputation ahead of his first start for the Seven Barrows handler in a 12-runner Warwick bumper, and his supporters who backed him into 8/13 favourite never had an anxious moment.
Under a confident ride from Barry Geragthty, the son of Yeats made stealthy headway travelling powerfully four out.
He was then nudged into the lead a furlong from home and drew effortlessly clear under a hands and heels ride to easily beat Edwardstone by 3 1/2 lengths.
It was a performance which oozed class, and marked out Chantry House as a very exciting prospect that needed keeping firmly onside.
The form also looks strong as the runner-up is uneaten in two starts over hurdles this season and held in the highest regard by his handler Alan King.
Chantry House now has an absence of 279 days to overcome, but fitness is unlikely to be an issue given that Henderson has his team in fine form and is operating at a strike rate of just over 27 per cent in the last 14 days at the time of writing.
This looks like a nice stepping stone en route to much better things, so Chantry House simply had to be the selection and looks a worthy 4/5 favourite with Bethard.
Never Adapt can land International Meeting day 1 double for Henderson
Henderson and McManus look to hold leading claims of landing a double with Never Adapt in the 2m Catesby Handicap Hurdle (13:20).
This four-year-old filly was ultra-impressive on her sole start in France when in the care of Guillaume Macaire and bolting up by 10 lengths in a conditions contest on heavy ground.
She was then pitched into Grade 2 company on her first start for Henderson when finishing third of six to Quel Destin the the Prestbury Juvenile Hurdle over course and distance 13 months ago
After going down very keenly to post, the daughter of Anabaa Blue pulled like a lunatic as soon as the starting tape went up.
Never Adapt refused to settle for Barry Geraghty, so he had no option but to let her bowl along at the head of affairs and she was clear approaching three out.
However, she then looked a spent force as a result of those early exertions and mistake two from home before getting outpaced.
Never Adapt then somehow found reserves to rally and stayed on strongly to be beaten just under four lengths at the line.
It was a remarkable performance, given how the race panned out, and one which showed that she clearly has a huge engine.
Quel Destin has won four times since, including a Grade 1, to be rated 149 – so that gives the form a solid look.
That makes Never Adapt look potentially thrown-in at the weights off an opening handicap mark of just 128. She could have nearly two stone in hand and has bags of untapped potential.
So, providing she settles, Never Adapt is going to be very hard to beat and this makes plenty of appeal on International Meeting day 1 at the 7/2 on offer with William Hill.