Now dropped back in grade, Royal Vacation looks to hold leading claims of landing the 2m 7f Native River Handicap Chase on a cracking card at Chepstow this Saturday (15:20).
Trained by Colin Tizzard, whose stable houses the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Coral Welsh Grand National the race is named in honour of, this nine-year-old has won four of his 16 starts over the larger obstacles.
In the last of those successes at Taunton back in January, Royal Vacation came from off the pace before staying on strongly to forge clear and beat The Last Samuri by eight lengths off a mark of 146 in a class 2.
He got put up to 152 for that easy success and ran well off his revised rating of 152 when fourth of 15 to Robinsfirth in the Grade 3 Grand National Trial at Haydock.
Royal Vacation then failed to fire on his final start of the season when never travelling and eventually being pulled-up, but that run came in the ultra-competitive Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
O’Neill’s claim a big plus for Native River Handicap Chase
This class 2 contest represents a return to much calmer water, and the son of King’s Theatre has a fine strike rate of 50 per cent in the grade having won three of his six starts in it.
Royal Vacation is now also able to race off a reduced rating of 149. That gives him a big shout from a handicapping perspective on the pick of his form, having been rated as high as 152 in the past.
The highly talented Jonjo O’Neill Jnr, who is incredible value for his 3lb claim, also gets the leg up on him for the first time.
If taking it into account, then Royal Vacation is running off the same mark as when last successful.
As a novice over fences, he won a Grade 1 when profiting from Might Bite’s fall at the last to land the Kauto Star at Kempton.
Royal Vacation also followed-up in the ultra-competitive Timeform Handicap Chase on Festival Trials Day 2017 at Cheltenham.
So, with ground conditions holding no fears, he looks well worth siding with. Royal Vacation is each-way value at 10/1 with Betfair in the Native River Handicap Chase.
Reserve Taken taken to shine on chasing debut
In the Listed 2m 3f Novices Chase (15:55), Tizzard’s dual Grade 1 winning hurdler Reserve Tank is set to make his eagerly awaited debut over fences and is fully expected to make it a winning one.
The five-year-old progressed at a rate of knots at the back end of last season when landing the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree, before following-up in fine style at the Champion Novice Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival.
As on Merseyside, Reserve Tank travelled well throughout in the latter and when strongly pressed after the last found plenty to beat Sams Profile by half-a-length.
Given that he had previously suffered with ulcers, Reserve Tank achieved so much in such a short space of time to end the season in style and be rated 151.
He is a strapping sort who is built come into his own as a chaser, so whatever he achieved over hurdles was arguably a bonus.
Reserven Tank, who is currently the general 12/1 market leader for the JLT Novices’ Chase at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, has also reportedly been working well at home and pleasing Tizzard with everything he has done.
This is also the race in which former stable stars Cue Card and Finian’s Oscar scored on their chasing debuts, and Reserve Tank can be backed at 11/10 with Bethard to follow suit.
Charbel fancied for repeat success
Charbel looks worth siding with to cash-in on a drop in class and land back-to-back runnings of the 2m 3f handicap chase (17:05).
Trained by Kim Bailey, this eight-year-old showed a tremendous attitude in this 12 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 was also far from disgraced when third to Top Notch in a Listed affair at Sandown, before finding life too hot in three Grade 1 contests.
He now drops back into far less testing class 2 handicap company off a rating of 157.
That makes Charbel a big player at the weights – especially on his fine run behind Politologue.
Charbel has also won two of his three starts in the grade, handles the forecast soft ground, and hails from a yard that has begun to hit form.
Everything looks in place for a bold bid to retain his crown and he can be backed at 5/1 with Coral to do just that.