The Grimthorpe Handicap Chase is widely-regarded as a trial for horses with Grand National potential. Last year’s race was abandoned to “The Beast from the East”, but the weights and betting for the 3m 2f class 2 contest at Doncaster on Saturday (15:35) are headed by Rocky’s Treasure.
Trained by the in-form Kim Bailey, this eight-year-old could not have been more impressive when making all to score on Town Moor by 17 lengths over 3m on his penultimate start in the Grade 2 December Novices’ Chase.
Rocky’s Treasure jumped his three rivals silly and had won all but one of his four previous starts over fences by similar wide margins.
Prior to his course victory, the son of Westerner chased home bookmakers‘ RSA Chase favourite Santini in the Grade 2 John Francome at Newbury.
Although beaten 14 lengths by Ok Corral when eased to Listed level at Warwick last time out, Rocky’s Treasure was facing a carefully handled and unexposed winner, not to mention giving weight all round.
He is again dropped in class for this and, unlike last time, some of his rivals are fully exposed. Other pluses are that Rocky’s Treasure is the same age and on the same mark (149) as the last two Grimthorpe winners.
Any repeat of his December victory here, despite the extra two furlongs, should see him resume winning ways at 5/2 with BetVictor.
Ladbrokes Trophy third Dingo Dollar disappointed at this venue when sent off favourite for, but only sixth in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase last time out.
Alan King’s seven-year-old is also a course winner as a novice over 3m, yet hasn’t scored in four starts since. He’s towards the head of the betting despite that at 4/1 with Ladbrokes.
Reasons to take Dingo Dollar and Looking Well on
Dingo Dollar was less than fluent on his return to Town Moor and quickly outpaced towards the end of the race. While the step back up in trip is sure to suit based on his Newbury run, the presence of another prominent front-runner in Rocky’s Treasure is a problem.
If bouncing back, then Dingo Dollar does have claims and is another open to further progress over fences. The handicapper hasn’t done him any favours, however, by keeping on a 148 rating which again ensures he carries a welter burden.
Looking Well is one of two in the race for Penrith trainer Nicky Richards and, although more fancied than fellow 10-year-old stable companion Chidswell, he’s not in lightly either.
The son of Gold Well is another course winner over 3m back to try further. There are reasons to oppose Paddy Power’s 5/1 chance Looking Well.
He was beaten 45 lengths in the last renewal of this race two years ago ran on soft ground when sent off at a similar price.
Victory last time out was his first for three years (he’s two from 12 over fences) and the assessor has raised him 6lb for a 2 1/2 lengths victory here.
One major concern is he’s failed to complete on three of his last six starts. That leaves the impression that Looking Well isn’t the most reliable from a betting perspective and he may be vulnerable to young, improving horses like Rocky’s Treasure and Dingo Dollar.
If the handicapper didn’t do the Richards first string any favours, then he was at least fair to bottom weight Chidswell, who is up 4lb for a four-length win at Kelso. He’s now 1lb higher than his best winning mark and could have each-way claims.
Barney Dwan could also go well
Another with a shout of a place on the pick of his form is Barney Dwan. The Fergal O’Brien trained nine-year-old was beaten just four lengths by subsequent Welsh Grand National third Yala Enki on his penultimate start at Bangor.
Barney Dwan was badly hampered last time out at Kempton and could be worth forgiving the run as a result. This son of Vinnie Roe has interesting back form, including fourth to Mister Whitaker in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase and second to Presenting Percy in the Pertemps Network Final at the last two Cheltenham Festivals.
Now the handicapper has eased him 1lb, the yard is in decent nick and with Sean Bowen booked to ride, Barney Dwan is one to consider each-way at 7/1 with Betfair.
He is certainly preferred to Brian Boranha, who was a distant eighth in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase here when last in action.
A 2lb rating reduction for the Peter Niven trained eight-year-old is unlikely to see him in a better light. Brian Boranha is still racing off 7lb higher than when last successful in the Durham National at Sedgefield and is the outsider of a field completed by Beau Du Brizais.
Philip Hobbs’ runner takes a step up in class after winning his last two outings. The-seven-year-old could be on an upward curve after already defying one 6lb rise from the handicapper.
This demands more from Beau Du Brizais, who isn’t the most fluent of jumpers. He can’t be entirely discounted as a result, but by far the best form on offer is that of Rocky’s Treasure and Dingo Dollar.
They are graded calibre horses dropping in class that either or both should have the scope to give weight to their opposition in this.