Monday, February 20, 2012

Beau runs solid trial for Festival Handicap Chase

Although he still holds an entry in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, northern chaser Knockara Beau ran a very solid trial for the three-mile Festival Handicap Chase at the showcase fixture on March 13 when chasing home the smart performer Simonsig in the coveted Morebatle Hurdle at Kelso, writes Elliot Slater.

A great servant to his Northumberland-based trainer George Charlton, Knockara Beau barely ever seems to run a bad race over hurdles or fences, and although clearly no match for the very speedy Supreme Novices Hurdle favourite, he came out a clear second best over an inadequate trip at the Borders track having forced the pace from the front in an effort to draw the sting out of his five rivals. Those following the latest online 2012 Cheltenham odds will have been impressed.

Fourth of 23 to the course specialist Buena Vista in last season’s Pertemps Handicap Hurdle over three-miles at the Cheltenham Festival, Knockara Beau then went on to run with credit when fifth to Big Buck’s in Grade 1 company at Aintree. After a pipe-opener over timber at Haydock in November, the gelded son of Leading Counsel ran a fine race to finish runner-up to Grand National hope Shakalakaboomboom at Cheltenham a month later, before putting in his only below-par effort this term when in mid-division behind According To Pete at Wetherby on Boxing Day in the Grade 3 Rowland Meyrick Chase.

The three-and-a-quarter-miles of Cheltenham’s Grade 2 Argento Chase brought out the best in Knockara Beau on his next outing when he came home strongly to finish third behind Gold Cup hope Midnight Chase, and his latest Kelso effort only serves to prove that the nine-year-old is in fine shape ahead of next month’s big meeting. The Festival Handicap Chase might well prove the best option for Charlton’s standard bearer, and at odds of up to 20/1 in the ante-post list he appeals as solid each-way value.

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