Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

FOLLOW THE LEADER; Racing Preview

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

FOLLOW THE LEADER; Racing Preview

Article excerpt

Byline: NAOMI MATTHEW

QIANSHAN Leader rates a cracking value punt in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster (2.50).

Cheltenham Trials Day will rightly generate plenty of buzz with a view to the festival, but this Grade Three handicap on Town Moor is arguably the most interesting race of the afternoon from a betting perspective.

It is virtually impossible to rule out any of the 17 runners with any degree of confidence, a comment which especially applies to Hold On Julio, a worthy ante-post favourite if ever there was.

That said, his short odds are sure to put off many gold-chasing prospectors, so it could pay to side with a horse trading at double his price.

Racing purists may scoff at the notion of Qianshan Leader, trained by the capable Emma Lavelle, winning such an esteemed pot.

After all, the form book notes he last won a far-from-earth-shattering handicap over this course and distance by just a neck.

Those in attendance that day may beg to differ.

Lavelle's inmate jumped superbly, showing a telling fusion of speed and stamina which can be so crucial in races like this.

Indeed, the runner-up, Benny Be Good, has arguably been underrated all season, such has been his laudable consistency, and is now rated as highly as 157.

Qianshan Leader is also unbeaten in two starts at Doncaster, and, prior to his most recent success, neatly illustrated his aptitude for a speed examination when winning in some style over two and a half miles at Kempton.

To that end, the eight-year-old is clearly in his element competing at a flat, left-handed circuit.

Statistics are often a dangerous, and misguided, weapon, but it has to be of significance that the Sky Bet Chase tends to be claimed by an unexposed horse who is reasonably weighted.

And even though Qianshan Leader races here off an 8lb higher mark, it would be a bit of turn-up if he did not have enough raw talent to manfully shoulder just 10st 8lb.

Menorah, meanwhile, should be kept onside in the Sky Bet Mobile For iPhone Lightning Novices' Chase (1.50).

Although the layers are cool about his Arkle claims, he, too, arrives at Doncaster on the scent of a hat-trick.

That admittedly does not tell the full story as his jumping must improve quite considerably if he is to be considered a big-time player at Cheltenham.

He does, though, possess a similar profile to stablemate Captain Chris, who did not convince everyone of his talents before gliding home in the Arkle.

Defeat here is probably not an option.

Hobbs can enjoy a particularly fine afternoon as the aforementioned Captain Chris is taken to do the business in the Argento Chase at Cheltenham (2.35).

It has hardly been a trot to glory this season for him as the nine-year-old unseated Richard Johnson on his return at Huntingdon.

There was also the suspicion he was slightly undercooked at Kempton on Boxing Day - even though he finished third behind Long Run and Kauto Star.

Reports emanating from Minehead are now far more bullish, though, and he could feasibly bolster his Gold Cup claims with a big run here. …

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