Another Post will dou nicely for Johnson and Hobbs

RICHARD Johnson and Philip Hobbs have a better record than any in the Racing Post Chase and the pair team up today through the grey Lacdoudal.

Johnson partnered Hobbs’ representative Farmer Jack to success in the Kempton Grade Three in 2005 and Gunther McBride three years earlier, while the Minehead trainer combined with Richard Dunwoody to take the honours in 1999 through Dr Leunt.

Not to be upstaged, Johnson has other Racing Post Chase victories through Young Spartacus (2001) and most memorably with Gloria Victis in 2000.

In deputising for an injured Tony McCoy on the latter, Johnson coasted home on a tremendously gifted horse who was injured fatally when running a blinder in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Lacdoudal, who has a Bet365 Gold Cup on his CV, was third in this race in 2007 and looks to be returning to form on two runs this term.

Hobbs’ wife Sarah said: “Richard has won the race four times and we have won it three, so it would be fantastic to continue the run.

“The horse is in extremely good form and must certainly have a good each-way chance. He should be there or thereabouts.”

Dominating this year’s renewal looks to be Paul Nicholls, successful 12 months ago with Gungadu and responsible for four major players.

Likely favourite is Big Fella Thanks, who landed a first win over fences by seeing off Ungaro by 11 lengths in last month’s Sky Bet Chase.

Nicholls has his sights set on the John Smith’s Grand National now and said: “He won very, very nicely at Doncaster last time and would have probably have been involved in the finish at Kempton over Christmas when he unseated Christian (Williams).

“He’s a horse who stays and likes decent ground and also prefers a flattish track – hence I’m not keen on going to Cheltenham.

“If all goes right this weekend, we’ll miss Cheltenham and go straight to Aintree.”

As well as the favourite, Nicholls runs Nozic, Silverburn and New Little Bric.

“Nozic has to carry top weight but he is a decent horse in his own right. He’ll like the track and trip. The ground was too deep for him last time at Cheltenham,” he added.

“Silverburn had a breathing operation in the summer and it hasn’t quite worked out for him this season. ”He was going well when he made a mistake in the Paddy Power and then taking him back to two miles last time was a mistake. I’ve kept him fresh for this.

“Big Fella will be hard to beat but I think he has a great chance of being in the frame.

“We’ve been trying to get New Little Bric back to form and I’m sure three miles will suit. He would have been second the last day but for a terrible mistake.”

Nicky Henderson has two hopes through Oedipe and Fleet Street, a winner over course and distance at Christmas.

“Fleet Street did win well but he has gone up 9lb for it,” the trainer explained.

“It is a big prize, and he is entitled to run. He is in the National.

“You never quite know with Oedipe – he shows nothing at home but his two wins over here have been at Kempton and Aintree so he must like flat tracks.”

Keith Reveley’s Ungaro has not won a race since the Feltham Chase over course and distance more than two years ago.

He fell very early in the Racing Post Chase last season but has been creeping back into form, highlighted by his position behind Big Fella Thanks in the Sky Bet, for which he gets a slight but not significant pull in the weights.

“I think he has got to have a decent chance,” said Reveley.

“He loves the track and three miles is just right. We need some luck in running but we have to be hopeful.

“Jamie Moore will ride him. He hasn’t sat on him before but is an experienced jockey and Ungaro is not a difficult ride.”

Laskari was fifth to Big Fella Thanks and second to Fleet Street at Kempton.

Trainer Paul Webber said: “The ground is going to be right for him.

“I see they make Big Fella Thanks favourite but we ran a very good race behind him at Doncaster last time when the ground was too soft.

“We have dropped 1lb for that so who knows. If there is half a length in it at the end we’ll be pleased that we ran him at Doncaster.

“In the past we were worried about him staying three miles and that was probably why he got beaten by Fleet Street there over Christmas, if we’d been more positive he might have won.

“Now we can ride him handier and more positive, I think he’ll get further than three miles in time.

“He’s really improved this year. He’s shot up the weights as a result but sometimes they go on a run and off they go. He might struggle next year though.

Racing Post Chase: Cashmans bet - 7/2 Big Fella Thanks, 9/1 Conna Castle, Hold Em, 10/1 Nacarat, 11/1 Possol, 12/1 Ungaro, Fier Normand, 14/1 Fleet Street, Silverburn, Oedipe, Lacdoudal, 16/1 Laskari, 20/1 Piraya, 25/1 Battlecry, 33/1 Endless Power, New Little Bric, 40/1 Nozik, Stan, 100/1 Ollie Magern, Billyvoddan.

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