Ferdy Murphy expects Kalahari King to need the outing when the Queen Mother Champion Chase hopeful has his first race for almost 10 months at Doncaster tomorrow.
Even accounting for the lack of a recent run, last season’s Arkle runner-up and Maghull Novices’ Chase winner faces a stiff task under top weight in the Blue Square Handicap Chase.
“We’re glad to get him back on the course. He will come on for the run, but I’m very happy with him. He’s been going really nicely at home,” said the West Witton trainer.
“Obviously he’s got a lot of weight tomorrow in a very competitive handicap, so we’re just hoping for the best.
“The run should bring him on for Cheltenham and it should give us time to get him there all being well.
“Hopefully the ground tomorrow won’t be too bad.”
Murphy also saddles Beggars Cap, who runs off bottom weight of 10st 4lb.
“He’s in good form but like Kalahari King he wants good ground,” he added.
Doctor David trounced Kalahari King by 17 lengths at Haydock in December 2008 and strictly on that performance has the beating of the top weight on advantageous revised terms.
The grey also has an 11lb pull for a two-and-a-half length beating by I’msingingtheblues in this race 12 months ago, but his trainer Caroline Bailey is only hopeful of success.
“Andrew (Thornton) came and schooled him yesterday and he schooled well,” she said.
“We were pleased with his run over Christmas at Kempton behind Petit Robin, and this a very competitive handicap. If he ran up to his best he’d be thereabouts.
“The more rain they get would suit us, but probably not some of the others. He’s run well on softish ground.
“We are going there hopeful, not confident.”
Alan King would like the ground to dry out to improve the chances of Tarotino, who was pulled up in the Paddy Power Gold Cup in testing conditions at Cheltenham on his latest start in November.
“Tarotino wants good ground and Doncaster seems to be as close as we are going to get,” the Barbury Castle trainer told his website, www.alankingracing.co.uk.
“They had three centimetres of snow on Wednesday night, so it probably won’t be any better than good to soft, but we need to get Tarotino going again.
“He did us proud last back-end and his early-season target was always going to be the Paddy Power Gold Cup, but as we feared, he hated the soft at Cheltenham, so the more it dries up the better.”
Owner Clive Smith has branded Free World’s assignment as an “exploratory” mission.
Ruby Walsh opted to hold the Paul Nicholls-trained gelding up at Cheltenham last time and he seemed to last the trip up the final Prestbury hill – even though he was beaten just over a length by French Opera.
Despite that promising effort, connections accept this extended two-mile trip is a fact-finding exercise.
“It was an encouraging run at Cheltenham last time,” said Smith.
“He ought to be able to do well, he’s a good bold jumper and he has the speed.
“Two miles is OK for him, we’ll just have to see how he goes.
“It’s all a bit exploratory.”
Howard Johnson will be pleased just to pick up some place money from either of his two runners, Lennon and Santa’s Son.
“It will only be Lennon’s second run since he came back. He ran well in this two years ago, but it’s a hot race and the ground may not suit him. He wants it good,” said the County Durham trainer.
“If we get a bit of place money down to sixth with one of them it will be a bonus.”
Blue Square Handicap Chase, Ladbrokes bet: 5-1 Free World, 6-1 Oiseau De Nuit, 13-2 Leo’s Lucky Star, 8-1 I’msingingtheblues, 9-1 Kalahari King, 10-1 Tartak, 11-1 Pepsyrock, 14-1 Tarotino, Doctor David, 16-1 bar.