It’s probably fair to say that the Betfred Mandarin Handicap Chase at Newbury doesn’t carry the prestige it once did. But it’s a race that is rarely short of incident, even though it rarely attracts a big field nowadays.
It’s nearly always soft ground at Newbury around this time of year and there has been more rain than usual in Berkshire over the last few weeks. That means any stamina deficiencies will be fully exposed but that shouldn’t affect either of the Charlie Longsdon runners, the local trainer saddling the fancied pair Pete The Feat and Rey Nacarado with both proven on testing going.
Pete The Feat has made remarkable progress this season, completing a four-timer when winning by a distance at Lingfield last month. He’s now risen an incredible 31lb in the weights since October, however, and that is certain to be a factor sooner rather than later. He’s only a general 11/4 for this weekend’s contest and, at the odds, I’d much rather be on stablemate Rey Nacarado at William Hill‘s 9/2.
He isn’t entirely straightforward and often needs some persuasion to get involved at the business end but has the right man on board at Newbury in A P McCoy and won the race last year on similar going. Only a pound higher this time around, the seven-year-old has been brought along quietly this term and it’s easy to forgive him a recent fourth at the track as his style of racing wouldn’t have suited an amateur rider. I’d envisage him pouncing late to get off the mark for the season under the champion.
State Benefit has ability and won at Sandown earlier this month when Relax (11/1 with Skybet) was only fifth. But the runner-up has been well beaten since and the top weight has his fair share of temperament. He’s only 5/1 at Stan James, which doesn’t look very good value. Maringo Bay is a general 7/1 but may go to Haydock on Sunday instead and doesn’t find much off the bridle, though he did finish ahead of fellow novice Imperial Circus (8/1 with Paddy Power and Stan James) at Chepstow last time and is fractionally better off at the weights at Newbury.
The best of the rest may be Midnight Haze (20/1 with BetVictor) as in-form Jason Maguire takes the ride and trainer Kim Bailey does well with his chasers on the course. He stays well and also acts in the mud but, on the down side, he was pulled up in the Becher Chase at Aintree last time and may need a bit more time to rediscover his best. Rey Nacarado should be hard to beat.