Honeyball has strong hand in Coral Trophy

By Sports Desk February 23, 2024

Anthony Honeyball has a trio of chances ready to line up in the valuable Coral Trophy at Kempton on Saturday.

Forward Plan heads the group, an eight-year-old last seen finishing just a nose behind Annual Invictus in the Great Yorkshire Chase at Doncaster.

Prior to that, he was a winner on Town Moor when taking the bet365 Handicap Chase over the same three-mile distance, his third victory in eight runs over fences, having only been out of the placings once.

He has now reached a career-high mark of 133, though Ben Godfrey’s 3lb claim eases his handicap allocation and he will run off a competitive 10st 9lb.

“Forward Plan goes quite well on any ground really,” said Honeyball.

“The best of our racing has been on goodish ground with him and our next race for him will be Aintree, so we feel like he’s ready for a race and we’ve got to have a go because it’s such a brilliant prize – it’s worth £25,000 more than the Ultima at the Festival.

“If we had our dream scenario, we would like slightly quicker ground, but he has a light weight, he’s one of the favourites after his run at Doncaster and we kind of feel duty bound to give the owners a chance to win it.

“He loves a bit of decent ground, but there’s no reason why, off a light weight, he can’t run well.”

Stablemate Blackjack Magic began his season in good form when taking the Badger Beer Chase at Wincanton and subsequently came home fourth in the Howden Silver Cup at Ascot.

Much of his best form is on testing ground and he is expected to appreciate the soft going at Kempton.

“Blackjack Magic has proven he is up to this class and he won the Badger Beer,” said Honeyball.

“He will love the soft ground and, in fact, the heavier the better for him, that will suit him a bit better than a couple of the races he has run in this season.”

Honeyball’s third runner is the veteran chaser Sam Brown, who carries a top weight of 12st under Jonathan Burke.

The 12-year-old has some valuable races on his CV and showed he was not losing his enthusiasm when landing the Veterans’ Chase Series Final at Warwick last month.

His age and the significant weight he carries may leave him an outside chance, but his trainer is not ruling out a good performance from the gelding.

Honeyball said: “He’s a big outsider at the minute, but that’s only because he’s 12 years old and rated 152 and there’s probably some stats that tell you that is a near impossible task.

“Is he going to win and go up to 156 or 157? It’s probably unlikely, but he is overpriced.

“There’s plenty in his favour, he will enjoy the ground and he doesn’t mind a competitive handicap. He can sit halfway and he has that turn of foot where if he can stay in the hunt approaching the business end, then he can quite come through with a decent surge.

“I don’t think it would be the biggest shock ever, but we have got to run him and hopefully there is another day in the sun for him – we’ve got to give him the chance.”

Ben Pauling has a live chance in Bowtogreatness, an eight-year-old jointly-owned by Harry Redknapp.

The trainer enjoyed a three-timer at Ascot last weekend, along with jockey Ben Jones, but Bowtogreatness was not among his runners after a tracheal wash which caused connections to skip the meeting.

He will instead line up at Kempton for his third start of the season, after which he has one of his three Cheltenham Festival entries on the horizon.

“He’s in really good form with himself. He was supposed to go to Ascot last weekend, but just had a slightly average tracheal wash 10 days previous, so we decided to wait,” Pauling said.

“He was as clean as a whistle this week and worked well on Saturday, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how he runs.

“On his first run of the season, I left the ear plugs out and he just head-butted his fences round Newbury and didn’t jump well enough, then he went to Cheltenham and it was almost like his first run of the season really. He travelled into it very well and just blew up going to two out.

“I dare say he’ll be spot-on for Saturday and he’s a hardy horse that needs a lot of graft, so it’s very much the plan to get a proper run into him before going to the Festival.

“He’s in the Ultima, he’s in the Kim Muir and he’s in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham and how he goes on Saturday will tell us which race he’ll run in.”

At the head of the market is Dan Skelton’s Flegmatik, a winner over course and distance last time out, with Nicky Henderson’s Tweed Skirt and Chris Gordon’s Lord Baddesley also well fancied in a field of 12.

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