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John Smith's Summer Cup preview

It's the time of the year where the National Hunt scene is rather quiet, however we have an intriguing running of the John Smith's Summer Cup at Uttoxeter to get our teeth stuck in to. It's a race I have bittersweet memories of. Back in the days when England had the occasional genuinely hot bout of weather, I was running the Betfair trailer on site at Uttoxeter at this meeting in 2006. People with long memories may recall it as the day the racing was held up for nearly two hours because of a fire on course - due to a design fault, the generator caught fire and it (slowly) burned to the ground. It was not a fun day, and by the time the Summer National as it was called back then came around, it had been raining quite heavily! The happier part of the day was backing McKelvey to win the big race thanks to a gem of a ride from AP McCoy.

Run over over 3m2f this listed handicap chase has attracted a field of 18 runners. Simon from CheltenhamZone has a look at the leading contenders.

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John Smith's Summer Cup

As I write this, the market is headed by Victrix Gale. Irish trainer Tony Martin isn't shy when it comes to sending his horses over to England for the better ground, and Victrix Gale looks to have plenty going for him off joint bottom weight. He was beaten just under a length last time at Perth, however the front two pulled a good twenty lengths clear of the third-placed horse. He races off the same weight today, which could well mean he's ahead of the handicapper.

Pineau De Re comes next in the market, making his first start for new connections after a near three month break. He was last seen blitzing his rivals in the Ulster Grand National at Downpatrick, coming home a full twenty-three lengths clear. That was the first time he tackled further than 3m and he still rates as unexposed over these longer distance races. Sam Twiston-Davies is a good jockey and he's sure to be in the mix.

Problema Tic also comes in to this race off the back of a good victory, having landed the Perth Gold Cup on his last start. He won well that day so an 8lb rise in the weights might not stop him, however his form prior to the Perth victory was very poor. Second guessing David Pipe runners in handicaps is no easy task, but I'd say the handicapper has probably got this one under control again.

Fans of Champion Jockey Tony McCoy will be taking a close look at his mount Lost Glory. Wearing the famous green and gold hoops and trained by Jonjo O'Neill, we can be confident that they'll have this horse ready to strike. On the face of it this looks a tough ask, raised 5lb for winning by a neck at Wetherby in May, however there may be more improvement forthcoming. He's won five of his last seven races so it could be foolish to ignore his chances.

Pure Faith comes into this race in good heart, having won a decent race at Worcester at the start of the year (Problema Tic twelve lengths behind that day). That race was run over 2m4f however, and this trip will certainly be outside of his comfort zone. He backed up that Worcester run with a good 2nd a week later off a 7lb higher mark, however his mark now looks tough enough given the stamina doubts.

Paul Nicholls launches a two-pronged attack on the race as he bids to bring the prize back to Ditcheat. Prince Tom is the pick of new stable jockey Daryl Jacob, and there's every chance we haven't seen the best of him yet. He was going well on his return at Taunton when brought down at the last and should put up another bold showing if none the worse for that. He's had plenty of time to recover. The other Nicholls runner is Deireadh Re. He showed pretty useful form over hurdles, and belatedly got off the mark over fences at the fifth time of asking at Fontwell in May. There's not many miles on the clock and he has Harry Derham claiming 5lb. On hurdles form he's entitled to go very close but it's not quite as simple as that unfortunately.

At a slightly bigger price is another Jonjo O'Neill horse (he has three in the race in total) in the shape of Galaxy Rock. You have to go back to late 2011 to find his last win which was in a decent handicap at Cheltenham. He's been expensive to follow since then, however he looks well treated if he can rediscover his best form.

At an even bigger price is the classiest horse in the race which is Weird Al. He's clearly a very fragile horse, however he is still a dual Grade 2 winner. The most recent of those Grade 2 wins was the 2011 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby. That form puts him head and shoulders above those rivals, however he's been well and truly out of sorts of late. His last three runs reads PPP, which tells you all you need to know really. He was rated 164 when finishing 4th in the Betfair Chase in November, therefore racing off 151 today suggests he could be very well treated.

Verdict:

We'll be here all day if covering all the runners, so I've covered the market principals and some of the interesting horses at bigger prices. Victrix Gale looks a worthy favourite for the shrewd Tony Martin, however in what looks a competitive affair it could be worth having a small bet on Weird Al who is absolutely thrown in if able to rediscover his best form.

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