Nicky Henderson still has two chances of winning the Super Saturday Chase
Nicky Henderson could still win Newbury's Betfair Super Saturday Chase despite the absence of Simonsig
Last Updated: 09/02/13 11:21am
Simonsig was undoubtedly the one to beat in the Grade Two race better known as the Game Spirit Chase but the grey, the ante-post Arkle favourite, had to be kept at home in Lambourn after producing a less-than-perfect result from his trachea wash.
French Opera, won this race in 2011 and then finished second to his stablemate Sprinter Sacre, who has proved unbeatable ever since.
He was ineffective when stepped up in trip for his only start this term in the rescheduled Peterborough Chase at Kempton, while Tanks For That, second to another Henderson inmate Bellvano in the Grand Annual at the last Festival, had to be pulled-up on his only outing at Ascot.
"I was going to run them both anyway," said Henderson.
"French Opera was second last year and these horses need runs.
"Tanks For That has had nowhere to go as he must have fast ground, which we haven't had since October.
"He won't like the ground at Newbury, but if he is going to be a Grand Annual horse again, he needs to have a run. He could have won the Grand Annual last year, if it wasn't for Paul Carberry appearing on Bellvano."
Suddenly in major contention to land a nice prize is the Philip Hobbs-trained Wishfull Thinking, who is another who has struggled with the prevalent wet conditions.
After a horrible fall in last season's Queen Mother Champion Chase, the 10-year-old ran well behind Henderson's Finian's Rainbow and made a triumphant return to Cheltenham by taking a conditions chase in November.
Wishfull Thinking then struggled in the Desert Orchid at Kempton over Christmas and Hobbs said: "Ideally he would like better ground, but this looked a better option for him than running in the Victor Chandler at Ascot. It looks an open race."
Paul Nicholls saddles two of his lesser-known names, with Ruby Walsh choosing Shooters Wood, who has improved in leaps and bounds since arriving with the champion trainer and is on a hat-trick after picking up a pair of good prizes at Cheltenham before Christmas.
Tony McCoy collects a nice spare on Edgardo Sol, who divides his time between fences and hurdles and ran most recently under the same jockey when third to Sizing Europe in the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown.
Stagecoach Pearl and Pigeon Island, who are both capable on their day, may be just making up the numbers this time around.