BRADLEY can provide trainer Fergal O’Brien with the biggest victory of his career at Warwick tomorrow.
O’Brien has done superbly since leaving his role as head lad with Nigel Twiston-Davies, for whom he oversaw the Grand National victories of Earth Summit and Bindaree.
The rookie Gloucestershire handler therefore knows a thing or two about staying chasers, which should serve him very well indeed for the Betfred Classic Chase over three miles and five furlongs. Bradley has rather gone unnoticed in the build-up to this sought-after Grade Three, which is probably on account of his hefty defeat at Cheltenham in December.
The nine-year-old chestnut was sent off as a 15-8 favourite for the Majordomo Hospitality Handicap Chase, but looked desperately ill at ease on the heavy ground and finished last of those that completed.
Given he had never before competed in such a quagmire, that reverse, in hindsight at least, was probably not as big a surprise as it might have appeared on the day. Before that, the former hunter chaser had looked a deeply progressive type in similarly exacting tests of stamina.
A staying-on fourth behind Balthazar King on his return in October at Cheltenham nicely set the tone before he was sent into action in the Grade Three Henrietta Knight Chase back at Prestbury Park. Bradley again jumped with purpose before being delivered with a late rattle by regular rider Paddy Brennan, whose partner went down fighting by just a neck. The form could not look stronger, either, as the winner, Monbeg Dude, struck in the Coral Welsh National last weekend and is now in the frame for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
With Warwick’s ground not nearly as demanding as it was at Cheltenham on his last start, his resilience under pressure should be a sizeable asset here.
An each-way saver should also be reserved for the top weight, Auroras Encore, who can be a law unto himself, but remains capable of a stellar display – as evidenced by his narrow defeat in last season’s Scottish Grand National.
Lingfield’s all-weather card is a long way from Warwick in terms of quality, of course, but there can often by a nugget or two of gold hidden in the handicaps at this time of year. Look no further, then, than My Own Way Home, who contests division one of the Blue Square Bet Sprint Series. David Evans’ five-year-old mare was most unfortunate over course and distance last week when her path was blocked at a crucial stage.
My Own Way Home still got to within three-quarters of a length of decent yardstick Desert Strike and is on the same mark off which she was successful here in August.
Compensation also awaits Staffhoss, who finished full of running when second over seven furlongs at Lingfield on January 2. The step up to a mile in the Forest Row Handicap might just see him reverse form with his conqueror that day, Club House, who only had a head in reserve at the line.