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Bensalem Likely to be Handed Cheltenham Handicap Target
02/03/10

Trainer Alan King has all but confirmed that his classy three-mile novice chaser Bensalem will miss the RSA Chase in favour of a crack at the William Hill Handicap Chase on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, writes Elliot Slater.

Bensalem
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Bensalem

Bensalem, who has never been out of the first two in all completed career starts, found serious RSA Chase hope Diamond Harry two lengths too good at Newbury last time out. Having given the matter plenty of consideration, King suggested that connections had all but decided that they will swerve a rematch with their Newbury conqueror, Punchestowns and Long Run, and opt instead at taking on more experienced, but possibly slightly less testing opposition, in the three-mile handicap.

When considering Cheltenham Gold Cup betting it is worth nothing that Bensalem won five of his six starts last season over hurdles, his only defeat coming at the hands of his 'bete noir' Diamond Harry at Cheltenham last January. Although successful in only one of his four outings this term over the larger obstacles, the seven-year-old has consistently run well against smart opposition.

Any cut in the ground would be a definite plus for Bensalem who like so many Turtle Island progeny really likes to get his toe in. Usually the Cheltenham Festival is run on decent ground but with the severe winter being endured in the British Isles there is every chance that this year King's gelding might be granted his optimum conditions.

Bensalem has been installed a best-priced 7/1 favourite with Cheltenham Festival betting for the William Hill Handicap Chase, with his closest market rivals currently including The Package, Exmoor Ranger, Theatrical Moment, Sychronised and recent Racing Post Chase hero Razor Royale, all quoted at between 10/1 and 16/1.

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