The return of big Ben

bensalemWHEN I saw Bensalem ease to victory in a Sandown bumper in November 2008, I reckoned that Alan King had got himself a potential Cheltenham Gold Cup horse. A promising novice hurdle career followed during which he ran Diamond Harry close at Cheltenham. This big brute of a horse has been unlucky. A serious illness almost claimed his life in the summer of 2010 and it was nothing short of a miracle that he returned to the track early in 2011. Not only that: he was produced to win the Festival Handicap Chase in Match 2011. Injury has since curtailed the big fella’s career and it is almost two years since we saw him run. But today he is back at Exeter in the Graduation Chase over 3m.

Elsewhere on this blog I’ve already written about how I fancy Bensalem for another tilt at the Festival Handicap Chase in March. He is now 10 but there are still plenty of miles on the clock. In fact, he has only had seven runs over fences.

The vibes from Alan King’s yard have been positive and today is a big day. He will need the run but he would be giving weight all round if this was a handicap. My heart says he’ll win; my head says he’ll badly need the run. But 9/1 is generous. I just hope he comes back in one piece.

Elsewhere the clash between PUFFIN BILLY and MELODIC RENDEZVOUS should be one to savour, while COLOUR SQUADRON should relish the conditions in the novice chase.

MANY CLOUDS is a lovely horse and one of our horses to follow and he should take all the beating in the opener. The closing two bumpers should be informative and there is stable confidence behind David Pipe winning them both with VIEUX LION ROUGE and THE LIQUIDATOR. Keep an eye on Jeremy Scott’s DUKE’S AFFAIR in the last. He is highly thought of and could be the one to give The Liquidator most to think about.

Good luck!

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