Symonds hoping the rain keeps coming for Belle as 11 go to post in StanJames.com Greatwood Gold Cup

The £50,000 StanJames.com Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup is the highlight of a seven-race programme at Newbury on Saturday, February 28, Greatwood Charity Day. A field of 11 is set to line up in the two and a half-mile Grade Three handicap chase following today’s final declaration stage.

The weights for are headed by Sound Investment (Paul Nicholls/Sam Twiston-Davies, 15/2 with Stan James), who finished second over and course and distance on November 28 having previously landed an extended two and a half-mile handicap chase at Sandown Park on November 8. The seven-year-old will be bidding to enhance the champion trainer’s formidable record in the StanJames.com Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup, which has yielded six victories.

Midnight Belle (Tom Symonds/Ben Poste (3), 6/1) is the one mare in the line-up. The eight-year-old daughter of Midnight Legend has been in tremendous form this season, landing a novices’ handicap chase over two and a half miles at Ludlow on January 15 and a handicap chase over a similar distance at Wetherby on January 31.

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Symonds, who trains in Herefordshire, reported today: “Midnight Belle is only really effective on soft ground and we are hoping there is more rain coming to Newbury, which it sounds like hopefully there will be.

“She quite surprised us with her win at Wetherby last time and she has now put herself in the position where she has to go for races like the StanJames.com Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup and, if she can get in the first three, she can get some Black Type for her pedigree.

“She has won seven races now and has been an absolute star for us. Anything more she can do will be a bonus.

“This could be her last real opportunity this season as the ground will have gone for her by the time of races like the mares’ final at Cheltenham in April.

“The ground at Newbury at this time of year should be up her street and she has Ben on her once again. He has won th

ree times on her so he knows her well and also takes some weight off her back.”

Philip Hobbs is doubly represented with Royal Regatta (Richard Johnson, 7/2 favourite), successful in a novices’ handicap chase at Newbury on November 29 and Ballygarvey (Tom O’Brien, 10/1), a winner at Ascot in December.

Venetia Williams was successful in 2014 with Shangani and this time around is represented by Bennys Mist (Aidan Coleman, 12/1), who shaped well over the Grand National fences when a close third in the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase at Aintree in December.

Another trainer to have tasted success in the race is Upper Lambourn-based Charlie Mann and he runs the progressive novice Seventh Sky (Barry Geraghty, 7/1), who went down by half a length in a novices’ limited handicap chase at Newbury on November 29 before going on to score at Huntingdon and Musselburgh.

Another interesting contender is Westward Point (Warren Greatrex/Gavin Sheehan, 8/1). The lightly-raced eight-year-old took a Wetherby novices’ chase by eight lengths in December, 2013, and will be making his seasonal debut on Saturday.

Easter Meteor (David Pipe/Conor O’Farrell, 20/1) was second over the course and distance in November, 2013, but has not been seen at his best so far this season, while soft-ground specialist Simply Wings (Richard Lee/Jamie Moore, 14/1) scored at Lingfield Park in December.

Completing the field are Saint Raph (Robert Walford/Felix de Giles, 5/1), who benefited from the fall of his chief rival when successful at by 34 lengths Wincanton on January 29 and Headly’s Bridge (Simon Earle/Andrew Thornton, 20/1), triumphant at Exeter in November but a disappointment next time out at Chepstow in December.

StanJames.com Greatwood Gold Cup – Stan James betting: 7/2 Royal Regatta; 5/1 Saint Raph; 6/1 Midnight Belle; 7

/1 Seventh Sky; 15/2 Sound Investment; 8/1 Westward Point; 10/1 Ballygarvey; 12/1 Bennys Mist; 14/1 Simply Wings; 20/1 Easter Meteor, Headly’s Bridge

Outright Prices-Non-Runner, No Bet. Place Terms: 1/4 the first 3

Sophie Bichener, Marketing Communications Executive at Stan James, said: “It is a great pleasure for StanJames.com to once again support the Greatwood charity at Newbury with the Greatwood Gold Cup

“Enjoying racing with a view to the horse’s care in retirement is extremely important to us, as it is to the racing world.”

Now in its sixth year, the Greatwood Charity Day supports the unique Greatwood charity, founded in 1990 and based near Marlborough. Greatwood provides fulfilling futures for former racehorses and teaches emotional literacy and life skills to children and young people with special educational needs.

Declarations for the remaining six races on Greatwood Charity Day, including the first ever running of a veterans’ handicap hurdle in Britain, the opening Betfair Supporting Greatwood Veterans’ Handicap Hurdle (1.45pm), will be made tomorrow.

Newbury also races tomorrow, Friday, February 27, which is Mencap Charity Day. Mencap Charity Day offers a seven-race programme running from 2.00pm to 5.15pm. The day will support West Berkshire Mencap, a charity doinginvaluable work to support people living difficulties and their families in the local area.

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