RACING: Harry Topper proves a muddy marvel at Newbury

ANDOVERSFORD trainer Kim Bailey is one man who would be happy to see the rain continuing for another month.

Bailey feels he has a genuine Betfred Gold Cup contender on March 14 in Harry Topper – but only on very soft ground.

Harry Topper relished the muddy conditions at Newbury on Saturday to trounce hot favourite Al Ferof in the Denman Chase by 25 lengths in the hands of Birdlip-based jockey Jason Maguire.

Bailey has long regarded seven-year-old Harry Topper as his best horse since 1995 Gold Cup winner Master Oats.

After a successful reappearance in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, Harry Topper's jumping had deteriorated in two further outings but he was back to his best at Newbury

“We believed in him from day one,” said Bailey of the 7-2 winner. “He loves this ground and that makes a huge difference.

"I know he dropped the bit and was given a couple of cracks down the far side, but once he gets going he's as tough as they come.

"We schooled him this morning over five fences and the last time I did that was when Master Oats won the Gold Cup all those years ago. They are similar horses with similar attitudes.

"He proved when he ran at Sandown he doesn't go on good ground and he won't go to Cheltenham for the Gold Cup unless it's very soft. He doesn't have to go anywhere.

Sky Bet halved Harry Topper's price to 25-1 for the Gold Cup in March, with representative Michael Shinners saying: "Soft ground looks to be an absolute must for Harry Topper. However, with the weather as it is, you couldn't discount a really testing surface at Cheltenham in March."

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