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Balmoral Handicap: Ropey Guest ready to take centrestage at Ascot

Fri 16 Oct 2020

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George Margarson will happily trade off what he feels is an acceptable rating for next season if Ropey Guest wins the Balmoral Handicap on Qipco British Champions Day.

Until his recent win at Chelmsford, Ropey Guest had the unwanted title of the best maiden in training.

Placed in several Group races in a busy juvenile campaign, this season he picked up where he left off when fourth on his reappearance in the Jersey Stakes.

Margarson thinks he will come into his own next year in big-field handicaps – but given he is already rated 103, he could end up too high in the weights and find himself forced back into Group races.

“He’s run well in big fields before at Ascot, in the Coventry and the Jersey Stakes,” said Newmarket trainer Margarson.

“I think we’re drawn (three) on the right side with the favourite (Raaeq), because I think it will favour the stands side myself.

“He handles every ground – he was unlucky not to win the Horris Hill at the end of last season on heavy, and it was pretty soft at the Royal meeting.

“He’s in good form, and we’ve kept him fresh for this – hopefully it will give us an idea for the future as to where we go with him.”

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Ropey Guest ran well in so many big races without gaining a deserved success that many questioned if it would ever come, but Margarson reports that his confidence never wavered.

“He doesn’t take getting beaten personally – he always came home and ate up,” he said.

“Katie (Margarson) rides him most mornings and says he’s bouncing – and by this time last year he’d had 11 runs, so he should be feeling very fresh, but there haven’t been the races for him this year.

“I’m really looking forward to next year for him and the big handicaps. But if he wins this then he might be too high – I’d take that, though, if it meant winning £100,000!

“He ran all those good races in Group races, and I always thought he wasn’t rated as high as he probably could be – we’ll get to find out now.

“I’ve had horses like Imperial Guest and Excellent Guest for the good handicaps, and I’d rate him above those two.”

Aidan O’Brien’s Keats is another three-year-old in the field, and arrives on the back of a Listed win at Cork last time out.

“We’ve run him over further, but each time he drops back to a mile he’s very comfortable,” said O’Brien. "Seamus (Heffernan) won a Listed race on him the last day and was very happy with him.

“He looks to be off a nice enough mark, even though he’s a three-year-old. He seems to be in good form since his last run.”

Brian Meehan’s Raaeq has headed the market since winning at Ascot by five lengths earlier this month – for which he carries a 6lb penalty, just like Keats.

“He’s an exciting horse with a big future,” said Meehan. “He’s gone up to 108 and will be off 103 on Saturday, which hopefully gives him a head start, but in big handicaps such as this you’ve got to be cautious.

“His rating means he’s in Stakes category now, and I’ve no doubt whatsoever he is up to it.”

James Doyle takes the ride on the Charlie Fellowes-trained King Ottokar, who has never quite lived up to his tall reputation.

“I rode him at Royal Ascot last year to be third in the Hampton Court, but for one reason or another he never quite went on from that,” said Doyle.

“I was in to ride him out last week and he felt really well – and one thing is for sure, he’ll love the ground. He loves to get his toe in.

“Hopefully it’s the sort of race he could go well in.”

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