Exitas "better than ever" ahead of BetVictor Handicap Chase on Friday
In-form chaser Exitas is set to take up his engagement in the £45,000 two-mile BetVictor Handicap Chase (1.50pm, 13 entries) at Cheltenham on the first day of The November Meeting, Countryside Day, Friday.
Exitas (trainer - Philip Middleton), the 4/1 favourite with BetVictor, is on a roll after winning on three of his last four starts, culminating with an impressive seven-length success under 7ib-claimer James Bowen in a Listed handicap chase over two miles and a furlong at Ascot on November 4.
The nine-year-old also captured handicap chases at Stratford and Kempton Park on September 9 and October 22 respectively, with his winning streak interrupted by a fall at Uttoxeter on September 24.
Permit holder Middleton, who is based in Buckinghamshire, said today: "Exitas definitely runs at Cheltenham on Friday. I rode him this morning and he has come out of Ascot really well. He is busting to go and seems better than ever.
"He has gone up 10lb following his win at Ascot, which was to be expected, and I am just praying that James Bowen doesn't ride a winner at Worcester today, otherwise his claim is down to five. If he doesn't win today, he gets two days grace and will still be able to claim seven on Friday.
"Exitas came right away from them at Ascot and was very impressive. When he is really on song and winning over two miles, he looks like he wants further, but he has never been at his best when I have tried him. You need to stay well to win at Cheltenham, even over two miles.
"He has had some quite serious problems, but gradually we have got him there. A couple of times he has raced, I felt the tongue tie was upsetting him and removing it seems to have made a difference.
"All ground comes alike to him. If I had to choose, I would like a bit of dig as it slows the others down a bit."
BetVictor Handicap Chase entries also include Kapstadt (9/2 with BetVictor) for in-form trainer Ian Williams. Kapstadt was just touched off in a novices' handicap chase at Ludlow on October 26.
Baby King (Tom George, 8/1) is lightly-raced after just three starts and could bid to defy a 6lb penalty having scored by a neck in a class three handicap chase at Aintree on November 11.
Last year's winner Un Beau Roman (Paul Henderson, 20/1) is also engaged alongside the Colin Tizzard-trained trio of Sizing Platinum (6/1), Mick Thonic (12/1) and Shanahan's Turn (14/1), winner of the 2015 Galway Plate for Henry de Bromhead.
BetVictor Handicap Chase - BetVictor prices: 4/1 Exitas; 9/2 Kapstadt; 6/1 Sizing Platinum; 8/1 Bright New Dawn, Doitforthevillage; 10/1 Lake Takapuna; 12/1 Mick Thonic; 14/1 Festive Affair, Shanahan's Turn; 20/1 Un Beau Roman; 25/1 Rock On Rocky; 33/1 Pain Au Chocolat
Cheltenham's six-race programme on Friday also includes £30,000 G2 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (3.30pm, 14 entries), which could feature highly-regarded novices Vision Des Flos (Colin Tizzard), Momella (Dan Skelton) and On The Blind Side (Nicky Henderson).
The £25,000 Steel Plate And Sections Novices' Chase (2.25pm, 13 entries) has been won by some very good horses, notably future Cheltenham Gold Cup heroes Denman (2006) and Imperial Commander (2007).
This year's entries are led by Finian's Oscar (Colin Tizzard), a dual G1-winning novice hurdler last season and successful on his chasing debut at Chepstow last month.
The November Meeting continues on Saturday, November 18 and Sunday, November 19, when the higlights are the £160,000 G3 BetVictor Gold Cup and the £100,000 G3 Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle.
The going at Cheltenham is currently Good to Soft.