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Barbury workout for King contenders Bensalem and Crick.

Byline: Graham Dench

ALAN KING will put the finishing touches to the preparation of two of his main festival hopes this morning when he gives Bensalem and Oh Crick a spin around the point-to-point course on the Barbury Castle estate where he trains. Bensalem is clear favourite and as short as 5-1 with Totesport and Stan James for the Stewart Family Spinal Research Handicap Chase, in which he was travelling like a winner when he came down two out a year ago, while Oh Crick is second favourite in some lists at only 10-1 for the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase, which he won in 2009.

King has no complaints about the handicapper's treatment of the pair, for Bensalem runs off 143, the same mark as last year, while Oh Crick, though 15lb higher than when successful off 130, is also very fairly weighted, having subsequently peaked at 155.

He said: "Bensalem and Oh Crick will both have a spin of two and a half miles or so over the Barbury Castle point-to-point course with two or three lead horses. They are both in very good order and among my best chances in the handicaps.

"I intend running Blazing Bailey in Bensalem's race too, so the weights won't go up by more than 2lb, and if Nicky [Henderson] runs French Opera in the Grand Annual there might not be too many running against Oh Crick from the proper handicap."

While there were few surprises when the festival's handicaps were unveiled yesterday, King enjoyed a pleasant one when he saw the weights for the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle.

Having thought last week's short-head Warwick second Dhaafer might need a rise of around 6lb to be certain of making the cut he was initially dismayed to find he had been left on his previous mark of 119. However, in a race in which only 49 entries remain, Dhaafer looks more than likely to get in.

King, who is leaning heavily towards the County Hurdle rather than the Coral Cup for recent Totesport Trophy disappointment Walkon, said: "I thought he'd be going up for Warwick, which looked a good run, but they've left him alone. It looks as if he'll get a run and he could be well in off 10st."

Plans for many of Philip Hobbs's Cheltenham team remain fluid, but he said stable stalwart Fair Along was "unlikely" to take up his engagement in the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase and will probably run instead in the Spinal Research Chase. Forgotten horse Snap Tie will run in the County Hurdle rather than the Grand Annual.

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Blazing Bailey: set to run in Spinal Research Chase
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Mar 3, 2011
Words:443
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