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Classy Unioniste can defy top weight in Sky Bet Chase

| 23.01.2014

Trainer Paul Nicholls has decided to let Unioniste take his chance in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster rather than the Argento Chase at Cheltenham on Saturday. The talented French import was no match for Bobs Worth in the Lexus Chase last time but is a class act in handicap company.

Harry Derham has been booked for the ride and his 5lb claim means that Unioniste carries 11st7lb. The same combination teamed up successfully with Saphir Du Rheu in the Lanzarote at Kempton two weeks ago and they look to have every chance of striking again here.

Derham rode the grey to victory in the 2012 December Gold Cup and knows the horse well. Nicky Henderson relies on Roberto Goldback with Nico de Boinville taking 5lbs off his back.

Roberto Goldback won on his first start for Henderson at Ascot but has not shown the same level of form since. Grand National winner Aurora’s Encore is likely to struggle off an 11lb higher mark than Aintree and the dangers lurk lower down the handicap.

Donald McCain’s Kruzhlinin runs here in preference to Our Mick and was an easy winner at Kelso last time out. A 6lbs rise does not look excessive and he should go well along with the consistent Gullinbursti for Emma Lavelle.

Night In Milan had Mart Lane back in third when winning here in December and should confirm the form on identical terms. Mart Lane went on to win in blinkers and can be expected to race prominently again here.

Time For Rupert ran the race of his life when finishing fifth in the 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup but has struggled with injuries since. He was having his first race for over a year when tailed off in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in December.

The Druids Nephew ran a promising race for Andy Turnell at Chepstow last month and has attracted each-way support this week. Harry Skelton’s Baile Anrai will also have his supporters off bottom weight but Unioniste looks the one to beat.

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Harvey Mayson