The Venetia Williams-trained Katenko, one of the most improved horses in training in recent months, appears more likely to go bid for the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup at The Cheltenham Festival on March 15 after being the most notable absentee from the five-day declarations for the Racing Plus Chase at Kempton on February 23, writes Elliot Slater.

A leading fancy in the ante-post market for the Kempton contest, Williams has decided not go for the valuable three-mile handicap chase, prompting increased speculation that the popular handler will give the green light for an audacious bid by Katenko for the blue riband chasing event at the home of National Hunt racing.

He was, three months ago, beaten 46-lengths into 11th place in a Haydock handicap hurdle off a mark of just 129.
Back over fences on his second outing of the term, the gelded son of Laveron ran a good race off a chase mark of 136, finishing a four-length runner-up to another improved performer, Wyck Hill, in the listed Champagne Bollinger Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot just before Christmas.

Off the same mark, the seven-year-old then won in good style at Sandown in the valuable HBLB Handicap Chase at Sandown in January, before making racegoers sit up and take notice as he followed up off a mark of 147 at Cheltenham three weeks later.

He slammed the decent Fruity O’Rooney by 12 lengths to land the Grade 3 Murphy Group Handicap Chase and raising the prospect of a bid for the Gold Cup itself.

A 66/1 chance for the big race prior to his latest success at Cheltenham, Katenko is now a top-priced 25/1 shot.

In a race where there have been a number of long shots run very well in recent years – The Giant Bolster was runner-up 12 months ago at 50/1 – Williams’ charge would be no forlorn hope if indeed he does line-up for the Grade 1 contest on the final day of the Festival meeting.

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