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TRAINER Tom Clover believes Rogue Bear would be a worthy winner of the John Smith’s Cup, which this Saturday will be staged at York for the 63rd time.

The famous £200,000 race has been the target for 7/1 chance Rogue Bear after three near-misses early in the 2022 season.

The four-year-old gelding, owned by The Rogues Gallery, finished third at Doncaster and Newbury in Class 2 handicaps and then went down by only a head when contesting the Paddy Power ‘I Love Steak’ Stakes handicap over this weekend’s course and mile-and-a-quarter distance at the Dante Festival.

Newmarket-based Clover said: “I felt he was jolly unlucky that day. To pull quite hard and get beaten a head shows what a nice prospect he is. To come from last, overtake the whole field and just get done, I thought showed a lot of character from the horse.

“We gave him a little break and just freshened him up a little bit and have trained him for Saturday’s race. He looks in good heart at home. I’m hoping he’s actually grown up a little bit. He’s a little bit more relaxed and is learning a lot through his racing. I’m pleased with him.

“It’s a very valuable and prestigious race. The ‘Rogues’ are great supporters of mine and it’s lovely to have a horse like this for them who can run in these Saturday handicaps. The horse really deserve one to fall his way, I feel. Hopefully I’ve got him there in good nick.”

Rogue Bear’s last run was the first time he has been tried at a mile and a quarter – and Clover feels that the horse is suited to the distance. He also reckons that the Kremlin House Stables inmate is capable of acting on faster going after mostly being campaigned on good or easier ground.

Clover, whose in-form stable has already recorded 19 winners this year, added: “He won on debut on good to firm ground. I suppose we’ve half kept him off good to firm ground (since) but at York last time I thought it was more on the quicker side of good anyway. His work at home is fine on good to firm ground – so I’m hoping it should be fine. He seems to handle it okay, I think, so far.”

Saturday’s seven-race card carries overall prize money of £420,000 and along with the John Smith’s Cup also includes the Group 3 John Smith’s Silver Cup and the John Smith’s City Walls Stakes, a Listed contest.

York’s latest two-day meeting gets underway on Friday at 2.05pm with the William Hill Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap. The highlight of the first-day card is the Group 3 William Hill Summer Stakes, one of seven scheduled races on the opening afternoon.