I think it is fair to say that last weekend was a slight lull in proceedings on the racing front, but we were treated to some star quality courtesy of Constitution Hill in the Tolworth Hurdle.
This weekend, however, we have plenty of ‘must watch’ action, with graded races at Kempton and Warwick giving us valuable Cheltenham Festival clues while also contributing some fantastic punters' puzzles courtesy of the Lanzarote Hurdle at the former and the Classic Chase at the latter.
With the main bet going in last weekend at 100/30, we can go into this Saturday full of confidence and a few do catch the eye.
1:18 – NOT AVAILABLE
Just the four line up for this two-mile handicap chase where NOT AVAILABLE is taken to land the hat-trick. His immediate victims at Newbury have both run solid races since while he showed a good attitude to win at Ludlow after interference in the closing stages. He has only gone up 6lb for those wins and only just appears to do enough.
He has never been out of the first three in nine chase starts and he gets the vote ahead of fellow hat-trick bidder Brave Seasca. His victory over track and trip was franked when the runner-up hacked up at Market Rasen and showed he was improving when fast when winning at Ascot. The handicapper has reacted though by putting him up a whopping 16lb for those wins and at the prices I must side with the other 7yo.
3:00 – NO REMATCH
The Classic Chase is a springboard to the Grand National with One For Arthur doing the double in 2017 and Milansbar finishing fifth at Aintree the following year after winning here while 2020 scorer Kimberlite Candy is a standing dish in the Becher Chase.
It’s a very competitive renewal with David Pipe’s 6yo Gericault Roque heading the betting. He has been placed in all three of his chase runs but is creeping up the handicap and has been raised 6lb for his second placed finish at Newbury in the mandarin last time.
Corach Rambler has top weight but seems to be improving fast in staying chances and was well on top at Cheltenham in December despite not travelling overly well. The weight and his travelling style does concern me around here, but he is certainly a lightly raced improver.
Notachance won the race last year off the same mark but has failed to finish in three of his four races since, while Padleyourowncanoe was an eyecatcher on his comeback at Haydock and Achille will have supporters being a soft ground staying chaser form the in-form Venetia Williams yard.
NO REMATCH has been very well backed in the last 48 hours and although he is shorter now than I would have hoped, he comes with plenty of upside. He was an easy winner on chasing debut on heavy ground at Chepstow after almost a year off and although pulled up at Exeter four weeks ago, he did show promise. He was still in contention turning for home and weakened very quickly before pulling up two out. His trainer has said he needed the race badly and has always thought of him as a heavy ground staying chaser.
He jumped left at Exeter so a return to a left handed track will suit and I’ll be surprised if he is not off a much higher mark in twelve months time and a Welsh National type.
3:35 – RIGGS
Only seven go to post for this Pertemps Qualifier, so all bar one will qualify for the Final at the Festival.
Alaphillipe makes his first start since fifth in the Albert Bartlett last March but he has already proven a soft ground three miles holds no fears for him, although I expect he will come on for the run and will have loftier aims down the line. Sporting John has the class but found this mark beyond him at Cheltenham, while Third Wind steps down from Grade 1 company but is still 5lb higher than when runner-up in the big staying handicap at Haydock on Betfair Chase Day in 2020.
It was that race this season that holds the key here as RIGGS was staying on second on his first start over three miles. That was on unseasonably good ground, but he was second in the EBF Final at Sandown in March on soft ground. He gets weight off the field with just ten stone to carry and will need a rise in the weights to be guaranteed a run in the final. He represents local connections on Warwick’s big day and I think he will be tough to beat.
Sire Du Berlais and The Jam Man appear to have found the perfect opportunity to book a ticket to Cheltenham in March without having to be on their A-game.
2:40 – GELINO BELLO & COMMANCHE RED
Kempton’s big betting race is the Lanzarote Hurdle and I’ll be taking two against the field.
I like GELINO BELLO among the market leaders for Paul Nicholls. He beat two subsequent winners in his novice hurdle win at Aintree in Ree Okka (runs 12:55) and Doctor Ken. He bumped into the Albert Bartlett favourite not once but twice at Cheltenham and was perhaps outstayed on the second occasion over three miles.
A strong pace at this trip could be ideal and on his excellent bumper form that saw him beat Datsalrightgino (dual hurdle winner and ran in G1 last weekend) and third in a red hot listed bumper at Newbury, he could be well treated on just his sixth start.
At a bigger price, I will chance COMMANCHE RED for Chris Gordon and young conditional Fergus Gillard whose 3lb claim could be very handy. Commanche Red had his finest hour at this track on Boxing Day in 2019 when winning the novice handicap chase. He struggled in graded contests and off higher marks subsequently but appears to have rediscovered some form this season and could be ready to strike.
He followed up his Plumpton third on seasonal return with an eye catching fourth here over Christmas behind Marie’s Rock and finds himself 15lb better off with Gillard’s claim. His course form figures read 113P24 (including a jumper’s bumper) and with extra places available he is worth an each way interest.
Marie’s Rock finally delivered on her promise upped to this trip last time but a 9lb hike is a fair whack to overcome while hat-trick seeker Green Brook for Venetia Williams and Haydock winner Up For Parol will have their followers.
3:50 - LORD BADDESLEY
The finale at Kempton can go to LORD BADDESLEY who can hopefully cap a fine day for Chris Gordon. Returned to the minimum trip at this track over Christmas, he caught the eye staying on from the rear into third behind Betfair Hurdle bound Rowland Ward. He has been dropped a further 1lb and Harry Cobden is a very eye-catching booking. The jockey has ridden two winners, a second and two thirds on his seven rides for the Gordon stable and this lightly raced 7yo could still deliver on his early novice hurdle promise.
The hat-trick seeking Earth Company is finally getting the hang of things but a 6lb rise for his latest win asks more of a question so a bigger threat could be Gary Moore’s Royaume Uni. He bolted up off a favourable mark at Plumpton and caught the eye with a solid third at Cheltenham and I expect Kempton will suit his strong travelling style.
It would not be the best card that Fairyhouse has ever staged this afternoon, but I expect Noel Meade’s DALY TIGER (12:50) to follow up his Limerick success. He must give weight all around but Eoin Walsh’s 5lb claim helps on that score and he took full advantage of reverting to hurdles when scoring on Boxing Day. His chasing form includes victory in the Dan Moore Memorial twelve months ago and chasing home Energumene at Cork last month. This looks an ideal opportunity for another victory before going back into deeper waters in the spring.
It’s a decent card at Wetherby here I fancy a pair of Pam Sly trained runners in FRANSHAM (2:12) and HAAFAPIECE (2:47).
FRANSHAM was still travelling well in a stronger race when coming to grief over track and trip three weeks ago and is fancied to gain compensation. He is 5lb worse off with Cornerstone Lad for their meeting here in November but that one seems to be regressing while none of the other three are big fans of winning races at present either.
HAAFAPIECE was a good winner over course and distance at the end of October and wasn’t disgraced when a close third dropped back to two miles here six weeks ago. that took his course form figures to 42313 with the victory coming over this two-and-a-half-mile trip. Most of the others have something to prove although Glentruan looks the main rival after dead heating at Ayr last month.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change