Kim Bailey’s Charbel is a proper grader performer and proved that in no uncertain manner with an impressive eight-length victory in the Peterborough Chase when last seen. He seems to have appreciated the step up in trip this season and should be very difficult to beat.
Top Notch was a Grade 1 winner as a novice and added three Grade 2 to his cv last season. To many peoples surprise, Nicky decided to run him in the Long Walk Hurdle on season debut where he ran very well to finish third behind an improving Paisley Park. This race would normally represent a gilt-edged opportunity but with Charbel in the field, he may find things too hot.
Black Corton was one of the talking horses last season and played an integral role in the rise of Bryony Frost. Paul Nicholls’ charge started that campaign during the summer but continued to progress and ultimately landed a Grade 1 on Boxing Dat at Kempton. He ran well on seasonal debut behind Gold Cup fancy Definitely Red at Wetherby but never got involved in the Ladbrokes Trophy when last seen. I think he may have peaked last season and victories will be few and far between this season.
Kloud Gate has been the subject of an ante-post gamble and it easy to see why he’s being supported. Gary Moore’s inmate was disappointing on his initial starts over timber in Britan but showed his ability when running very well in some top handicaps on the flat including the JLT Cup behind Stratum. The French import has won both his starts over hurdles in impressive fashion this season and looks the horse to side with even though he races off 19 pounds higher than his Leicester win in December.
Lord Napier has been very consistent in recent times which included a sixth-place finish in the Betfair Hurdle at Ascot off a mark of 130. Peter Bowen’s charge races off the same mark here and doesn’t need to improve much to feature, stepping back up in trip.
Chester Williams claims a valuable seven pounds off top-weight Erick Le Rouge, who is searching for a four-timer. He’s gone up five pounds for a Boxing Day win at Kempton, which will make life tough for this improving five-year-old.
Another interesting contender is the Johnny Farrelly trained And The New who finished seventh in the Champion Bumper on only his third career start. The very lightly raced eight-year-old ran very well behind Lisp at Fontwell and with a first-time hood coupled with a recent wind-op he could surprise a few people.
Selection: And The New
Whenever I look at a decent Saturday card of racing I inevitably end up talking about a smart Simon Munir and Isaac Soude horse. This week is no different as Daryl Jacob rides their Ballykan for in the in-form Nigel Twiston-Davies. Ballykan may not be a stable star but the 133 rated chaser always seems to give his running in the big handicaps. He last won off 137 and showed his well-being with a respectable second at Fakenham behind Midnight Shot and must hold leading claims here.
Barney Dawn hasn’t been seen since finishing third behind Yala Enki in November and Fergal O’Brien’s gelding runs here off the same mark. He doesn’t hold any secrets from the handicapper which may leave him vulnerable to an improver but he’ll give a strong showing for his supporters.
Josses Hill was once one of the biggest talking horses in training but the bubble has well and truly burst for Nicky Henderson’s inmate. Last season’s campaign resulted in no victories and forced Nicky to grasp at straws with a wind operation. I can’t say it didn’t work as he ran with some promise on season debut in the Peterborough Chase and with his recent slide in the weights should he progress from that run, he should be winning this.
Bally Longford is another horse that’s “been there done that” and in truth looks handicapped to his best. The step back up in trip should help Colin Tizzards horse but he will struggle to land a blow here.
Glen Rocco is definitely one of the most lightly raced horses in the race having only graced the track on seven occasions. This former point-to-pointer has risen fifteen pounds in four starts over fences and with the step up in trip likely to suit, he should go very close.
Selection: Glen Rocco
Leamington Novices’ Hurdle
Birchdale tops the market and has a very similar profile to last week’s Tolworth “flop” Rathhill having won an Irish point to point and then a British hurdle. In fairness to Rathhill, he ran well for a horse with such inexperience thrown into a Grade 1 event. Birchdale also had an entry for the Tolworth with connections opting for this race instead which may indicate that he’s not shown as much at home as stablemate Rathhill and if that’s the case he’ll come up short here.
Tidal Flow has looked very good in both his starts over hurdles this season, he was a decent bumper horse but already looks a better hurdler. There s definite similarities between his running style and the owners Gold Cup winner Native River. Now, I’m not saying he’s that good but he looks like a horse to definitely keep onside.
Jane Williams knows when she has a good horse and she could have another nice type in the form of Beakstown who form figures read “212” at present. Although these runs were in pretty small events he showed a likeable attitude on each occasion and like so many others in the field is open to further progress.
The final runner of note is Rockpoint who shook up the Albert Bartlett market when accounting for a strong field at Cheltenham in December. This second season novice has run well in some big races last season and stayed on well to land that Grade 2 at Cheltenham. I have slight reservations about the strength of that form but he’s a likeable horse and should run well.
Selection: Tidal Flow
McCoy Contractors Handicap Chase
This is the most open contest of the day with all 13 runners having some sort of a chance and everybody will have their own favourites in the race. One of my particular favourites in Impulsive Star, who finished fourth in the four-miler at Cheltenham last season behind Rathvinden, He ran a fine race to finish runner-up behind Ok Corral at Plumpton and running off the same mark here, he must have a leading chance.
Cogry landed a Garde 3 at Cheltenham in December but that’s probably the height of what he will do this season as a mark of 142 looks beyond him for win purposes. Ibis Du Rheu finished a distant second on that same card at Cheltenham behind The Worlds End. He was a winner on seasonal debut off 139 and will need this step up in trip to bring out more improvement if he is to feature.
Calett Mad was grade 2 placed as a novice and has really appreciated the step up in distance with fine runs the in the BetVictor Gold Cup and Scottish Borders National to his name. There isn’t much room for error off his current mark but has age on his side and could progress further.
Carole’s Destrier has got a lovely racing weight for this off 10-6 and given that he won the London National over this trip a few seasons ago off a higher mark, then he could be the sleeper in the race. Neil Mullholland’s inmate only got three pounds for winning at Newbury most recently and holds strong claims.
Selection: Carole’s Destrier.