Our racing expert gives his verdict on the ITV4-televised action from Kempton, Lingfield and Newcastle.
Kempton 1:50 2m4½f (2m4f110y) Betdaq Now 2% Commission Pendil Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) (Class 1) (5yo+)
This looks a good opportunity for Paul Nicholls’ CYRNAME to get back to winning ways (a 4/6 chance with Betfair) after his neck second behind the exciting Terrefort in the Grade 1 Scilly Isles last time, and especially as his main market rival, The Unit, has been off since November. The latter is also engaged at Fontwell on Sunday with connections keen to give him a third run over fences and qualify for the handicaps at Cheltenham.
Lingfield 2:05 5f (5f6y) Betway Hever Sprint Stakes (Listed Race) (Class 1) (4yo+)
Last year’s winner Royal Birth has looked below his best in recent starts and the same comment applies to Gracious John, although he’s the clear top-rated runner and could well bounce back here. Recent Wolverhampton winner Orvar is respected but his wide draw is a concern, and it could be worth taking a chance on the better drawn (stall two) ENCORE D’OR (8/1 Hills) with Ryan Moore booked. While he didn’t show much in two runs on turf at Meydan last month, he’s a much better horse on this surface and was impressive over course and distance last March. His trainer Robert Cowell is 2-2 in the last fortnight.
Kempton 2.25 2m (Winter) Betdaq #ChangingForTheBettor Adonis Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 2) (Class 1) (4yo)
The Unit’s trainer Alan King has had this race in mind for REDICEAN for a good while and the four-year-old, who has won both his hurdles starts over this track and trip in great style, should prove far too good for today’s rivals. He’s a best-priced 10/1 for the Triumph Hurdle and I suspect he’ll be a couple points shorter after this race, for which he’s a 4/5 shot with bet365.
Newcastle 2.45 4m½f (4m122y) Betfred Eider Handicap Chase (Class 2) (5yo+)
In a race not renowned for young winners, I’m going against the grain here in backing a couple of lightly-raced youngsters in VINNIE LEWIS (main fancy) and BACK TO THE THATCH, and you can read my reasons why here.
Kempton 3.00 2m (Winter) Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) (Class 1) (4yo+)
Mont Des Avaloirs heads those to have seen hurdles action but the full brother to Le Prezien looks more of a long term prospect, and he might be vulnerable to one of the hurdling debutants. Of these, Scarlet Dragon and Humphrey Bogart represent powerful stables, Alan King and Nick Henderson respectively, but the each-way value lies in Jamie Snowden’s CARNTOP at the 33/1 on offer at bet365, who are one quarter the odds instead of the standard fifth. Part-owned by the Duchess of Cornwall, he was a decent performer at the start of his Flat career – second in the Lingfield Derby Trial (behind Humphrey Bogart) – and his entry in the Supreme Novices’ suggests he’s been schooling well at home, having had wind surgery since his last run on the level. The good run of stable form – a couple of winners and a brace of seconds this past week – provides further encouragement for a bet.
Lingfield 3:15 1m2f Betway Winter Derby Stakes (Group 3) (All-Weather Championships Fast-Track Qualifier) (Class 1) (4yo+)
Aidan O’Brien has his first runner on the British all-weather since 2002 in Clear Skies, who is getting plenty of respect from the layers and is no bigger than 5/2. However, I’m happy to swerve her at that price as while she has been making hay at Dundalk, her most recent wins have all come in handicaps and this is a whole new level for her. She’s not even the highest-rated runner in the field, that honour going to Clive Cox’s KHALIDI, who has 7lb in hand, and this dual Listed winner who was last seen chasing home Crystal Ocean in a Goodwood Group 3 could well be the answer if taking to the surface. With 6/1 up for grabs at bet365, I’m willing to take that chance.
Kempton 3.35 3m Betdaq Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (Class 1) (5yo+)
With several of the principles having their stamina to prove for this trip, I’m taking a chance on relative outsider MONBEG CHARMER, making a good case for the Charlie Longsdon-trained novice here.
Kempton 1.50, Cyrname @ 4/6 Betfair
Lingfield 2.05, Encore D’or @ 8/1 Hills
Kempton 2.25, Redicean @ 5/6 bet365
Newcastle 2.45, Vinnie Lewis @ 11/2 Hills / Back To The Thatch @ 11/1 Ladbrokes
Kempton 3.00, Carntop each-way @ 28/1 Betfair (1/5 odds, 1.2.3)
Lingfield 3.15, Khalidi @ 6/1 bet365
Kempton 3.35, Monbeg Charmer each-way @ 25/1 (1/5 odds, 220.127.116.11) Ladbrokes
All odds were correct at time of posting.