Our racing expert gives his verdict on the seven races - four from Warwick, three from Kempton - being shown live on ITV4 this Saturday afternoon.
Warwick 1:50 3m Betfred Home Of Goals Galore Hampton Novices’ Chase (Listed Race) (Class 1) (5yo+)
Duel At Dawn was readily brushed aside by Sizing Tennessee at Cheltenham last month, although he was conceding 5lb to the winner who did the form no harm when running Yanworth close on his return to that track on New Year’s Day. That helps explain why Alex Hales’ charge has been put in as favourite for this prize and he also has the beating of Flintham on their Exeter running at Exeter in November, albeit that horse could finish closer with a first-time tongue tie applied.
But odds of 9/4 don’t particularly excite and especially as he’s up against Big River, who was the best of these over hurdles and won by 11 lengths on his chase debut at Kelso in October, before a fibrillating heart caused him to be pulled up on his next outing at Haydock. He’s presumably fine now but he clearly comes with a risk and I’d much rather back the only mare in the race, MS PARFOIS, at bet365’s 3/1. She has come good on her last two starts against her own sex, including when jumping well to beat some useful mares at Newbury last time. With the five fences down the back straight here coming in quick succession, it’s not hard to see her taking several lengths out of this field and fully effective on the forecast soft ground, she can see off the geldings to land her hat-trick.
Kempton 2:05 2m4½f (2m4f110y) 32Red Casino Chase (Listed Race) (Class 1) (5yo+)
Smad Place had God’s Own well behind in sixth when winning the Old Roan at Aintree in October, but the latter horse enjoys a significant pull at the weights this afternoon and with his stable now in better form, he could turn the tables. But neither may win as Malcolm Jefferson’s WAITING PATIENTLY is a horse on the up and he is taken to improve past the pair and keep his unbeaten record over fences intact.
Now 4-4 in this sphere, he has beaten horses of the ilk of Burtons Well, Forest Bihan, Politologue and, most recently, Belami Des Pictons on unfavourable terms at Carlisle in October (2m4f, good to soft). His trainer, who doesn’t tilt at windmills, is eyeing up bigger targets in the spring and this looks a good stepping stone for the hugely exciting seven-year-old, who can be backed at a perfectly fair 2/1 with bet365.
Warwick 2:25 3m1f (Inner) Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Series Qualifier) (Class 2) (5yo+)
These qualifiers are notoriously tricky affairs but the one that jumps out from near the bottom of the handicap is Malcolm Jefferson’s BLACK IVORY. The joint youngest runner in the field at six and less exposed than most, he arrives here with his career on an upwards curve following a ready success over the highly regarded Le Breuil at Aintree last month. That was over 2m4f but he showed he has the stamina for this when narrowly failing over an extended 3m at the same track previously and while he’s up a further 6lb, his rider Jamie Hamilton’s claim takes care of a chunk of that. That all helps to explain why he’s favourite, with bet365 one of several firms going 5/1, and I think that’s more than justified.
2:40 2m5f (Winter) 32Red Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle (Listed Race) (Class 1) (4yo+)
A typically competitive renewal with plenty holding chances, but it usually pays to concentrate on those near the head of the market with no winner since 2007 going off bigger than 9/1. A couple of the four qualifiers at current odds, William Henry and River Frost, are classy sorts with joint top weight of 11st 12lb to carry and while that burden isn’t insurmountable, they might struggle to concede upwards of 10lb to likely favourite DIESE DES BIEFFES, who has just 10st 11lb on his back thanks to Mitchell Bastyan’s 5lb claim.
The young conditional has impressed on several occasions this season, riding 23 winners in total, and is having his first ride for Nicky Henderson here. A big-profile winner would be a real boost to his career and his mount looks up to the task having won his first two novice hurdles in comfortable fashion, before proving no match for If The Cap Fits over 2m here on Boxing Day. That was no disgrace as the winner is now amongst the favourites for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the selection, who was doing all his best work late on in finishing a clear second, seems sure to relish today’s extra half mile. I can’t see a rival with a bigger upside so I’m happy to take Boylesports’ 6/1.
Warwick 3:00 2m5f (Inner) Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) (Class 1) (5yo+)
All of the last six winners of this Grade 2 won last time, although that doesn’t really help us here as that applies to five of the six runners. Indeed, it could pay to ignore that stat altogether as the exception, COUNT MERIBEL, has by far the most experience and has shown himself to be a smart operator in winning three of his four starts over hurdles this season from the front. He looked set to make it 4-4 over 3m at Cheltenham last month when jumping the last in front, only to get outstayed by Kilbricken Storm (who was getting 3lb) on the run-in. The return to this trip is in his favour then and as an accurate jumper who is fully effective in these conditions, he is fancied to run the finish out of his rivals, all of whom are stepping up in class. Take Ladbrokes‘ 3/1.
3:15 3m 32Red.com Handicap Chase (Class 2) (5yo+ 0-150)
Fountains Windfall would surely have given Black Corton a race in a Grade 1 novice chase here on Boxing Day had he not fallen four out when still travelling strongly. However, he’s now come a cropper on his last two starts and for all his undoubted ability, I’m not prepared to take a risk on him at current best odds of 5/4.
Besides he’s giving weight to some tough and experienced handicappers, the best of whom may be BALLYALTON. Ian Williams’ charge has just turned 11 but he has looked as good as ever in three starts this season, including when plugging on for fourth in the BetVictor Gold Cup (2m5f) at Cheltenham last month. On that evidence, he looks well worth a try over this longer trip and having won a point-to-point earlier in his career, he should have no trouble lasting home around here. He’ll do for me at Ladbrokes’ 9/2.
3:35 3m5f (3m5f54y) Betfred Classic Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (Class 1) (5yo+)
This is far from a vintage renewal of this Grade 3 contest, won last year by subsequent Aintree hero One For Arthur, and several of the 13 runners have more letters next to their name than actual numbers. Three ran in last weekend’s rescheduled Welsh National – Milansbar, Emperor’s Choice and On The Road – with none of the trio completing the course, while three others were pulled up last time, including Cogry, albeit that was in the Ladbrokes Trophy won by Total Recall. Missed Approach finished sixth in that race and is now 6lb lower, but that form has not worked out particularly well since and he’s only won once over fences.
The safest option then may be KRACKATOA KING, one of three Kerry Lee representatives, as he’s certainly consistent with form figures of 331212 since last February. While he doesn’t do anything quickly, he has stamina aplenty, which is required in spades, and is still at the right end of the handicap on a mark of 127. He was only narrowly denied over 3m1f at Wincanton last year time under today’s rider Richard Patrick, who is proving good value for his 5lb claim, and this longer trip is going to play to his strengths.
At 9/1 with Hills, who are paying out on four places, he’s a good each-way bet as any given, but as I’d prefer to have a couple running for me I’m going to split win stakes between him and CRESSWELL BREEZE (9/1 Coral), another dour stayer who ran well to finish third in the London National last time after winning over 3m4f at Fontwell.
Warwick 1.50, Ms Parfois @ 3/1 bet365
Kempton 2.05, Waiting Patiently @ 2/1 bet365
Warwick 2.25, Black Ivory @ 5/1 bet365
Kempton 2.40, Diese Des Bieffes @ 6/1 Boylesports
Warwick 3.00, Count Meribel @ 3/1 Ladbrokes
Kempton 3.15, Ballyalton @ 9/2 Ladbrokes
Warwick 3.35, Krackatoa King @ 9/1 Hills / Cresswell Breeze @ 9/1 Coral
All odds were correct at time of posting.