Copain De Classe edged out Casablanca Mix in an informative Handicap Chase at Kempton on Sunday and winning trainer Paul Nicholls immediately nominated the BetVictor Gold Cup as his primary early season target. He is 20/1 with BetVictor for the feature race at Cheltenham’s November meeting, but he needs decent (good to soft or better) ground to be seen at his best and I feel the runner up is the one to take out of the race.
Verdana Blue won the feature Hurdle race on the same card and is 16/1 at BetVictor for the Greatwood Hurdle at the same Cheltenham meeting. Trainer Nicky Henderson suggested that if the ground remains fast the mare will be targeting the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton. She is another who needs good ground to be seen at her best.
Good to firm ground at Exeter for their first meeting of the season – they lost one because of hard ground – but largely small fields. It could be a tremendous day for the Philip Hobbs yard and Beau De Brizais (2.20) is taken to give weight and a beating to his two rivals in the opening handicap chase.
The selection still needs to brush up his jumping, but he looked a potential improver when third at Ludlow from a 2lbs lower mark earlier in the month. The recent Chepstow winner Sill Believing will, hopefully, make the market.
Over to Kempton where I hope to see Fox Champion (7.10) go one better than on debut. The selection was beaten a nose at Doncaster on his sole start back in June and his subsequent absence is a slight concern, but he is certainly bred for the job having cost his present owners 420,000 gns earlier in the year.
Those owners are the King Power Racing Co and I wonder if they will stay in the capital given Leicester City met Arsenal in the Premier League at the Emirates last night!
In the 11f handicap Pilot Wings (8.40) ran a career best upped in trip at Wolverhampton last time and was certainly not stopping over that extended nine-furlong trip. The lightly-raced maiden is well drawn in stall two and the form of that latest run at Dunstall Park has been boosted by the subsequent win of the fourth home.
Cristal Spirit is fitted with cheek-pieces for the first time in the concluding 12f handicap and there will be plenty willing to give him another chance having finished very well under hands and heels last time.
I would prefer to take a chance, however, with the handicap debutant Tinsmith (9.10) – another fitted with cheek-pieces for the first time – who is bred to be better than a 65-rated animal and has hinted at ability in three maidens so far. He does not look overburdened despite carrying top-weight tonight.
At Yarmouth Maqsad (2.30) can go one better than when runner up at Newmarket on debut (7f) with the additional furlong looking sure to suit. The filly holds an entry in next year’s 1000 Guineas which suggests she is held in some regard by William Haggas.
The Novice Stakes for fillies is a hot race and Handmaiden has finished runner up on all three starts so far this term. This drop back to 6f should suit but the same sentiment applies to Nashirah (3.00) who led at the furlong pole when third at HQ last time for Charlie Appleby and William Buick.