Fifteen will go to post for the 3m 5f Classic Chase at Warwick on Saturday including David Bridgewater’s The Conditional who is the 9/2 market leader at BetVictor. The favourite is 5lbs higher than when finishing runner up in the Ladbrokes Trophy six weeks ago and was given an entry for the Gold Cup – for which he is 100/1 at BetVictor – earlier in the week although he looks more like a Grand National horse to me.
There is a good card at Huntingdon this afternoon and the highlight, arguably, is the opening novices’ limited handicap chase. Only six go to post including Alan King’s lightly-raced 9-y-old Big Chief Benny who makes his chase debut from the foot of the weights. Westend Story is proving disappointing over fences, but this drop back in trip will suit and it will be interesting to see if the market speaks in his favour.
The vote, however, goes to Imperial Aura (12.25) who drops back in trip having been outstayed by Pym over an extended 3m at Cheltenham last month. The selection has won two of three starts going right-handed and his fencing improved as the race progressed last time. There is likely to be plenty of pace in the race and I hope jockey David Bass does not get embroiled in a battle for the lead with Westend Story. He looks a likely sort for the novices’ handicap chase over slightly further at the Festival in March. One note of caution the Kim Bailey yard have been pulling up few trees of late.
Arthur’s Reuben won the corresponding 3m Handicap Chase 12 months ago and he can race off the same mark this afternoon. If the ground is no worse than good to soft, he must have every chance with Staffordshire handler Jennie Candlish having her string in good form.
Marginal preference, however, is for Robyndzone (1.35) who I felt ran very well on his chase debut at Taunton and this winning pointer is entitled to have come on for the experience. He is another who would not want the ground to turn soft. He is an each way recommendation.
Goshen was rated 88 on the flat for Gary Moore and has won both starts in juvenile hurdles by an aggregate of 57L and he will be a very short price to land his hat-trick in the valuable 4-y-old hurdle. Lord Lamington (2.10) was also rated in the 80s on the level and has run well in both starts over hurdles – winning at Market Rasen before finishing runner up on ground softer than ideal in a Grade 2 at Doncaster. The selection receives 8lbs from Goshen and, granted genuine good to soft ground, he can serve it up to the likely favourite.
In the 2nd division of the mares’ maiden hurdle I hope to see Just A Thought (2.45) finally get her head in front having run well in defeat on any number of occasions including when runner up off a mark of 125 in a 3m handicap last time. The Rebecca Curtis stable have been quiet over the Festive period – they have not had a runner in over a fortnight – which tempers confidence but she has fitted her 8-y-old with first-time cheek-pieces this afternoon.
At Sedgefield Colorado Doc (12.50) had a record of 6-10 in points and make a very good chase debut over 2m at Hereford last week when staying on in second over the minimum trip. The selection has been put up 4lbs for that run but can race from the same mark today. Today’s step up in distance will suit.
Winning pointer Espoire De Loire (2.00) has been raised 7lbs for scoring at Musselburgh on his chase debut for Ben Pauling when he gave the impression a switch to a left-hand track would suit. Ben Pauling has not had the number of winners I felt he might have after a slow start to the season, but this inmate might still be ahead of the handicapper.
Tractor Fred has been knocking on the door for BetVictor brand ambassador Jamie Snowden but Benechenko (2.35) caught a tarter at Hereford last time and he can go one better for Fergal O’Brien. The selection is a winning Bumper/pointer but failed to get his head in front over hurdles – he looked a thorough stayer on his seasonal reappearance at Taunton and he steps up in distance to an extended 3m 1f this afternoon.