The Duke’s Weekend Preview

It looks like Kempton Park might not be redeveloped after all, and I for one am absolutely delighted by this. Spelthorne Council has suggested that it lies in Surrey’s green belt and therefore is not under consideration as a new housing site.

The Jockey Club would very much like to knock down one of its highly prized racing venues to make way for some houses. Why? Because they would make an estimated two hundred million quid from its sale. Admittedly, those profits would be invested back in to racing, but in what? Some fancy new projects in Newmarket via a few good jolly-ups probably.

The Jockey Club (as it states in its own mission) “exists solely for the long-term good of the sport”. Well, leave Kempton Park alone. It offers a unique test for jump racing and remains the most accessible track to London. Now that the council has put a spanner in the works, perhaps the Jockey Club should ditch its attempts to massacre a piece of racing heritage.

Now on to the weekend. There’s one that catches my eye at a big price over at Chepstow, and not only for the fact I think JP McManus has some good chances across the UK and Ireland over the next couple of days.

Running in the 4.15pm, Eastlake has had a wind op and at his best he’d trounce the field he’s running against. Sure, he’s getting on a bit and it’s not guaranteed to work, but keep a very close eye on the market and see if there’s a plunge.

And, he’s not the only fascinating runner in the famous green and gold hoops. Clear Skies, trained by none other than Aidan O’Brien and ridden by Ryan Moore, goes in the Betway Winter Derby over at Lingfield at 3.15pm. She’s been making a mockery of rivals at Dundalk over the winter, notching five wins in her last six races. It probably won’t be as easy as her recent victories, with Winter Derby Trial winner Utmost, King Edward VII Stakes runner-up Khalidi and last year’s Brigadier Gerard Stakes winner Autocratic, all in opposition. I think 2017 Winter Derby winner Convey might pose the biggest threat though, despite an absence since running in the very valuable Champions Mile at Hong Kong in May.

Cyrname appears to have a relatively straightforward chance in the 1.50pm Grade 2 Pendil Novices’ Chase at Kempton. He faces only three rivals and on what we’ve seen he sets a good standard. He’s 8/13 at best odds at the time of writing this column and he might start an even hotter favourite.

Heading to Newcastle for the Eider Chase at 2.45pm and it’s a lot harder.

Back To The Thatch and West Of The Edge are both running at their career bests, so must have chances, despite being unproven over this far. Vinnie Lewis and Themanfrom Minella have both gone up in the weights for two victories on the spin, so while either could be involved, I’m not too keen on their handicap marks. Milansbar has also been put up 9lbs but that was for a really impressive win in the Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick (last year’s winner went on and won the Grand National). He’s the first selection at around 11/1 and rather than back him each-way I’d prefer to have another crack at finding the winner, so Hainan splits the betting stake. He’s been in good form at Haydock and gets to run off the same official mark as when third in the Peter Marsh Chase and I think he might relish the marathon trip. We’ve got some big days coming up in March, but this weekend is what British racing is all about – a rich variety of races across the country. Enjoy.

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