Altior remains 9/4 for the Champion Chase with BetVictor after his success in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury on Saturday. Nicky Henderson’s 10-year-old jumped well but hit his normal flat spot two out before powering clear from the last. I am convinced the Grade 1 Melling Chase at Aintree over two-and-a-half miles is his for the taking in the spring although I wonder if he has the speed at the minimum trip to cope with Defi Du Seuil (7/4 with BetVictor) up the Cheltenham hill in his bid for a hat-trick of Champion Chase crowns.
No racing in Britain or Ireland on Sunday as a result of Storm Ciara and Plumpton are due to hold a “precautionary inspection” at 8am this morning ahead of today’s card. No such problems expected at Catterick where the ground was described as heavy – soft in places – at noon on Sunday.
Ruth Jefferson’s Temple Man landed a gamble when scoring at Kelso over two miles and has had his wind tweaked since that victory a couple of months ago. He runs from a 6lbs higher mark today and must go close, but marginal preference is for Kauto D’Amour (2.30). The selection scored at Newcastle last time from a 3lbs lower mark and today’s additional half-mile should suit Sue Smith’s five-year-old who remains open to further improvement.
The novices handicap chase is a cracker despite only five going to post. Nicky Richards’ On A Promise makes his chase debut following a 686-day lay-off but he has the scope for the larger obstacles and do note he has won first time out – 261 days break – in the past. It will be interesting to see if the market speaks in his favour.
The vote, however, goes to the recent Wincanton scorer Ibleo (3.00) who is 6lbs higher in the weights today as he steps up in trip. The Venetia Williams’ trained seven-year-old is lightly raced and looks open to significant improvement. I thought he was well on top last time and his jumping was fast and clean.
A market move for Laskadine would be worth noting in the handicap hurdle given the mare has been dropped 5lbs for finishing down the field in a better race than this on her first start for Ben Haslam. The nod goes to Dan Skelton’s juvenile Scorched Earth (3.30) who scored over C&D here on debut and then ran well in defeat in a much deeper race at Newbury last time. I must say I was disappointed with the finishing efforts of the yard’s Nube Negra and Two Taffs at Warwick at the weekend despite travelling like the best horse in the race for much of their respective contests.
Skelton’s Get on The Yager is beginning to look well handicapped in the extended 3m 1f Chase, but I hope to see One Style (4.00) defy a 19lbs rise for winning his last couple at Hereford and Uttoxeter. The selection faces a number of largely out-of-sorts rivals, although a number are well handicapped on their best form, and his jumping has been exemplary in his recent wins.
If racing gets the green light at Plumpton, I hope to see Colorado Doc (2.45) break his maiden tag under rules for Fergal O’Brien. The selection is a duel point winner and looked ready for a step up in trip when second at Hereford on his chase debut from a 4lbs lower mark.
At Wolverhampton and Distant Goddess ran a race full of promise when third over this evening’s C&D behind stablemate Endless Echoes here last month. She will have her supporters, but preference is for Festive Love (4.35) who finished second at Kempton on her first start and Michael Bell brings her out just nine days later. The selection is a daughter of Frankel who looked as if a step up in trip would suit when second at Kempton over a mile.