Some tremendous racing on both sides of the Irish Sea over the weekend and we begin our preview at Kempton. In the opener I hope to see Not That Fuisse (1.15) run a big race for Dan and Harry Skelton and follow up his recent Taunton win from a 4lb lower mark.
That success over 2m 3f was his first start beyond the minimum trip of two miles and he certainly wasn’t stopping suggesting today’s additional quarter-mile would suit. The each way selection holds an entry in the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle for conditional jockeys’ at Cheltenham next month and is currently rated 129. The bottom weight in the 2018 Martin Pipe Hurdle ran from a mark of 136 – thus he would need to win today to stand a realistic chance of getting into the race. He is currently 20/1 with BetVictor (NRNB) for the Cheltenham race and do note BetVictor are paying each way1/5th odds four places on today’s 13-runner contest.
Good Man Pat was just getting the better of the argument when front-running Midnight Tune came down two out at Plumpton last time. Alan King’s novice looks sure to go close, but I hope to see Secret Investor (1.50) reverse Wincanton form from earlier in the season with Bags Groove who must give the selection 5lbs.
Bags Groove must go right-handed but he disappointed in the Grade 1 Kauto Star here on Boxing Day when he did not jump with the same alacrity as he had previously. I feel Secret Investor – 2/1 with BetVictor- is also better going right-handed and it was his chase debut when beaten 9l by Bags Groove back in November. Only four go to post for this prestigious novice chase, but it is a cracker and I hope it is significant that Nicholls has saddled the winner of this race 7 times in the last decade.
Ten go to post for the valuable 3m Handicap Chase formerly known as the Racing Post Chase. Glen Rocco has been hit with a 13lbs rise for a facile win over C&D here last month, but he is only 3/1 with BetVictor to follow up for TV personality owner Jeremy Kyle.
He must go close, but this is a much stronger race and I’m going to take a chance on Catamaran Du Seuil (3.35) who gets the each way vote at 16/1 with BetVictor. The promising Charlie Hammond takes off a valuable 5lbs and the selection promises to be well-served by the step up to 3m for the first time this season.
Fox Appeal will appreciate the return to 2m 4f and his fast, fluent jumping remains an asset. The hope is that he might help set the race up for Bandsman (4.10) who is returning from a 237-day lay-off but was very impressive when scoring over C&D back in May and will bounce off the forecast good ground.
At Newcastle Niven’s (2.10) best form is, arguably, over further but I hope Tommy Dowson makes plenty of use of his charge who seemed ill at ease at Huntingdon last time and will appreciate a return to a left-hand track.
The 4m Eider Chase is one of the most prestigious and valuable staying chases of the season. I feel runner up West Of The Edge can reverse last year’s form with winner Baywing at the revised terms, but the Christian Williams trained Potters Corner (2.40) gets the each way vote. The selection (14/1 with BetVictor who are paying 5 places) looks a progressive stayer and trainer Christian Williams has his string in good form.
At Chepstow and Dickie Diver (2.30) cannot be opposed as he tries to go one better than when runner up over C&D on his British debut. The winner – Lisnagar Oscar – followed up in a Grade 2 event at Haydock last weekend and is only 7/1 for the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle. The selection is 10/1 for the same race next month but should have enough speed for this extended 2m 3f trip.
Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy (11/4 with BetVictor) misses today’s BetVictor Bobbyjo Chase because of the prevailing good ground at Fairyhouse. Pat Kelly’s stable star will not have run over fences since his win in the RSA Chase at last year’s Cheltenham Festival although he did show his wellbeing when scoring at Gowran Park over timber last month.
Willie Mullins lets the hand break off two of his leading Grand National hopes Rathvinden and Pleasant Company, but they may need their seasonal reappearances and their campaign is geared around Aintree. Preference is for Magic Of Light (4.00) who looked ready for a step back up in trip when runner up to Happy Diva in a 2m 5f Mares’ listed event at Huntingdon last time. The selection is 3/1 at BetVictor.