While the quality isn’t quite there for us this weekend to the degree that I’d like it, there are enough races floating about for us to be able to take advantage and the four below should all give us a good run for our money at the very least.
Look out for the results of the various graded races in England and Ireland in terms of grabbing some Cheltenham clues, but where the shorter term is concerned it’s about attempting to make some profit and with that in mind, these are the horses to concentrate on:
2.05 Kempton (Silviniaco Conti Chase – Grade 2) – FRODON
It’s bitterly disappointing that Altior doesn’t run in this race and the way that his defection was handled this week has left a rather bitter taste in the mouth.
There’s no doubt the great Nicky Henderson remains a top trainer and a gentleman, but the fact that it appears some large bets were placed on Top Notch (also his) and that the bookmakers knew Altior wasn’t running before the press and the punters did, doesn’t sit well with many people including me.
Henderson chose to use his bookmaker-sponsored blog to give reasons for Altior not running but not before many had apparently backed Top Notch at big prices, making his look great value now that he’s odds-on for the race.
As it happens, while Top Notch looks difficult to beat strictly on current form, there’s enough evidence to suggest that Ryanair Chase hero Frodon simply hasn’t had things his own way this season and is overdue a win now.
He should be allowed to bowl along in front and now that he’s back in conditions he will appreciate – it was too soft at Aintree and three miles was too far at Haydock – he will be a very tough horse to pass under regular jockey Bryony Frost.
None of the others really seem to possess the quality to get involved unless there are mistakes, meaning that even at 2/1 Frodon looks good value with the race being run to suit and with just one arguably slightly inferior rival left to beat.
3.00 Warwick (Grade 3 Handicap Chase) – KIMBERLITE CANDY
There’s a big win in this Kimberlite Candy and after the eight-year-old gelding’s recent run at Aintree, there is no reason to suggest it shouldn’t be this weekend in this valuable Grade 3 chase.
Having run a fine third in a big race at Sandown over three miles last February before being well backed for the Becher Chase last month, big things were expected at Liverpool and Tom Lacey’s charge very nearly delivered.
Although back-to-back winner Walk In The Mill ultimately took the crown, he was well clear at the elbow before Kimberlite Candy began to stay on late in the day over that 3m2f trip and with that experience under his belt and a further three furlongs to come here today, it seems we could see a chasing career best now from Richie McLernon’s mount.
His main form and market rival is The Conditional who is bound to be popular in the ring, but while his form is rock solid I can’t help thinking that his three runs this season could have just taken the edge off him.
Having opened the campaign with a third place in a novice race, The Conditional ran a stormer to beat West Approach up the hill at Cheltenham in October. In late November, David Bridgwater’s horse put in another almighty effort in a battle with De Rasher Counter at Newbury in the Ladbrokes Trophy in which he finished second, but he’s up another 5lbs now and will need to be a monster to win this race.
Ben Pauling’s Le Breuil is essentially on trial here for the Grand National and should run well without winning, as should Ludlow runner-up Bobo Mac.
3.15 Kempton (Handicap Chase) – ON THE BLIND SIDE
After being well backed and probably running his race when second in the Graduation Chase at Ascot in December, the time could finally be just right now for Nicky Henderson’s On The Blind Side in handicap company.
While he’s been doing OK over shorter trips and on softer ground, this eight-year-old’s best run was arguably his win over this very course and distance on good ground a year ago, so the fact that we’re no better than good to soft now with the sun set to shine at Kempton, he should have his ideal conditions and can probably be classed as well-handicapped in the circumstances.
He gets the nod here at a reasonable price ahead of Paul Nicholls’ Touch Kick who, barring when he was a handicap blot in an easier race at Fakenham, appears to prefer softer going and should be a little outpaced when the crucial point of the race comes late on.
4.45 Chelmsford (Handicap) – VISIONARA
The strong favourite here should be Asdaa who appears tough and ran second at Southwell only six days ago, but the forecast difference in price between her and Visionara is baffling and the latter is very much worth taking a chance on.
Trained by Simon Crisford, rated just 3lbs lower than Asdaa and having been off for three weeks which is ideal for this seven-furlong race, Visionara has now been handed a first-time visor in a bid to help her straighten up when hitting the lead and at her current steady rate of improvement on the all-weather she would appear to be better off at the weights than the market leader.
The Kingman filly is very much at her best over this course and distance so there’s no logical reason that she should not run her race, while in the case of Asdaa we’d do well to remember that Mark Johnston is not shy to keep running his horses and understands fine well that it means sometimes they will throw in a bad one now and again before returning to form.
With that in mind, would you take 6/4 about one of his who ran less than a week ago in handicap company? I certainly wouldn’t and so on this occasion, Visionara is the percentage call at likely odds of around 3/1.