With eleven of the last sixteen winners carrying 11st or more to victory, weight is no bar to success in this, which firmly puts the spotlight on the classier competitor. Indeed last years winner Bally legend, who won off a mark of 138, was the lowest rated in the last decade and three of the last ten winners, Farmer Jack ( 2005 ), Gungadu ( 2008 ), and Nacarat (2012 ), all scored of a mark higher than 150.
Tom George and Philip Hobbs have the best recent record, scoring twice in the last ten years, with Caroline Keevil, Harry Fry, Nigel Twiston-Davies, and Paul Nicholls collecting once. Course form has been a useful pointer, with ten of the last sixteen winners boasting a previous Kempton win, and it has to be said that the track certainly brings out the best in some animals. Favourites have had a desperate record, with only one succeeding in the last decade, and only three managing to finish in the first three. All age groups from seven to eleven have graced the winners circle in the same period, and earlier years have seen two six year olds win. Proven stamina has been important, with seven of the last ten winners having previously won over three miles. Good recent form has been shown by all except one winner in the last decade.
Lucy Wadham’s 7yo La Reve would appear to have a lot going for him. He won his last race ( Cl2 chase 3m1/2f Sandown ), by a comfortable 5l, from that good yardstick Theatrical Star, off a mark of 139 and doesn’t look harshly treated off seven pounds higher on Saturday. Successful on his only course appearance, ( 2m5f h ) he does seem to be particularly well suited by going right handed, with all his five victories having been acheived in a clockwise direction. Certainly one for the short list!
A winner of two of his five ventures over the larger obstacles, and three over hurdles, the Nicholl’s trained 7yo Easter Day looks well treated off a mark of 142, only 3lbs higher than his hurdles mark 139. He blotted his copybook last time out on trials day at Cheltenham four weeks ago, when travelling strongly he paid the price for a minor error at the third last and came down.
Some feel that he was an unlucky looser, but I’m not so sure. The winner Annacotty had plenty more in the tank, so whose to know? However on the plus side he can race off the same mark at the weekend. He has never won over three miles, but certainly wasn’t stopping when beating the subsequent R.S.A. Winner O’Faolain’s boy at Ascot ( 2m51/2f sft ) to whom he was giving 4lbs, thirteen months ago. A winner over 2m6f hurdling at Newbury and Ascot, He is unlikely to be found wanting on the stamina front, indeed may improve for the step up to 3m and is shortlisted.
Emma Lavelle’s 8yo, Fox Appeal, boasts a record of two course wins from four appearances, and ran second (beaten 10L), to the upwardly mobile Balder Success here in January. There are stamina issues, as the furthest he has won over fences is 2m41/2f,here at Kempton last November . He has won two 3m1/2f hurdles at Taunton, but Kempton’s 3m chase course, particularly, in races such as the King GeorgeV1 and Saturday’s contest, where they start racing in earnest a long way from home, can take some getting, so the jury is out on Fox Appeals stamina credentials.
Dr Richard Newland’s 9yo Ardkilly Witness is worth a second look. Another who prefers going right handed (all four wins going clockwise) is one of only three course and distance winners in Saturday’s race. ( last years winner Bally Legend, and Ballinvarrig the other two. ) After some lacklustre displays he bounced back to form with a battling performance over course and distance (January 10th), getting up to win by a shd to beat Masters Hill, with the 7/2 favourite Open Hearted 16L back in third. He unseated at the 3rd last behind La Reve at Sandown three weeks later, but may have been feeling the effects of his previous hard race, so off his mark of 139 it would be no surprise to see him involved at the weekend.
Course and distance winner Ballinvarrig, who was also placed on his only other course appearance, and trained by the twice successful Tom George, is of considerable interest. He had a hard race when winning over course and distance (Dec 27) off a mark of 126, and despite jumping errors ran well enough off his new mark of 133 to finish a battling on 6th (Ascot 2m51/2f). Returned to 3m at Kempton, with a nice racing weight of 10st 4lbs he is worth considering.
With two victories from four course appearances, both over the larger obstacles, Jonjo O’Neill’s Lost Legend catches the eye. It looked like a staying performance when he got up in the last stride to beat Cold March over the course (2m41/2f) when having his first run for six months ( Jan10) off a mark of 139. Turned out again two weeks later at Doncaster he finished a well beaten fifth. The race may well have come too soon, so racing off a mark on Saturday of 141 he looks quite well treated.
Selection: La Reve.
Danger: Easter Day.