Lucy Wadham's 8yo Le Reve has to go right handed to show his best and duly won at Sandown last time.

BetBright Chase 3m Kempton

Last week’s selection, Broadway Buffalo gave us a great run for our money in that Haydock marathon which was run on dreadful ground in a time 73 seconds slower than standard. He looked the likely winner coming to the last but just couldn’t find the stamina reserves to challenge Bishop’ Road on Haydocks glue like run in. Kerry Lee’s hero must now have serious prospects of getting a run in the National and on soft ground is definitely one to keep in mind.

While only two winners of this Saturday’s Kempton contest, Rhyme n’ Reason (1988) and Rough Quest (1996), have gone on to victory in the Aintree showpiece it’s roll of honour bears witness to some great performances. The immortal Desert Orchid won it in the twilight of his career in 1990 as an 11yo, carrying an eye watering 12st3lbs, and the win of Martin pipe’s oh so promising, but ill fated 6yo, Gloria Victis in 2000 will live long in the memory. (Killed in the same years Gold Cup)

Previously known as the Racing Post Chase it is a contest in which the higher rated animal has been very much to the fore, with eleven winners since 2000 carrying at least 11st. Indeed four top weights have prevailed in the same period. Philip Hobbs with four victories has been the most successful handler, followed by Paul Nicholls who has won it twice. Course form has been especially significant with ten of the last seventeen winners boasting winning course form. Age hasn’t been of great significance with winners coming from all groups between six and twelve, although the 8yo’s have the best record. The race is invariably truly run so non stayers may as well stay at home.

Philip Hobbs’s Champagne West, sustained an injury in the 2015 running of the Scilly Isles chase which kept him off the track for eleven months. He put up an excellent performance on his reappearance at Cheltenham in December, where despite a mistake at the 7th, he stayed on well to finish second to Village Vic, who won next time out. He was travelling nicely, again at Cheltenham four weeks ago, when short of room at the 8th he blundered and was pulled up two fences later. He has never run at Kempton but has plenty of form going right handed and as Grade 1 aspirations at the festival are entertained his mark of 154 on Saturday looks reasonable.

Racing off 2lbs lower than his hurdles mark the Harry Fry trained 7yo novice chaser, Thomas Brown, looks interesting. He made his debut over the larger obstacles at Ascot (2m3f) last November, and going off the hot favourite he duly obliged. He forged clear after two out and eased down he won easily. He ran well again at the same venue (2m5f) four weeks later, finishing second to Le Mercuery, in a race that has worked out well. Stepped up to 3m four weeks ago for his third chase, he demonstrated an abundance of stamina, when despite some indifferent jumping, he stayed on stoutly to win by 10L. This contest has been won by novices in the past, so with Noel Fehilly doing the steering on Saturday it would come as no surprise to see their record added to by this upwardly mobile ” Fry” 7yo.

Last year’s winner Rocky Creek was sent off the 2/1 favourite for a Grade2 chase at Newbury two weeks ago but disappointed, finishing 4th. However it was his first run since being pulled up over the National fences ten weeks earlier, and the outing may well have been needed. He is only 4lbs higher than last year so it would come as no surprise, coming from this yard, to see a much improved horse at the weekend.

Nicholl’s other candidate, the 10yo Ruben Cotter is interesting. Lightly raced with only six starts over fences he obviously has had his problems, but was quite impressive in a 2 1/2m chase over the course last March on his first run for 16 months. Racing off a mark of 132 and starting at odds of 14/1 he stayed on well and won comfortably by 4L. He was sent off 8/1 co fav over the Aintree fences (2m5f) four weeks later and finished a respectable 5th. Stamina won’t be a problem as he has won over 3m2f, so after his 10 month break and racing off a mark of 140 he may just be ready to run a very big race.

Lucy Wadham‘s (pictured above) 8yo Le Reve has to go right handed to show his best and duly won at Sandown last time. Racing off a mark of 144 he travelled really well and finished with gusto to see off Pete The Feat and Unioniste. As the latter has won next time out Le Reve looks really well treated off 149 and is one for the short list.

Colin Tizzard’s 9yo Theatre Guide showed he has the requisite pace and stamina for this when finishing second, albeit at a distance of 12L to Smad Place in the Hennessy last November. He can also boast winning course form, in a 2 1/2m chase, so running off the same mark as in his fine Hennessy effort, he is worth considering.

Neil Mulholland’s 9yo The Druids Nephew had a day in the sun when winning at last years festival, and for a time, four weeks later, looked like another was on the cards. He was leading the National field into “Valentines” the second time around, where unfortunately he came a cropper. He has been disappointing in his two outings since, and is now 9lbs higher than Cheltenham and Aintree so despite having form over the course he is passed over.

Selection : Le Reve

E.W. : Ruben Cotter

Betfred Grand National Trial 3m4f handicap Haydock

Having won three of the last ten renewals, Lucinda Russell’s sole entry, One For Arthur, has to be of interest. The 7yo, who has had only four races over the larger obstacles, can be excused a poor performance last time at Cheltenham (2m5f). Unsuited by the Prestbury Park undulations and over a trip too short, he finished a well beaten fifth. However his two chases at flat, left handed Kelso were more promising, yielding a win, and a third place, behind Seeyouatmidnight who is very prominent in the market for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. He was beaten 21L but was conceding 5lbs to Seeyouatmidnight,so it can be considered a decent effort. The previous Russell winners were aged 8,9, and 11, but three 7yo’s have won this in the last seventeen years so age shouldn’t count against him. A course winner over the smaller obstacles on heavy ground he is racing off a mark on Saturday 3lbs lower than his hurdles mark suggesting this promising young stayer has plenty in his favour.

The Paul Nicholls trained Unioniste had disappointed in his previous five races (two of them over the Aintree fences) since winning at Sandown in January 2015, but hinted at better things to come last time. Held up and seemingly struggling, he started to progress from the 17th fence and stayed on to finish third behind La Reve in a Sandown handicap racing off a mark of 150, two weeks ago. Running off the same mark at the weekend, he will have top weight of 11st10lbs to carry, but it didn’t stop his superb trainer winning with Shotgun Willy carrying the same weight in 2003, and indeed Silver By Nature also carried 11st10lbs to victory five years ago. With odds as long as 16/1 available at the time of writing, this winner of six of his nineteen starts over fences does look tempting.

David Pipe’s 8yo Broadway Buffalo ran a fine race in a valuable Grade1 3m hurdle at Auteuil last November finishing 5th, at level weights only 5L behind the winner, the top class Thousand Stars. Considering it was his first run since finishing 6th in the Scottish National last April the performance was particularly meritorious. He is two from three over the course having collected a 2m7f soft ground handicap hurdle in 2014 and the same years renewal of the Tommy Whittle Chase. Indeed he might well have brought up the hat trick but for falling at the 16th when still travelling strongly in last years Betfred Grand National Trial. Stamina won’t be an issue as he has finished second in the 4m National Hunt Chase at the Festival. Off a mark only 4lbs higher than last year he has to be on the shortlist.

The Pipe yard is also represented by the 7yo Vieux Lion Rouge who also boasts winning chase form over the course. However he was being pushed along when unseating at the third last over 3m2f at Cheltenham last time, and his stable companion would seem to possess the better stamina credentials for this.

Sandy Thomson’s 11yo Harry The Viking has run well on all three course appearances, and ran a super race when going down by a head in last years renewal racing off a mark of 124. Remarkably for an 11yo it can be argued that he even trumped that when running second to Rigadin de Beauchene again over the course (3m3 31/2f hvy) in December off a mark of 128. Running off the same mark on Saturday it will come as no surprise to see this hardy veteran again involved at the business end when plenty of the others have cried “enough”.

Alan Kings 8yo Sego Success looked a strong stayer when winning a 3m Doncaster handicap off a mark of 139 in December, and duly went off a well backed 7/1 favourite to take a 3m5f Warwick Grade 3 chase off a mark of 146 five weeks later. In a strange start to a marathon race on heavy ground,they tore off the blocks, and the King horse hit the deck at the second. Always thought of as a stayer and held in high regard his best days are surely in front of him so again racing off 146 is another worth considering.

The Jonjo O’Neill trained 8yo Spookydooky didn’t jump a fence in public until finishing a well beaten 4th in an Aintree novices chase last November. He showed remarkable improvement nineteen days later taking a 2m6 1/2f Newbury novices handicap chase off a mark of 134 and again ran well next time finishing second to Seventh Sky off a mark of 142 on heavy ground at Haydock in December. He had Cloudy too, who went on to win the valuable Peter Marsh Chase, (was Oddsguru’s e.w. Selection) next time out, 6L behind, and now meets that horse on 11lbs better terms, so does look well handicapped. The question is will he stay? It has to be said that he hasn’t looked as if he was crying out for further in any of his races to date, but his pedigree, on both sides has plenty of stamina in it and he has won a 3m and a 3m 1/2f hurdle race, so while the omens are positive the jury remains out.

Selection: Broadway Buffalo

E.W. : Unioniste

Betfair Hurdle Tips Newbury Saturday

First run in 1963 under the banner of the drinks firm, Schweppes, a sponsorship that continued until 1986, it was the most valuable handicap hurdle in the calendar. That racing legend, Captain Ryan Price, won four of the first five runnings, but alas achieved a lasting notoriety when his Rosyth, ridden by Josh Gifford, won the 1964 renewal. Having won the inaugural race the previous year, Rosyth trotted up, following four unplaced efforts, resulting in Price being warned off, and Gifford getting a six weeks suspension. Further controversy followed the 1967 win of Price’s Hill House, who tested positive for a banned substance. It was subsequently discovered that the horse himself was manufacturing an excess of steroid, (Cortisol) and kept the race. Let’s hope that skulduggery and dodgy pharmaceuticals play no part in Saturday’s renewal, and the best horse on the day crosses the line in front. Whichever animal it proves to be it is unlikely to be carrying more than 11st6lbs, as only two horses, both future Champion Hurdle winners, Persian War, ( 11st 13lbs 1968,)and Make a Stand (11st7lbs 1997) have managed it. Indeed only four winners have carried more than eleven stone since 2000. Good recent form is a prerequisite as out of the last seven winners four had been successful last time out, and the others had managed a top three finish. In recent renewals it has been a good contest for the younger unexposed contender with four novices winning in the last six years, and nine of the last ten winners being aged five or six.

Read last year’s Betfair Hurdle preview here.

Willie Mullins, who has never won the race, is mob handed at the time of writing with eight entries. The one that stands out for me is the J.P McManus owned ex French 5yo gelding Blazer. Probably purchased with a chasing career in mind, his two attempts at the larger obstacles demonstrated some serious flaws in his jumping technique. A return to the smaller obstacles in a Leopardstown handicap last weekend revealed an extremely well handicapped horse, as he won with his head in his chest off a mark of 125 in a contest run in a decent time for the conditions. Only 6lbs higher on Saturday, giving him a nice racing weight of 10st4lbs he looks really well treated. He does need three to come out for him to get a run, but with the Mullins legion all above him in the handicap, this shouldn’t be a problem, and it will come as no surprise to see J.P Collecting the winners trophy for the third time.

Paul Nicholls runs the 6yo Modus in the same colours as Blazer, and having won over course and distance, certainly enters calculations. However he disappointed last time on heavy ground at Taunton and the suspicion remains that he will prove a better performer on a surface faster than we are likely to see on Saturday.

Philip Hobbs’s 7yo War Sound has been prominent in the betting despite not having been seen since his facile win in Haydock’s Swinton Hurdle last May. While an 8lbs rise for his Haydock effort looks reasonable, it does leave him with a burden of 11st7lbs to carry on ground that is more than likely going to be pretty deep, and combined with a lack of recent match practice, Hobbs’s other runner, the progressive Sternrubin may prove the better option.

The 5yo has won his last three races, including a win over course and distance last November, where he had Saturday’s opponent, John Constable 4L back in second. Last time, he put up a very brave performance in the Ladbroke at Ascot eight weeks ago, where having made all, he was headed after the last, but battled back to gain a share of the spoils on the line. However he is up another 8lbs at the weekend, and as no Ladbroke winner has gone on to win this he does seem to have it all to do.

The aforementioned John Constable is of considerable interest. A 5yo entire horse by Montjeu, he was previously trained on the flat by Aidan O’Brien, where he achieved a rating of 92, and was effective up to 2miles. Now with top Welsh handler Evan Williams, he won his first two races over hurdles pretty easily, last January and April. He reappeared in November in that race with Sternrubin at Newbury, and as it was his first run after a nine month break, he acquitted himself pretty well, finishing 4L behind the Hobbs horse. He meets Sternrubin on 12lbs better terms on Saturday, so at least on paper, must have serious prospects of turning the form around with the Hobbs contender.

Selection : Blazer.

E.W. : John Constable.