BetBright Handicap Chase 3m Kempton Saturday – Last week’s Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock saw our two selections, Vieux Lion Rouge, (E.W.) and Blaklion finish first and second, and both certainly enhanced their Aintree prospects. The 8/1 winner stayed on really strongly to get the better of the tiring Blaklion after the last, and may well prove to be be the first since Sundew in 1956 to win the Haydock race and go on to collect a first Grand National. However it has to be said that Twiston-Davies’s gallant Blaklion lost little in defeat, and meeting Vieux Lion Rouge on 3lbs better at Aintree must have serious prospects, of emulating the runner up in the 2012 Grand National Trial, Neptune Collonges, who went one better in the Aintree Showpiece. Indeed, Trainer Twiston-Davies was quite bullish in his post race comment, suggesting that after such a long layoff the race was needed, and full of praise for Blaklion’s jumping, particularly when tiring, sounded pretty confident that a third Grand National Trophy could be on it’s way back to Naunton come April.
Saturday’s BetBright Chase has also served as a Grand National Trial, and two winners of the Kempton race, Rhyme ‘n’ Reason (1988) and Rough Quest (1996), have gone on to victory in the Aintree Showpiece in the same season. Weight has been no bar to success with six topweights coming home in front over the past twenty five years, and twelve winners shouldered at least 11st in the same period. Kemptons tricky circuit takes some jumping, so unsurprisingly many of the winners of this, boast previous winning form over the course, as indeed did last years hero, Theatre Guide. Always run at a good clip, valuable handicaps at Kempton get competitive from a long way out, putting plenty of emphasis on stamina, so an assured ability to stay three miles has been essential. Few horses older than nine get their nose in front, although course specialist Nacarat did so when winning for the second time, as an eleven year old in 2012. Eight year olds have won four of the last six renewals.
Clearly a strong contest for trends and the one with the best “fit” is the Nick Williams trained, 8yo, Tea For Two (pictured above). He won the first three of his four Kempton Park races, including at Grade1 level over course and distance, and on the fourth occasion, in the King GeorgeV1 Chase on Boxing Day, he put up another fine performance to finish 4th, 3 1/4L, Shd, and a Hd behind Thistlecrack, Cue card, and Silviniaco Conti. He had a nice pipe opener thirteen days ago when winning a four runner affair at Exeter with his head in his chest, which should put him spot on for Saturday, and with the talented Lizzie Kelly able to claim her 3lbs allowance, (couldn’t in the King George) he looks good value at current odds of 6/1.
Tom George and Adrian Heskins, who have proved such a potent force this season, must fancy their chances with their course and distance winner, Double Shuffle. Stepped up to three miles for the first time sixty days ago the 7yo showed that the trip was just what the doctor ordered when coming home 3 1/2L in front of the useful Go Conquer here at Kempton. He took it up between the last two fences and responding well to pressure stayed on really well in a contest that was run in a good time. Last years runner up, and 2013 winner, Opening Batsman, was 20L back in fifth. Now that connections have worked out his correct trip there should be plenty more to come and only 6lbs higher than last time is well worth considering.
Irish Saint is Paul Nicholls’ best chance of success, or so say the markets
Paul Nicholls has won the contest on two occasions and if the Markets are to be believed his 8yo, Irish Saint represents his best chance of a third. The problem is that he doesn’t really convince as a three miler having only achieved two distant thirds from his three attempts at the trip. However he has won all three races, including the Grade2 2 1/2f Novices Chase on this card two years ago, that he has contested at Kempton, and is also beginning to look a very well handicapped horse, so isn’t easily dismissed. His run over 3miles on soft ground at Sandown last time was looking quite promising until making a mistake at the second last and he finished a tired third, 19L behind Otago Trail. It is worth remembering that it was only his third run back after 19 months on the sidelines, so perhaps the Ditcheat Operation is expecting better over Kempton’s flat track on good ground at the weekend.
The Neil Mulholland yard is in top form at the moment and their 7yo Fingersontheswitch looked an improver last time out. Having only his sixth race over fences, he won a Wetherby Class4 very easily off a mark of 119. It is a huge step up to a Kempton Park Class1 off a 13lbs higher mark on Saturday but the son of Beneficial was actually rated 137 over hurdles. Bred to be a chaser, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if Fingersontheswitch, off his low weight of 10st took a hand in the finish at the weekend.
Selection: Tea For Two
E.W. : Irish Saint