The John Smith Novices Handicap Chase (Cl 2) 2m5 1/2f Kelso Sat 3.25

Leading trainer at the Scottish track over the last five years, Cheshire based handler Donald McCain is represented by the 6yo gelding Degooch.

Leading trainer at the Scottish track over the last five years, Cheshire based handler Donald McCain is represented by the 6yo gelding Degooch.

Leading trainer at the Scottish track over the last five years, Cheshire based handler Donald McCain is represented by the 6yo gelding Degooch. He has been plying his trade at Cl 4 level and Saturday’s task represents a considerable step up in class, but he did win very comfortably at Sedgfield last time ( 2m4f soft handicap chase ). He has only been raised 4lbs for Saturday giving him a nice racing weight of 10st 7lbs, so with these connections, it would be no great surprise to see this progressive young chaser bridge that class divide.

Having won a Cl1 bumper and a Cl3 chase, Malcolm Jefferson’s joint top weight Oscar Rock is the class act of the race. He was quite impressive last time out ( 21 Feb Newcastle 2m4f gd/sft Cl3 handicap chase ) where having raced prominently, he made smooth headway to lead at the last, and despite idling in front won comfortably. As this was only his second start over the larger obstacles plenty of progress can be anticipated, making his 6lbs rise look less than onerous. In his only other chase ( Kelso 7 Dec 2m7 1/2f soft ), when finishing second, he didn’t seem to get home over the trip,suggesting that Saturday’s distance may prove ideal.

Having won on four of his seven course appearances, the thouroughly genuine Philip Kirby trained Stopped Out has to be of interest. He has combined a hurdling and chasing career to such good effect that he has won ten and been placed eleven times from his fourty three starts. It has to be said that only two of these successes have been acheived over the larger obstacles, but one of them was last time out in a Cl3 Novice chase ( 2m6 1/2f Market Rasen ) where he beat Minella Forfitness and the 2/5 favourite Close Touch. Can he be improving as a chaser at the age of ten? Time will tell, but he is of some interest racing off a mark 4lbs lower than his hurdles rating on a track he clearly enjoys.

Selection: Degooch.

Danger: Oscar Rock.