Another cracking renewal of the Becher Chase with last year’s first, second and seventh set to re oppose. I fancy that Walk In the Park and Kimberlite Candy will never win an Aintree Grand National as in all probability they are unlikely to get the soft ground they need to show their best form in April.
So with plenty of rain forecast in the 48 hours leading up to the big race they both have solid claims even off their respective higher marks. The seventh that day, Le Breuil, has a lovely tug in the weights with both of them and has been very well supported ante-post for this.
His National Hunt Chase success in 2019 was a brutal affair and it certainly left its mark on him for a long time. Breaks of 61 and 226 days have freshened him up and a rallying five length, fourth of eight behind Some Chaos on his comeback run at Kelso was a huge step in the right direction.
Despite five poor runs since that Cheltenham victory, the eight-year-old is only 4lbs lower in the handicap and although a player, his current single figure price simply doesn’t interest me.
However, outside the obvious contenders, Olly Murphy’s bottom weight CALIPSO COLLOGNES looks hugely interesting. He has a good record fresh, acts well on deep ground, stays well, but it is on two further counts that I like his chance here.
Firstly, he will have no weight on his back, which will be a massive factor if the ground deteriorates further as predicted, and with only nine runs under his belt over fences I am sure we have yet to see the best of him.
Murphy wouldn’t enter him in such a prestigious race unless he was fit to him himself justice first time up and a double figure price is too much to resist.
This year’s Henry VIII Novice Chase is very much up to standard and with the likes of Direct Route, Somersby, Al Ferof, Sceau Royal and the mighty Altior already on the roll call of honour, the 2020 winner will have plenty to live up to.
Allmankind is my sort of novice; he has a high cruising speed and jumps with great fluency which I don’t need to tell you is a massive asset around especially when it come to the quick-fire Railway Fences.
I suspect he may well start off favourite and I couldn’t knock his chance especially as he is flexible as far as ground conditions are concerned. There is quite a bit of rain forecast for the Esher area.
Grade Two Cheltenham winner Eldorado Allen along with Hitman, who won in a canter at Fos Las, are also packed full of potential.
However, the first named was fortunate to win as the leader Gumball fell at the second last while if Hitman repeats his Ffos Las blunder at the second last, he is going to be in massive trouble.
That could mean his stable mate is the value call following an impressive success at Wincanton. On pound for pound terms, TAMAROC DU MATHAN has plenty to find with these five rivals, let alone with his fellow Ditcheat neighbour.
That was only a moderate novice chase he won, but he looked a whole level above those rivals when skipping over fences down the final stretch and readily pulling clear under Harry Cobden.
I am not worried that the stable jockey has chosen Hitman, because what we do know is that Nicholls wouldn’t run a supposed ‘second string’ in a race of this magnitude unless he had a clear-cut chance. I am going to trust my racing eye and I think he can make the necessary step forward here to be more than competitive.
There is an abundance of pace on in this concluding two-mile handicap hurdle and if the ground does deteriorate then getting up that final climb could become a tall order.
With the Fergal O’Brien yard in such good form, Totterdown is interesting down to a new mark of 132 and he is likely to outrun his big price.
Of the market leaders it is hard to get away from the view that the likes of veteran Jolly’s Cracked It and the progressive Mister Coffey have clear-cut claims.
The former has always been best going left handed and his one run here was more than decent even though it came some time ago, when he was second to the classy L’Ami Serge.
Mister Coffey has endured training problems, hence he is so lightly raced, but he announced himself on the handicap stage in no uncertain terms when winning with ease over the course and distance off a mark of 128. A 10lbs higher mark demands plenty more in a much better race, but he remains with massive potential.
But at four times the price of the Henderson trained favourite, NICKOLSON also has the potential to make waves through the handicap hurdle ranks this winter.
I was at Warwick when he came home a five-length second to Hooligan. I have upgraded that performance as he looked badly in need of the outing in the parade ring following a 143-day break and he made at least three significant mistakes.
His comeback second to the smart Ribble Valley was a cracking start to his second season in training and the way he kept on up the hill in that Carlisle event was really eye catching.
I suspect with that run behind him and set to run over another ‘stayers track’, there is more than a modicum of improvement in him and there will need to be if he is mark his mark in this grade. But to my eyes his opening handicap mark of 134 is very fair and I shall be surprised come the back end of the season if he is not rated in the mid 140’s or higher.
- Jump over to all the top tips and racing previews now
- Paddy Power’s Millionaire Chase: All you need to know about the New Year’s Day giveaway
- Paddy Power’s Millionaire Chase: Birthday girl lands £/€10k booty in first qualifier for New Year’s Day giveaway
- The latest racing results are just a click away on PP News
- Horse Racing: How to watch racing for free with Paddy Power