Kateson shaped nicely on his reappearance at Newbury where the lack of a recent run told in the latter stages of the race. That race was over 3 miles and I don’t think he really gets that trip, so the drop to two and a half miles here could prove ideal. He has some useful novice hurdle form, including when 3rd in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle behind Champ and has course form at Aintree, as he finished second in the Grade 2 bumper at the 2018 festival.
On his last start over this intermediate trip, he was 2nd to Main Fact and that horse was running off a mark of 132. Main Fact recently won a really valuable handicap off a 15lb higher mark to give real substance to that form and the 5th & 7th both won two starts later to strengthen the form even further. Kateson actually runs off a pound lower here and with cheekpieces applied here for the first time, Tom Scudamore might try and kick on from the front here and replicate his win in the Ladbroke Trophy last weekend.
This is an extremely competitive race and many have really strong claims but with At The Acorn being a big price, he looks worth taking a punt on with the 5 places on offer. He is 7lbs out of the handicap here but Aine O’ Connor claims 5lbs off his back and his hurdles mark is 10lbs below his chase mark.
I am a believer that he is well capable of winning a big pot off his chase mark of 131 and all he needs to do so is a little luck. They key here could be him stepping up to 3 miles, as he could improve massively for it, as he was an impressive winner of a point on testing ground. If he does improve for the step up in trip, he could have strong claims of hitting the frame at the very least.
Le Breuil won a gruelling renewal of the National Hunt Chase in 2019, so the more testing the conditions here the better. He ran well in this race last season, jumping impeccably but weakening out of things coming to the second last fence. Ben Paulings yard wasn’t in great form in the first half of last season, with only 3 winners between June and November but they are in much better form this season, with 15 winners in the same period.
In the last month he has also had 12 seconds aswell, so there will be no excuses this time round. Le Breuil was running off a mark of 150 last year but finds himself 9lbs lower here and he ran a nice prep up at Kelso on ground that would have been far too lively for him. He needs to get a few pounds up the handicap to guarantee himself a place in the National itself and a big run here looks likely.
Santini is obviously the best horse in this race but everything will be geared around going one better in the Gold Cup in March and he was unimpressive on his reappearance last season, so he could prove vulnerable here against two very solid horses in Frodon and Native River. Native River probably isn’t as good as he was when he won a Gold Cup but he still is capable to running to a very high standard and I can see Richard Johnson giving him an aggressive ride here in order to take advantage of any chinks in Santini’s fitness. He can bring his record to 3 wins from 3 starts.
Massey’s Wood was extremely impressive when winning on his handicap debut over fences at Down Royal the end of October, where his jumping really caught the eye. He has been raised 11lbs for that win but I would be surprised if he can’t rate higher than 129 and if you could back to his hurdles form, he actually had The Conditional in 2nd when he won he maiden hurdle. Conditions should be ideal for him and he can continue the good form of the Barry Connell yard here.
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Cloudy Glen hasn’t been straight forward in the past but he was impressive when easily winning the Southern National on his reappearance. He travelled really strongly through that race and actually was really strong at the finish of the race, despite the searching test of stamina.
He has been raised 11lbs for that win but now that they appear to have found the key to him, he might be able to fully realise his potential and if he is in the same form here, he should take all the beating. He could end up being a big player in the Welsh National at the end of the month.
Didero Vallis ran well in this race last year when 5th but he sat too close a hot pace last year and paid for it at the finish. He returns here off a mark 3lbs lower than last year and the Venetia Williams yard are absolutely bombing, while the testing conditions are right up his street. He had a nice prep at Ascot last month and everything looks in place for him to run a big race.
Frank’s tips on Saturday
12:55 at Aintree – Kateson
13:08 at Navan – At The Acorn
13:30 at Aintree – Le Breuil
14:40 at Aintree – Native River
14:53 at Navan – Massey’s Wood
15:00 at Sandown – Cloudy Glen
15:15 at Aintree – Didero Vallis
- Matt Chapman’s 8 top tips for Saturday’s racing
- Paddy Power’s selections for all of the best action on Saturday
- Paul Jacobs’ 3 value picks for Saturday