I’ve three rides at Kempton on Saturday in what has usually been a very informative card pre-Cheltenham.
The Grade 2 Adonis Juvenile Hurdle 2pm that opens the meeting has thrown up six winners of the Triumph Hurdle previously and Alan King’s Gibralfaro goes into the race on a mark of 151. That makes him one of the highest-rated juveniles in the UK.
He’s been impressive this season goes into this race as third favourite for the Triumph Hurdle next month. He’s won at Ludlow where you have to jump at speed and sets the standard the others have to match and then beat.
Champion trainer Paul Nicholls introduces Zubayr – a very expensive purchase from France – but he did send out Zarkandar to win this and follow up at Cheltenham five years ago.
There’s plenty with form in the race so some of them may divert to the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle at the Festival if they finish outside the places here.
Winter Escape looks a decent prospect in the Grade Two Dovecot Novices’ Hurdle at 3.05pm for Alan King and Barry Geraghty. He’s won his last two starts and Alan King’s juveniles are flying.
But it will be interesting to see how Marracudja gets on. He was a 20 length third to Altior (Open Eagle second and has won since at Warwick). He can give a good boost to Nicky Henderson’s horse’s form ahead of the Supreme Novices Hurdle but may have to chase home Winter Escape on this occasion.
My first ride of the day is on Thomas Brown in the 3m Handicap Chase at 3.35pm for Harry Fry and I think we’ve a great chance of being in the money – or even better.
The headgear goes back on him this Saturday to help him concentrate and he usually improves when he’s wearing them.
He has two ways of running and can be a little bit quirky. But if he brings his ‘A’ game with the headgear back on he should run a massive race. I’m really looking forward to riding him. He could still be well handicapped.
Champagne West ran well at Cheltenham when second in the December Gold Cup but underperformed in terrible ground next time out at the same track. He can probably be forgiven that run and better ground here could help him get competitive too. Meanwhile, Ziga Boy is improving after two wins at Doncaster and could still be ahead of the handicapper.
Le Reve won well at Sandown last weekend but he mightn’t be as effective today on better ground when faced with more of a speed test rather than a stamina-sapping war.
Theatre Guide was placed in the Hennessy and has been consistent all season for the Tizzards who must be buzzing ahead of Thistlecrack and Cue Card lining up at the Festival next month.
Ivan’s not so terrible
Sir Ivan (4.10pm) has a tongue-tie on Saturday for the first time and has been consistent all season. He just keeps bumping into one that is better handicapped than him, particularly Baoulet Delaroque last time.
His trainer Harry Fry is brilliant at placing his horses and weighs up races very well in advance. Going right-handed suits Sir Ivan and the door should eventually open for to a victory for him. It would be great if it was here.
Rock and a hard place
I ride Berce (5.20pm) for Nicky Henderson in the bumper but there’s a couple of Champion Bumper entries in this with good form which will makes it hard for him on his racecourse debut.
Criq Rock sets the standard for Alan King and could be a live Champion Bumper contender. When he won at Bangor first time out it took about three furlongs to pull him up after the winning line.
He then won at Ascot and the second has won since so that form looks very good.
Harry Fry’s Drumcliff is a half-brother to Simonsig and looked good when winning at Taunton and has improved a lot at home.
I was delighted that Silviniaco Conti did what I expected him to do last weekend at Ascot.
He really proved his well-being for the Aintree showpiece and races there off a rating of 163, carrying 11-8 which looks fair enough.
He’s a sound jumper & loves Aintree (won three out of four starts there) and was winning off a rating of 173 a year ago.
We’ll go to Liverpool with a live chance.
Saturday’s Eider Chase at Newcastle (2.50pm) has thrown up Grand National contenders over the years and a lot of these have raced against each other over and over again this year.
It’s to call but Kerry Lee seems to be farming these races this season so Russe Blanc could be worth chancing over the extra trip after his win over 3m 5f at Warwick in mid-January.
He looks an out-an-out stayer.