I’m at Warwick on Saturday as ITV cover both meetings from there and Kempton Park. The action will come fast and furious and hopefully we can get a winner or two to make the month feel a little shorter.
OK Corral is a very smart horse and there wasn’t much between him and Santini last year at the Cheltenham Festival.
Santini beat Rocky’s Treasure at Newbury and that should mean Ok Corral has the beating of Kim Bailey’s horse here. The difference is that Warwick is a real test of jumping. OK Corral only jumped adequately at Plumpton, where he was fully expected to bolt up and needs to jump more fluently if he’s going to win this.
Rocky’s Treasure is a very good jumper and that gives him the edge.
Birchdale (declared a non runner after this article was posted) really impressed when winning a maiden hurdle at this track last month – but this is another step up again. Tidal Flow is another on the up after winning his last two contests, but I just prefer Birchdale.
Milansbar won this last year but the good ground is very different this time around, plus he is 6lbs higher.
Step Back has a tendency to jump right and that will cost him here as it really is a tough test and you can’t afford to give any ground away.
The safest option is Cogry, who was second in this race last year on ground that was softer than ideal for him. He is not much higher in the weights, even though he won at Cheltenham last time out.
First Assignment ran a cracker at Haydock and even though he is 7lbs higher in the weights, should still be competitive. The one who is handicapped to beat him is Lungarno Palace on their running at Cheltenham. Fergal O’Brien’s runner will travel strongly in this contest and we just have to hope he gets home over this 3m 1f trip.
There’s only five runners but you can make a strong case for three of them.
Top Notch bounced back with a great run in the Long Walk Hurdle and will have come on for that fitness wise. He only got beat by Yorkhill in the JLT on decent ground and had Politologue behind him then too.
Black Corton hasn’t run over a distance this short since October 2017. He will love the ground as he has form on a very quick surface, but will have to get into a rhythm early though as they will go quick and it might be a bit of a shock for him.
Charbel has his optimum conditions with the fast ground having to be watered early in the week. He’s my selection.
Gary Moore’s Kloud Gate could be a good thing here as his Flat rating of 93 leaves him with some scope racing here off a mark of 127!
If you add 45lb to a horse’s Flat rating – it gives you an approximate idea of their capability over jumps.
By that rough guide he could run to a rating of 137 over hurdles – so that leaves him 10lbs ‘well in’ here. He needs to jump slickly though as he has not got much experience in big-field jumps races and that is a concern.
At a double-digit price, Mellow Ben should run well for each-way backers. This horse was narrowly beaten here on Boxing Day and will handle the conditions.
I am really tempted to have a little on Josses Hill here as an aggressive ride, with the cheek-pieces on, could see him pull off a surprise.
He wasn’t beaten far at Huntingdon last time and if he gets into a rhythm up front he could jump this lot silly.