Ecco seemed unsuited by the extremely testing conditions at Cheltenham last time and is worth another chance. The ground at Kempton is likely to be soft, but conditions won’t be as tough as they were at Cheltenham last month, when Ecco was a well-beaten third in the Supreme Trial despite being sent off a short-priced favourite. It’s better to focus on the promise Ecco displayed when victorious at Wincanton and Ascot. His Ascot success was particularly pleasing and is the best form on offer.
Venetia Williams has her string in excellent form – she has had 15 winners this month at a strike-rate of 39 per cent – and she has strong claims with Roll Again, who has raced only twice for the yard since joining from Willie Mullins but was impressive at Ludlow last week. He looked an exciting staying chaser at Ludlow, impressing with how well he jumped and travelled, and he is well treated under a 7 lb penalty.
Slate House badly failed to meet expectations over fences last season but he had a breathing operation in the summer and has been transformed. He was an impressive winner on his return at Cheltenham and looked set to go extremely close in the BetVictor Gold Cup before coming down at the second-last. He proved his stamina for this trip when winning at Huntingdon, and he can put his experience to good use here.
Nicky Henderson holds the key to this contest with Fusil Raffles, Verdana Blue and Epatante all holding solid claims. Verdana Blue sprang a surprise to beat stablemate Buveur d’Air last year and showed even better form when bolting up in the Scottish Champion Hurdle. She has the best form on offer and is entitled to respect on her return, but preference is for Fusil Raffles, who has won all three starts for this stable and could still do better. He wasn’t especially impressive on his reappearance at Wincanton in the Elite Hurdle but he is entitled to come on markedly for that outing.
Cyrname’s defeat of Altior at Ascot last month is an incredibly strong piece of form and he should prove difficult to beat. Cyrname earned a rating of 176, which makes him Timeform’s joint highest-rated jumps horse with Kemboy, and he has plenty in hand on that form. He has yet to prove his effectiveness over three miles but his front-running, bold-jumping style is perfect for speed-favouring Kempton, and the trip is not expected to be a problem.
Lostintranslation is the big danger, arriving on the back of a victory over Bristol de Mai at Haydock, but he will need to improve again to beat Cyrname.
Kempton’s card concludes with an ultra-competitive handicap hurdle, but it could be worth siding with Mr Pumblechook, who caught the eye at Newbury last month, where he travelled better than most but was unable to threaten the easy winner. However, it was a promising display from Mr Pumblechook who appears to be on a fair mark and, as a five-year-old, may still do better.
- 12:50 Kempton – ECCO
- 13:20 Kempton – ROLL AGAIN
- 13:55 Kempton – SLATE HOUSE
- 14:30 Kempton – FUSIL RAFFLES
- 15:05 Kempton – CYRNAME
- 15:40 Kempton – MR PUMBLECHOOK