Lanzarote Hurdle 2.40 Kempton
Bags Groove is a course and distance winner who is progressive and likely to improve again after two good handicap victories in the Autumn. He is clearly a leading contender for this race but those wins came on a decent surface and though it may be good to soft at Kempton and a dry week forecast, good to soft in January compared to the same conditions in October can be vastly different. Trainer Harry Fry has stated he is unlikely to run in the depths of winter with the big festivals at Cheltenham and Aintree high on the agenda. River Frost, closely matched with Bags Groove in the Silver Trophy at Chepstow, a race which has produced many good winners, is steadily improving, has course and distance form and at his best has to come into calculations. As with Bags Groove, softer conditions are a worry and the fact he has not been seen since October, a vet’s certificate ruling him out of a run at Market Rasen in November.
Nicky Henderson has four entries at the five day stage, William Henry, Burbank, Jenkins and Diese Des Bieffes. The latter looks the most interesting of his runners @ 7/1 after a good second at Kempton on Boxing Day to the smart, If The Cap Fits and should relish the step up in trip and with improvement to come, should be thereabouts. Talking horse Jenkins has disappointed and both Burbank and William Henry would look to bounce back from lacklustre chase debuts but are probably best watched if turning up.
Paul Nicholls has won this race three times in the last ten years so any entry from Ditcheat must be respected and with only one in Topofthegame @ 7/1 . Paul Nicholls’ six year old travelled well on his chasing bow before getting the cross-fence wrong at Newbury, interestingly sporting a tongue-tie for the first time but has some good novice hurdle form to his name last season which makes him a contender. He has to be on the shortlist if declared but whether the tight turns of Kempton will suit this big, rangy, chestnut gelding is open to conjecture. Another trainer with a very good record in this race is Nick Williams and his entries include both Dentley De Mee and Man From Mars, with the well bred Dentley De Mee seemingly the pick of the pair and could at least hit the frame @ 20/1.
Improving types are the order of the day in the Lanzarote Hurdle and both Spiritofthegames, a good winner on his seasonal debut at Lingfield and course and distance winner, Golan Fortune, have to be on the shortlist @ 12/1 and 14/1 respectively. Ben Pauling is double handed at the five day stage with Red Indian and Jaleo, market moves for either should be noted while wide margin winner on heavy ground at Haydock, Top Ville Ben, was impressive but will likely encounter much faster conditions on Saturday.
Classic Chase 3.35 Warwick
This looks quite an open renewal of the Classic Chase and is devoid of real progressive young stayers with Cresswell Breeze and Missed Approach coming closest to that category. Cresswell Breeze won the Southern National on her seasonal bow before finding things tougher in the London National at Sandown, though that race may have come a little too quickly off the back of her win at Fontwell. She remains fairly well handicapped and with course form has to be of interest here @ 8/1. Missed Approach, meanwhile, is a complex character and not always the most straightforward, that said he stays all day and the sharper turns of Warwick could well keep him interested. A fair sixth in the Ladbrokes Gold Cup last time, if in the mood on Saturday he could take the beating @ 15/2.
Lightly raced ten year old Sir Mangan’s victory at Bangor looks fair form as the second that day, Actinpieces, ran well at Wetherby in the Rowland Meyrick on Boxing Day. With improvement possible he has to come into calculations @ 8/1. Kerry Lee’s Krackatoa King fits a very similar profile to Sir Mangan and looks ‘well in’ at the bottom of the weights after a good second to Regal Flow at Wincanton. His trainer knows how to win these types of races and he too has to be on the shortlist @ 9/1.
Jumping is the name of the game and that has let down Ballycross of late, well handicapped and clearly talented, if he put it all together on Saturday the 14/1 would be too big a price with the form of his Chepstow Welsh National Trial fourth looking good which featured the likes of Wild West Wind, Alfie Spinner and Buywise. Two horses pulled up on their most recent outings were Mysteree and Goodtoknow, the former, unlikely to take up this engagement though more than capable of winning this @ 16/1 but the latter, Goodtoknow was second to One For Arthur twelve months ago and only two pounds higher, has to be considered also @ 16/1. Good old Emperor’s Choice still lurks on a fair mark and if none the worst for his first fence fall in the Welsh National, could go well @ 20/1 while Scottish Grand National second, Cogry is worth a second look @ 12/1.