BILL ESDAILE PREVIEWS THE BEST OF THE WEEKEND RACING ACTION
IIT IS fair to say that tomorrow’s BetBright Chase at Kempton (3.45pm) isn’t quite the race is used to be. Desert Orchid, Docklands Express, Rough Quest and Gloria Victis are just some of the top class horses to have claimed the prize in the past, but it is still a valuable handicap and tomorrow’s edition looks typically competitive.
The first place to start, par for the course this term, is with Paul Nicholls, who is set to saddle another big Saturday favourite in Easter Day.
The seven-year-old had some solid form last season, notably when beating subsequent RSA winner O’Faolains Boy at Ascot in December 2013. That was his third career start going right-handed and the son of Malinas is yet to be beaten racing clockwise.
He was then absent for the rest of campaign, but reappeared at Newbury almost a year later and ran a promising race to finish third behind Tinker Time.
A controversial late withdrawal from Doncaster’s Sky Bet Chase last month, when switched to Cheltenham, he was travelling extremely well, only to knuckle on landing and fall three out.
There is little doubt that this is a well-handicapped horse, but he is unproven at three miles and it’s also interesting to note that his trainer has saddled five of the past eight beaten favourites in this race.
I do think he’ll go very close, if he sees out the trip, but there really isn’t much juice left in his price at 9/2 with Betway.
Fox Appeal always goes well at Kempton, and the form of his second to Balder Succes at the track last time was fully franked by the winner who took last weekend’s Ascot Chase.
However, he is another who needs to prove his stamina and he also has a big weight to carry.
The rest are much of a muchness really, but the one who stands out is BALLINVARRIG for Tom George and Paddy Brennan.
George has won this race twice with the dashing grey Nacarat, ridden on the second occasion by Brennan, who also landed this contest aboard Razor Royale in 2010.
It is interesting that Brennan has decided to go with the selection over stablemate Chartreux, who is shorter in the betting and won at last season’s Punchestown Festival.
Ballinvarrig was successful over course and distance during the Christmas meeting and with just 10st4lb on his back tomorrow he is a very interesting contender.
That was obviously a weaker race than this, but he should have won easier than he did in the end as he probably hit the front a little too soon.
He was put up 7lb for that win, but has been dropped a pound after finishing sixth at Ascot last time over too short a trip. His only other run at Kempton was a decent second to the progressive Present View on this card 12 months ago.
George’s horses are coming into form at exactly the right time and Ballinvarrig looks a decent each-way bet at 16/1 with Betway.
The big race at Newcastle tomorrow is the Eider Chase (2.55pm) over the marathon distance of 4m1f and I will be backing PORTRAIT KING to win this race for the second time, three years on from his first success.
The ability to stay extreme trips is absolutely vital in this race and one thing Portrait King has in abundance is stamina.
Maurice Phelan’s 10-year-old had been out of form for a long time, but he bounced back to win at Punchestown last month and then finished a decent second to the progressive Embracing Change at the same venue last time.
Although now 9lb higher in the weights than when successful as a seven-year-old, the conditions of tomorrow’s race suit him perfectly and he can go close again with regular pilot Denis O’Regan. Betway’s 8/1 is a fair price.
There are plenty of others in with a chance, but the biggest danger might be Alpha Victor for William Kinsey. He ran an eye-catching race over hurdles at Wetherby on his last start and this looks to have been the plan all season.
Back at Kempton, Nicky Henderson’s DAYS OF HEAVEN should take plenty of beating if taking his chance in the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle (3.10pm).
He has won his last two races in impressive style and looks a horse going places for a yard that landed this two years ago with Royal Ascot winner Forgotten Voice.
PORTRAIT KING e/w 2.55pm Newcastle (tomorrow)
DAYS OF HEAVEN 3.10pm Kempton (tomorrow)
BALLINVARRIG e/w 3.45pm Kempton (tomorrow)