Tom George’s grey, Nacarat, put up a memorable front-running performance 12 months ago, burning off his rivals down the back straight to win by a comfortable 9 lengths. He also ran a stormer in the King George at Christmas before eventually running out of puff to finish 4½ lengths behind Madison Du Berlais, who was a further 36 lengths adrift of Kauto Star. The nine-year-old is getting 4lbs from Madison tomorrow and if he can boss the contest like he did last year he will be very difficult to beat. However, no horse has won this race back-to-back since Docklands Express in 1992 and 4/1 is too short for me.
Madison Du Berlais comes alive at flat tracks – he has won or been placed in all six visits to Newbury and Kempton and in the past 15 months has won a Hennessy, an Aon Chase and a totesport Bowl. David Pipe’s inmate goes on all types of ground, so the forecast soft conditions shouldn’t be a problem and at 9/1 he looks a brilliant each-way bet. His trainer is targeting him at the Grand National and if he performs well tomorrow he will be much shorter than the current 50/1.
Of the others, Miss Mitch looks a big danger on her running behind The Sawyer at Ascot last time and the unexposed Kilcrea Castle was only two lengths back in third that day. Paul Nicholls’ Fistral Beach has a featherweight, but he’s been a beaten favourite in eight of his nine races so I’ll be taking him on.
The other highlight of the day is the Eider Chase at Newcastle (3.20pm). This will be a brutal slog and you need a horse that can truly get home over the monster 4m1f trip. Halcon Genelardais has to be on any shortlist as he loves the mud and will relish the distance, but I’ll be backing last year’s winner MERIGO at 11/2. He has been trained for this race and ran an eye-catching trial over hurdles at Warwick recently.
Back at Kempton and I like the look of Alan King’s SALDEN LICHT in the 2.00pm. He was a decent animal on the flat, is unbeaten over hurdles and will appreciate the soft ground.
GITANO HERNANDO will take his chance in the Lingfield Winter Derby Trial (4.20pm) tomorrow and he should take the world of beating. Kieren Fallon is two from two on the Marco Botti-trained four-year-old and they can take this on the way to a tilt at the Dubai World Cup.
Try to get down to Sandown’s Grand Military Gold Cup Day on Friday 12th March. It’s always a great day out and you can get advance tickets for just £10 by calling 01372 470047 or logging-on to www.sandown.co.uk.
SALDEN LICHT 2.00pm Kempton, tomorrow
MADISON DU BERLAIS e/w 3.05pm Kempton, tomorrow
MERIGO 3.20pm Newcastle, tomorrow
GITANO HERNANDO 4.20pm Lingfield, tomorrow
MADISON DU BERLAIS 50/1 e/w Grand National