We're pleased to have Connor Gallagher back this week with his analysis of the big TV race this afternoon.
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Over to Connor…
Racing Plus Chase
3m — Grade 3 H’cap Chase — Good
Following on from last week’s preview of the Grand National Trial, I’ll be tackling this week’s Racing Plus Chase at Kempton. It’s a tricky race to call with both Wyck Hill and Rolling Aces trading at around the 3/1 mark, so this week I’ll be applying the stats once again and highlighting where the value lies at bigger prices.
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So let’s get started on today’s big race…
What A Friend
Returning from a 317 day break and without a win since April 2010, but top weights have a decent record in this race – as do those aged in double-figures – and it’s important to note that Sir Alex Ferguson’s charge is having only his second run in Handicap company since finishing 2nd to Denman in the 2009 Hennessy. He should find this much easier, and although he’s a bit higher in the weights than most previous winners of this contest, Harry Derham is an able jockey and takes off a handy 5lbs. He goes well fresh, loves soft ground and has a decent trends profile.
Arguably becoming part of the furniture with two wins and two placed efforts in the last four renewals of this race, and Tom George’s admirable 12-year-old ought to run well again under conditions that will definitely suit. That said, his victory in this last year may not have been so clear-cut had Hector’s Choice not ploughed through the last three fences, and this year’s race looks a lot tougher. A fair bet for each-way supporters but he won’t be carrying my money.
A highly consistent sort who has reverted to Handicap company since joining Nicky Henderson earlier this season. Best suited to 3m, a flat track and ideally good ground, today’s conditions ought to suit and following a couple of disappointing efforts on soft ground, he’s now only 4lbs higher than when destroying a decent field at Ascot in November. Furthermore, he was definitely closing on today’s favourite Wyck Hill at Ascot in December and would have finished much closer than a well-beaten 3rd had he not made a terrible mistake at the second last. He clearly hated the ground that day and also faced an impossible task off top weight at Sandown last time. He ticks all the boxes today and his trainer possesses a 35% record with his chasers at Kempton.
A young and improving horse still considered ahead of the handicapper, but I genuinely think he’s too short at 3/1. Paul Nicholls has saddled several beaten favourites in this race, and Ruby Walsh’s mount has risen 11lbs since beating Opening Batsman on heavy ground at Wincanton over three furlongs shorter. In addition, each of the last fourteen winners of this contest had run at least five times over fences, and eleven of them had also run in a Graded Chase. He simply doesn’t tick enough boxes for me and all things considered I think he’s a silly price.
Last year’s 2nd must have a good chance of reversing the form with Nacarat on revised terms given that he ploughed through the last three fences last year and has clearly improved since. He ran poorly over hurdles last time and, in fairness, the last fourteen winners all ran in a Chase last time out, but the return to three miles on a faster surface ought to suit and he’s actually 1lb lower than last year despite the fact he’s subsequently won a Grade 2. He’s seemingly dropped under the radar, does possess a fairly strong trends profile and could snatch a place, but in all honesty it’s still hard to see him winning.
Philip Hobbs’ challenger won this in 2011 but has failed to complete in all three subsequent efforts, and has been absent for 449 days. On the other hand, it’s his trainer and jockey’s formidable records in this race that really catches the eye, Hobbs having saddled two of the last eight winners. Logic suggests he retains his ability – otherwise connections would surely have gotten rid of him – and off his old mark of 144 really needs to be respected given that he goes so well right-handed and boasts an outstanding trends profile.
At first glance looks a worthy favourite on the balance of his 4-length beating of Katenko, who has since risen to an official rating of 158 following two impressive victories. That ought to mean he’s very well in at the weights today, and he’ll also have the assistance of McCoy from the saddle, but I can’t help thinking he’s an artificial favourite if we base his chances purely on his latest performance. His form on good ground would leave him with plenty to find to justify favouritism, and take into account that thirteen of the last fourteen winners had already posted a career-best RPR of 150+ over fences and won no more than three Handicap Chases previously. I don’t think Kempton will necessarily play to his strengths either and despite the good record of market leaders in this race, I’m happy to look elsewhere.
Duke Of Lucca
Another Philip Hobbs-trained runner who has demonstrated a marked preference for going right-handed and strikes me as a potentially very well-handicapped horse. Admittedly, he didn’t run well in the Hennessy, but on better ground and at the revised weights I wouldn’t be surprised if he finished a lot closer to Roberto Goldback today and he looks a decent each-way option.
Really well-fancied by some to reverse placings with Rolling Aces, but I really can’t see why. I think both are too short in the betting, but even from a significantly higher mark I’d expect the Nicholls-trained horse to confirm the Wincanton form as he seems to be progressing more rapidly and I’d also expect him to improve for the step-up to three miles. This one, on the other hand, has the weakest trends profile in the race and I think his chances of winning such a competitive race are slim at best.
His third behind Unioniste and Hadrian’s Approach last time out suggests he’ll have a decent each-way chance, and Nigel Twiston-Davies won this in 2010, but he lacks chasing experience and falls short in a number of departments.
Rolling Aces has won twice already this season and is clearly progressive, but he’s a little inexperienced and at 3/1 he doesn’t offer much in terms of value.
Last year’s winner Nacarat holds no engagements at Cheltenham or Aintree – so this is likely to be his main target – but the grey isn’t getting any younger at the age of twelve and looks vulnerable in a more competitive race this time around.
There are plenty in with each-way chances at bigger prices – but the majority have plenty of questions to answer – and my recommendation is therefore a LAY bet on favourite Wyck Hill, who will be less suited to today’s faster ground and looks a false favourite in my book at only 11/4.