It’s that time in the week when I start to look ahead to the weekend action. There’s plenty of it on Saturday. Warwick’ seven race card features three Graded races the Grade 3 Classic Handicap Chase (3:00), the Grade 2 Hampton Novices' Chase (1:50) and the Grade 2 Ballymore Leamington Novices Hurdle (2:25)
Meanwhile at Kempton's its Lanzarote Hurdle Day. The Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle (2:40) has new sponsors in the shape of Coral. This means the race is now worth £56,950 to the winner. Coral also sponsor the Grade 2 Silviniaco Conti Chase (2:05). Although I suspect they will be a shade disappointed that the latter race has only attracted a field of seven. Especially as the new sponsors have increased the prize money to £80,000.
The ITV cameras are covering five races from Warwick and four from Kempton as part of a nine-race programme.
Inside today’s main piece I assess some of the contenders for the Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton and Warwick Classic Chase. Plus, there is a selection from today’s card at Leicester.
Something for The Weekend
The going at Kempton is being described as soft at the time of writing this. Not much in the way of rain is forecast between now and Saturday. So, it shouldn’t be any worse come race day.
Coral Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle
The ante post betting is headed by Irish raider Winter Fog. The 8-year-old had looked set to land a bit of a gamble but was collared after the last in when 2nd of 27 in the Pertemps Series Qualifier at Leopardstown over Christmas. Lightly raced for his age, just five career starts, he looks capable of better.
Gelino Bello, bids to give Paul Nicholls a fourth win in the race since 2000. A winner at Aintree maiden hurdle in October. The 6-year-old has finished runner-up to leading Albert Bartlett fancy Blazing Khal on his last two starts.
Nicky Henderson has won the race five times since 2003. He has several entries in this year’s race. The most fancied in the betting seems to be Marie’s Rock. The mare bounced back to her smart novice hurdle form when winning over C&D at Christmas. Up 9lb for that win but she had plenty in hand that day and if she can build on that effort won’t be far away.
Venetia Williams has saddled two winners of the race since 2004. Her sole entry is useful flat performer Green Book who bids for the hat trick after wins at Haydock and Ludlow. Up 8lb for his last win and would be much deeper company here should he run. However, the 5-year-old is going the right way and is open to further improvement.
Up For Parol put in a career best on RPR’s when winning at Haydock last month. He’s 3-5 over hurdles and could be capable of better for the step up to 2m 5f.
Cobblers Dream made it 2-4 over hurdles when making a winning handicap debut at Doncaster last month. He’s up 5lb but there was plenty to like about his Doncaster success and he remains progressive.
This season’s Classic Chase seems likely to see last year’s winner Notachance and runner-up Achille renew rivalry. However, they face several improving and potentially well treated rivals. The going is soft for Warwick’s most valuable meeting of the year.
Classic Handicap Chase
Three are vying for favouritism in the Warwick feature. Gericault Roque has yet to win over fences but he’s progressing well for a step up in distance. He was unlucky to come up against a big improver at Newbury last time. David Pipe yard not in great form though.
Commodore put in a bold jumping success to win at Cheltenham last month. His 9lb higher and won’t be far away if reproducing his last time out performance. His stablemate Achille was beaten 1/2 length into second here 12 months. He’s 4lb higher than last year ran well for a long way when 4th of 20 in the Welsh Grand National last time.
Corach Rambler, trained by Lucinda Russell is a very interesting contender. The 8-year-old has only had the three starts over fences but he’s won his last two at Aintree and Cheltenham. Overcoming a hit of greenness when idling on the run-in last time. Up 8lb but is a big improver. Yard won this with subsequent Grand National Winner One For Arthur n 2017.
The “wise guy” pundits have realised that last year’s winner Notachance has dropped back to his last winning mark. Two low key runs this season will have set up fitness wise for another big run here.
Éclair Surf ran better than distance beaten when 3rd of 10 to subsequent Welsh Grand National Winner Iwilldoit. He made a bad mistake, five out, when still going well that day. Goes well in the mud although stamina for 3m 5f not assured.
Evan Williams won’t have another big Saturday winner. Will he? Well, he might. He could saddle No Rematch. The 8-year-old ran well for a long way on is seasonal reappearance before pulling up at Exeter last month. Capable of better over fences.
Two all-weather cards at Lingfield and Kempton today and a sole jumps fixture at Leicester. It’s the latter track that provides to today’s tip.
3:50 – Elkstone isn’t the most reliable but the 11-year-old seemed to bounce back to form after wind surgery when 4th of 11 at Southwell last month. It was a welcome completion for the selection who had pulled up on his three previous starts. He’s 7lb below his last winning mark and is handicapped to go close if building on his Southwell promise.
Elkstone – 9/2 @ Coral & Ladbrokes.
Good luck with your Wednesday bets.