Kempton Race Preview, 27/02/2021

Kempton, Saturday February 27th

Kempton 1.50
Close Brothers Pendil Novices’ Chase Class 1 Grade 2
2m4f110y – Going: Good (Good to Soft in places) – 4 runners

A battle for the lead is likely despite the small field. Coole Cody forced the pace, which is usually how he rolls, when holding on all out to win the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November, surviving what – 99 times out of 100 – would have been effectively a race-ending error when making a mistake and slipping badly on landing at the 4th, and in the straight it helped that his closest challengers were Sky Pirate and Spiritofthegames, who aren’t the greatest under pressure – he was probably feeling the effects when tailed off behind Chatham Street Lad in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup in December. He’s been off two months since and might well do better, but chances are he’ll have Ga Law** for company up front, because going from the front is also how he does it – for example the Rising Stars at Wincanton in November, made all, mistake 12th, not hard pressed to draw clear from 4 out, well ahead last, unchallenged from Hurricane Harvey. Trying to make all in a race with Allmankind in it proved impossible in the Henry VIII over two miles at Sandown last time out, but this is arguably his best trip. Son Of Camas checked out tamely behind Killer Clown in the novices’ handicap chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, the jockey going faster than the horse after the last, and was only 10th in a jumpers’ bumper last time out, so that leaves Tamaroc Du Mathan*, who’s up in trip – the style marks of his chase debut-win at Wincanton in November couldn’t have been higher, and last time out he was against Shishkin when 2nd in the Wayward Lad Novices’ at Kempton on December 27th. On his only try at this sort of trip so far he came there strongly then found nothing in the Silver Plate Handicap Hurdle at Kempton last March, but pedigree suggests he should stay it, and I can see a big run from him. It comes down to how far Coole Cody and Ga Law will get clear in the first half of the race and for me, if Ga Law is ‘on it’, he’s unlikely to stop.

Selection: GA LAW – Alternative: Tamaroc Du Mathan

Kempton 3.35
Close Brothers Handicap Chase Class 1 Grade 3
3m – Going: Good (Good to Soft in places) – 18 runners

Black Corton
In this race last year was 2nd to Mister Malarky, ridden along approaching 2 out, some 4 lengths down there, put under pressure, stayed on to challenge for 2nd approaching last, took the place jumping, hard driven, one pace run-in. Lagging his best high-class form this season, with best effort on reappearance at Ascot on October 31st behind Regal Encore, tracked leaders 9th, jumped left 12th, niggled along in Swinley Bottom, ridden into 16th, pushed along after 3 out, stayed on, every chance approaching 2 out, ridden and weakened approaching last, hit it, disputed well-held 3rd run-in, faded and lost the place last 100 yards. Failed to finish in 1965 Chase at Ascot in November, led, jockey niggling on and off, till unseated rider 10th, Imperial Aura going on to win, and flopped at Cheltenham last time out, mistakes, dropped to midfield and reminders 10th, mistake 12th, weakened after 18th and some 10 to 12 lengths 5th 19th, tailed off when pulled up after 3 out behind Storm Control. Perhaps all the hard races he’s had in the past have now got the better of him (this’ll be his 28th steeplechase)
Mister Malarky
Won this last year,  led narrowly 4 out, pushed along and found extra to extend lead approaching 3 out, continued to stay on under a ride and clear last, ridden out to beat Black Corton. Continues to mix bad runs with the occasional win and got his victory this season at Ascot just before Christmas, pressed on from 14th and 2 lengths clear 16th, not so far ahead 2 out (normal 3 out), hard driven home turn, stayed on approaching last (normal 2 out), was strongly challenged under pressure approaching omitted last, found extra after it under driving, drew clear final 200 yards to beat The Conditional and Regal Encore. His bad side resurfaced in Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster last time, led till headed, pushed along and reminders on run to 11th, led again 12th, headed 13th, ridden along, lost place and midfield when not much room 14th, quickly weakened to rear home turn, dropped right away from 4 out, tailed right off behind Takingrisks. If I don’t fancy him he wins, if I fancy him he runs like he did in the Sky Bet – what are we going to get from National Hunt racing’s most unpredictable horse this time? His jockey here Harry Kimber hasn’t ridden a winner since March 2020 (three 2nds since then, including on Storm Home at Taunton earlier this week)
After a prolonged spell in the doldrums, returned to form at Warwick last time on February 15th, chased leader 10th, bumped rival 11th, tracked leaders 12th and niggled along, more firmly pushed along after 13th, stayed on from 14th, chased leader 3 out, hard ridden home turn, at most a length down 2 out, ridden and stayed on, a length and a half down last, driven out and sustained effort run-in, closed on Two For Gold last 100 yards, just held post – would have got up if there’d been another 100 yards. In this race in 2017 he ran 4th to Pilgrims Bay and that was on officially good ground – it remains the case that up to now he’s been placed at best over 3m, and is yet to win on anything faster than good to soft, but he’s run above his odds on such ground before
In this race in 2019 was 5th to Walt, on and off the bit most of the way; last year failed to complete behind Mister Malarky, made much of the running, chased leader 4 out, hard ridden starting home turn, couldn’t go with leaders approaching 3 out, weakened under a push, well held 2 out, weakened further and tailing off when pulled up before last. No jumps runs this season but is presumably fit from an outing on the Fibresand at Southwell and last time in a jumpers’ bumper at Lingfield on February 1st, unsurprisingly putting in his best work in the last two furlongs when 3rd to Strong Glance beaten just over 2 lengths. He’s shown a few times before that he needs a good test of stamina (best chase form to date remains his win in the 2019 bet365 Gold Cup over 3m5f at Sandown, when he left The Young Master well behind from the last) and in all likelihood he’ll run as well in this renewal as he did in 2019
Clondaw Castle*
Two good runs to start the season, runner-up to Nuts Well in Old Roan at Aintree then won at Newbury, hung left but drew upsides leaders approaching last, stayed on, the better jump and led last, driven out, drew clear, idled and/or tired last 100 yards and pursuers closed but never in danger when beating Gala Ball. Arguably hasn’t matched that the last twice, last time no chance with Master Tommytucker in Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton, jumped left, niggled along home turn, more firmly pushed along straightening, outpaced and had 5 lengths to find under a ride 3 out, kept on and took well-held 2nd 2 out, no impression on winner and 8 lengths down last, just kept on till eased last strides. It’s his first attempt at this trip; a half-brother, Osca Loca, won a 3m hunter chase in 2019 and, as always, if you’re going to stay it anywhere, it’ll be at Kempton on good ground
Al Dancer
Good start to the season when winning at Newton Abbot in October, blundered 12th, ridden along and not going as comfortably as Master Tommytucker home turn, strong reminders approaching 2 out, stayed on under pressure, drew upsides leader approaching last, led jumping, ridden clear; confirmed that behind Coole Cody in Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham, mistakes, chased leader at the top of the hill, arguably travelled best for a few strides after 3 out, soon niggled along then more firmly pushed, faded home turn, put under pressure approaching 2 out, left in 4th and looked held, very hard driven, keeping on when mistake last, no extra up the hill, took 3rd from weakening rival in last 100 yards. Making errors has become a trait and there were more in Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham in December when last seen,  going largely comfortably and 8 to 10 lengths off leaders after 4 out, soon pushed along, couldn’t find more when mistake 3 out, well held in midfield approaching home turn, weakened markedly. Half-brother Tzar’s Dancer won over 2m7f110y at Auteuil and this one may well stay, but his tendency to make mistakes has become a worry and I don’t want him at a short price
Romain De Senam
Finished 4th to Walt in this race in 2019, was tailed off behind Mister Malarky in last year’s renewal. Emphatically best form since joining Dan Skelton when winning ‘Auld Reekie’ Handicap Chase at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day in a style that couldn’t have been envisaged beforehand, led 7th, 1st 2 some 10 lengths clear starting final circuit, took definite lead approaching turn out of back straight, 5 lengths up when niggled along home turn, about 8 lengths up 4 out, pushed along, stayed on, about the same in front 3 out, looked safe 2 out, maintained advantage between last 2 under a push, in no danger when got in close and brushed last, put under pressure run-in even though no challenger was near, workmanlike and unchallenged from Schiehallion Munro. No idea what to make of that, when horses go clear so far out the jockeys on the others are entitled to think they’ll come back, but at Musselburgh this one never did; his one previous win over 2m7f, at Taunton in January 2019, was a virtual walkover from three rivals who were either past their best or didn’t turn up on the day and, unlike others trying the trip for the first time, this one’s done so in the last two runnings of this race and not made the three, so despite the fact that the Skeltons are winning with everything at the moment, this one is swerved
Slate House
Not the horse he hinted he’d be when taking the Kauto Star Novices’ at Kempton on Boxing Day 2019. First form this season when 3rd to Capeland at Wincanton in January although arguably it should have been better than it turned out, mistake 1st and dropped to last pair, made ground and midfield 5th, mistake 6th, niggled along approaching 9th, closer order 12th, tracked leaders 13th going more comfortably, chased leader 4 out, pushed along off home turn, a length down 3 out, put under pressure, not going best approaching 2 out as went with Capeland, half a length down jumping, put under strong pressure, mistake last and pecked on landing, lost 2nd place, faded last 150 yards. Any number of mistakes ruined his chance, but he was beaten anyway before the one at the last. You’d probably throw him out automatically considering how he’s performed over the last year, but you can safely do so when you look at his record in fields of ten or more over hurdles and fences, which reads F88F6P, beaten 27 lengths or more when completing
Delire D’Estruval
Largely consistent and rounded off last season with a lucrative win in Silver Bowl (Cheltenham Festival consolation) at Kempton last March, in last 3 approaching 4th, no forward move when mistake 10th, started a move from 11th and headway into midfield by 12th, slow 13th and ridden away from it, rear of large main group, had 12 in front and 9 or 10 lengths to find home turn, ridden along, stayed on and passed a few by 3 out, sustained effort under a ride and passed more to go 3rd 2 out, drew upsides and led approaching last, ridden out, idled once in front, did enough to hold on. As likely to fold up as he is to hold on, that well-run race served him well as he beat Drumconnor Lad half a length. He hasn’t been out since. Pedigree very much suggests that he won’t stay 3m and his usual blinkers are missing for this belated reappearance, so an unlikely winner
Double Shuffle*
In this race in 2017 he was a half-length 2nd to Pilgrims Bay, and in 2019 he was a length 2nd to Walt, while last year he was 18 lengths 7th to Mister Malarky. First win for four years, in so doing adding to his noteworthy Kempton record, when taking a 3m handicap chase in January, tracked leaders from after 2nd, ridden into 9th, niggled along home turn, moved best on straightening, chased leader 3 out, ridden along, a length down 2 out, hard driven between last 2, the better jump last, led, ridden out, stayed on well last 150 yards. It would have been interesting if Ami Desbois had jumped the last better, but ‘Shuffle’ beat his rival by a length and a quarter. Even after a 5-lb rise for that win he’s still well treated with 145 compared to previous renewals (was off 149, 154 and 150 the three times he’s run in this) and he shouldn’t be dismissed just because there are miles on the clock (he’s still only 11 after all)
Southfield Stone
At this meeting in 2019 he won the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle, pushed along approaching 2 out, led 4 lengths jumping it, staying on when knocked down last, hard driven and hung left, was closed on by Angels Breath as a result, ridden out, found enough: returned last year and was a good 2nd to Who Dares Wins in Pendil Novices’ Chase, led 2 out, headed last, no extra last 100 yards. Started off the campaign well enough with a win in his penultimate novice chase over subsequent Paddy Power Gold Cup-winner Coole Cody at Cheltenham in October, made most and idled in front, but disappointing in his final novice behind Protektorat, niggled along when winner asserted starting home turn, soon outpaced under a push, looked held 2 out, some 10 lengths behind when in close to last. Even worse performance when tailed off behind Chatham Street Lad in Caspian Caviar Gold Cup in December, dropped to midfield when niggled along 11th, lost place and rear when mistake 13th, clearly tiring 4 out, tailed off from next. Won a jumpers’ bumper at Kempton last time,  travelled comfortably tracking leaders, shaken up 2 1/2 f out and got a split on the inner, put under pressure, led 1 1/2 f out, ridden out final furlong, stayed on well, was closed on last 100 yards but always holding on from Didtheyleaveuoutto. From the family of Chatam, he should stay this far and if including the jumpers’ bumper, he’s not out of the 1st 2 in three visits to Kempton
Cap Du Nord*
Won at Newbury in November then ran well at Kempton on December 27th, some 3 lengths off leaders 14th, niggled along home turn, made ground and tracked leaders straightening, at most niggled along, got a nice juicy split against the inside rail and led going largely comfortably approaching 3 out, ridden into it, immediately joined by Royale Pagaille approaching 2 out and ridden along, not going as well as eventual winner, slight lead 2 out, 1st 2 well clear, hard driven, headed approaching last, 2nd beaten just over 3 lengths and had Double Shuffle behind. Another good run in Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster last time out, midfield 7th, closer order when ridden into 12th, prominent when in close to 13th and niggled along away from it, in close to 14th, tracked leaders home turn, pushed along from 4 out, changed legs approaching 3 out, hard driven between there and 2 out, stayed on, 1st 3 clear, in 2nd when mistake 2 out, stuck to task, still a chance last, hard driven run-in, no extra last 150 yards. No reason why he couldn’t run well again
Young Wolf
Form has rather tailed off since appearing to post form way above what could realistically be expected for the time of year when winning at Warwick in September 2020,  led 15th, pressed on before steadied into 4 out, headed, hard ridden 3 out, stayed on and led home turn, was closed on going to 2 out, headed, hard driven, stayed on well under pressure and upsides last, soon led under pressure, stayed on well and asserted over Vivas last 150 yards: tailed off the last twice including behind Dashel Drasher at Ascot in January, midfield, mistake 2nd, jumped left 3rd, racing wide when mistake 8th, also mistake 9th, lost place and rear 11th, tailed off 14th, hopeless home turn, trailed in – mistakes set the tone and he couldn’t go the pace. The going and trip are in his favour this time, but he seems to have a preference for the warmer months of the year
The Butcher Said
In good form during Summer with two small-field novice chase wins, but he’s been in better company last three runs and found wanting – firstly behind The Big Breakaway in a Cheltenham novice chase in November, several mistakes; then in handicap company in Rehearsal at Newcastle, gave the rest plenty of rope at the start, held up last, mistake 10th, around 12 lengths down 13th, not asked for an effort and about the same distance adrift when mistake 15th, pushed along turning out of back straight, no impression under a ride 4 out, well held behind Yorkhill. Last time out a promising move from the back came to nothing in Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster, started a move and picked off rivals to go into midfield by 14th, raced wide, further ground and tracked leaders home turn, moved comfortably with 4 lengths to find approaching 4 out, shaken up on landing, quickly put under pressure and didn’t find extra, mistake 3 out, carried head awkwardly and faded, well held when left alone approaching 2 out, weakened between last 2, lost poor 5th run-in, tailed off 6th to Takingrisks. It’s clear what we’re dealing with here – the instant this one has pressure applied he caves in, and he needs to be produced as late as possible (perhaps moving into 4th by the home turn in the Sky Bet was plenty early enough in hindsight); he jumped better at Doncaster than on previous starts and, with the going in his favour, might do better this time
Soupy Soups
Career best effort when taking Perth Gold Cup in August, midfield, moved comfortably when edged closer after 14th, chased leader going comfortably 3 out, moved best of the field when led approaching 2 out, ridden, asserted, drew 4 lengths clear by last, hard driven run-in, stayed on, all out from As You Like; only start since, did nothing much behind Royale Pagaille at Kempton on December 27th, held up, mistakes 4th and 5th, in last pair 6th, ridden along 8th, relegated to last by 10th, tailed off when pulled up after 11th – plenty early enough in the race for an out-of-contention pulled-up, and it doesn’t augur well for his chances in this stronger race
Mellow Ben
No wins since October 2019, but good effort to run 3rd to Cap Du Nord home at Newbury in November, made a lot of the running, went 4 or 5 lengths clear by 12th, moved comfortably home turn and was about the same distance in front, niggled along approaching 3 out, mistake there, hard ridden and not so far ahead, headed 2 out, outpaced under a ride approaching last, looked held jumping, beaten nearly 5 lengths; not so good last time out at Kempton on December 27th, led, jumped slightly left, ridden into 5th, clear 6th, in close to 9th, headed 14th, held place, niggled along from 4 out, pushed along home turn, lost place straightening, well held approaching 3 out, lost further ground approaching 2 out, tailed off last, 4th to Royale Pagaille. With all four of his wins having come in warmer months (three at Fontwell, the other at Worcester), it looks like this one’s function will be to set the race up, as per last time
Erick Le Rouge
No wins since taking a 2m4f handicap chase at Kempton last January, led 3 out, ridden clear, was closed on after 2 out, hard ridden, 4 lengths up last, driven out to beat Gowiththeflow. No form this season, well beaten and tailing off when fell 3 out in Badger Ales at Wincanton in November won by El Presente, and last time at Kempton in the latest running of the race he won last year, tracked leaders, ridden into 3rd, moved upsides leader approaching 8th, in close to 9th, niggled along from 10th, niggled along from 11th, more firmly pushed along approaching 4 out, steadied into it and mistake, lost place home turn, dropped rear, well back 3 out, no more approaching 2 out, kept on a bit from last and took 6th close home, appeared to have running in him at the end, 6th beaten 22 lengths behind Smarty Wild. Had he completed the Badger Ales that would have been two well-tailed-offs from both his starts over 3m, and little expected here in first time blinkers
Had a fine season last term, winning at Kempton in January 2020 and running half a length 2nd to Ok Corral in Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster later that month, produced to challenge approaching 4 out, not shaken up approaching 3 out and arguably looked to be going best, led 3 out then pushed along, stayed on but was caught by OK Corral going to 2 out, was joined jumping, put under pressure, 1st 2 clear, stuck to task, still every chance last, hard driven, headed 150 yards out, no extra final strides. Not near that in two runs this season, last time in the veterans’ final at Sandown in January midfield 11th, but very soon shuffled back to rear, blundered 12th, niggled along approaching 13th, good ground and midfield 15th, ridden along after 19th, weakened and midfield to rear turning out of back straight, put under pressure, lost touch with main group approaching 3 out, tailed off home turn and trailed in behind Seeyouatmidnight. Little expected

Shortlist: Clondaw Castle, Double Shuffle, Cap Du Nord