Warwick Race Preview, 16/01/2021

Warwick, Saturday January 16th

Warwick 3.00
McCoy Contractors Civil Engineering Classic Handicap Chase
Class 1 Grade 3
3m5f – Going: Soft (Heavy in places) – 13 runners

Ballyoptic
Hasn’t looked the force of old on two starts this season, last time in Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury niggled along 14th, mistake 15th, lost further ground after 16th, struggling in detached last when stumbled on landing 17th, tailed off under a ride home turn behind Cloth Cap. The only things in his favour this time are the going and the trip, but it’s hard to see a good show from him judged on what he’s been doing recently
Walk In The Mill
Not much this season, at Ascot in October behind Regal Encore he was ridden before and after 13th, struggling 14th, kept on a bit from 16th, no more under a ride 18th, well held appoaching 2 out, weakened between last 2; fell at The Chair (6th) in his bid to win a third Becher Chase at Aintree last month on most recent outing, pushed along on and off before his departure. Now blinkered first time – his trainer Robert Walford’s record with runners first time in the headgear is none from 10
The Hollow Ginge
Only win last season when tending to jump left on his way to beating only other finisher Late Romantic at Leicester last January, led, stayed on under a hand ride going to last, jumped it 3 lengths up, hard ridden, stayed on well; did nothing in National Hunt Chase subsequently, struggling when went right and nearly off the course 17th, tried to refuse 18th and pulled up. His 4th to Cloth Cap in Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury was unexpected, first-time visored; headway and midfield 4 out, kept on 3 out, stuck to task approaching 2 out, hard driven and hung left between last 2, no impression approaching last.  Quick turnaround after only managing two-and-a-bit miles of the Welsh Grand National last week, prominent when blundered and unseated rider 13th. He needed persuasion to do anything in the Ladbrokes Trophy and like last Saturday he’s not for me, as he has a tendency to make mistakes and – with last week’s non-completion – remains unproven over extreme trips
Storm Control*
A revelation over 3m this season and posted his second Cheltenham win of the campaign – one each over the Old and New Courses – when giving supporters a scare late on through idling over the New Course last month, led, clear 4th, was 5 or 6 lengths up 17th, brushed 19th, not so far ahead of pursuers 3 out, pushed along in a length lead approaching 2 out, stayed on between last 2 under a hand ride, was 3 lengths up last, left further clear when nearest challenger Commodore unseated, idled markedly up the hill, hard driven, was closed on then picked up again last 50 yards when 2nd and 3rd got to his quarters, was going away from them passing the post, beat Potters Legend a length. By no means was it a strong race for a Grade 3 handicap chase, both in terms of numbers and quality, but for obvious reasons to all who saw it he was value for a few more lengths. This is a whole load stronger than the second Cheltenham race and he won’t have the lead to himself against Captain Chaos and Achille, but he’s on a roll and might well stay this still longer trip
Le Breuil
In this race last year was 27 lengths 5th to Kimberlite Candy. Not much has happened since he won the 2019 National Hunt Chase, posting his first defeat of less than 10 lengths on reappearance at Kelso on October 24th, led 7th, mistake 3 out and headed, hard ridden, outpaced home turn, beginning to look held when mistake 2 out, some 8 to 10 lengths down last, hard driven, kept on last 200 yards and closed on those ahead last 125 yards, 4th to Some Chaos; finished 3rd but arguably didn’t really back up that effort in Becher Chase at Aintree last time, blundered badly 18th (Open Ditch) and headed, pushed along after 3 out, rallied and disputed lead home turn, headed under a push 2 out, outpaced going to last, hard ridden, kept on run-in, left behind last 350 yards behind Vieux Lion Rouge. Not sure what to expect but, unlike this time last year, shaped with encouragement earlier in the season
Notachance*
One win from four chase runs last season. Came back with a win in Anne Duchess Of Westminster Memorial at Bangor in November, lost place and pushed along in midfield 10th, closer order and travelled better 12th, niggled along 13th, effort home turn, pushed along and led 2 out, hard ridden, wandered a little but drew 3 lengths clear when jumped low last, driven out, stayed on well to go further clear of Captain Tommy, with The Two Amigos – runner-up in the Welsh Grand National last week – back in 3rd. This one is worth a try at extreme distances, having hit a flat spot just after halfway at Bangor, and has claims here
Late Romantic
On second start this season took a veterans’ chase at Haydock though failed to impress in the process, chased leader from 14th, niggled along approaching 4 out, 3 lengths down under a push approaching 3 out, hard ridden and carried head to one side between 3 out and next, hung in behind leader, not fluent 2 out, hard driven between last 2, went left, 2 to 3 lengths down last, hard driven run-in, slow-motion finish, gradually reeled in The Dutchman, got up last strides – the winner was running well when falling 4 out in the Rowland Meyrick when last seen. Off a career-high mark he doesn’t jump off the page, but he might pick up some pieces
Captain Chaos*
In this race last year took it to the rest of the field and found only Kimberlite Candy too good, making most, a few mistakes and often ridden into the fences, pressed on from 16th, hard driven from 3 out, a neck ahead 2 out, stayed on under strong pressure, headed nearing last, no extra – exhausting, and that was just watching him. He had blinkers reapplied that time and they were on again when he went one better on heavy ground in the Grimthorpe at Doncaster. No form this season, completing last time in Sir Peter O’Sullevan Memorial at Newbury but that was it,  hard ridden 12th, lost place and midfield to rear under a ride turning out of back straight, made some ground and midfield coming off home turn, weakened approaching 4 out, well back 3 out,  tailed off 2 out behind Cap Du Nord. As was the case in last year’s running, it’s the first time this season that he’ll wear blinkers – he might have Storm Control and Achille for company, but it’s not hard to work out what the plan is
Achille
Had been a progressive staying chaser in 2018/19. Only start in 2019/20, posted arguably a career-best when 2nd to West Approach in the Grade 3 3m3f chase at Cheltenham’s November meeting, led, stretched clear again when not fluent 14th, field closed up and only a length up going down the hill towards omitted 3 out, pushed along home turn and at most 2 lengths up when brushed 2 out, ridden, stayed on, about the same in front last, hard driven, was closed on, soon all out, wandered, headed 150 yards out and readily outpaced as West Approach went clear, found a bit more to hold 2nd. Chances if fit enough following his 427-day break
Red Infantry
Last win was over 3m4f at Haydock in November 2018. Only start in 2019/20, was 5th to The Conditional at Cheltenham in October 2019, nudged along after 12th, ridden into 15th, niggled along bypassing omitted 3 out, outpaced approaching home turn, kept on approaching 2 out, wandered between last 2, no impression approaching last, heavy-legged up the hill, lost ground on 1st 4 last 125 yards. Proven over the trip, but has been off for 448 days, so might be a tall order; treated okay in the weights despite being a lb out of the handicap
Django Django
Most recent victory when beating Notachance at Newbury in January, midfield 5th, headway and tracked leaders when took off on the wrong leg 11th, niggled along but looked to be going best passing omitted 3 out,  rathed cajoled along approaching last, upsides runner-up jumping, shaken up run-in, found extra 175 yards out, driven out, idled in front last 100 yards but always finding enough. No form in three starts this season, last time at Newbury on December 29th ridden into 13th and lost place/midfield, not much ground before 16th and pushed along, lost further ground before 5 out and some 10 to 12 lengths off leader when reminders home turn, more reminders after 4 out but no impression, no more from 2 out, tailed off last, picked off a weakening rival run-in but trailed in behind Amateur. Declined to have anything to do with it on the second circuit that time, but now wears first-time cheekpieces – the Jonjo O’Neill-stable’s strike rate is 8 wins from the last 52 such runners (including 3 of the yard’s last 6 cheekpieced-first time runners, which included Cloth Cap)
Didero Vallis
Again failed to get home over 3m on reappearance at Ascot in November, prominent 8th, in close to 13th and lost ground, back in midfield Swinley Bottom, gradually lost place from 14th, well held 2 out (normally 3 out), kept on a little straight but no further impression; tailed off behind Beau Bay in Grand Sefton at Aintree last time, prominent 8th, in close to 13th and lost ground, back in midfield Swinley Bottom, gradually lost place from 14th, well held 2 out (normally 3 out), kept on a little straight but no further impression. With no wins to his name over further than 2m5f, no chance of staying this trip
Petite Power
In this race last year was a well-held 3rd behind Kimberlite Candy and Captain Chaos, lost positions and pushed along approaching 17th, mistake and badly hampered 4 out, passed beaten ones under a ride and stayed on after 3 out under a ride, took well-held 5th 2 out, soon went 4th, no impression on 1st 2 but stayed on well to take 3rd run-in, nothing finished faster and nearest finish. Little form since, last time in 3m6f-chase at Exeter in December was well held (this the same race in which he ran close before coming here last year),  lost place and midfield 7th, pushed along and struggling in last 3 passing the omitted 14th to 17th, reminders turning out of back straight, lost further ground and well back 4 out, ridden and made no ground from 3 out, well held thereafter, eased last few yards. The writing was on the wall a circuit out there when he started to lose his place and he couldn’t/wouldn’t do anything much in the last mile – a repeat of what he did here last year seems unlikely

Shortlist: Storm Control, Notachance, Captain Chaos

Warwick 3.35
Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle Series Qualifier Class 2
3m1f – Going: Soft (Heavy in places) – 13 runners

Tobefair
Won this particular Qualifier in 2017, was 3rd in 2018. Hasn’t been the force of old this season but ran okay at Cheltenham in November two starts back when 4th to On The Blind Side, niggled along as pace increased approaching 8th, hard ridden to hold place at the top of the hill, stayed on under a ride approaching 3 out and still a chance though arguably going worst of the field, a most 2 lengths down 2 out, hard driven, outpaced home turn, looked held coming off the bend, some 8 lengths back last, driven and kept on up the hill but no impression on 1st 3. Didn’t take much interest in novice chase at Hereford last time behind Fado Des Brosses for all he finished 2nd, reminders on and off final circuit, couldn’t find more from 2 out, took poor 2nd before last, no impression. Not much expected now
Imperial Alcazar*
Wasn’t seen out again last season after winning at Leicester in January 2020; better run before that when 2nd to Protektorat at Cheltenham that New Year’s Day,  led 2 out, niggled along approaching home turn, more vigorously ridden along once in line for home, put under pressure approaching last, was headed jumping, hard driven and went a length down, had his ground taken by the winner 200 yards out and switched middle, hard driven, rallied last 125 yards, closed on winner but just held post. Only start so far this season, probably found out by conditions behind Main Fact at Haydock, tracked leaders 4th, raced a bit keenly, made ground to chase leader and jumped 7th only a neck down, led narrowly turning out of back straight, moved comfortably home turn, niggled along in half a length lead approaching 3 out, pushed along and headed approaching 2 out, put under pressure and faded between last 2, well held last, weakened and lost places last 150 yards. Did too much for the first two and a half miles and had nothing left on what was for all intents and purposes heavy ground, and being rained on; having shaped as though wanting three miles last season, he’s worth another chance
Ardlethen
Good comeback run when 5th to Imperial Aura over fences in Colin Parker Intermediate at Carlisle,  ridden along from 4 out, some 3 lengths down but not done with 3 out, hard ridden, weakened after 2 out, well held under a ride last, passed a beaten one run-in; didn’t match it when well-held 6th to Cloth Cap in Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury,  ridden along home turn and stayed on past a couple approaching 4 out, put under pressure approaching 3 out, driven and moved into well-held 4th approaching 2 out though little impression on those ahead, lost 4th between last 2, stuck to task run-in, for me shaping like wanting extreme distances. Didn’t get far in Silver Cup at Ascot last time behind Mister Malarky, chased leader till fell 2nd, continued well back from the rest and clambered over 9th, then stopped. Unexposed over hurdles, although hasn’t run over them since April 2019 – he won what looked an above-average novice at Uttoxeter that February, ridden and hung left approaching last, was 5 lengths clear jumping, ridden out, stayed on well and went further clear of The Cashel Man, then was tailed off behind Champ in Sefton at Aintree. He’s shown he retains his ability this season at least and this reversion to hurdling is worth trying
Kepagge*
Won both starts in novice hurdles last season, albeit in small fields. Reappearance in intermediate handicap hurdle at Cheltenham in November and ran okay, raced 3rd approaching bend before 3rd, tracked leaders 4th, lost ground and slipping into midfield when mistake 6th, niggled along at the top of the hill, headway and and at most 3 lengths down when mistake 3 out, pushed along and outpaced going to 2 out, hard diven home turn, forced wide straightening, no impression on those ahead approaching last, hard driven and kept on last 150 yards, held for 4th final strides behind Stimulating Song. A half-brother to two 3m-winners, he’s sure to stay as he goes up in trip
Come On Teddy
Stepped up on reappearance to take handicap hurdle at Cheltenham last month, keen early,  closing in midfield at the top of the hill, disputed 5 or 6 lengths 3rd approaching 2 out going comfortably, niggled along approaching home turn with ground to make up, hard ridden straightening, closed on 1st 2 approaching last, soon chasing leader under a ride, led last, hard driven final furlong, stayed on well up the hill though wandered left 150 yards out, continued to go clear last 100 yards, workmanlike and decisive by just over 5 lengths from On The Blind Side. Needs more but is unexposed
Flemcara
A bit more exposed than some and was winning for the first time since January 2018 when going in at Doncaster on December 29th in a six-runner 0-140 handicap, led 4th, in close to 8th, headed, chased leader approaching home turn, led approaching 3 out, travelled best as at most nudged along approaching 2 out with ears prcked, niggled along between last 2, found extra to draw clear, pushed along approaching last, stayed on, slowed into last, was closed on, pushed out, stayed on well enough, always holding on from Gosheven. Doesn’t always put it in (off the bit a long way out at Sandown behind Portrush Ted on his outing before Doncaster) but could do something if he wanted to 
Potters Corner
Dropping in here, rather than the Classic Chase (or indeed the Welsh Grand National), on his way to the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham and the Grand National; ran an okay race on reappearance in the Cross Country at Cheltenham’s November meeting, last over 13th (Bank) and niggled along, detached last 14th, mistakes 22nd and 24th, headway and closing in midfield 27th (Aintree), mistake 3 out (Glenfarclas Barrels), pushed along and stayed on with 8 to 10 lengths to find going to 2 out, outpaced under pressure home turn, closed on them going to last, driven, took 3rd from weakening rival 175 yards out, one pace last 150 yards, stuck to task. On his way to the 2019 Welsh Grand National he won a handicap hurdle at Chepstow earlier in December, but prior to that had run down the field in two other better-quality hurdle races – this is probably one of those times when a keeping-on 6th will do connections
Geordie Des Champs
Hasn’t raced since November 2018: most recent win in a novices’ chase at Hereford in March 2018,  in close to 3 out, headed and hard ridden, stayed on, led again going to 2 out before steadied into it and headed again, hard driven, led home turn, stayed on well going to last, led there, driven out, stayed on well last 150 yards to beat Rolling Dylan. When last seen out was down the field in Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot in November 2018, made any amount of mistakes, dropped away home turn, left alone going to 2 out, tailed off. Not much expected on first run for 805 days
The Macon Lugnatic*
Looked a hard ride when winning the second of two novice hurdles at Doncaster, this back in March and it looked an above-average novice:  sent on, in close to 7th and vigorously pushed along on landing, also given a reminder, not going best approaching home turn, stayed on and led a length and a half 3 out, put under pressure, stayed on approaching 2 out, headed, not going best approaching last as put under even stronger pressure, stayed on well and led again approaching last, a neck up jumping, ridden out, found extra last 150 yards from No Getaway. Did little in novice hurdle at Cheltenham in October on only run to date this season, tracked leaders approaching 8th, mistake 9th, pushed along at the top of the hill, weakened approaching 3 out, looked held when jumped left 3 out, dropped right out behind Streets Of Doyen. With all his three wins to date coming in the period January to March, and now fitted with first-time cheekpieces, there’s a bit going for this one
Espion
Only win last season in a Uttoxeter novice hurdle in March. Placed in handicap hurdles at Sandown last two starts, sometimes not fluent and giving the impression he wouldn’t stay on when put under pressure when 3rd to Gortroe Joe in November, then  last time in a Pertemps Qualifier when 6th to Portrush Ted (with Flemcara ahead in 4th), rear 8th, struggling when mistake 9th, pushed along and struggling 3 out, headway on inner and closing in midfield turning out of back straight, niggled along home turn, pushed along straightening, stayed on and half a chance approaching 2 out, no more than 2 lengths down nearing it, ridden and weakened between last 2, well held last, driven and continued to lose ground run-in till kept on last 150 yards, lost well-held 5th post. Often loses his place and makes mistakes, so gut feeling is he’s best watched
The Captains Inn
Missed last season; best performance in 2018/19 when winning small-field novice hurdle at Uttoxeter in March 2019, moved upsides leader 6th going more comfortably, niggled along again as 1st 2 pulled clear before 7th, pushed along home turn, in close, stayed on under a push and led after 3 out, put under pressure approaching 2 out, all out and wandered approaching last, drew clear in a slow-motion finish, ridden out to beat Hideaway Vic. First start for 610 days, was tailed off last of 4 behind Exploiteur at Chepstow last month nudged along approaching 7th, niggled along approaching turn out of back straight, more firmly pushed along home turn, weakened and dropped to last approaching 3 out, tailed off and looked tired after 2 out, trailed in. In first-time cheekpieces, if he comes on for that run he could do better
Mr Harp
First win over hurdles when taking a 0-120 handicap hurdle at Uttoxeter last month, was 3 to 4 lengths 4th turning out of back straight and travelled comfortably, edged closer and produced to challenge 3 out, going best of the leaders after it, further ground to lead on the bit 2 out, travelled much the best between last 2, 1st 2 pulled clear, a length up last, pushed along, stayed on well to pull further clear last 150 yards, decisive from the reopposing Saint Dalina. Quite a step up in class here but he’s one of the least exposed in the field
Saint Dalina
Second win over hurdles when taking a 0-120 handicap at Uttoxeter on December 8th, travelled comfortably and moved up to dispute lead turning out of back straight, led going best home turn, the better jump 3 out though pecked on landing, hard ridden and found more approaching 2 out, some 3 lengths up there, stayed on well under a ride between last 2, well ahead last, ridden out from Cul De Poule: ran into Mr Harp at Uttoxeter last time on December 18th, tracked leaders after 7th, chased leader 9th, niggled along after 3 out, kept on and chased Mr Harp when mistake 2 out, pushed along, stay on, 1st 2 pulled clear, a length down under a ride last, no extra run-in, stuck to task. Shouldn’t beat his rival at the weights

Shortlist: Imperial Alcazar, Kepagge, The Macon Lugnatic