THE weather has finally improved and it means we’re in for a treat with a cracking card at Kempton.
The re-arranged Kingwell Hurdle could have Champion Hurdle implications and the feature Betway Handicap Chase is a proper punting heat.
You can’t go too far wrong in following Nicky Henderson at Kempton and his DOWNTOWN GETAWAY looks a great bet in the opener.
He was backed off the boards before his handicap debut at Newbury last time out, but ran no race whatsover before he was pulled-up.
But he’s been given a break and a wind-op and should get back on track here. 131 looks very generous.
Another horse that looks well-handicapped is Our Power from the Nigel Twiston-Davies outfit.
He ran well here last time and the handicapper has dropped him for that effort. There’s plenty more to come from him.
Palmers Hill is one to watch in the betting. He makes his return to the track after a lengthy layoff but has a very attractive profile and good form to his name for Jonjo O’Neill.
Fergal O’Brien’s lightly-tried Polish cannot be discounted and if the ground really dries out – which it can do at Kempton – Midnightreferendum could be worth a second look.
SELECTION: Downtown Getaway
DANGER: Our Power
A good field of seven have been declared for this Grade 2 over two-and-a-half miles.
COMMANCHE RED won over course and distance at the King George meeting, and while that was only handicap company is arguably the best form on offer.
A mark of 150 reflects that now and he should take some beating here.
Trainer Chris Gordon has a good team of horses set to run in Sunbury and this lad could top the lot. He appears versatile on ground and his jumping was red-hot last time.
This would have been the target a way out.
The clear threat is Master Tommytucker trained by Paul Nicholls. This is another step up and he was running well enough in the Kauto Star before he fell.
The talent is clearly there but with two tumbles in three chase starts it is a bit of a leap of faith.
At bigger odds the one that makes appeal is Erick Le Rouge who looks over-priced.
He’s another course and distance winner and stepped up in a big way when winning last time out. He’ll need to kick on again but that cannot be ruled out for this six-year-old.
Nicholls also runs Southfield Stone, but he’s been unconvincing since chasing and needs to tidy up his jumping.
Who Dares Wins is a frustrating horse to follow. The talent is there but he doesn’t win half as much as he should.
SELECTION: Commanche Red
BIG PRICE SHOUT: Erick Le Rouge
The Adonis is always a tricky heat for punters and this year’s renewal looks no different.
What there is form wise is always hard to stack up and with horses coming from the flat, from France and the odd run on these shores, it’s best to keep your stakes low.
The two main protagonists are clearly Solo and FUJIMOTO FLYER.
Solo makes his first start for Paul Nicholls and the hype is there for all to see. His French form is supposedly strong and he heads up the market.
But that’s not a bet in my book and Emmet Mullins horse, Fujimoto Flyer gets weight and has been mightily impressive in her two starts over hurdles.
She can take this and announce herself as a threat in the Triumph Hurdle.
Noel Williams runs Fantastic Ms Fox, a two-time winner over hurdles. She’d have a sniff if the favourites don’t deliver.
The same applies to Blame It On Sally, but the market is obviously a key indicator for this hurdling debutant.
SELECTION: Fujimoto Flyer
A field of six are set to turn up for this re-arranged feature hurdle race.
It’ll unlikely have much sway on the Champion Hurdle and only realistically ELGIN can throw down any challenge with that. It helps he is entered in it too…
Alan King – by his high standards – hasn’t had a year to remember over the jumps. But this horse could help put a smile back on his face towards the back-end of the campaign.
A fifth in the 2018 Champion Hurdle is the strongest form in this and if he returns close to that level he should go very close.
A 589 day layoff is far from ideal but King is as good as it gets at bringing his horses back from setbacks.
So long as he holds his price in the market he looks the bet.
Ch’tibello has to be respected and despite the penalty is the one to beat. He’s consistent and the drying ground will be in his favour.
Diego Du Charmil is an unknown over hurdles and likely having a spin around in preparation for another handicap down the line.
It’s hard to make much of a case for either Zambella or Quick Grabim but Song For Someone is a player.
He might just lack a gear switch of my fancy.
Another Grade 2 to delve into here and once again there’s plenty of unexposed types heading in with a chance.
Nicky Henderson’s Buzz is clear favourite and has done nothing wrong in his two outings over hurdles so far.
But he’s had things go his way both those times and this is a big step up on those races at Taunton and Doncaster.
He could get away with it again here but at short odds I’m not willing to test that theory out.
The two top of the shortlist are therefore BENSON and West Cork. They are a similar price and on numbers look to have a right chance at beating the favourite.
Benson was running a huge race on hurdling debut last time out before he refused two out.
That was in open company and a much stronger heat than this. Connections clearly like him and returned to novices he must be a big player.
His jumping and temperament are clearly something that needs addressing but now under Sam Twiston-Davies underneath and plenty of schooling he can put that behind him.
Dan Skelton’s West Cork is also interesting. You probably can’t read much into his win at Huntingdon latest, but his run before was plenty better when they were positive on him.
There’s more to come from him down the line.
Kid Commando deserves a shot at a race like this but he won’t be able to bully this field from the front.
DANGER: West Cork
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It’s very hard to look past the favourite in this and ADRIEN DU PONT looks worth siding with at his beloved Kempton.
The handicapper – for once – has been very generous and dropped this horse 6lbs this season after only two runs.
He’s now 6lbs lower in the weights when third in this last year and only a pound higher than when routing his rivals over course and distance at the King George meeting.
He should go very, very close to winning this if getting a clear round.
The other on the list is also trained by Nicholls. Sametegal is consistent without winning but worth another shot with Bryan Carver taking off 5lbs and the handicapper relenting a tad.
He’s 11 so there aren’t many secrets but this race should suit well.
Just A Sting is improving but does look to have plenty to make up with the favourite. Harry Fry could do with a big race winner.
Black Corton is an admirable horse and cannot be ruled out but wouldn’t be for me off top weight.
Colin Tizzard is creeping back into form and his Mister Malarkey will undoubtedly win a race sooner rather than later. Whether this track is his cup of tea I’m not sure.
Tom George’s Double Shuffle likes it here and Alan King’s Talkischeap is another smart horse on his day.
SELECTION: Adrien Du Pont
Venetia Williams has burst back into life and her IBLEO looks hard to oppose.
The seven-year-old hacked up at Huntingdon on Thursday and if turning out here has a huge chance under a penalty.
Gary Moore’s Darebin won here two starts back and remains only 3lbs higher. He could be a sneaky one at decent odds.
Dave Crosse has formed a good partnership with Keep Wondering and the pair shouldn’t be too far away here. The drying ground is against him though.
If returning to the track in good nick, Favorito Buck’s has an obvious chance for Paul Nicholls. The eight-year-old goes well here too.
DANGER: Favorito Buck’s
Closing bumpers are never one to get the car keys on but Nicky Henderson tends to run a few gooduns here and BOTHWELL BRIDGE shaped with plenty of promise at Huntingdon last time.
That run would have done him the world of good and I expect him to do the business here.
Of the outsiders, Dynamo Boy is worth watching in the betting. Anything of Don Cantillon’s needs keeping tabs on and Bold Vision is another one to check in the market.