Same again in Kempton feature
Simon Holt previews Saturday's action at Kempton and Newcastle and fancies Same Difference in the Racing Plus Chase.
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Rolling Aces and Wyck Hill, two highly progressive chasers head the market for Saturday's Racing Plus Handicap Chase at Kempton but Same Difference - a more lightly-weighted improver - could be a value bet to beat them both.
All three are potentially well handicapped; Rolling Aces is definitely a chaser on an upward curve and made short work of Opening Batsman (a winner since) after a polished round of jumping at Wincanton last time.
Earlier, he showed a particularly good attitude at Newbury when beating off Merry King and looks yet another nice prospect for champion trainer Paul Nicholls. Ruby Walsh takes the mount.
Wyck Hill could be even better weighted after his defeat of Katenko (twice a winner since and up 22lb in the ratings) at Ascot in December since when the handicapper has left him (just 7lb higher) on his original reassessed mark.
Bought by JP McManus earlier this week and now set to be ridden by AP McCoy, David Bridgwater's highly-regarded nine-year-old will be hard to beat unless flattered by that effort; it's possible that the French import Katenko, who was having only his second outing in this country at Ascot, may have now left that form behind.
Meanwhile, Same Difference ought to have 6lb more to carry following his excellent third behind two higher-rated rivals, Unioniste and Hadrians Approach at Newbury but that effort came after the weights for this race were published.
Previously, Nigel Twiston Davies's gelding had bolted up at Leicester where he jumped exuberantly on that right handed track and this circuit could suit him well.
To be honest, it is difficult to choose between these three exciting chasers but, to me, Same Difference looks over-priced at around 12/1 and, off just 10st2lb, must have a great each-way chance.
Of course, it's not just a three-cornered contest and Nacarat, twice a winner of this event in the past including last year, can never be discounted at Kempton especially as ground conditions (officially good) seem likely to suit him.
However, at the age of 12, one would imagine he will soon be in decline and two earlier runs this season have seen him finish well beaten.
Another who would certainly have claims if anywhere near his best is the top-weight What A Friend, a horse who has mixed it with the best in the past and is now on a workable mark from which Harry Derham takes off 5lb.
This stable companion to Rolling Aces - making his seasonal debut here - has gone well fresh in the past though he hasn't always been reliable.
Quinz is another past winner but has pulled up three times since his 2011 victory and, returning from a long absence, is difficult to fancy for all the decent form of his trainer Philip Hobbs who has a good record in this race and who also runs Duke Of Lucca for the first time since a lacklustre showing in the Hennessy at Newbury in November.
Hector's Choice, runner-up behind Nacarat 12 months ago, has also struggled to produce his best form of late.
Up at Newcastle, ground conditions are likely to be very testing for the 4m1f Betfred Eider Chase which invariably turns into one of the slogs of the season.
Several runners come into this race in good form including Chac du Cadran, the winner of a similar long-distance event at Catterick last time. Chris Bealby's charge is an improving stayer but, on a line through Desperate Dex (the runner-up that day), is closely weighted with Our Island who could be made for this searching test.
Tim Vaughan's out-and-out stayer wasn't disgraced when fifth in the Welsh National last time and could be the one to grind out victory under Dougie Costello.