Alex Hammond: Taking a Chance ahead of Warwick

Alex Hammond looks ahead to the weekend's big racing

Sky Sports Racing's Alex Hammond pays tribute to Prince Khalid Abdullah and reflects on Secret Reprieve's Welsh National success before previewing the weekend racing.

This week we lost a racing icon and unusually for someone with that billing, one that we didn’t know a great deal about personally.

Prince Khalid Abdullah though was a game changer and when he died at the age of 83 he had left a legacy that will run through our sport infinitely. He was one of the most successful owner/breeders of all time, turning his passion into a global business and in the process producing some of the best racehorses to have graced the turf.

We all have our favourite horse, or horses, that sported those famous pink, green and white silks and I’m no exception. With 113 group/grade 1 winners over the years there are plenty to choose from and most recently Enable has thrilled us over her relatively long career.

No words are needed for Frankel who is etched in history for his brilliance and the magical backstory surrounding his late great trainer Sir Henry Cecil and Dancing Brave was another of his equine superstars.

However, I think the horses that capture our imagination are those that we were wowed by when we first started to love the sport and in that vein I can thank Quest For Fame, All At Sea and Zafonic amongst others, for capturing my imagination all those years ago. They helped suck me in to this incredible industry and I was sold. Let’s hope the Prince’s Juddmonte operation continues to produce many more champions in his memory.

Don't miss John Ingles' tribute 'the Juddmonte empire maker'

The Secret to success

It was wonderful to see Secret Reprieve win the Welsh National last Saturday and this weekend’s conundrum is another staying handicap chase, but there doesn’t look to be anything as well treated as him in this line-up.

There are some nice improving horses in there though, but we need to hold fire to see if the Neil King trained Nearly Perfect runs if you fancy him because King has said he may not run him over this 3m 5f at this stage of his career.

If he does run, he’s definitely one of those improving young chasers and has the right profile for a race like this. Like Secret Reprieve last weekend, Alan King’s (don’t get your Kings mixed up!) Notachance is a reasonably short priced favourite at 7/2 with Sky Bet, but there are good reasons as to why that’s the case.

He won a decent little race at Bangor last time out with The Two Amigos in third and that horse ran a cracker in the Welsh National to be runner-up to Evan Williams’ easy winner, giving that form a strong feel.

Notachance is now 7lb higher in the weights, but with doubts for one reason or another over many of his rivals, he has the progressive profile I like and the extra distance shouldn’t be a problem for him. Petite Power has been completely out of form and is a big price to make a mark on the race.

However, I have a soft spot for this little horse having ridden him out at Fergal O’Brien’s yard and I hope, off his diminishing mark, he can run a better race. He certainly has stamina to burn and any rain won’t inconvenience him. He’s 25/1 with Sky Bet and I’ve had a little each way play on him for sentimental reasons and also because he’s 9lb lower than when finishing third in this 12 months ago.

Alan King: Trains Notachance

Brunel worth another go...

Also at Warwick Sky Bet are paying five places instead of four in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle, so it’s worth having a good look at that 3m 1f contest. I’m not sure if this is yet classed as following a horse over a cliff, but there must be more to come from I K Brunel.

This horse promised so much as a novice hurdler and things haven’t worked out for him in two starts over fences this autumn. Olly Murphy’s horses are running much better now though and he has subsequently had a run over hurdles at Newbury.

Off a mark of 136 and at a price of 16/1 I might just be prepared to take that chance. It’s worth noting he also holds an entry at Market Rasen on Saturday, so watch and see where he goes.

Keppage is quirky, but he may not be badly treated on just his second start in a handicap. David Pipe’s horses are flying and this is Keppage’s second start after a wind operation. He’s 9/1 with Sky Bet. It’s worth remembering that horses have to finish in the first six to qualify for the Pertemps Final, so with a bit of luck we can find something to finish in the first five.

Grangee goes to Market

And finally, this time last year Willie Mullins sent Panic Attack over to Market Rasen for a mares bumper and she duly won at what in hindsight seems like a very generous 5/2.

She was subsequently sold to join David Pipe and ran in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham festival. Mullins is taking the same path in 2021 with Grangee and if all goes well then Cheltenham could well be the plan again (albeit I’m surmising that someone will have to dig reasonably deep into their pockets to buy her).

He also has Belle Metal entered at this stage. Whatever happens, I don’t expect she’s going to be a huge price, but just one to keep on your radar.

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