Stuart Williams returns with a guide to Saturday's Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick, with last year's second expected to go well again.
McCoy Contractors Civil Engineering Classic Handicap Chase (Grade 3) 3m5f54y
Notachance forged clear to land a decent looking contest at Bangor in November and may remain fairly handicapped off a 7lbs higher mark.
The third placed The Two Amigos has since been second in both the Welsh Grand National Trial and the main event itself, giving the form a solid look. The way in which Notachance saw out his race suggested that he may be well suited by marathon trips and his last two victories have been achieved on soft ground, so any rain will not be an issue.
It is noteworthy that connections have been patient in their approach and their charge is clearly open to further improvement after just five starts over fences. It is no surprise to see him towards the head of the betting.
Le Breuil finished fifth in this contest 12 months and will attempt to improve upon that placing off an 8lbs lower mark on Saturday.
Ben Pauling was never truly happy with the 2019 National Hunt Chase winner last season and felt that he had him in a much better place heading into the Becher Chase last month, and he certainly showed plenty of zest en route to a third placed finish.
The stout-staying nine-year-old is beginning to look well handicapped and would not be inconvenienced by soft ground. Indeed, he could arguably do with a small rise in the weights to ensure a place in the Aintree Grand National, and a bold showing in this valuable contest would certainly do the trick.
Storm Control arrives here in search of a hat-trick following a brace of victories at Cheltenham, and he could play a major role if seeing out this longer trip.
Those victories were achieved over three-miles-and-one-furlong and three-miles-and-two furlongs, and he will compete off a 5lbs higher mark at Warwick this Saturday. However, he hung both left and right after jumping the final fence and idled significantly up the gruelling Cheltenham hill, therefore there is no telling how much he actually had left in the tank on that occasion.
This contest undoubtedly represents a rise in class and a career best effort will be required. However, he jumps soundly and could conceivably improve further over this marathon distance. He rates an intriguing contender.
Captain Chaos very rarely shows anything that resembles noteworthy form prior to this time of year and boasts figures of PP0 in three starts this season. However, he has slipped 6lbs in the handicap as a result of those outings and is now rated just 2lbs above the mark from which he ran out a facile 54 lengths winner of the Grimthore Chase last February.
Indeed, the stamina-laden ten-year-old returned to form in this very contest last year when chasing home a clearly well handicapped winner in the form of Kimberlite Candy, and it would come as no surprise whatsoever if this race had nominated as his seasonal target from the second that he crossed the line at Doncaster 11 months ago.
Team Skelton were firing on all cylinders during December and they are undoubtedly a deadly duo when it comes to plundering long-term targets. I expect to see a much more competitive Captain Chaos at Warwick this weekend.
Late Romantic needed every yard of the near three-miles-and-two-furlong trip when landing at Veterans Chase at Haydock in December, and he will attempt to follow up off a 5lbs higher mark this weekend.
Oliver Greenall's eleven-year-old will face much sterner opposition on Saturday and will have a career high mark of 137 to contend with. However, he is clearly in good heart at present and could run well if conditions become very testing.
Achille will be having his first start for 427 days should he line-up on Saturday and he will naturally need to bring his A-Game to the table given the level of opposition. However, he did boast a very progressive profile in 2019 - achieving form figures of 11P12 - and he will return to action off the same mark from which he was second at Cheltenham that November.
Venetia Williams' eleven-year-old has seemingly improved with age and we know that his master trainer is more than capable of preparing a horse to go well following an absence.
WALK IN THE MILL
Walk In The Mill is best known for his exploits over Aintree's famous spruce fences and connections will undoubtedly be preparing their charge for another crack at the Randox Health Grand National this spring, so this race is by no means his primary target.
That said, we know that he is a sound stayer and traditionally a good jumper, albeit he fell at the Chair last month. He could run a solid race in spite of his career high mark.
Didero Vallis was very disappointing when sent off a well supported 5/1 favourite for the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase at Aintree in December, and he will need to bounce back to his very best form, and indeed see out this longer trip, in order to feature on Saturday.
The Venetia Williams trained eight-year-old isn't always the easiest horse to predict and is now rated 2lbs below the mark from which he was second in the 2019 Grade 3 Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase. He is handicapped to run well if on a going day.
Ballyoptic was pulled-up in the Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby before placing tenth in the Grade 3 Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, and he remains 3lbs above the mark from which he scored at Ascot last February.
A classy stayer on his day - the tough-as-teak eleven-year-old will need to bounce back to his very best in order to defy top weight in a contest of this nature. However, he proved that he is capable of doing just that when successful at Ascot 11 months ago, and he would undoubtedly hold place claims on that form.
Django Django has so far failed to live up to expectations over fences and could only place fifth, beaten 39 lengths, when well supported at Newbury in December.
Dropped 3lbs for that effort, Jonjo O'Neill's eight-year-old remains 2lbs above his last winning mark and will need to find improvement over this much further trip in order to play a leading role.
THE HOLLOW GINGE
The Hollow Ginge boasts form figures of U4U this season after unseating his rider at the thirteenth fence of the rescheduled Welsh Grand National at Chepstow on Saturday.
Clearly the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained eight-year-old comes with risks attached. However, his fourth in the Grade 3 Ladbrokes Trophy off a 1lb higher mark suggested that he is well handicapped at present.
Petite Power remains 5lbs above his last winning mark and was well held on his latest outing at Exeter in December. However, he is now 6lbs lower than the mark from which he finished third in this contest last year, and he hails from a yard who are returning to form.
Fourth behind the aforementioned Storm Control at Cheltenham in November, Fergal O'Brien's newly turned twelve-year-old relishes a true test of stamina and handles testing ground. He could run well over a course and distance that clearly suits.
Red Infantry may return from a 448 day absence and doesn't look to badly treated off a mark of 133 if ready to do himself justice, which seems likely given that connections are heading for such a valuable prize first time out.
Seventh in the 2019 Scottish Grand National - Ian Williams' eleven-year-old ran a fine race to place fifth behind subsequent Cheltenham Festival scorer The Conditional when last sighted in October 2019, and has he won over fences at Warwick before. He could certainly outperform market expectations.
Le Breuil ran well in this race last year and makes plenty of appeal off an 8lbs lower mark after appearing to bounce back to something like his best form at Aintree last month. Both Notachance and Storm Control remain lightly raced over fences and could easily have more improvement to come if seeing out this longer trip.
However, Dan Skelton's seasoned campaigner CAPTAIN CHAOS is competitively handicapped once more following three quiet outings this season, and he is rated just 2lbs above the mark from which he was second in this contest 12 months ago.
The stamina-laden ten-year-old attempted to make all and succeeded in beating all bar one very well handicapped rival on that occasion, and a reproduction of that effort, or indeed his 54-length romp in the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster, would put him firmly in the mix this weekend.
Of those a bigger prices, The Hollow Ginge appears to be fairly handicapped judged on his fourth in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, and he could outperform market expectations if staying the trip - providing that he has fully recovered from his spin in the Welsh Grand National on Saturday.
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