Marie's Rock in action
Marie's Rock: Is she worth taking on in the Lanzarote?

Five questions to consider ahead of Saturday's racing highlights at Kempton and Warwick

What’s the Warwick ground like ahead of the Classic Chase?

3.00 Warwick Saturday - Agetur UK Ltd Classic Handicap Chase (Grade 3)

It’s currently Soft (Good to Soft in places) on the chase course at Warwick and with the forecast dry we could be looking at slightly better conditions than usual, with eight of the last 10 renewals run on soft or heavy ground.

That’s not to say it won’t be a gruelling test and with Chirico Vallis, Eclair Surf and No Rematch potentially vying for the lead a strong gallop looks likely enough.

Things to note:

1) Alan King and Paul Nicholls have won this race three times apiece and both have interesting contenders this time around; the former saddles up Notachance who is going for back-to-back wins in the race in a first-time visor and the latter runs the intriguing Grace A Vous Enki, who is well used to French fences but has done all of his British running for Nicholls in novice hurdles.

2) Dan Skelton has never won the Classic Chase but has gone fairly close the last couple of years with Captain Chaos. This time around he runs Padleyourowncanoe, who made his first start for his new yard, after being formerly trained by Colin Tizzard, in a handicap hurdle at Haydock on December 18, where he shaped with promise on his first start for 452 days.

3) Evan Williams has his staying handicap chasers in terrific nick having plundered the Veterans’ Final last weekend with Prime Venture and the North Yorkshire National on Thursday with Supreme Escape, so the lightly-raced No Rematch appears on the radar having just his third fencing start.

4) David Pipe could saddle the favourite in Gericault Roque, but the Pond House maestro is struggling for form (his last four runners have failed to finish). He’s had one winner from his last 32 runners – and that was in a three-runner race in which the winner’s two rivals made mistakes.

5) Lucinda Russell’s last contender in the Classic Chase was One For Arthur who won the 2017 renewal before landing the Grand National. Her last two top weights in handicap chases over 3m+ have won – Big River and Buddha Scheme – and she unleashes cosy Cheltenham winner Corach Rambler in this saddling the number one cloth. He’d be a worthy favourite.

Notachance strikes at Warwick
Can Notachance strike at Warwick again?

Is Threeunderthrufive vulnerable under a penalty in the Hampton?

1.50 Warwick Saturday - Wigley Group Hampton Novices' Chase (Grade 2)

On the face of it Threeunderthrufive has an outstanding chance in the Grade 2 Wigley Group Hampton Novices’ Chase at Warwick.

He’s 9lb clear of his nearest rival on BHA ratings, so even with a 5lb penalty for winning the Grade 2 December Novices’ Chase at Doncaster last time it appears he could be tough to beat.

However, I wasn’t sold by his jumping on Town Moor and Warwick is a notoriously tough fencing test, so general quotes of 8/15 will be easily passed over.

The one I think could give him most to think about is Jennie Candlish’s MINT CONDITION, who impressed in victory in Haydock heavy on just his second chasing start last time.

He stayed on very nicely that day and on this Warwick card last year he was beaten a neck in the Leamington Novices’ Hurdle when only just failing to reel in Adrimel.

He has to prove himself at three miles, but he looks a stayer all over and if Threeunderthrufive is under par Mint Condition could be the one to putt him in his place.

Trainer Paul Nicholls
Paul Nicholls trains Threeunderthrufive

Could the Leamington throw up a Cheltenham clue again?

2.25 Warwick Saturday - Ballymore Leamington Novices' Hurdle (Grade 2)

No Refuge, The New One and Willoughby Court have all gone on to win what is now the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival having won the same sponsors’ Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at Warwick.

There are plenty of promising horses in this year’s line-up and leading Ballymore hopeful Stage Star could get his Challow Hurdle form boosted here by Party Business, who might’ve been second in the Newbury Grade One but for falling when in contention two out.

He’s the form pick, but there are a couple in here who might be capable of much better than they’ve shown so far with Nicky Henderson’s Surrey Quest topping a list that also includes Stag Horn and Viva Lavilla following an easy Doncaster victory on December 29.

The New One: Stayers' Hurdle contender?
The New One: A former Warwick winner in the Leamington

Might Eldorado be the golden one in the Silviniaco Conti?

2.05 Kempton Saturday - Coral Silviniaco Conti Chase (Grade 2)

Over at Kempton there are a couple of interesting races including the Grade 2 Coral Silviniaco Conti Chase at 2.05.

This has the makings of a trappy affair as none of the quartet - ELDORADO ALLEN, Mister Fisher, Defi Du Seuil and Rouge Vif – are used to making the running. All are rated between 155 and 160 and Defi Du Seuil and Rouge Vif get 6lb from the other two.

The problem with Defi Du Seuil and Rouge Vif is that they are desperately searching for form. Rouge Vif was keen to post and in the race when making his stable debut for Paul Nicholls in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham, while Defi Du Seuil went out like a light at Ascot last time.

Mister Fisher and Eldorado Allen look more solid, but the former had a real tough race in the King George so perhaps Colin Tizzard’s horse can back up his two good efforts already this season.

A winner of the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter from the Tingle Creek one-two, he rallied pleasingly in the Peterborough Chase last time to seal third place despite a mistake at the fifth last.

With his two mile pace, he could be the one here if he settles well whatever the gallop.

Eldorado Allen team celebrate
Will the Eldorado Allen team be celebrating again?

Can we get the well-backed Marie’s Rock beaten in the Lanzarote?

2.40 Kempton Saturday - Coral Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle (Listed)

With prize-money boosted to £100,000 in the Coral Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle it’s no surprise a strong field of 20 are set to line up at Kempton.

Marie’s Rock is into 6/1 from 10s with the sponsors and that’s no real surprise after she put in a career-best performance to win over the course and distance on Boxing Day by an impressive seven lengths – on her very first go at the trip.

The handicapper reckoned that was worth a 9lb hike so a different question will be asked of her on Saturday and, with Sky Bet already cutting her to 4/1, there’s a good chance every bit of value will have been squeezed out of her by Friday afternoon.

With 19 others to have a go at I’ll be trying to get her beaten, and with six of the last eight renewals having gone to claiming jockeys the homework will begin with the seven claimer-ridden contenders in this year’s renewal.

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