Two tips for our man this weekend including a strong fancy in the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Kempton.
1pt win Crossley Tender in 3.15 Newcastle at 20/1 (Betfair, Paddy Power & BetVictor)
2pts win Clondaw Castle in 3.35 Kempton at 9/1 (Unibet)
For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, visit our transparent tipping record
With some of the big guns this side of the Irish Sea confirming they’re at the top of their games last week, the show moves on to Kempton and Newcastle this weekend.
This Kempton meeting has traditionally been the last chance for novice hurdlers to stake their claim and the big handicap chase, now sponsored by Close Brothers, was once the last recognised Gold Cup trial
Things may have changed but the race is still a top-class handicap in itself with Christian Williams’ Cap Du Nord bidding once more to enhance the Cheltenham claims of Royal Pagaille, who beat him over course and distance in December.
This test should suit him more than the slog he encountered in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster at the end of January and if that race has not left a mark, he should take a hand somewhere in the finish. Nevertheless, that was a very tough contest and he may only be going here to try to get himself into the Grand National carrying a penalty.
Second favourite is the Nigel Twiston Davies trained Al Dancer, who generally plies his trade over shorter trips around Cheltenham.
His third in the BetVictor Gold Cup says he’ll be right in the mix and he did win a Betfair Hurdle right-handed when the race was run at Ascot, but I think he needs to improve for the extra distance if he’s going to trouble the judge having run a rare bad race in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup in December.
Alan King’s Talkischeap, who won the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown, was pulled up here last year and probably needs further on a stiffer track to show his best so I was surprised to see him chalked up at single figures. He’s surely warming up for his big date at Aintree in April.
Paul Nicholls never misses an opportunity to aim at the big handicaps and in Southfield Stone he has a horse unexposed at the trip and in good heart having won a bumper here earlier in the month. Nobody places their horses better and the handler’s ability to know the right time to pitch his horses into this type of race is one of the assets which have set him apart over the years.
However, his representative doesn’t win often enough for me to tip him at his current price. He’s a Grade 2 course winner, though, running off a mark of 143 and he’ll be an each-way play if double figure odds are available at declaration stage.
Nicholls’ Black Corton heads the weights but he has been out of sorts this term and is passed over.
Last year’s winner, Mister Malarky, bids to repeat the feat from an 8lb higher mark having won Ascot’s Silver Cup Chase in December, but he never got into the Sky Bet Chase last time and I’ll pass him and stablemate Slate House over on the ground that their yard is still struggling for winners.
One stable who have been firing in the winners for most of the season is the Dan Skelton operation and Romain De Senam was a facile winner at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day. He has 10lb more to carry here, though, in a much more competitive race and needs to find improvement again at the age of nine. The drying ground is in his favour.
Tom George trained the great old campaigner, Nacarat, to win this race twice not that long ago (he also placed twice) and he runs the veteran Double Shuffle, who has been running very well lately, finishing third in a red-hot contest at the King George meeting before beating Ami Desbois a couple of weeks later over the same course and distance.
The third, Two For Gold, came out and won at Warwick so the form is strong but I think he’ll have a lot more on his plate in this, not least up against stablemate CLONDAW CASTLE.
Fourth in an Arkle two years ago, he rarely runs a bad race and has solid course form. He appears just as good going right-handed as left-handed and seems to excel on better ground on flat tracks.
He began this campaign with a fine second to Nuts Well in Aintree’s Old Roan Chase in October before winning a very strongly contested Class 2 handicap at Newbury’s Ladbrokes Trophy meeting, after which his trainer once again stressed this is a horse who will always be at his best on better ground. He was really strong from the back of the last at the Berkshire track and stamina looks his strong suit.
This will be his first try over three miles but that needn’t be a concern and he was hampered by Imperial Aura’s first fence fall here last time behind Master Tommytucker, who was just touched off in an Ascot Grade 1 behind Dashel Drasher at the weekend. He’s putting together a very consistent and progressive profile and at 9/1 looks outstanding value.
The other big race of the weekend is Newcastle’s Vertem Eider Chase.
It goes without saying the slowest horse will probably win so I’ll let the three at the top of the market run without backing them and I reckon this may be a day for Paul Henderson’s improving eight-year-old CROSSLEY TENDER to have his day in the sun.
He’s already won four races this season and has only a small amount to find on the figures having followed up a cosy Exeter success with a solid run at Ascot.
He looks to be crying out for further and while we never know whether a horse will stay four miles and a furlong until they’ve tried, there are very few guaranteed stayers in this and his price of 20/1 does seem to underestimate his chances.
He has no other entries and the first prize of over £43,000 must be a great draw for an improving horse rated just 125.
Published 1730 GMT on 22/02/21