There’s some excellent races for National Hunt purists today, and none better than the Classic Chase (3:00) at Warwick. Much like Sandown, the Midlands track demands quick and accurate jumping, with four fences exceptionally close together, and this extended test really tends to bring out the best of certain
The standout bet here is THE CONDITIONAL, because I’m surprised he is even here at all. After winning a very deep handicap at Cheltenham with ease, beating subsequent winners West Approach and Cogry in the process, he ran with huge credit to finish second in the Ladbrokes Trophy. That is by far the best form in the race, and if he is still on top form after those two efforts, a repeat performance should see him win against this weaker field.
There are two obvious dangers. Kimberlite Candy consistently runs well in competitive handicaps and should put in another bold display, but his only recent win came in a poor Class 3 handicap off a mark of just 133, yet he runs off 140 here versus The Conditional’s 142, and I believe the latter is a better horse. Le Breuil is rated 148 by the handicapper and runs off top weight here, and his victory in the gruelling National Hunt Chase proves he will stay. But his other form doesn’t really entitle him to such a lofty mark, and his jumping can sometimes be pedestrian, which will put him on the back foot at Warwick. I wouldn’t put you off an each-way play – with some firms giving generous terms – but again, The Conditional looks better treated.
Over at Kempton, a specialist seems to have gone somewhat under the radar, with good prices still available as I type. MERCIAN PRINCE is seeking a hat-trick in the Unibet Handicap Chase (1:30) and has clearly been prepared for the task by Amy Murphy with a spin over hurdles just before Christmas. The nine-year-old ran well at Catterick that day, showing he’s in good health, and he comes alive over course and distance: he won by 17 lengths off a mark of 139 last year, and won handily off a mark of 134 in 2018. He’s back down to a mark of 141, and the last time he ran from this sort of mark (143) in a race of this sort of class, he beat Romain De Senam at Plumpton.
Favourite Sammy Bill is the only other horse bringing good form to this contest, but he is up 11lb for his Aintree win, and the form of that race has not been franked since. As such, he could now be in the handicapper’s grip. Sao has long been talked about as a proper horse by Paul Nicholls, but has yet to show it on the track in the UK, so let’s hope this isn’t the day he puts it all together.
Later on the card at Kempton, ON THE BLIND SIDE is sure to go close in the 3:15 Handicap Chase, but his price is too short to put him up as a ‘tip’ given he’s far from a certainty. Walt, for example, came alive on his last visit to Kempton, and could be a major danger if he does so again.
Kempton 1:30 – Mercian Prince 1pt e/w at 13/2 (BOG, general)
Warwick 3:00 – The Conditional 2pts win at 4/1 (BOG, general)