Close Brothers Handicap Chase
15:35 Kempton, Saturday
Live on ITV4
1. Black Corton (Paul Nicholls/ Bryony Frost)
Classy type on his day who won the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase in 2017. Added to his good record here when second to Mister Malarky in this race 12 months ago. Has been operating below his best this term but it would be no surprise were he to bounce back after a break.
2. Mister Malarky (Colin Tizzard/ Harry Kimber (7))
Not the most consistent but is very smart on his day, as he showed when beating Black Corton in this last year. He was also successful at Ascot in December, finding plenty inside the final furlong, but he ran poorly at Doncaster last time. Has had wind surgery.
3. Aso (Venetia Williams/ Charlie Deutsch)
Showed high-class form a couple of seasons ago when runner-up in the Ryanair Chase – the second time he has been placed in that Grade 1 – but has struggled for most of the last 18 months. Took a step back in the right direction, however, when narrowly denied in a Warwick handicap last time and he holds claims if he can back that up 12 days on.
4. Talkischeap (Alan King/ Tom Cannon)
Enjoyed a fine campaign in the 2018/19 season and signed off with a win in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown. Has been lightly raced since but recent efforts on the Flat and in a jumpers’ bumper show that he retains ability. Is only a nine-year-old so still has time on his side.
5. Clondaw Castle (Tom George/ Jonathan Burke)
Ended last season on a high with a win at Warwick and has improved again this term, landing a Newbury handicap in November before producing creditable efforts in Grade 2 company at Cheltenham and here since. He is untried beyond two and a half miles.
6. Al Dancer (Nigel Twiston-Davies/ Sam Twiston-Davies)
Took well to chasing last season and showed improved form when beating Master Tommytucker on his reappearance at Newton Abbot in October. Followed that up with a creditable third in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, shaping as if he would stay three miles. Disappointed at Cheltenham last time but is well handicapped and promises to be suited by this test, so is capable of bouncing back.
7. Romain de Senam (Dan Skelton/ Harry Skelton)
Three-time winner at around two and a half miles for Paul Nicholls in 2019. Made a slow start after joining Dan Skelton prior to this season but it all clicked for him at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day when he bounced back to his best to run out a wide-margin winner of a two-and-a-half mile handicap chase. Has gone up 10 lb and is in a deeper race but he represents a yard in cracking form.
8. Slate House (Colin Tizzard/ Tom Scudamore)
Enjoyed a productive campaign last season, winning on three occasions, most notably the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase over this course and distance. Has essentially disappointed since but his third at Wincanton last time (on his first start since undergoing wind surgery) was a step back in the right direction and he is well treated if able to build on that.
9. Delire d’Estruval (Ben Pauling/ Daryl Jacob)
Has a hit-and-miss profile but he proved better than ever when winning a two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase here on his final start last season, staying on well. Has an 11-month absence to overcome and is up in trip, but he has gone well fresh before and his win last time is smart form.
10. Double Shuffle (Tom George/ James Bowen)
Goes well here – notably finished runner-up in the 2017 King George – and showed he’s still capable of smart form when winning a handicap over course and distance seven weeks ago. That form has since been franked – three horses won next time out – so a 5 lb rise in the weights may not prevent another prominent showing.
11. Southfield Stone (Paul Nicholls/ Harry Cobden)
Showed useful form when winning a two-and-a-half-mile novice chase at Cheltenham in October but was put firmly in his place by Protektorat next time and then struggled in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. Proved his wellbeing when winning a jumpers’ bumper here this month but needs to show he can do it in this much more competitive contest.
12. Cap du Nord (Christian Williams/ Jack Tudor (3))
Is in his third season over fences but his form has taken off lately, winning a big-field handicap at Newbury before chasing home Royale Pagaille over this course and distance in December. Produced another creditable effort when third in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster last time and should give another good account.
13. Young Wolf (Jonjo O’Neill/ Jonjo O’Neill jnr)
Progressed well over hurdles last season and made a pleasing start over fences, winning two of his first three outings. Has struggled in competitive handicaps the last twice, however, and others are preferred again.
14. The Butcher Said (Olly Murphy/ Adrian Heskin)
Enjoyed a productive campaign over hurdles last season, scoring on four occasions, and he made a good start over fences by winning at Southwell and Bangor either side of finishing a creditable second at Uttoxeter. Was well beaten in sixth in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster last time but he travelled well before quickly fading and he may have benefited from a recent wind operation.
15. Soupy Soups (Neil Mulholland/ Robert Dunne)
Scored at Perth in August, enhancing his good record at that track, but he was pulled up in stronger company here over Christmas and others have more appealing profiles.
16. Mellow Ben (Chris Gordon/ Richard Johnson)
Without a win this season but ran as well as ever when third behind Cap du Nord in a strong handicap at Newbury in November. Was beaten a lot further behind that rival when fourth over this course and distance last time but paid the price for going off too hard, and he is probably still in decent form. Not one to rule out at a big price.
17. Erick le Rouge (Mrs Jane Williams/ Jamie Moore)
Won twice over fences last season, including here over two and a half miles, but has a fair bit to prove after three below-par efforts this term. Needs the addition of first-time blinkers to have a positive effect.
18. Fingerontheswitch (Neil Mulholland/Millie Wonnacott (7))
Veteran chaser proved better than ever last season, notably landing a handicap by ten lengths over this course and distance. Has been below par on his two starts this season, however, and this looks too tough.