The days may now be lengthening but many will be still suffering from post-Christmas blues and Saturday’s underwhelming race-cards are unlikely to bring a great deal of New Year cheer. However, Seymour Biz has managed to find a few diamonds in the rough and here are his Lucky 15 selections. Don’t forget to check out his 2019 Cheltenham Festival ante-post tips, as well!
Not the most wonderful weekend’s racing to look forward to due to the class of horse on offer at both of the televised meetings at Kempton and Warwick. However there are a couple of animals with Cheltenham chances on offer including Waiting Patiently and King Of Realms. Both of these disappointed last time out and their respective trainers, Ruth Jefferson and Ian Williams, will want to get them back on track to give them a confidence boost. Both of these horses run in Listed Races at each meeting, there are four handicaps on offer and this is where we will find our value this week. Probably the most important is the Lanzarote at Kempton which was a 2m race till 2007 and has been extended to 2m 5f, some excellent winners of this have gone on to make great chasers. These include Tea For Two and Saphir Du Rheu, it remains to be seen if there is anything of that class in this year’s renewal.
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So I will start with the Unibet Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle, the 2.40 at Kempton Park. This year’s favourite is Kloud Gate from Gary Moore ‘s yard. He has won his last two races in December but they were poor contests where he was odds-on. He has risen 12lbs in the weights for that and will find this race a totally different affair. Star Of Lanka is another on a treble, but his two wins have come at Hereford in Class 4 contests. Looking higher up the handicap and from a small yard that has recently struck some form is Erick Le Rouge. Jane Williams’s charge has won all three of his outings this year including over this course and distance on Boxing Day. He beat Mellow Ben that day who is fancied here and looks good enough to frank that form. Phillip Hobbs’s stable is back in form and Cotswold Way can put in a good run for him. Top weight Mr Antolini should be mentioned, he has been highly tried at distances unsuitable for him, he is back to his ideal distance on ground that suits and can run into a place at a nice price.
At 3.15 we have the Unibet Handicap Chase, it doesn’t have a huge field but is very competitive. Bookies favourite is bottom weight, Glen Rocco, trained by Nick Gifford. He won at Fontwell in November and has followed that up by being placed in classy contests at Sandown and here at Kempton, but this step up in distance is a worry. Colin Tizzard sends Bally Longford, a beaten favourite last time out at Wincanton, but the 11-year-olds jumping seems a bit haphazard these days. Ballykan was a good second over this course and distance last February, but he has not been seen since running second at Fakenham in October. Top weight is Nicky Henderson’s Josses Hill but he has not won since 2016 and this looks too competitive. I like the look of Fergal O’Brien’s Barney Dwan, he was favourite at Bangor last time but made a mistake at the first and that put him off for the rest of the race. His trainer will be hoping for a good run from him on his way to the festival again.
Moving north to the Midlands, Warwick stages one of it’s best meetings of the year and at 3.00 we have the McCoy Contractors Civil Engineering Classic Handicap Chase. In this very open contest the bookies choice is Rocky’s Treasure from Kim Bailey’s stable. A winner of four from five over fences, his only loss was to Santini, if turning out here he must be respected. My second choice is Calett Mad who was hampered when making his challenge last time at Kelso finishing a close second behind Harry The Viking who is declared here. He should easily reverse the placings. Red Infantry is a horse in form winning at Haydock in November, he followed that up with a good second at Sandown behind Morney Wing when giving away loads of weight. He is better in this time and is another that can reverse those placings. I will also mention Back To The Thatch from Henry Daly’s stable, a beaten favourite last time at Haydock, he can improve on that run and take a place here at a nice price.
The Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle is at 3.35 with Blaklion at the head of the weights. This fine chaser last won a hurdle in 2014 and has run poorly since being brought down in last year’s Grand National. He has been declared here by Nigel Twiston-Davies to give the horse some confidence prior to this year’s Cheltenham and Aintree. First Assignment was a hot favourite at Haydock last time but could finish only third, it was a disappointing run after his previous two victories. Court Liability was three from three last season then came out after a twelve month break to win at Musselburgh, he may find this a bit hot. Virginia Chick had a fine win at Chepstow last time when always doing enough but the one I prefer is Flashjack. He won twice here at Warwick last season and was a fast finishing third at Carlisle last time. He has been placed on his only two starts this year and can break his duck for the season.
Saturday Lucky 15
2.40 Kempton. Erick Le Rouge
3.15 Kempton. Barney Dwan
3.00 Warwick. Rocky’s Treasure
3.35 Warwick. Flashjack