Warwick’s Classic Chase card has thrown up plenty of exciting types in the past, but neither of the Grade 2 novice events looked particularly strong affairs. Mossy Fen won the hurdle with stamina and he could yet take a hand in the Albert Bartlett, his 4th at Cheltenham in December can be largely forgiven as he was hampered at a crucial moment and not beaten up thereafter. Stamina was also behind Two For Gold’s novice chase win, the more eye-catching performance coming from the runner-up Hold The Note. A 12lb rise in the weights for that performance looks harsh, but it at least guarantees him a berth in the novice handicap chase at the festival – he is going the right way and is a live contender. Kimberlite Candy’s impressive win in the feature handicap has thrown him into the Grand National mix, his jumping is a lot better than it once was and he seems more enthusiastic than in the past. Although well beaten, Le Breuil’s staying on 5th was a tolerable effort given he was poorly placed and he remains my idea of the winner.
Over at Kempton Altior’s absence in the feature race meant Frodon was able to shine with a fine front-running performance, posting a decent time. This was a return to near peak form, and he has been well supported since to back up last year’s Ryanair Chase win. Riders Onthe Storm remains my pick however and the presence of Frodon will help him settle better than he has.
Carefully Selected ran out an impressive winner in weak Graded company at Punchestown on Sunday – only having reluctant chasing recruit City Island to beat. He has a nice way of going and is reportedly being aimed at the 4 miler – he makes no appeal at the price, but he does look a high class chaser and an ideal type for that contest, he can make the odd mistake, but he keeps finding for pressure. Andy Dufresne got back into the winning groove later on the card, I put him up for the Albert Bartlett earlier in the season, but he seems unlikely to go down that route now – he doesn’t look top class anyway and was all out to beat Captain Guinness here despite things going in his favour. The runner up has been nibbled for the Supreme and with good cause as he ran with the choke out for much of the way but may still have prevailed with a better jump at the last; he looks a serious prospect once he calms down.
Vinnie Dev (N.Williams) – A rank outsider for Saturday’s Lanzarote Hurdle following a very flat effort at Doncaster he was taken off his feet from halfway down the back straight and finished well beaten. He boxed on well for strong pressure and ran about as well as he could given that this seemed an insufficient stamina test and a marked step up in grade on handicap debut. I would love to see him tried over 3 miles in deep ground, he might even have the pace to get involved in Sandown’s EBF final if it came up testing.
Sire Du Berlais (G.Elliott) – Not so obscure, but a compelling effort at Warwick on Saturday in qualifying himself for the Pertemps Final, a race he landed a major gamble in last year – the handicapper has kindly dropped him to a mark only 3lb higher. He is a lazy type but keeps finding for pressure and his trainer is obviously building a campaign around one race. I doubt we’ll see him before his big day in March and I suspect we’ll see him armed with a visor or blinkers then.