Paul Nicholls took this race last season with Art Mauresque and will look to double up in 2016 with Sirabad (7/2) even if he does look like one of the stable’s lesser lights. His chasing experience is pretty limited with just the three starts at Sandown, Carlisle, and Kempton without a success between them, but was a good second to previous winner On Tour which would rate the Nicholls beast at 132 according to our maths, as well as third to Full Shift at Kempton when weakening late on over further, and there is every chance he is well in here off of 128 which seems pretty generous and he ought to place at least.
Interestingly, we prefer the chances of Gary Moore’s Antony (10/1) today, a good winner at Sandown on his chasing debut but subsequently pulled up here at Kempton when lacking a bit of fluency over the obstacles. His victory saw useful yardstick Dusky Lark in third and if we sue him as a marker then the rating of 128 todays isn’t too bad at all for a horse with more to offer, and as he seems sure to have been well schooled at home since by all of the Moore family, he looks the value call to us and well worth a bet.
Meanwhile, David Pipe will be hoping to get the best out of the talented Purple ‘N Gold (10/1) who has been running in much better company of late but has a pretty poor win percentage with just the five wins from twenty-six starts at the winter game. He has won a couple of chases at Worcester in 2015 so clearly has plenty of ability, and has also placed behind the likes of multiple winner Workbench which is rock solid form in this class, and if he puts it all in when asked he must have every chance today.
Trainer Dan Skelton is responsible for Workbench so ought to know where he stands with Notnowsam (7/1) who will look to end a frustrating run of second places here if allowed to take his chance. A second to Oliver’s Gold at Wetherby was followed by the same position at Huntingdon and then again at Warwick, though be warned, he finished further and further behind the winner each time, beaten two lengths, eleven lengths, and twenty-five lengths respectively! His rating of 124 hasn’t changed despite his last two reversals and it may well be that he needs to be dropped a few more pounds to get back to the front where it really counts, though this isn’t the strongest ever race and a place is very much a possibility again this weekend.
Casino Markets (8/1) is the really dark horse here, a winner over hurdles when last seen in November 2014 at Taunton, and yet to jump a fence in public. Previously with Philip Fenton in Ireland, he was campaigned over a lot further without success until moving to Emma Lavelle where he failed when well supported at Chepstow over close to three miles before winning over two miles as mentioned. That was 16 or so months ago so his fitness has to be in question, but they have had to take a guess with a handicap mark of 115, and although he seems destined to carry a pound more than his rating suggests, there is every chance that he is a fair but better than that, and he may have got in here pretty lightly.
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