15:35 Warwick, Saturday 16th January
Heavy ground, 22 fences and 29 furlongs await this year’s Classic Chase contenders at Warwick, and past statistics show that the race is probably as open as the betting suggests.
There have only been 10 runnings of the race, and two 7-year-olds, two 8-year-olds, three 9-year-olds, two 10-year-olds and one 11-year-old have crossed the line first. Weights carried to victory also vary greatly from 10-01 up to 11-12.
7 different trainers have won in that time, though Paul Nicholls has trained 3 winners and Alan King 2. Only Ruby Walsh has ridden two winners, but he doesn’t have a ride today.
Sego Success 6/1
Hails from the Alan King stable whose only runner this week won. However, whilst he’s won on soft ground, he’s never won on heavy. Didn’t seem to stay 4-miles on only attempt, and there’s a doubt as to whether he’ll definitely stay this trip on the ground.
Houblon Des Obeaux 8/1
Despite the fact he carries joint top-weight, he’s the best handicapped horse on a mark 11lb lower than when chasing home Many Clouds in the 2014 Hennessey. Not sure he really likes heavy ground though, and I’ve a nagging suspicion that trainer Venetia Williams might be getting him well-handicapped for the Grand National.
Vivaldi Collonges 15/2
Improving, but this looks much tougher than the handicap he won last time and he’s 8lb higher today. Trained by Paul Nicholls.
Algernon Pazham 10/1
18lb higher than for last victory, but went close off 7lb lower last time out. Ran well here over hurdles twice, and yard who won this in 2005 has had 2 winners from their last 5 runners.
Red Devil Lads 16/1
Definite form chance, but tough ask after falling at Chepstow last Saturday.
Irish challenger whose best form has been on heavy ground. Yet to win over further than 20-furlongs though.
Midnight Prayer 15/2
A second string to Alan King’s bow, but this one looks the best handicapped of the pair. Won 4-miler at the Cheltenham Festival in 2014, and has slipped to a lower mark now, with good conditional taking a further 3lb off. Fancied for the Welsh National, but heavy ground was the reason for his withdrawal.
Rigadin De Beauchene 10/1
The ground can’t be heavy enough for the 2013 winner, but is a stone higher in the ratings than for that victory. Still only carries 10-13 though, but unlikely to get the easy lead he had when coming back to form at Haydock last time off a 6lb lower mark.
Loose Chips 33/1
Prefers going right-handed and stable not in the best of form.
Ballheigue Boy 28/1
Last won off a 10lb lower mark but was a decent third in a good race at Sandown off just 1lb lower. Small trainer’s two runners have both been placed this week.
Pete The Feat 33/1
Ran in a tough race on Thursday at Catterick. Maybe a non-runner.
What A Good Night 12/1
8lb higher than for last win on which he is closely matched with Algernon Pazham, and worth a try at this trip.
Russe Blanc 25/1
Last won off a 7lb lower mark, but in-form stable won last week’s Welsh National. Could improve for the trip.
Won the last of a hat-trick of heavy ground wins off a similar mark in February, and last 2 runs at Kempton and Cheltenham have suggested that he could have a good race in him for in-form trainer.
De Kerry Man 10/1
Likes to force the pace and might be able to do that off bottom weight. Was certainly still going well falling at Cheltenham last time, and not without a chance if him and other front runners don’t cut each other’s throat.
The front runners may well cut each others’ throats and, if that’s the case, Foxbridge may be the answer.
Foxbridge each-way @ 14/1 (Various) ¼ odds 3 places