I’M really looking forward to this afternoon’s action as we’ve got some fantastic chances at both Kempton and Warwick.
It’s all competitive stuff but I reckon there at least a couple who can bring us home some Saturday bacon.
Let’s start at Kempton, where Darling Maltaix takes his chance in the Lanzarote.
He was a bit disappointing earlier in his career, but Lorcan Williams has done a super job to get him relaxed and it’s starting to pay off now.
He won really nicely last time at Ascot where Lorcan held onto him for as long as he could before asking him to quicken.
The penny is clearly starting to drop and if he settles as well as he did that day this afternoon then he could run a massive race.
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They should go an honest gallop and there are enough runners for him to find some cover.
Gary Moore fields the favourite Kloud Gate, who was really impressive at Doncaster when last seen.
He’ll need to defy a rise in the weights, though, and this is a much more competitive race.
I know the Bowen clan are quite keen on Lord Napier upped in trip, but whether he’s quite good enough is another question.
I take the ride on Dark Alliance again on Monday, this time in a claiming handicap at Wolverhampton.
He was unlucky the first time I wrote about him in this column and then just met a really well-handicapped one on his last outing, finishing second.
He didn’t get put up for that which is a bonus and all being well I expect him to be bang there again.
Earlier on the card, Black Corton runs in a hot Listed race, won last year by Waiting Patiently.
Only a small field of four has been declared and our fellow is dropping back in trip after running mostly over three miles.
He was last seen in the Ladbrokes Trophy, where he just didn’t quite pick up in the soft ground and lost his confidence a bit.
Before that, even though he was beaten, he probably put up a career best in the Charlie Hall on his reappearance.
Kempton is a course he likes – he was a Grade 1 winner around there – and conditions should be ideal.
Obviously beating the top two is going to be hard.
Charbel’s form looks red hot and he won the Peterborough Chase really impressively last time, while Top Notch is also classy over this trip.
Hopefully Bryony can get a nice tune out of our lad and he’ll run well.
Amour De Nuit is another that’s taking on just three rivals – and I think he’ll win.
He’s struck in three of his five starts over fences and is fast turning into a Ditcheat legend.
He’s the highest rated and although he has to carry a fair bit of weight, Lorcan takes off a handy 5lb.
Lorcan’s been riding him at home recently and has got to know him well so hopefully that pays off.
He’s been fresh as paint, comes into it in the best form and should be very hard to beat.
Under the radar
Keep an eye out for a newly acquired five-year-old called Ashutor.
He’s a horse formerly with the Aga Khan and has been bought by Dame Judi Dench and Andy Stewart.
I’m a huge fan of his as he’s always bouncing around the yard and squealing every morning.
He’s taken to his work really well and schooled plenty.
We took him out onto the loop for the first time this week which he seemed to enjoy, and he has a lovely way about him.
I couldn’t fault his work and he has shown a lot of speed.
Hopefully we’ll get him out in a novice hurdle during the next few weeks. I would expect him to put up a smart performance.
Over at Warwick, we’ve got a couple of nice chances.
Secret Investor runs in a hot little novice chase.
A bit like Darling Maltaix, he was frustrating earlier in his career but everything’s clicked recently and he’s beginning to look the real deal.
He had a hard race behind Bags Groove last time out (who’s franked the form in style at Huntingdon) so we gave him a break and we’re going into it nice and fresh.
With the likes of Rocky’s Treasure and Ok Corral in opposition it definitely won’t be easy, though.
Kim Bailey’s contender has done everything that’s been asked of him, while Nicky’s won nicely last time.
However, they’ve both had tough races recently whereas our fellow has been schooling easily at home – hopefully that will make the difference.
An update on two of our most exciting chasers, Dynamite Dollars and Topofthegame.
Dyno came out of his race at Kempton really well and it’s been brilliant to see him progress in the way he has.
He has an exciting career ahead and couldn’t have taken the race any better.
We’ve had him tipping away at home and he remains fresh and well.
Topofthegame is also in very good nick. I went upsides him on the gallops earlier in the week and he towered above me!
He has so much potential and progression left in him. If you watch his performance in the Grade 1 at Kempton you can see that over the last two fences he was still green and gangly.
That was a massive improvement on what he did at Exeter, and there’s bags more to come.
Whatever he does this year is an extra, as it’ll be over the next couple of seasons that he really starts to fulfil his potential.
In the feature Classic Chase we run current favourite Ibis Du Rheu.
The three-mile-five-furlong trip will be the furthest he’s gone but he stays all day so it shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.
His career over fences has started well, winning first time up before finishing behind smart chaser The Worlds End.
I’m not sure our lad was quite at his best that day but he’s come out of it fine and is in great heart at home.
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He seems to thrive in these big handicaps, though this will the first time he’s contested one over the larger obstacles.
Some of the fences down the back at Warwick come up quite quickly, but he’s a good jumper and should be up to the task.
Among those I fear is Cogry, who’s really tough and won so gamely at Cheltenham, and Calett Mad, who should be suited by this kind of test.
A lot has been made of the stable staff crisis this week, and it’s great to see it being brought up.
It’s something all trainers are affected by and we have definitely felt its problems in the past.
Luckily, this year we’ve had a fantastic team around us and the horses have been running really well.
When Clan Des Obeaux won the King George, it was like going back in time five or six years – everyone was thrilled.
It’s not always been like that, though.
In the last couple of years it’s been harder to get numbers, and to keep those that we do have on board.
It’s a constant circle of not having enough staff.
In the past, there weren’t as many trainers or horses so there were more people to go around, but now everyone’s needs are much greater.
Wages have been upped across the board, and rightly so.
I know that the smaller trainers find it even more difficult to find staff.
The yards that have winners on the big days are always more attractive to people wanting to work in the industry and unfortunately for those that don’t it’s an uphill struggle.
Places like the British Racing School are a great help, but of the amount of people they get through their doors, not everyone is either going to be a) good enough or b) want to work in the industry full-time.
There are 400 trainers in the UK and they all need staff.
Something else that might help is stable evolution – some business are still very old school, but you’ve got to move with the times.
Dad and Clifford had a great routine, which was always successful in the past.
But in the last season or two, they’ve had to adapt slightly.
The way the industry is changing, it had to happen. And now it’s paying off.