Test of endurance
Neptune Equester can show his stamina levels and win Warwick's Classic Chase, says Alex Hammond.
Last Updated: 13/01/12 11:50am
I hope last weekend was a successful one for you and that you took my advice to back Captain Conan in the Tolworth Hurdle.
I have to admit my confidence was waning in the run up to the race and he drifted out to 9/1, but if you kept the faith you were nicely rewarded. He looks like a chaser in the making and there is no doubt he was helped by the wayward tactics of Colour Squadron who hung badly left in the run to the line.
The Supreme Novices and Neptune are possibilities for the winner, but his trainer Nicky Henderson thinks it will be a year too soon. If you fancy him for Cheltenham he is 12/1 with Sky Bet for the Supreme and 16/1 for the Neptune Novices' Hurdle. Colour Squadron is 14s for the Supreme.
Onto this weekend, then, and the Classic Chase is the feature at Warwick. The Grade Three handicap is over three miles, five furlongs and the ground is on the soft side of good.
As you can imagine, it's wide open with Sona Sasta Sky Bet's 6/1 favourite. David Pipe trains him and the horse is one of three entries for the trainer.
Sona Sasta was well beaten in a very competitive race at Leopardstown over Christmas but prior to that he was second to subsequent Welsh National winner Le Beau Bai. He's 19lbs higher than when he was last successful.
Neptune Equester is the 13/2 second favourite for Brian Ellison. His trainer thinks he's a National horse in the making and he will enjoy the stamina test here. Strongbows Legend (8/1) is a useful horse and represents a trainer going places in Charlie Longsdon. Although he is creeping up the handicap, I think he's still capable of winning off his current mark, but it has to be hoped he hasn't been affected by his fall in the Sussex National at Plumpton last time out.
Major Malarkey (10/1) should be sharper for his reappearance; Nigel Twiston Davies trains and also has front runner Hello Bud, who will be ridden by son Sam. He's 14 years old and 16/1 chance. Blazing Bailey is 10 years old now and is 10/1 for in-form Alan King. He has shed three pounds and is at a mark he won off last year. He needs to bounce back after a few moderate runs. King has won this race twice before and this former very smart staying hurdler has a chance if he can recapture his form.
11/1 shot Faasel is a year older than Blazing Bailey and he has a handy weight of 10.7 for David Pipe. He hasn't run since finishing second at Sandown in April in the Bet365; he is consistent but he's been rejected by stable jockey Tom Scudamore.
Bench Warrent (12/1) represents Charlie Mann and Noel Fehily. He plugged on to be fourth in the Welsh National last time out. Hey Big Spender is top weight and has to bounce back from a fall in the Welsh National and he runs off the same mark here. I'm a fan of Neptune Equester and he gets my vote in a wide open race.
There is also a decent graded Novices' Hurdle at Warwick also over two miles, five furlongs. There are some very smart prospects entered including Barbatos, Ambion Wood, Cotton Mill, Highland Lodge and Castle Conflict, who I saw win at Hereford on Sunday. Barbatos is trained by Ian Williams who has his team in great form at the moment and this horse comes here having won over a similar trip at Cheltenham last time out.
Ambion Wood is a horse I like and is well regarded by his trainer Victor Dartnall. It has taken him a while to get his head in front over hurdles, but apparently he's been a slow learner. He is potentially very smart though. Cotton Mill is another former Darley horse being trained by John Ferguson, who has done really well with this type of horse. He has won both his starts over hurdles and this is a step up in grade.
Highland Lodge is an Irish point winner who was bought for £35,000 at Cheltenham in April 2011. He has since won two novice hurdles for Emma Lavelle and the softer the ground, the better for him. He won over the brush hurdles at Haydock last time out. Castle Conflict won easily at Hereford last time out and this is a leap in class for Henry Daly's horse, but he will appreciate the trip here. I'm torn between Ambion Wood and Highland Lodge and the deciding factor is the ground which may just be too quick for the latter.
The Lanzarote Hurdle is Kempton's feature and this two mile, five furlong handicap looks wide open. Richard Dunwoody posted some helpful stats on the sportinglife website with regards this race. I'll share those with you as they could be useful:
Only two winning favourite in the last nine runs (one dead heat)
Four of the last five winners were aged six years-old
All of the last nine winners were aged between five and seven years-old
Six of the last nine winners carried 10-13 or less
Six of the last nine winners returned 10/1 or shorter in the betting
Five of the last nine winners finished unplaced last time out
Four of the last nine winners won their previous race
Ruby Walsh rode the winner in 2003 and 2008
Trainer Gary Moore has won the race in 1996, 1998 and 2007.
So with that in mind let's try and sort this lot out!
Decoy is one of the protagonists and he won over this trip at Cheltenham, although he finished behind Featherbed Lane last time out. The latter is improving rapidly but the handicapper is close behind him and he seems to have plenty of weight on Saturday.
Swincombe Flame has been well backed in the ante-post market for Nick Williams and she fits the above criteria in that she is only six and has less than 10-13. She has a very good overall record, is lightly raced and improving.
Act Of Kalanisi ran in the Ladbroke and wasn't disgraced and the step back up in trip will suit. The Paul Nicholls trained Domtaline has stamina to prove on first try at the trip but it does look like it should suit. Eastlake is an interesting entry for Jonjo O'Neill and JP McManus. He is lightly raced and doesn't look too harshly treated off his current mark.
Lightning Strike won easily at Hereford on Sunday for Venetia Williams. He is a horse that has been very difficult to keep sound but he was very smart a few years ago. Alasi isn't certain to run in her bid for a four timer. She has been winning over fences on her last two starts and may run in the Novice Chase on the same car. I quite like Ohio Gold for Colin Tizzard and young Brendan Powell. He won very easily at Plumpton last time out and although he has more than 10-13 Powell's claim will take some of that off.
You could do worse than backing Drumshambo each way. He hails from the in-form Williams stable. However, I'm going to go for a big Saturday winner for 16-year -old Brendan Powell, who is worth every ounce of his conditional jockeys claim.
Neptune Equester in the Classic Chase at Warwick @ 13/2 with Sky Bet
Ambion Wood in the Grade Two Novices' Hurdle at Warwick
Ohio Gold in the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton (each way)