PENDIL NOVICES’ CHASE (1.50pm Kempton Park)
Only four runners, but this features the return of Ga Law, whose three wins in late summer/autumn included an impressive success in an admittedly weak renewal of the Grade 2 “Rising Stars” at Wincanton in November. There was no disgrace in his third to Arkle fancy Allmankind in the Grade 1 Henry VIII at Sandown Park in December and he has had a good break since. The Snowden yard have had a tough season after an excellent 2019/20 campaign and their runners continue to be hit and miss, but Ga Law is a contender.
Coole Cody built on his form in novice company to land the Paddy Power Gold Cup in November for Evan Williams. He was unable to figure in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham the following month, but he can’t be ruled out in his bid to become the first ten year old to win this since Paul Webber’s Land Afar in 1997.
Paul Nicholls has won this 10 times since 2006, notably with the likes of Frodon and Cyrname in recent seasons, and his Tamaroc Du Mathan is a live contender on his third start over hurdles. He had a big reputation before wining on hurdling debut in France in 2018, but like many ex-French performers, he needed time to find his feet over here. Winless in four starts in the 2019/20 campaign, he showed what he is capable of when scoring at Wincanton in November and found only the exceptionally-talented Shishkin too good in the Grade 2 Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase over the Christmas period. He should prove very tough to beat here.
ADONIS HURDLE (2.25pm Kempton Park)
A race with a rich history, this Triumph Hurdle trial has provided six winners of the big one at Cheltenham since 1988, the latest of those being Zarkandar back in 2011.
Alan King has won two of the last four runnings (Master Blueyes in 2017 and Redicean the following year) and he relies on Tritonic to give him a fifth win in the race since the turn of the millennium, having also scored with Trouble At Bay in 2004 and Penzance the following year, the latter going on to Cheltenham glory.
A talented middle-distance performer on the level, Tritonic finished runner-up in the new Golden Gates Handicap at Royal Ascot last June and went on to place in Listed company, reaching a mark of 99. He gave his backers a bit of a fright when scrambling home on hurdling debut at Ascot in January, with the runner-up that day, Casa Loupi, re-opposing here. With the likelihood of a good deal of improvement to come, Tritonic looks sure to take a good deal of beating in what looks a slightly weaker affair than has been the case in the past few seasons.
Paul Nicholls has a fine record in this, winning five of the last 12 runnings. However, his Paso Doble would need to be high-class to win this on hurdling debut and though he fetched €125,000 at the Goffs Autumn Sale in November, as a son of Dawn Approach he has to prove he is capable of transferring his flat form to hurdles, with his sire currently 0-55 with his progeny over timber.
Honneur D’Ajonc is well-regarded and has shown considerable promise in two starts to date, running the high-class Monmiral to within five lengths on debut in November before falling in a warm contest here over Christmas, when looking the likely winner. However, the form of her yard is a concern.
The race has some added spice with the declaration of Margaret’s Legacy. The French raider is trained by up-and-coming handler Hugo Merienne, who has expressed a good deal of confidence in the son of Haras de Cercy’s Prince Gibraltar. He beat a subsequent Listed winner when scoring at Cagnes on Christmas Day and the Adonis has been the target ever since for this Triumph Hurdle entry.
WINTER DERBY (2.40pm Lingfield Park)
This has really cut up this year, with several of the anticipated leading contenders instead chasing huge prize-money in Saudi Arabia and Dubai. Still, it features an exciting group of specialist All-Weather performers, with Father Of Jazz heading the market. Very impressive in victory over this CD three weeks ago, the imposing son of Kingman looks to have a huge amount of improvement to come and this step up to Group level is eagerly-anticipated.
Father Of Jazz will need to find more, as Felix has developed into a really tough and likeable performer on the AW, beating Bangkok (beaten favourite in this last year) at Wolverhampton before finishing a short-head second to the same rival over CD in the Listed Winter Derby Trial, just conceding first run. The return of Hollie Doyle is a plus for the progressive son of Lope De Vega.
John Gosden has won the last two runnings of this and relies on Forest Of Dean, but he has finished behind Felix on his last two outings and has work on to reverse the form. Johnny Drama has been one of the success stories of the AW campaign, winning four times, but the trip is a concern.
DOVECOTE HURDLE (3.00pm Kempton Park)
Disappointing on his bumper debut last January, Atholl Street has proved a revelation back from a wind op in two starts over timber this term and hosed up on his latest outing at Taunton in December. The son of Jeremy fetched an eye-watering €190,000 as a store at the Goffs Land Rover Sale and is out of an unraced sister to Gold Cup winner Kicking King. He rates a very smart prospect and should go very well in his bid to give Paul Nicholls a fifth winner in the race.
He faces stiff competition in Calico, who was placed at Listed level on the flat in Germany last year for Peter Schiergen and was an impressive winner of his hurdling debut at Ludlow last month. His yard have been in scintillating form of late and a big run here could well see him targeted at the Grade 1 novice at the Aintree Grand National meeting.
Irish challenger Cape Gentleman is an intriguing runner but needs to leave behind a below-par effort in the 2m6f Grade 1 novice hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival last time, while Son Of Red is an outsider to note. Alan King has won this with two four-year-olds (Grumeti and Trenchant) and this son of French Navy travelled into the race well when third to Triumph hope Adagio at Cheltenham in December. He looks a progressive type and needs a third qualifying run here to get in the Boodles at the Festival, for which he is currently a 25-1 shot with Bet365.