All in all, it looks a relatively quiet weekend in prospect as far as National Hunt racing in the UK is concerned, however, there are two races that stand out, the Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick and the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton, both of which take place on Saturday afternoon and have attracted competitive fields.
In the Betfred Classic Chase over 3m5f at Warwick on Saturday afternoon, bookmakers are all reporting good business ahead of the this cracking handicap chase at Warwick on Saturday and all have confirmed the David Pipe entry, Sona Sasta, as the favourite with odds of around the 6/1 mark.
With Colin Tizzards 156 rated Hey Big Spender in the race it will mean that six of the declared 14 runners will race out of the handicap. The 9 year old will carry 11st 12lb fully 10lbs more than any of his rivals, but notwithstanding, Tizzard is still bullish about his chances and believes he will run a big race.
Sona Sasta was last seen in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas where he ran disappointingly, finishing well off the pace in 12th place. It was particularly disappointing for Pipe who had been very pleased with his run when second behind subsequent Welsh National winner, Le Beau Bai at Chepstow three weeks earlier. Pipe now hopes that Sona Sasta can return to the form of this time 12 months ago when he won two 3 mile handicaps within the space of nine days.
Just behind Sona Sasta in the betting with odds of 13/2 is the Brian Ellison entry Neptune Equester who won a decent looking handicap over 3m4f at Haydock last November and has followed that up with a fifth place finish in the valuable Grade 3 Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day. He comes into the race on a decent mark and should be good enough to get himself in the mix at the business end of the race.
Major Malarkey who will be one of those racing outside of the handicap is being well supported currently in the market. An 8/1 shot at present, he is one of two entries from the Nigel Twiston-Davies yard and will be ridden by Paddy Brennan, while the other, Hello Bud, now being campaigned as a 14 year old will be the ride of son, Sam Twiston-Davies.
Having bolted up in the Totetrifecta Handicap Chase at Hereford in December, the Charlie Longsdon trained Strongbows Legend fell in the Sussex National after being the subject of a huge gamble on the day. He is being backed to win this race too on Saturday and being out of the handicap he must be in with big chances if he can reproduce top form.
The one we like for this is the Alan King trained Blazing Bailey who struggled with the pace in the recent Welsh National in which he was eventually pulled up. However on his day he can prove his class and King believes that this former World Hurdle Champion is bang in form for this race, and good enough to provide a third successive win of this race for King. The sponsors report plenty of interest in the ten year old and have shortened him to 9/1 in their market.
The testing conditions and the length of the trip has made this a trial for many Grand National hopefuls down the years and it would be no surprise to see any of these that emerge from this race on the back of promising runs head to Aintree in April.
The Lanzorote Hurlde at Kempton looks an extremely open race with many in with chances. However, we like the look of Dr Richard Newland’s runner, Act Of Kalanisi a two time winner over hurdles and who was thought good enough to take his chances in Graded company earlier this season.
Now six years old, this horse still has plenty of promise and h is from a yard that regularly upsets the odds in big handicap races.