We’re less than three weeks away from the Cheltenham Festival, but before that we’ve got some Graded racing at Kempton on Saturday, while there is a good card at Newcastle too.

 Add in the Winter Derby at Lingfield and it’s another Saturday to look forward to and Nick Luck has previewed the best of it for us.


TAMAROC DU MATHAN was attempting the impossible behind Shishkin here at Christmas, but can win the Pendil Novices’ Chase (1.50pm) in front of ITV cameras on Saturday. He is a smooth traveller and sound jumper that almost certainly wants the good ground that he is likely to get (withdrawn on soft earlier in the season) and, although Kempton is a front runners track, I suspect that Ga Law and Coole Cody could encourage each other a bit too early here, which would set up nicely for the selection at 11/10.

CASA LOUPI (5/1) is another intriguing string to Gary Moore’s juvenile hurdle bow in the Adonis (2.25pm). He was beaten at Ascot on his hurdling debut by the better fancied and superior flat horse Tritonic, who will be a warm order to confirm the form here. Casa Loupi, however travelled and jumped at Ascot in a manner that suggested to me that this sharper two miles and relative test of speed might just be up his street. It is a warm enough race.

CALICO, at 5/2, gets a very narrow vote over Atholl Street (2/1) in the Dovecote (3.00pm). Both horses have looked good of late, and the Paul Nicholls runner may have the greater long-term potential, but Calico was quite a smart flat horse in Germany who may not have been seeing out the trip over 14 furlongs on the level. He looked quite nippy round Ludlow on his hurdling debut, and this might just suit him nicely for a stable that continues to bang home the winners remorselessly.

ERICK LE ROUGE is a thoroughly chancy proposition in the Close Brothers Handicap Chase (3.35pm), but conditions are changing rapidly and they may just be in his favour. The case rests primarily on handicapping, as he is now much lower in the weights than his natural level of ability. Then you have to figure out whether he is still capable of delivering that and, to my eye, he is. The combination of blinkers, the second run after a breathing op (an angle I like), Jamie Moore replacing a less experienced rider (and the likelihood of a forcing ride), and a track where he has loads of form all combine to make him an interesting play at 22/1.


SALTY BOY might be the answer at 13/2 to the Eider (3.15pm) at Newcastle. This is one of the most gruelling races in the calendar when the ground is testing, and we could be looking at very few finishers. The selection is very slow indeed, but they haven’t found an adequate test of stamina for him until now, and I’m pretty sure he’ll just keep plodding away when others have had enough. He’s the lowest weighted horse that is actually in the handicap, and I’d be hopeful of a big run to give his stable some welcome cheer.


MOSS GILL is a very talented sprinter on his day, and I’m hoping he can give rookie Ed Bethell a big race winner in the Hever Sprint Stakes (2.05pm) at even-money. He’s got form on the surface, can go well fresh, and has the stalk-and-pounce style over five furlongs that will be suited by the way this race is set up with brazen speedsters Ornate and Lord Riddiford likely to go at it from the outset.

JOHNNY DRAMA looks worth another try at this trip in the Winter Derby (2.40pm) and might be worth a dart at the odds against race fitter rivals. He faces less talented horses here than when behind Sangarius when last seen, form which should still see him competitive, and he gets Ryan Moore here at 6/1.

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