Classic Chase Tips: Bank on the River

Saturday's card at Warwick is an excellent one, with no less than three graded races.
Saturday's card at Warwick is an excellent one, with no less than three graded races.

Joe Tuffin previews Saturday's Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick, a race which has a solid track record as an indicator for the Grand National, and picks out his best bet in the race...

Warwick’s Classic Chase has always been a key race when looking for Grand National clues, with the 2017 winner One For Arthur following up at Aintree three months later and the 2018 victor Milansbar finishing a gallant fifth months after his success.

Hopefully we see something similar this year, as only Ultragold and Step Back lined up in both races last season, with the winner Impulsive Star missing Aintree for the Scottish equivalent. The race this year is headlined by a novice in The Conditional, who made quite the impression when finishing second to De Rasher Counter in the Ladbrokes Trophy (formally the Hennessey), which always presents rock solid form. He does however hold an entry in the Grade 2 Hampton Novices’ Chase earlier on the card at 13:50, so it might be worth waiting for confirmation of his target before you commit to his side, despite him holding the best form on paper.

Kimberlite Candy is the second favourite at the time of writing, and is an intriguing runner in the famous JP McManus colours. His last run will have contributed massively to his position in both this and the Grand National market, when finishing a very respectable second in the Becher Chase on his first try over the Grand National fences to Aintree specialist Walk In The Mill. He is, however, a very hard horse to follow. His form is incredibly patchy and that impressive Aintree run could cost him here as he now runs off 140, a career high mark. Although that’s only 3 lb higher than for his run at Aintree, it’s worth noting that his previous highest mark of 139 saw him finish a distant fifth in the Eider Chase to some horses that are lining up here, notably Crosspark, who won the four-mile race at Newcastle.

Crosspark meanwhile would be one that is best watched, as his season has failed to inspire since a eye-catching second in the Scottish Grand National at the end of last season. He’s only been dropped 2 lb for his latest eighth-placed finish at Haydock last month, when beaten by 74 lengths, and he may well need to come down the weights further still if he’s to get competitive again. 

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Steely Addition, the current third favourite, is an interesting proposition in what is his first attempt at a graded race. His latest effort to finish fourth in a listed race on reappearance at Sandown in November can be excused as he was up against three smart rivals - including a Gold Cup candidate in Santini - though he was beaten by 30 lengths that day. You could make a case that the run was needed and now the cobwebs are well and truly gone he’ll put in a better performance, but there are question marks over whether or not he’s cut out for this level.

Le Breuil, last season's winner of the four-miler at the festival, will be looking to turn his fortunes around after a disappointing seventh in the Becher Chase last month, but again is easy to oppose as he is yet to show anything this season that suggests he’ll return to that level, and his mark looks steep enough having only been dropped 2 lb since Aintree.

Fergal O’Brien has the exciting Petite Power, who enters the race as the most in-form horse in the field - albeit in easier races that this, but attracts interest regardless.

The two previous winners of this in the field, Impulsive Star and Milansbar, both have a lot to do on paper, with the former’s form-line containing only letters since his win a year ago and the latter no longer looking the force of old.

Meanwhile, the promising 17-year-old jockey Jack Tudor gets a ride aboard Joueur Bresilien, a ride which will provide him with more valuable big race experience, though his mount is quite a way off what is required to win here, while there’s an eye-catching Irish raider for Gordon Elliot in the form of Prince Of Scars, who has been mixing chasing and hurdling of late but has failed to excel in either.

Finally, the 2017 winning duo of Lucinda Russell and Derek Fox are represented by Big River, who makes the most appeal. Although he hasn’t recorded a win since February 2018, he’s as experienced as they come, and is slipping down the weights to the lowest mark he’s at been since March 2017, when he won off 132. He was travelling along nicely at Kelso last time out before being brought down at the 14th fence, and remains of serious interest here today. Both his trainer and his jockey know what it takes to win this race, and they wouldn’t be bringing him down from Scotland if they didn’t think he had a good chance. As such, it looks worth siding with him to take this at a double figure price.

Classic Handicap Chase - Saturday 11th January 2020 - back Big River at 14/1

Classic Chase
Big River silk

Big River

The winning pair of Lucinda Russell and Derek Fox know how to win this race and won't be bringing Big River over the border for nothing. He's falling down the weights and is now rated 137, which could be a dangerous mark for this stout stayer. He travelled along nicely in his last run before being bought down and looks an interesting runner at a nice price here.

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