Five horses to note at Kempton, Wincanton, Chepstow and Naas

Summerville Boy is bidding to return to winning ways in the rearranged Relkeel Hurdle at Kempton.
Summerville Boy is bidding to return to winning ways in the rearranged Relkeel Hurdle at Kempton.

On what looks set to be a bumper weekend of Jumps action, Nick Seddon takes a look at the cards at Kempton, Wincanton, Chepstow and Naas, and picks out some horses of interest from the four cards...

Protektorat - Wincanton 14:05

The abandonment of the New Year's Day action at Cheltenham last week means that this weekend's action has a bumper feel to it, and Wincanton's Saturday card is boosted by the Grade 2 Dipper Novices' Chase, which was won in dramatic fashion last season by Midnight Shadow, who capitalised on a late fall from Champ. We have just the three runners this time around, and it's very difficult to look past Protektorat, who looks to have fine claims for the Skelton team.

He's won both of his chasing starts in emphatic fashion so far, and his 17-length demolition of the useful and more experienced Southfield Stone sets a pretty smart standard in this field. Messire Des Obeaux should make a race of things after making a winning debut over course and distance last month, but Protektorat is fancied to strengthen his claims for the Marsh Novices' Chase with another comfortable success.

Dipper Novices' Chase
Protektorat silk

Protektorat

lost
Cheltenham Festival

Summerville Boy - Kempton 14:20

Kempton's Lanzarote Hurdle card has also been boosted with the welcome addition of the rearranged Relkeel Hurdle from Cheltenham, which generally acts as a good pointer for the Stayers' Hurdle in March, and several of the seven-strong field will have their eyes on the Cheltenham Festival. The market is headed by the Paul Nicholls-trained McFabulous, who finished an excellent third behind Thyme Hill and Paisley Park on his first try at this trip at Newbury in November.

This progressive type is entitled to find more in this sphere yet, and bearing in mind that he rather ran out of steam in the closing stages that day (albeit against two high-class rivals), he should appreciate the drop back to two miles and five furlongs. However, he's facing some proven yardsticks in this sphere, and is taken on at the prices as a short-priced favourite. Younevercall produced a good effort to finish fourth in last month's Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, while Thomas Darby has long shaped as though he could be a stayer in the making, but the 9/2 available about last year's winner Summerville Boy looks very enticing.

He's a very smart performer on his day, winning twice at Grade 1 level as a novice, and he's been in good heart so far this season, shaping well over two miles at Cheltenham last month. This trip is very much a home game for Summerville Boy, and bearing in mind that he's capable of making the running, he's taken to prove a tough nut to crack from the front.

Relkeel Hurdle
Summerville Boy silk

Summerville Boy

lost
Cheltenham Festival Races

Imperial Aura - Silviniaco Conti Chase, Kempton 14:55

The Silviniaco Conti Chase is in its second year of its current classification of a Grade 2 contest, and this ought to provide some notable clues for the Ryanair Chase, bearing in mind that the likes of Frodon, Top Notch and Waiting Patiently have won the the past three renewals. This contest will see just four head to post, but it's very much a select field, one that's headed by the current joint favourite for the Ryanair Chase, the Kim Bailey-trained Imperial Aura. The eight-year-old is a hugely progressive type, winning the final renewal of the novices' handicap at last year's Festival, and he's gone from strength to strength this year, handing a pretty firm beating to Itchy Feet in the 1965 Chase at Ascot in November. There should be more to come from him yet, and he's very difficult to oppose as he bids to seal back-to-back wins at this level. 

Master Tommytucker was rather all-or-nothing as a novice last season, but he's clearly talented, and must be considered in opposition considering he seems to be a more polished model this term, but the most interesting challenge to Imperial Aura comes from Riders Onthe Storm. He followed similar trajectory to Cyrname last term in that he was a resounding winner of last season's Ascot Chase, and he'd be a big threat if replicating that top-class form here. However, he's struggled in two subsequent starts at Cheltenham, and it's difficult to look past Kim Bailey's charge, in what should prove to be a hugely informative heat.

Silviniaco Conti Chase
Imperial Aura silk

Imperial Aura

Unseated
Cheltenham Festival Tips

Captain Drake - Welsh Grand National, Chepstow 15:10

Pending an inspection on Friday afternoon, Chepstow will host its rearranged Welsh National card on Saturday afternoon, and the feature race should ensure a stern test of stamina for the 18-strong field. The vast majority of those due to line up have stood their ground from Christmas, and the National Trial winner Secret Reprieve will be particularly popular with punters, considering that he's effectively 8 lb well-in at the weights for this. He's an obvious candidate, though this is a good six furlongs further than he's ever tried before, meaning there's grounds to oppose him at such a skinny price. Each of Springfield Fox, Dominateur and Christmas In April deserve strong consideration, while last year's runner-up Truckers Lodge should go well once again, though it could be worth chancing Captain Drake each-way at a much bigger price. 

The eight-year-old has been a model of steady improvement over fences so far, and caught the eye when second in the Midlands National last March - which was his first try at a marathon trip. He looked in need of further when fifth in the trial last month, but he appeals as one who's on a competitive mark, and the attritional conditions should suit. The booking of the 3 lb claimer Brian Carver looks a shrewd one by the in-form Harry Fry team, and it would be no surprise to see Captain Drake outrun his odds, with 28/1 available at the time of writing with BetVictor.

Welsh Grand National
Captain Drake silk

Captain Drake (EW)

placed
Cheltenham Gold Cup

Blue Lord - Naas 14:30, Sunday

Sunday's feature is the Grade 1 Lawlor's of Naas Novice Hurdle, a race which has been won by some smart types in recent years, including the subsequent Ballymore Novices' Hurdle winner Envoi Allen 12 months ago. There are several interesting types who look set to take their chance, including Bob Olinger, who's a short-priced favourite for the Henry de Bromhead team at the time of writing. He's had two starts over timber so far, and looked a smart prospect when romping to a 14-length victory in a maiden over this trip at Navan last month. He's entitled to build on that here, though it could be worth siding with Blue Lord, who represents a Willie Mullins team that have won this race on seven occasions this century. 

Blue Lord has had just one start over hurdles so far, making a winning debut over two miles at Punchestown in November, but he's bred to appreciate further, and should be able to improve for the step up in trip here. Mullins isn't one to mince his words, meaning it was particularly striking to hear him refer to the six-year-old as a Grade 1 performer in the aftermath of his debut success, noting that his charge has taken great strides forward at home since. Simon Munir & Isaac Souede are no strangers to owning a smart performer, and it would be no surprise should Blue Lord be able to find the necessary improvement to remain unbeaten - and strike at the top level. 

Navan 14:30
Blue Lord silk

Blue Lord

Grand National
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