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Charlie's Weekend Racing Preview: Champagne Court to get the corks popping


Clerk of the course Barney Clifford has deployed the frost covers at Kempton for their meeting this afternoon, but the forecast suggests we should be good to go. Conditions were described as soft – good to soft in places – with no further rain forecast which might make conditions quite tacky.

Champagne Court (1.32) has been hurdling so far this season and bounced back to form when winning at Exeter last time over an extended 2m 2f. He switches back to fences this afternoon and I remember thinking he has one to follow when scoring at Sandown on his chase debut from a 1lb higher mark back in November 2019.

His career nosedived after following up at Plumpton later in the month, but he is still rated 13lbs lower than he was when contesting the much-lamented 2m 4f handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival of 2020. He has run well in both starts since being refitted with a tongue-tie – ran poorly with one previously – and he represents the inform stable of Jeremy Scott. The hope is that he can transfer his improved hurdles form back to the larger obstacles.

Gelino Bello to give Nicholls a fourth Lanzarote 

The Lanzarote is one of the big betting races of the weekend and the boost in prizemoney has led to a vintage and ultra competitive renewal of this famous 2m 5f handicap hurdle. 

My two each way darts against the field are On My Command and Gelino Bello (2.40) with marginal preference for the Paul Nicholls’ trained novice who was outstayed by leading Albert Bartlett contender Blazing Khal over three miles at Cheltenham last time. 

He jumped slightly to his right last time and should have his optimum conditions this afternoon. Note the 12-time champion trainer has saddled the winner of the corresponding race three times since 2008.

On My Command dotted up in a Plumpton mares’ only event last time and I thought she had the measure of Sacre Coeur when that one came down three out. An 8lbs rise is fair and, while I appreciate this is a much stiffer test, she has crept into the race at the foot of the weights. 

Cobblers Dream and Green Book make up the long shortlist, but I do believe Gelino Bello is potentially well treated even from a lofty mark of 138.

The 13/2 with William Hill 6 places looks fair. 

Brave Seasca to land his hat-trick back at Warwick

Over at Warwick and Brave Seasco (1.18) is taken to land his hat-trick for Venetia Williams having been raised 16lbs for scoring over today’s C&D and then at Ascot where he made most despite jumping left at most of his obstacles. A return to a left-hand track should suit. 

His task was made easier when favourite Red Rookie – winner since – came down five out but he was eased down after the last and was value for three times the 3L winning margin. 

Sky Pirate won the corresponding race 12 months ago from a 12lbs lower mark and represents the very much inform stable of Jonjo O’Neill. He must give the progressive Venetia Williams’ trained selection 20lbs and that is likely to be beyond him on this occasion.

Pipe youngster to defy a 41-year wait 

The progressive novice Corach Rambler has done us a couple of favours so far this term and I am loath to desert him in the 3m 5f Classic Chase – a race the Lucinda Russell yard won five years ago with subsequent Grand National winner One For Arthur. But desert him I will and with a maiden over fences!

Gericault Roque (3.00) has been very well backed earlier in the week – and not just by me – but I expect him to ease from his current odds of 4/1 especially when you consider only one six-year-old (Colonel Christy 1981) has ever won the corresponding race and he carried just 9st 10lbs.

The David Pipe trained novice will carry 11st 3lbs and has been raised 6lbs for finishing second at Newbury last time in the Brown Chamberlin behind the progressive Richard Bandey over 3m 2f when he was certainly not stopping. The gelding is not guaranteed to appreciate today’s extra three furlongs, but he has improved with each run as he steps slowly up in trip to date. 

Pitempton Power to land the hat-trick in Kelso opener 

In the absence of Sirwilliamwallace at Kelso on Sunday Pitempton Power (1.05) can continue his climb up though the ranks and land the hat-trick having been raised just 11lbs for winning his last couple of starts at Carlisle and Musselburgh. Both those fluent successes were gained right-handed but the switch to a left-handed track holds no terrors.

He did jump low at times at Musselburgh last time – certainly four out which he almost took with him – but he is athletic and showed he gets this 2m 5f trip when finishing a close third over three miles at Perth over hurdles back in May.