We have some interesting action in Britain today with handicaps the order of the day at both Haydock over jumps and Kempton on the flat and I am sticking with those venues for today’s quartet. Ansaab was a 4-1 (advised) winner in my previous column on Monday.
Haydock 2.05: OUR MICK (6-1 general)
Donald McCain’s gelding Our Mick promised much as a novice but has had a fairly woeful time of things so far this winter. There was a better performance at Aintree on Grand National day however and I am hopeful that the drier ground he prefers plus a further drop in the handicap can combine to see him right back to his best today.
After a couple of runs to get his eye in over fences during his novice season, he promised to become too good for handicaps after running up a hat-trick including a Grade 2 contest over 2m4f here. He went on though to finish a fine third to Alfie Sherrin at the Cheltenham Festival and after a belated start to last term, picked up where he left off. Unlucky to be knocked over two out at Cheltenham on his return he went on to place second in the same race at the Festival to the runaway winner Golden Chieftain. Right there until a lack of stamina saw him off over 4m in the Scottish National, it is possible that hard race left its mark.
He ran no sort of race when pulling up on heavy ground at Bangor and although he finished third in a listed chase at Aintree to Unioniste, he jumped deliberately on occasions and blinkers were no help to him when he pulled up on heavy ground at Cheltenham in January. Sent to the front at Aintree, he was still going strong two out until fading quickly late on over 3m1f. He is clearly not straight forward, but flat left-handed tracks do seem to favour him and he is now 11lbs lower than for his Festival second last season.
Kempton 2.20: CHILWORTH ICON (8-1 general)
He may be without a win since his 2yo days but Chilworth Icon has been promising better to come in recent weeks and with a reasonable record already on Polytrack he looks weighted to resume winning ways at Kempton today, especially as he will have an edge in fitness on some of his rivals.
Last season was a barren one for Mick Channon’s gelding who perhaps paid for a busy and successful juvenile campaign where he achieved a listed success at Epsom and a Group 3 win in San Siro. Despite the odd good run last season, he seemed to be in that twilight zone of being short of group race class but too high in the handicap to give away weight.
He did spend part of the winter in Dubai, but could only get into one race where he finished in mid-division on the Tapeta. However he might well have benefited from warm winter training as he turned in a much better performance when third to the progressive Purcell at Lingfield last month. Whilst the eyes of most punters were on the principal cards at Ayr and Newbury last week, Chilworth Icon ran an eyecatching race at Thirsk where he was a very unlucky-in-running seventh to Farlow. Travelling well throughout he could not get a run until it was too late and he is clearly well weighted on a career low mark of 92 at present.
Kempton 3.30: FRASERS HILL (13-2 Sporting Bet)
Although Frasers Hill clearly has his problems, the fact that Roger Varian is persisting with the three times raced 5yo surely suggests he possesses plenty of ability still and he looks worth chancing at Kempton today on a surface he has already run well on.
He raced once as a 2yo, finishing a fair third in an autumn soft ground maiden at Yarmouth, but he clearly met with an injury as we did not see him at all in 2012. He was ready though for an early start to last term, running in a maiden at the beginning of April where only the 100 rated Queensberry Rules was too quick for him.
Something clearly went amiss at Hamilton next time as he went from cruising 2f out to being eased down within a furlong and the fact he did not run again in 2013 clearly indicates there was a serious problem. That effort is therefore best ignored and he has presumably pleased at home since to be kept going as a 5yo. Whilst he might lack experience, he should be a strong horse now and with the Varian yard having made a solid start to the new season, he could be well in here off 85.
Haydock 3.50: RED ROCCO (4-1 general)
Something of an enigma, Red Rocco has performed with great credit is some large sized staying chase handicaps this season, but has not always looked the hardiest under pressure. I am hoping that a combination of a smaller field that he could find easier to dominate, plus quicker going can see him put it all in for the whole race today.
Stamina is certainly not an issue – he won twice over 3m on heavy going as a novice, making all on both occasions. He finished the year with a fair fourth in the West Wales National at Ffos Las where his chance was compromised by Carruthers leading them all a merry dance which did not suit this front runner.
He started this year (his first with Nigel Twiston-Davies) well when finishing second over course and distance to Nuts N Bolts, despite not getting to the front early on. The Welsh and Somerset Nationals were not his cup of tea, pulling up both times in big fields. However having got to the front in the Grand National Trial here in February, he put in a much bolder show, only giving best two out to Rigadin du Beauchene before unseating his jockey at the last. A fair fifth in the Midlands National from well out of the handicap last time, he will find this much easier. One complication is the presence of another pacesetter in Bennys Well in the line-up but this race is a step up in grade for that rival and if Red Rocco can see him off, he has the class and stamina to see this through to the line.