'Proper' Charli to warm up for Festival
Henderson eyes Triumph for hot prospect but Supreme bid still an option
Charli Parcs is one of the reasons racegoers will attend Kempton's excellent fixture today, debate in the air as to where he will end up at the Cheltenham Festival.
Though he is a four-year-old, the JCB Triumph Hurdle may not be his destination, since JP McManus has hot favourite Defi Du Seuil in that event. Thus, a Sky Bet Supreme Novice Hurdle switch remains possible.
"I'd like to run him in the Triumph," said trainer Nicky Henderson. "He's very smart, a proper four-year-old. If you go into the Supreme you get allowances; we'll have to see. JP has a lot of horses in a number of categories."
The lack of reliance on specific ground means that Charli Parcs runs in today's BetBright Genius Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton. He should escape without a hard race, which would hardly be ideal with the Festival approaching.
The reputation of this horse is such that he is expected to go off something like 4/7. If that does not take your fancy, consider an each-way play on Flying Tiger, which benefited from earplugs at Newbury and is clearly a pretty useful sort for Nick Williams.
However, the McManus runner, which was hugely impressive on his British debut, is near-impossible to oppose. He is next year's Champion Hurdle winner - at least potentially.
Read more: Fry's Batsman all set to score at Kempton
Frodon should dictate in the Pendil Novices' Chase under Sam Twiston-Davies. The son of Nickname is well-suited by small fields and form evidence suggests he has a bit of an edge over Gold Present, though there is the possibility that Charmix - sporting first-occasion cheekpieces - will take him on up front. Despite the lack of runners, it will be a spectacle.
Capitaine's inability to deal with Finian's Oscar at Sandown was expected by the market, though he did not do much wrong. Ascot running gives him an edge over Captain Forez but Dan Skelton's Network-bred, in receipt of 7lb and open to better, looks a legitimate each-way player now. The better ground can suit 100/1 chance Bazooka, a fair operator on the level and not out of it for place purposes now.
Read more: Husband and wife team to land Bobbyjo
The staying handicap chase, predictably competitive, makes minimal punting appeal and few seem to have anything in hand. The veteran Opening Batsman, dropping in the weights, may have been freshened up this year and is a token pick. Raz De Maree pulled out, there is no Irish runner in the Betfred Eider Handicap Chase at Newcastle. The old boy Mountainous, a truly dour stayer, is back to his Welsh National mark little over a year later and may prove the answer.
Heavy going is ideal for Kerry Lee's veteran, aboard which Richard Patrick did a nice job when he was second at Hereford.
A couple of all-weather contests at Lingfield are also shown on ITV, the Betway Hever Sprint Stakes giving Pretend the chance to prove that his latest outing was anomalous. A well-held odds-on favourite then, he got quite worked up beforehand, ran freely in the race and also met plenty of traffic.
The son of Invincible Spirit relishes this artificial surface and is well-fancied to put the record straight. That said, the hardy Lancelot Du Lac has been in excellent shape this year and will make him work on that evidence.
The big draw at Lingfield is Mutakayyef in the Betway Winter Derby Stakes, a Group Three. This son of Sea The Stars was last seen finishing three parts of a length behind the mighty Tepin in a Grade One and he is nearly a certainty on that sort of form.
However, it may be wise to oppose the Willie Haggas runner with Grendisar, the fitting of first-time blinkers nevertheless something of a gamble. This track is basically a second home to Marco Botti's horse, which should come home with a rattle under Adam Kirby. The key to this race could be that Mutakayyef must give weight away and this is Grendisar's chance to take advantage.
Horses keep many of us compelled because of their personalities, and it was easy to smile after the win of Tin Soldier at Thurles in the feature on Thursday.
He looked well beaten coming into the straight, but seemed to be playing with Ruby Walsh and rallied to go in front jumping the last.
When he took the lead, he seemingly decided he had enough of that, and was pulling himself up near the wire. With horses like this, one struggles to get to the bottom of them - and that is exciting.
This is the latest steed to advertise the credentials of a highly promising jumps stallion in Soldier Of Fortune. He also got Triumph hope Mega Fortune.
After the victory, Willie Mullins expressed doubt about Tin Soldier going to Cheltenham, but if the horse comes out of the race in fine shape, might he change his mind?
This one could be worth a shot at the Albert Bartlett or Neptune, with owner Philip Reynolds excited about what might be in store down the line.