The 888Sport Chase is the highlight on a star-studded Kempton card this Saturday, which traditionally has been the last informative horseracing meeting in Britain before the Cheltenham Festival.
Many of the results on Saturday will help shape the Cheltenham betting markets, so be sure to keep your eyes and ears to the ground as the afternoon develops.
Run over a distance of three miles, Kempton's 888Sport Chase is a Grade 3 handicap that will be remembered affectionately by most readers out there as the Racing Post Chase, a banner it was run under from 1988 until 2011.
The race has had a few more sponsors since then, but it is our betting partner 888Sport who has taken up the mantle this year.
As well as being a pointer towards Cheltenham, the race often serves as a trial for the Grand National. Both Rhyme 'n' Reason (1988) and Rough Quest (1996) won this race, then ran in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, before going on to taste victory in the Grand National – all in the same season!
No lie detector is required here to tell us that the Jeremy Kyle-owned Glen Rocco has been popular in all the 888Sport Chase ante-post betting lists and is currently trading at 7/2 with sponsors 888Sport.
The Nick Gifford-trained eight-year-old has been riding the crest of a wave this season, winning two of his five starts, which included a 23-length demolition of the field at Kempton last month.
Connections believe Glen Rocco is a prospective Grand National runner in the long term, but his immediate task is a bold showing at Kempton, before taking up one of his many options at Cheltenham next month. Gifford has entered him for the National Hunt Chase, the RSA Chase, and the Ultima and Kim Muir Handicap Chases.
Glen Rocco is up 13lb for his Kempton course-and-distance success, but is a horse on the improve and it is easy to see why he is the favourite. Another course-and-distance winner Adrien Du Pont should prove a worthy adversary to the favourite and is a best priced 11/2 shot with Ladbrokes.
Paul Nicholls’ seven-year-old breezed through the field nicely at the business end of proceedings to score by a comfortable 3½ lengths at Kempton over Christmas, and he can adopt similar waiting tactics here.
Although the 888Sport Chase will probably be lacking the numbers it used to have in years gone by, what it lacks for in entries it makes up for in strength and depth.
One such candidate fitting those criteria is the Venetia Williams-trained Calipto (nap). Returning under a 5lb penalty, just seven days after beating a classy field at Ascot last Saturday, the nine-year-old has every chance of striking again.
After being hemmed in by Regal Encore approaching two out in the Swinley Chase, Calipto showed lots of character and determination to run down the prolific winner Black Corton and scored nicely.
That victory came on the back of an excellent showing in the Sky Bet Chase (formerly the Great Yorkshire Chase) and Lady Bolton’s runner is clearly in rude health. Double-digit odds of 12/1 are currently available in Bet365's 888Sport Chase betting and they should not be sneezed at.
A couple of runs ago the Neil Mulholland-trained Walt (nb) gave his rivals a right lesson in jumping in a novices' limited handicap at Taunton, clocking up a 15-length win from the consistent Mahlermade.
On his next run the eight-year-old failed by the narrowest of margins at Newbury and he and the winner pulling well clear of the rest. Only one run over three miles is a slight worry for Walt backers, but he does appear to be a better horse now than he was when he finished sixth over the trip at Bangor.
The odds of 20/1 with Coral seem reasonable and he can give his supporters a decent each-way run. Also coming in at 20/1(BetVictor) is Flying Angel, who the handicapper has finally given a chance to. He hasn't won since Aintree 2017, but is certainly on a very workable mark at Kempton this Saturday.
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