32Red Casino Chase (Listed) | 2m4½f, 5yo+ | ITV4/RUK
Even in the absence of last year’s winner Waiting Patiently, who will be staying in his box at Ruth Jefferson’s yard as the wait goes on for some rain, this is a high-quality field.
Charbel looked in danger of losing his way in his first season outside of novice company, but he has roared back to form this autumn, running Politologue to half a length at Ascot before routing some decent opposition on the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon last month.
“I’m absolutely delighted with him, his confidence has really improved every time he’s run and he’s come out of the Peterborough Chase in really good form,” said trainer Kim Bailey, whose charge has thrived since stepping up to this intermediate trip.
“It would be nice to think he can follow up here. Top Notch has good form, although we did beat him once a long time ago. It’s a really competitive, strong race and should be a Grade 1!”
Top Notch should have conditions to suit
Top Notch won the rerouted Peterborough at Taunton in December 2017 and added the Oaksey Chase at Sandown on the final day of a lucrative season, one in which his results going right-handed read 1141.
Having been held up at the start of this term, Nicky Henderson elected to give him his first run back in the Grade 1 JLT Hurdle, where he was far from disgraced when third behind Paisley Park.
Going clear: Top Notch justifies favouritism in the Grade 2 bet365 Oaksey Chase at Sandown for Daryl Jacob, Nicky Henderson and owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede
Edward Whitaker / racingpost.com/photos
“He’s back to two and a half miles here but I don’t say he didn’t stay at Ascot, he stayed well,” said Henderson. “I was very impressed with Charbel the other day, but Top Notch is in very good form.
“He had a bad reaction to a flu vaccination earlier in the season and it took him out for a month. That’s why we were slightly late coming in and he came back over hurdles.”
‘No easy options’ for Black Corton
Bryony Frost has enjoyed an eventful couple of outings on the horse that brought her Grade 1 glory last season, performing a miraculous recovery on his seasonal reappearance at Wetherby before jumping errors were again costly in the Ladbrokes Trophy.
This presents the duo with their sharpest test, trip-wise, since landing a Newton Abbot graduation chase in October 2017, but the Paul Nicholls team have been pleased with Black Corton’s schooling this week, while he will also be in receipt of 3lb from his two main rivals.
Top team: Black Corton and Bryony Frost on their way to Grade 1 Novice success in the Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot last February
Alan Crowhurst (Getty Images)
Assistant trainer Harry Derham said: “It’s a warm race but there are no easy options for him. He’s won the Kauto Star round there so the track will be no problem, while he’ll love good ground and he’s in good nick. He jumped well on Wednesday and everybody is happy with him so hopefully he will run well.”
While the market is dominated by those three, a case can be made for Speredek on the basis of his staying-on second behind Un De Sceaux in last season’s Clarence House Chase, while his one attempt at around two and a half miles was inconclusive on the stamina front after making an early error.
Hammersley Lake has a lot to find with Charbel on the evidence of their two recent meetings at Ascot and Huntingdon, although he did give him weight and a beating at Perth back in September.
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