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Paul Nicholls has five Saturday runners, including strong claims in the feature races at both Kempton and Warwick. Here are the Betfair Ambassador’s thoughts on their chances – and some harsh words for the handicapper…

“Although I don’t have many complaints about British racing I am getting more and more annoyed with the handicapping system. Putting him up 7lbs for winning by four lengths in a race that fell apart would have been fair. But 12lbs! That is ludicrous when you consider he had been well beaten off a lower mark of 117 in his three previous starts this season.”

Kempton

Plenty of positives despite high handicap mark

13:30 – Amour de Nuit

Ran well last time at Leicester in what quickly developed into match with Desirable Court. He had to give the mare almost a stone and the pair played cat and mouse with our horse forced to make the running before Desirable Court pounced late on.

Amour de Nuit has progressed nicely over fences, jumps accurately and is probably handicapped to the hilt after a rewarding spell. But he likes Kempton, prefers going right handed and enjoys good ground so there are plenty of positives with Lorcan Williams taking a handy 5lbs off his back.

Ignore last run but Charbel the one to beat

14:05 – Black Corton

Life was always going to be a lot tougher for Black Corton this time round after his astonishing achievements last season. He is not the biggest and he struggled under top weight in the Ladbroke at Newbury in testing conditions. It was all a bit much for him and I’ve put a line through that run.

Black Corton is fine now, in top form at home, and will be much happier winging round Kempton on decent ground.

Finding the right races for him is not easy and dropping back in trip to two miles, four and a half furlongs is not ideal and while he will run tidily as usual I suspect he will have his work cut out against Charbel.

Rise in weights is incredibly harsh

14:40 – Darling Maltaix

I’ve had this race in mind for Darling Maltaix since he finally opened his winning account over hurdles at the 10th attempt at Ascot with the help of a patient ride by Lorcan Williams.

But I can’t be at all confident after the handicapper over reacted by raising him 12lbs to a mark of 134. That is a joke, incredibly harsh on a horse winning for the first time. Although I don’t have many complaints about British racing I am getting more and more annoyed with the handicapping system.

Putting him up 7lbs for winning by four lengths in a race that fell apart would have been fair. But 12lbs! That is ludicrous when you consider he had been well beaten off a lower mark of 117 in his three previous starts this season.

It has taken ages to teach Darling Marling to settle and switch off because he is headstrong and not an easy ride. Then he finally gets it together and is hit with a thumping great rise. Owners who support the game become upset when their horses are murdered by the handicapper and this is not an isolated incident.

Naturally I hope Darling Maltaix can defy the handicapper but I can’t really see it happening.

Warwick

Goes well fresh so we have a good chance

13:50 – Secret Investor

Won the Persian War Hurdle in style before chasing home Bags Groove on his first start over fences in the Rising Stars Chase at Wincanton. Bags Groove put his experience to good use that day and although Secret Investor tried hard he could never quite land a blow, partly because his jumping wasn’t slick enough.

He came back with a little nick on his leg which caused him to miss a couple of days but he was quickly back in form at home and has had plenty of schooling to sharpen up his jumping.

Secret Investor is a really nice horse who goes well fresh and looks to have a good chance in this.

Strong claims with trip and ground ideal

15:00 Ibis Du Rheu

He came good in style at Cheltenham in November, jumping soundly before staying on well to beat Theatre Territory and The Worlds End. So it was disappointing to see The Worlds End turn the tables decisively next time when they got racing a long way from home and he made a couple of mistakes at a crucial time.

I’ve always felt that Ibis Du Rheu would be best suited by coming off a strong pace in a long distance handicap on good ground and he gets the chance here which is strange when you consider the going at this time of year is usually bottomless.

He has bags of experience over fences and I can see him starting to pass horses and then creeping into contention late on. Great chance.

*Best chance. Ibis Du Rheu has a lot in his favour stepping up in distance at Warwick.



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