Close Brothers Handicap Chase Preview – Saturday 27th February
Last updated: February 26, 2021 by Leon Marshal
The feature race at Kempton Park on Saturday is the £75,000 Close Brothers Handicap Chase over three miles. The race was formerly known as the Racing Post Chase and is considered a possible stepping-stone to the Grand National. Rhyme ‘N’ Reason (1988) and Rough Quest (1996) won both races. Other notable winners include Crisp (1972), Pendil (1973, 1974) and Desert Orchid (1990). Nothing has really gone on to make its mark at Aintree after winning here in recent years. Last year’s renewal was won by Mister Malarky, trained by Colin Tizzard and ridden by Jonjo O’Neill Junior.
Cap Du Nord Favourite For Kempton Feature Race
The ante-post favourite is Cap Du Nord, an eight-year-old gelding trained by Christian Williams. He won at Newbury in November before chasing home Royale Pagaille over course and distance the following month. He had been raised 10lbs for his Newbury success, and it was a great effort to get within three and a quarter lengths of the well-handicapped winner.
Royale Pagaille underlined the form next time when cruising home at Haydock off a 16lbs higher mark. He has since been raised a further 10lbs, which puts him in Gold Cup class. Cap Du Nord was up a further 6lbs for his most recent start in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster. He did not jump with his usual fluency that day but stuck on gamely to finish third to Takingrisks. His trainer believes the better ground at Kempton will bring about some improvement, and he is nicely weighted on 10st 10lbs.
Southfield Stone represents the Paul Nicholls stable, a grey son of Fair Mix with two victories from eight starts over fences. He was well beaten in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham but returned from a 59-day break to win over two miles here earlier this month. He has never raced beyond two and a half miles, so the trip is a concern.
The same applies to Al Dancer, who was also down the field in the big Cheltenham handicap. He has not raced since and is arguably well handicapped on his win over Master Tommytucker at Newton Abbot in October. He was a high-class hurdler over two miles, so there must be a doubt about him lasting the three miles.
Romain De Senam Raised 10lbs For Musselburgh Victory
Romain De Senam had appeared fully exposed prior to a 12 lengths victory at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day. Like several of these, his best form is at shorter trips, and he has been beaten in this race for the past two seasons. He was fourth to Walt in 2019 and a well-beaten eighth behind Mister Malarky 12 months’ ago. A 10lbs penalty for his Musselburgh win makes this a difficult task.
The weights are headed by Black Corton, ridden by Bryony Frost. The ten-year-old has been a victim of his own success and has been in the grip of the handicapper for the past two seasons. He has put in his usual game efforts, notably when second here last year under 11st 12lbs. His form this season has been disappointing, and he looks as though he needs to drop a few pounds to be competitive.
Clondaw Castle is yet another entry who will be stretching his stamina over this three miles. He won over two and a half at Newbury in November and has been placed in Grade 2 races over the same trip in his two outings. Slate House won the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase last season but has lost way since. There was some encouragement from his third to Capeland at Wincanton in January. Double Shuffle loves this track and was runner-up here in 2019. His career-best effort was also over course and distance in the 2017 King George when second to Might Bite. He won here on his most recent start in January when beating Ami Desbois by a length and a quarter.
Alan King saddles Talkischeap, the winner of the 2019 Bet365 Gold Cup. He missed most of last year through injury and has been brought back steadily with a run on the flat and then in a bumper. King must have been encouraged by his staying on third that day, but he is 10lbs higher than his Sandown victory.
Cap Du Nord @4-1 William Hill
Each-way ¼ odds, 1,2,3,4
The Close Brothers Handicap Chase is due off at 3.35 at Kempton Park on Saturday 27th February and will be televised live on ITV4.