ALTIOR (Nico De Boinville) wins The Unibet Desert Orchid Chase Kempton 27 Dec 2018 - Pic Steven Cargill / Racingfotos.com

My Way Or The Highway In Kempton Handicap

Any live racing on Saturday is going to be an anti-climax after Cheltenham but there is still some pretty good racing on offer. The Midlands Grand National will be the big betting heat of the day but as usual it’s going to be a guessing game as to which horses will last out stamina wise. I’m going to play it slightly safe this week and look at the 3.15 at Kempton (also live on ITV4), a class 3 handicap chase over two and a half miles.

As usual, all the information and tools used below are available with Geegeez Gold – click here to get your first 30 days of Gold for just £1.

Pace

It’s fairly widely known that the Kempton chase course tends to favour those ridden nearer the pace, but how much of an advantage is there?

The majority of winners here are ridden prominently, as are the majority of the placed horses. However it is front runners who have the best win percentage. Leaders have achieved a win percentage of 20%, just ahead of prominent racers who have a 16.13% win ratio. These figures fall steadily the further back in the field a horse is ridden and it’s a pretty similar story as far as the place percentages go, although mid division performs slightly better than prominent this time around. Front runners once again have the best performance and hold up performers once again have the worst performance.

Both front runners and prominent racers have been profitable to back blindly for win purposes in these conditions, prominent racers were more profitable than front runners though with an impressive win PL of 26.13. Front runners have the best IV though of 1.7, ahead of 1.37 for prominent, 1 for mid division and 0.4 for held up.

The above data suggests that in general here, the closer you are to the pace the better. Racing prominently or even in mid division isn’t a huge negative but being held up should certainly be considered a negative, it’s going to be difficult to come from off the pace unless they go really hard up front here.

Pace Map

Here is the pace map for this race, courtesy of the pace tab:

It’s possible we’ll see a contested speed here with Mellow Ben and Princeton Royale likely to dispute the early pace. The former has led on his last three starts, all in bigger fields than this, so it seems highly likely he’ll be sent to the front early. The latter had led on all five starts this season until last time out where he tracked the pace.

It’s also worth noting that My Way has gone from the front on four of his last five starts. He was held up three starts ago which is why the above pace map only considers him to be a prominent racer (the pace map takes an average of the number of runs selected, in this case it is four runs).

So for a relatively small field there is a fair amount of pace in there. It won’t necessarily mean there is a burn up but it should ensure nothing gets a very easy lead.

If it does prove difficult to come from off the pace again here that could inconvenience Domaine De L’Isle and also the well fancied Smarty Wild who are likely to be the most patiently ridden pair in the field.

Instant Expert

Let’s take a look at the Instant Expert in these sorts of conditions for win purposes.

Sorted by odds order, we see that the first few runners in the betting have a a fairly solid profile, from a superficial look. Outsiders Manofthemountain and Domaine De L’Isle also have data going for them.

Manofthemountain has a strong record on good ground, his only chase defeat coming when 4th at Cheltenham over further (the 3rd won his next two starts). The distance is a question mark for him though, as is his well being after being pulled up last time out.

Domaine De L’Isle seems better over this trip than further and has a good record in this sort of field size but he seems better on slightly slower ground and his form this season isn’t up to it.

My Way and Smarty Wild all have nice profiles in Instant Expert it seems. My Way has won over course and distance on good ground which certainly scores him some points. Smarty Wild is another course and distance winner which gives him some advantages in Instant Expert. He’s slightly unproven on this ground but four of his five wins came on good to soft ground so it’s unlikely he’ll be inconvenienced by good, good to soft in places.

The Runners

A quick rundown of each runner’s chances, sorted by from shortest price to longest price according to the early betting.

My Way

Made all over course and distance last time out with first time blinkers added to his usual tongue tie. He’s been pretty consistent throughout the season with generally more aggressive riding tactics employed this season. His two wins have come on his two runs that have come close to this distance on good ground, his defeats have come over 3m+ or on heavy ground.

The team of Paul Nicholls and Bryony Frost have an excellent record at Kempton in the past five years. They have a 33.33% strike rate and a place percentage of 60%.

He’s got a good record on this ground at this sort of trip, he took well to the blinkers last time and it’s possible a 9lb rise underestimates him if connections have finally found the key.

Falco Blitz

Another comfortable last time out winner but he’s previously failed to win here at Kempton in two starts. He may have finished 2nd here two starts ago and he has won right handed in the past but given he has often jumped left it’s debateable if this course suits him that well.

The winner of the race in which he was 2nd at Kempton almost went in again on his next start and he’s definitely amongst the best handicapped runners in this race with plenty of improvement left to come but that tendency to jump left could leave him vulnerable here.

Smarty Wild

Smarty Wild is fairly versatile regarding underfoot conditions but possible doesn’t enjoy extremes too much. He won over course and distance two starts ago and the 3rd came out and won a handicap on his next run. He went up 7lbs for that win but has been dropped 1lb after finishing 5th last time out.

He’s often patiently ridden, although was sensibly given a more prominent ride when winning here. If he’s held up again he could find himself poorly placed, even with a decent pace on offer.

Mellow Ben

A good ground lover (all four career wins have come on good ground) who has done most of his winning at Fontwell. He has good form elsewhere though, his run three starts ago at Newbury would give him an excellent chance here.

The 2nd and 9th won next time out, the 10th and 11th won shortly after and the 1st, 3rd, 4th and 8th all finished at least 4th next time out. That’s a pretty strong piece of form in the context of this race. He’s more exposed than the market leaders and hasn’t run nearly as well on his most recent couple of starts but those runs both came over 3m so this drop in trip should suit. A record of zero wins from six career runs at Kempton doesn’t inspire confidence though.

Vinnie The Hoddie

A faster ground specialist whose only two wins came on good and he finished 2nd on his only run on good to firm. His record when completing on good or faster reads 12142. He wasn’t in good form last time out but that was on good to soft in a listed handicap and this represents a drop in grade.

His previous run is more relevant in the context of this race (a class 3 handicap on good ground) and although he ran respectably, he’ll probably need to improve to win this.

He’s been off 121 days which is a risk but his trainer Oliver Sherwood does have a good record with fresh runners in handicaps. An A/E of 1.19 with handicap runners off a 60+ day break and an IV of 1.89 is very respectable.

Whatswrongwithyou

Ran respectably over course and distance a year ago but has only run once since and that was when unseating at the first in November. A further 113 day absence is definitely a concern. The majority of his wins have come on softer ground which is another worry and he’s clearly the stable second string behind Falco Blitz so enough to put most off him.

Manofthemountain

All his 4 wins have come over further and this drop in trip is perhaps an attempt to spark some life into him after he was pulled up last time out at Newbury. He was 4th in a good race at Cheltenham in October but he was beaten 53 lengths. If he could return to his Bangor form from September he’d have a chance but he’s still 5lbs higher and looks opposable.

Domaine De L’Isle

Hasn’t run well since January 2020 but has been given a wind op after his last run so there is a chance we see a better performance here. Just over a year ago he was completing a hat trick and he’s 3lbs lower here so isn’t handicapped out of things. His three wins in the UK have come on soft or heavy and his well-being has to be taken on trust.

Princeton Royale

The complete outsider and easy to understand why. He’s beaten three rivals home in his last four starts. Eight of his nine wins have come on good ground so this will clearly suit but his poor run has included runs on better ground so it hasn’t just been the ground bothering him. Difficult to see him bouncing back in this.

Verdict

An open contest and one in which Mellow Ben and Vinnie The Hoddie can outrun their odds without winning.

Preference though, unoriginally, is for MY WAY who probably isn’t quite the most progressive in the field but he’s one of a few that could be ahead of their mark still and he seems to have absolutely everything in his favour here. Both his wins have come when making all so other pace options are a slight concern but he’s finished runner up with contrasting rides so can run well however he is ridden.

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