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Popular Grade One-winning chaser Black Corton retired

Black Corton can look forward to a happy retirement in the care of Bryony Frost, after connections called time on the career of the popular Paul Nicholls-trained chaser.

The 10-year-old ran a string of fine races, with his last victory coming in the Grade Two Oaksey Chase at Sandown in 2019, while he was famously a Grade One winner under Frost in the 2017 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton.

Bryony Frost with Black Corton
Bryony Frost with Black Corton (Tess Derry/PA)

He also won the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase at Ascot in 2018, while his efforts in defeat included a gallant second in the 2019 Galway Plate.

Sent off at 11-1 for the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Kempton on Saturday, he was pulled up before three out.

Nicholls said on Twitter: “After discussions with the owners we have decided to retire Black Corton. He will have a lovely home with Bryony.”

Mister Malarky on course to defend Kempton title

Last year’s winner and runner-up Mister Malarky and Black Corton are on course to do battle again in the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Kempton.

Colin Tizzard’s Mister Malarky landed another big pot at Ascot in December, but was a distant seventh most recently in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster.

Paul Nicholls’ Black Corton, due to top the weights as he did 12 months ago, will need to bounce back on Saturday after a rare disappointing run last time out when he was pulled up at Cheltenham in December.

Aso, second at Warwick recently, Cap Du Nord, third in the Sky Bet, and Kempton specialist Double Shuffle are also among the 19 remaining possibles.

There should be Cheltenham clues elsewhere on the card, with Alan King’s Tritonic entered in both the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle and the Close Brothers Adonis Juvenile Hurdle.

A classy performer on the level, he made a winning debut over hurdles at Ascot.

Also in the Dovecote is Nicholls’ Atholl Street, Dan Skelton’s Calico and Emmett Mullins’ Irish Cesarewitch winner Cape Gentleman.

There are 16 possibles in the Adonis – with Nicky Henderson’s Heross Du Seuil, a Kempton winner over Christmas, and Jane Williams’ Honneur D’Ajonc, a late faller when leading in the same race, due to face each other once more.

Adding intrigue is the French challenger Margaret’s Legacy – while Skelton could run John Locke, useful on the Flat for Ralph Beckett.

Hitman, Ga Law, Messire Des Obeaux and Coole Cody are among seven in the Close Brothers Pendil Novices’ Chase.

Gordon expecting Commanche to thrive in Gold test at Ascot

Chris Gordon is confident a step up in trip will help Commanche Red resume his progression over fences in the Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot.

The lightly-raced seven-year-old will bid to secure the biggest prize of his career on his first start over three miles in the competitive Grade Three prize.

Having defeated subsequent Cheltenham Festival winner Simply The Betts at Kempton on his penultimate start, Commanche Red was last sighted finishing third in the Grade Two Pendil Novices’ Chase at the Sunbury track in February.

Gordon said: “This is his first time over three miles, but I always thought he would improve a little bit more over this sort of trip.

“We’ve been looking forward to stepping him up to three miles and he was going to have his first run over it at Aintree in the Grade One novice chase, but Covid stopped that.

“I don’t like making excuses for horses, but his shoe slipped back at Kempton and the toe clip went into his foot.

“You would like to think as we have looked after him he is still improving and as he is fairly unexposed, you would hope that little bit of natural progression is there. ”

Nicky Henderson believes Might Bite is capable of putting in a big performance on his return to action
Nicky Henderson believes Might Bite is capable of putting in a big performance on his return to action (Clint Hughes/PA)

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Nicky Henderson reports 2017 King George VI Chase winner Might Bite to be in good order ahead as he attempts to register his first success since the Betway Bowl at Aintree over two years ago.

Henderson said: “We think he has been very well, we really do, but what we think and the rest of the world thinks might be two different things. He looks and feels great.

“We’ve got to forget about last season. Nico (de Boinville) has schooled him and the lad who rides him every day says he is loving life. We have just got to hope we can pull a miracle out of the bag.

“He has come a long way down the weights and I’m not going to say he will win, but we have done lots of work with him and I’d be disappointed if he doesn’t run a very good race.

“We all love him to bits and he has been a star. He is a character beyond a character.”

The Seven Barrows handler will also be represented by Valtor, who finished second in a Listed contest over course and distance on his last start.

Henderson added: “He has won over course and distance before but he paid the penalty for that.

“He always seems to run well here though and he is a very game horse.”

Having saddled Frodon to glory off top weight at Cheltenham last weekend, trainer Paul Nicholls will bid to repeat the trick with last year’s third Black Corton, who will be making his first start since undergoing a wind operation.

He said: “He ran well in it last year off 163 and he is 2lb lower this year. He ran some good races last year. He loves going right handed and is tough and genuine, so hopefully he will run well.

“He has had a wind op over the summer and he is fit and well, so we are hopeful of a good run.

“He is capable of carrying big weights in these handicaps, as he showed last year, and he carried top weight in that big handicap at Kempton in the spring and was second there, so he is used to it.”

The Ditcheat handler believes Bryan Carver’s 5lb claim could help the chances of Adrien Du Pont ending his lengthy losing drought.

He said: “He was a bit frustrating, so he needs to improve on what he has done. He has got no weight and Bryan Carver takes a handy 5lb off him.

“It would be no surprise to me if he did run well. Some of those races last year might not have suited him and it didn’t happen for him, but hopefully this year he will be fine.”

Whatmore is expected to benefit going back up in trip according to trainer Henry Daly (David Davies/PA images)
Whatmore is expected to benefit going back up in trip according to trainer Henry Daly (David Davies/PA images)

Whatmore enjoyed a solid first season over fences, culminating with fourth in a Listed event at the Cheltenham Festival in March and trainer Henry Daly expects the eight-year-old to make his presence felt upped in trip again.

Daly said: “He got better as he learned last season. I ran him in what was the Racing Post Chase at Kempton, then ran him quite quickly in the Listed novice chase at the Cheltenham Festival and he ran two cracking good races.

“The two and a half (miles) at Cheltenham was probably a bit too short and three around Kempton was good, so this should be ideal.

“He has run well fresh before and he has been in a long time. We have just been waiting this race as it has been on the mind for sometime.

“We’ve had a good, clean preparation going into it, so hopefully he will run well.”