Jamie Snowden is in optimistic mood for Ga Law’s return to action in the Close Brothers Pendil Novices’ Chase at Kempton.
The Sinndar gelding provided his trainer with a first victory at graded level when readily beating two rivals in the “Rising Stars” Novices’ Chase at Wincanton in November.
A drop in trip and a rise in class for the Grade One Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown a month later ultimately proved too much, but Snowden feels his stable star has a good chance of getting back on the winning trail in Saturday’s Grade Two contest.
“He had a bit of a break and a quiet month after the Henry VIII, but he’s back in and in top shape and goes to Kempton in great order,” said the Lambourn-based trainer.
“He’s obviously got to carry a 5lb penalty for his Grade Two win at Wincanton, and his weight-for-age is diminishing as the months progress, so he’s got to keep improving – but he’s in good order, and we go there with every chance.
“Kempton is not too dissimilar to Wincanton, and I think going back up to two-and-a-half will help.
“In the Henry VIII he was just taken off his feet slightly, but he was only beaten just over 10 lengths and wasn’t disgraced.”
Ga Law’s biggest threat appears to be the Paul Nicholls-trained Tamaroc Du Mathan, last seen filling the runner-up spot behind Arkle favourite Shishkin in the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton in December.
Nicholls told Betfair: “He made quite an impression on his chasing debut at Wincanton, where he jumped for fun and readily pulled clear in the closing stages.
“I thought he then ran really well when runner up to Shishkin at Kempton over Christmas. I’ve been waiting for better ground for Tamaroc Du Mathan ever since, and everything looks set for another big run from him.”
Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Coole Cody (Evan Williams) and Son Of Camas (Nicky Henderson) are the other hopefuls.
Nicholls also has a leading contender for the Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle, in the hat-trick seeking Atholl Street.
The Trevor Hemmings-owned six-year-old has earned the step up to Grade Two level, following a pair of facile wins at Taunton.
“He is another of mine that loves decent ground, so I have saved him for this race since he hacked up at Taunton early in December,” Nicholls added.
“That was his second impressive win at the Somerset track, and he fully deserves a step up in class.
“While he still holds an entry in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, a good run at Kempton is more likely to book his ticket for Aintree.”
Chief among Atholl Street’s rivals is Calico, who is trained by Nicholls’ former assistant Dan Skelton.
A high-class performer on the Flat in Germany, the five-year-old made a successful hurdling debut for his new connections at Ludlow.
Skelton said: “I’m really happy with him and I think the track will suit him.
“He has got high-class form on the Flat. He should be able to go at the pace they are likely to go in this race.
“It is a big step from his win at Ludlow, but I feel he can compete at this level – and he has performed well on better ground in the past.”
Emmet Mullins saddles Irish Cesarewitch winner Cape Gentleman, who needs to bounce back from a disappointing effort at the Dublin Racing Festival.
Alan King is hoping Son Of Red can earn himself a shot at the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham.
“I don’t know whether he’ll be up to this, but he needs a third run to qualify for the Fred Winter (Boodles),” said the Barbury Castle trainer.
“He has to have a third run by Sunday, so that’s why he’s running.
“I think he’s done well for his break. Whether he’s quite up to this level, I don’t know, but we have to go somewhere with him.”
Lunar Sovereign (Fergal O’Brien), Mackenberg (Donald McCain) and Pyramid Place (Milton Harris) complete the field.