Le Breuil in good shape ahead of renewed bid for Classic Chase glory

Le Breuil bids to make amends for being unlucky in the McCoy Contractors Civil Engineering Classic Handicap Chase 12 months ago when he returns to Warwick on Saturday.

Being slowly away put the Ben Pauling-trained Le Breuil on the back foot for a horse that likes to be up with the pace, but he nevertheless put in good late headway to take fifth place behind Kimberlite Candy.

Pauling also feels a wind operation since he finished third to Vieux Lion Rouge in the Becher Chase at Aintree will help his cause, as will his slide in the weights.

“He’s in good order with himself. He’s had a wind op since the Becher, I think that will help him a lot,” said the Cheltenham-based handler. “He just slipped his palate at the back of the second-last at Aintree.

Trainer Ben Pauling
Trainer Ben Pauling (David Davies/PA)

“The trip and track suit, but he had no luck in the race last year. He jumped off near last when he likes to race prominently and then he flew home, so I suggest that he’s got every chance of running a big race.

“I’m looking forward to it. He’s 8lb lower than last year and I’ll think he’ll run well.”

Captain Chaos was second last year and his trainer Dan Skelton is expecting another big show.

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“Captain Chaos is in good form. We’ve put the blinkers back on and he ran well in this race last year,” he said. 

“I’ve not seen much from him this season, which is a bit of a concern, but he always starts his season slow, while the ground was really bad on his second start at Bangor. 

“Blinkers make a big difference to him and we know he acts here as he ran well in it last year. He is as well as I can have him. 

“He is favourite, which is a big leap of faith from those betting on him I feel, but hopefully having the headgear back on will make a big difference.”

Alan King has had the Classic Chase in mind for Notachance
Alan King has had the Classic Chase in mind for Notachance (David Davies/PA)

Notachance made a winning comeback at Bangor in November following 10 months off the track, after which trainer Alan King specifically aimed the seven-year-old at this race.

“This has been the target all the way through since his win at Bangor. He did have an entry in the Welsh National, but I never thought about racing him in that on that ground,” said the Barbury Castle hander.

“This looks like a logical race to have a go at with him. Everything has gone well in the build up. He has raced over three and a quarter miles before, so I don’t see the trip being a problem. We always thought he would be a nice staying chaser. 

“I think he is a better horse this season than last. He is more mature. I’m very happy with him and he has done well. 

“We are hoping he will be one for the Scottish National as I had that as a long-term target, but we will get this out of the way first. He won’t go to Aintree, as neither the trainer nor owner are keen on the race.”

Storm Control heads for the Classic Handicap Chase on a hat-trick after two wins at Cheltenham
Storm Control heads for the Classic Handicap Chase on a hat-trick after two wins at Cheltenham (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Kerry Lee is looking forward to finding out if Storm Control can prove a contender for Randox Health Grand National honours.

The eight-year-old has improved for stepping up from two and a half miles to three miles plus with wins at Cheltenham on his last two starts.

With those victories has come the inevitable hike in the ratings for Storm Control, but that does not worry Lee.

“He’s been in great order. I wouldn’t be unduly concerned about his rise in the ratings. He’s still on a nice racing weight in this particular race,” said the Presteigne trainer.

“I’m looking forward to finding out if he’s a Grand National contender at the trip.”

Robert Walford is hoping Walk In The Mill can bounce back following an uncharacteristic fall at the Chair when bidding to win the Becher Chase for the third year running at Aintree last month.

“He was a bit stiff after Aintree, but he’s all right now,” said Walford.

“It’s a tough race, but we’re hoping he’ll run well.”

Walk In The Mill seeking Aintree history in Becher Chase

Trainer Robert Walford is wary of the extra weight Walk In The Mill must carry as he bids for his own piece of Aintree history with a third successive win in the William Hill Becher Chase.

Two other horses have won the race twice, Into The Red and Hello Bud, but even they did not manage to win it back-to-back as Walk In The Mill has.

His task is distinctly harder this time around from a mark 12lb higher than his first win, and he is rising 11, but he showed up well for a long way on his comeback at Ascot to suggest all his ability remains.

“He’s in really good form but he’s obviously got more weight than he’s had in previous years. We’re hopeful of a good run,” said Dorset handler Walford.

“He always needs his first run of the year really. I was quite happy with the way he ran at Ascot. I thought he ran quite nicely.”

Ben Pauling is hoping Le Breuil can build on his solid first attempt over the Grand National fences 12 months ago when he has his second crack at the race this weekend.

Winner of the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2019, Le Breuil ran better than his seventh place would suggest.

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“He’s in great order with himself. He ran well in the race last year, so I’m expecting another big run from him this year,” said the Cotswolds trainer.

“He obviously loved the fences last year. Hopefully he’s in as good a form as I can have him going into the race.

“It was nice to see him in the form of old up at Kelso. We look forward to a big run on Saturday.”

Last year’s runner-up Kimberlite Candy has also risen in the weights, but his trainer Tom Lacey believes the eight-year-old can handle that now.

Kimberlite Candy on his way to winning the Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick
Kimberlite Candy on his way to winning the Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick (Steven Paston/PA)

“He does have a lot more weight to carry than last year, when he was second, but he is another year stronger,” he said.

“He’s been a late-maturing horse all the way through his life, and I think he’s the finished article now – so I can’t wait.

“He ran an absolute belter in the race last year and he is going back having run a career-best in the Classic Chase at Warwick last time out.”

Alex Hales cannot wait to pitch Smooth Stepper over the Aintree fences. The 11-year-old won the Grand National Trial at Haydock in February, and shaped well on his comeback run at Sandown four weeks ago.

“It’s a race I’ve always wanted to run him in, and I thought he ran very well in his prep race at Sandown on unsuitable ground,” he said.

“He comes here, and it looks like the ground is going to be in his favour.

“I thought he proved at Sandown he could be competitive off his new handicap mark – and he’s in very good order.

“I’m looking forward to it. He looks an ideal type for the race.”

Vieux Lion Rouge, the winner in 2016, makes his fifth consecutive appearance in the three-and-a-quarter-mile contest and is one of two runners from the David Pipe stable.

“He ran well the other day. It was a pipe opener for this and he qualified for the veterans’ final as well so it served its purpose – he’s come on a lot from there,” Pipe said in a call hosted by Great British Racing.

“He’s working as well up the gallops now as he was three years ago. He has dropped down the weights but he lights up for this occasion, and he’s not without a shout.”

Pipe has a second string to his bow in Ramses De Teillee, who put up a gutsy display to land a narrow victory at Cheltenham last time.

Ramses de Teillee (left) tries the Grand National fences for a second time when he lines-up for the Becher Chase
Ramses de Teillee (left) tries the Grand National fences for a second time when he lines up for the Becher Chase (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He’s a better horse on softer ground and he should get that on Saturday,” said the Nicolashayne trainer.

“He’s going back to Aintree for a second time – which can be a thing. A lot of jockeys and trainers will tell you most horses will do something well once, it’s the second time you have to be wary.

“Hopefully, because of the softer ground, they won’t go as quick, and he’ll be in his comfort zone.”