Olly Murphy has his string in excellent form and anything he saddles at the moment is worth at least a second glance. IK Brunel (1.00) was disappointing towards the end of last season, but has valuable chase experience, has an excellent record fresh and begins this campaign from a mark 11lbs lower than 12 months ago.
He only went down by a short head to Coolanly at Fontwell on his chase debut last October and the Fergal O’Brien chaser is rated 138. With that in mind IK Brunel could be well treated although he is 1lb out of the handicap. The 11/2 with William Hill looks fair.
Midnight River has had his wind tweaked since falling in the Aintree Grade 1 Novice Hurdle, but he has always been considered an embryonic chaser in the making. It is only his punitive odds – 5/4 with William Hill – that puts me off. He must give 11lbs to IK Brunel.
Donald McCain’s Minella Drama (2.10) made a winning chase debut at Uttoxeter despite jumping out to his right and he can follow up in the valuable Graduation Chase. The selection finished runner up to Sir Gerhard in a point in his native Ireland and ended his last season finishing runner up to the exciting My Drogo in a Grade 1 at Aintree. He will likely take a lead from Gumball, but I will be disappointed if he does not run a very big race. The opening 2s looked very attreactive and the selection – who receives 7lbs from Cheddleton – is Evens with 10Bet at the time of posting on Monday morning.
I think the winner of the novices’ handicap chase will also come from the yard of Olly Murphy or Donald McCain with preference for Captain Biggles (2.40) on his seasonal reappearance. I remember being disappointed when the selection failed to pick up Stoner’s Choice at Market Rase last autumn, but the winner is now rated 143 and the selection remains open to significant improvement over timber before switching his attention to fences. The 15/8 with MansionBet looks about right.
At Kempton Boreham Bill returns to the scene of his Lanzarote success back in January and he is only 4lbs higher in the weights. This 2m 5f trip is ideal for Stoner’s Choice while Angus Cheleda has an unbeaten record on Calva D’Auge having won all on all three rides aboard the Paul Nicholls’ trained 6-y-old.
The each way vote, however, goes to Press Your Luck (3.00) who looked ready for a step back up in trip when runner up at Fontwell on his reappearance. He was still going well when brought down three out over C&D back in March when he would surely have been involved in the finish. The 5/1 with Boylesports looks fair.