A winning pointer in Ireland with a big jump in him, Glen Rocco showed promise around Kempton on Boxing Day when chasing home a talented sort who got first run
Ten runners is a disappointing turnout for the steeplechase formerly known as the Racing Post, which has been through several sponsors in recent years and is now the 888Sport Handicap Chase. But that is all to the good for connections of Glen Rocco (3.35), who has fewer rivals to beat at Kempton on his way to fulfilling the promise he has been showing this winter.
A winning pointer in Ireland with a big jump in him, Glen Rocco showed promise around this track on Boxing Day when chasing home a talented sort who got first run. He then stormed home when returned to Kempton and stepped up to this distance last month. The handicapper has had his say but there is more to come from Nick Gifford’s chestnut. Rather Be has had a frustrating season but the memory of his narrow defeat at last year’s Cheltenham Festival sustains the sense that he can go close here.
1.50 Kempton He didn’t stay three miles in a hot race here at Christmas but Bags Groove finds himself in calmer waters now. He should be able to give the weight away to these three rivals, with a shorter trip and drier ground to help.
2.05 Lingfield Just a short-head behind Gracious John in this race a year ago, Encore D’Or is 3lbs better off this time and can get his revenge. He was returning from a fruitless Dubai trip that day but this year his preparation took the form of a win at Newcastle, which could lead to a better outcome.
2.25 Kempton Ecco and Fusil Raffles will draw a lot of attention, as Triumph Hurdle entrants from top yards making their British debuts. But Petit Palaismade a smart hurdles debut at Ludlow last month and could be dangerous here for the in-form Tom George yard.
2.40 Newcastle Vicente has come back down to the mark from which he won two Scottish Nationals, so he must be of interest, but it’s almost two years since he was in the winner’s enclosure. At the other end of the weights, Ange Des Malberauxcould be a better bet, having won five of his seven races since joining Dan Skelton. His last two efforts have suggested a four-mile trip is not beyond him.
3.00 Kempton As his trainer has repeatedly noted, Angels Breath has only jumped four hurdles in public. Still, his limited form entitles him to win this on his way to the Cheltenham Festival. He showed good pace on his way to landing a Grade Two at Ascot before Christmas, though the ground was much softer that day and he will need to prove his versatility here against talented, more experienced rivals like Scarlet Dragon.
3.15 Lingfield There are no prizes for noticing that Wissahickon is the biggest talent in the field for this Winter Derby. He overcame trouble in running to beat Big Country in the trial and is actually better off at the weights this time.