SANDOWN looks set to beat the freeze which is great for jumps fans and I have Picton one who could be a real winter warmer.
BELAMI DES PICTONS is the class act in the 3m handicap chase at 3.45.
Venetia Williams remains in flying form
No surprise then that he has top weight but it is easy to argue his mark of 146 still underestimates him.
His novice form of two seasons ago was solid and progressive and he looked set for a good season last term when chasing home the brilliant Waiting Patiently at Carlisle on his reappearance.
He was not beaten that far and pulled miles clear of the third and fourth, who are both now 147-rated chasers.
He has a good record fresh, will love the soft ground and likes to race close to the pace, a style well-suited to the Esher track.
Venetia Williams has shown with the likes of Yala Enki and Aso this season that she is a superb target-trainer when she has a big race in her sights – Belami des Pictons will not fail through lack of fitness.
His stablemate Houblon des Obeaux made the most of a lenient mark to win the veterans’ chase here last month but is up in the weights again and, like fellow ‘golden oldies’ Loose Chips and Le Reve, should go well without quite being good enough.
Kimberlite Candy and Sandy Beach followed good wins with poor efforts last time so have questions to answer but Paul Nicholls has given long-absent Give Me A Copper a Gold Cup entry so he is one to keep a close eye on.
I spy an eyecatcher…
In the opening novice hurdle at Kempton on Monday, Nicky Henderson’s Precious Cargo justified strong market support in fine style on his first run over obstacles, looking like a novice chaser to watch next season.
But the eye was drawn to 50-1 shot CELTIC JOY who was still in contention off the home turn before fading to finish third.
He ran well in a Huntingdon bumper last season but this was his best effort over timber on his third attempt.
He is qualified for handicaps now and in-form Emma Lavelle should be able to find a winning opening for him. There should be Joy for his backers soon.
Lingfield, and the other all-weather tracks, have been keeping the show on the road this week and the Surrey course host one of their best cards of the winter with two Listed events.
In the first Richard Kingscote will be hard to Kach in the Cleeve Stakes (1.45).
He is on board KACHY and a repeat of last year’s success in this hot sprint is very much on the cards. He defied a wide draw 12 months ago so being berthed in stall eight of nine is no great negative.
He is hard to catch round here and looked as good as ever when bolting in at Wolverhampton on Boxing Day.
Kachy is full of speed and will be hard to catch once again
This is tougher with Archie Watson fielding two dangers in Corinthia Knight, another who loves Lingfield, and recent handicap winner Gorgeous Noora.
The former may be better at the minimum trip and the filly does need to progress again. Ryan Moore is on board Cenotaph but he disappointed at Kempton last time and may need further.
Wissahickon will be hard to beat in the Derby Trial (2.55), with Frankie Dettori keen enough to forsake his Newmarket armchair for the delights of a freezing February day at Lingfield.
The Cambridgeshire winner is 8lb worse off with Big Country for the two length beating he dished out in December but the progressive winner is still unexposed and should confirm the form.
A better betting proposition could be HYPNOS in the opener at 12.35. He shaped well when second on his all-weather debut over course and distance last month on his return from a break.
The third and fourth have won since and, off the same mark, Hypnos can follow suit.
There is a superb card at Leopardstown where backing MELON in the Irish Champion Hurdle can bear fruit.
Apple’s Jade has enjoyed a terrific season and she gets the 7lb allowance but her wins have all been over further. In fact she has not raced at the minimum trip since getting pipped by Irving in Newcastle’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle in 2016!
Apple’s Jade has not raced over this trip since 2016!
Melon is a specialist at the trip and gave Buveur d’Air a real scare before giving best in last season’s Champion Hurdle. He needed the run on his return but will be much sharper here and may have too much toe for the favourite.
In the Arkle Chase at 3.45 hot favourite Le Richebourg may not have things all his own way against PALOMA BLUE.
He won over course and distance at Christmas where he was just getting the better of Real Steel when that rival crashed out at the last.
Impact Factor was a well-beaten third and he has since got closer to leading Cheltenham hope Cilaos Emery at Gowran Park while Real Steel has dotted up at Fairyhouse so the form is strong.
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And Paloma Blue surely has much more to offer as his early jumping last time was poor – yet he still had the engine to win. If Henry de Bromhead has sorted out his jumping Paloma Blue has the class to go far.
Le Richebourg is a proven Grade 1 winner and will be hard to beat but this is probably a hotter contest than the one he landed at Christmas.
Gary Moore adds interest by sending over Knocknanuss. There was no disgrace in his defeat to a French ace at Plumpton last time but, given the strength in depth Ireland has in the novice chase division, it will be a surprise if he is good enough.
Whatever happens it will give a pre-Cheltenham line to the relative merits of the British and Irish two-milers.