KEMPTON PARK RACEDAY PREVIEW: Trainers assess chances in three Grade Two contests – Close Brothers Adonis Juvenile Hurdle, Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle and Close Brothers Pendil Novices’ Chase
1. Alan King on Tritonic.
2. Jamie Snowden on Ga Law.
3. Dan Skelton on John Locke and Calico.
4. Donald McCain on Mackenburg.
5. Chester Williams on Honneur D’Ajonc.
Friday 26th February
By Graham Clark
Alan King hopes Tritonic can take his next stepping stone towards an outing in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at The Festival™ supporting WellChild by giving him a record-equalling fifth victory in the Close Brothers Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton Park tomorrow (Saturday 27th February).
The Barbury Castle Stables trainer has claimed the Grade Two contest on four occasions, most recently with Redicean in 2018.
However, his only previous winner to follow up in the Triumph Hurdle at The Festival was Penzance, who claimed the double in 2005.
Tritonic was a runner-up three times on the Flat last season, including in the inaugural running of the Golden Gates Handicap at Royal Ascot and the Listed Glasgow Stakes at Hamilton, ahead of making a winning debut over hurdles at Ascot last month.
King said: “He was only just ready to start back at Ascot as we gave him a proper break at the end of the last Flat season.
“He jumped the last at Ascot and I thought he was beat and I thought he had run a good second. I do think he will improve a lot fitness-wise from Ascot.
“His jumping had been very good on the whole at Ascot. We’ve got a couple of schools into him since and Adrian (Heskin) has come in and had a sit on him.
“I’d like to think he will improve for that but he will need to as it looks a strong race. He’s in good form and we have been happy with him since Ascot.
“The track might be a bit on the sharp side but we need to get some match practice in if he is going to be going to Cheltenham and it was always the plan to come here as I didn’t want to go to Cheltenham with just the one run over hurdles.”
The Jane Williams-trained Honneur D’Ajonc looked set to go one better than on his debut at Exeter until falling at the last over course and distance over Christmas, but his rider Chester Williams believes the Diamond Boy gelding can make up for his misfortune last time out.
He said: “He was very unlucky the last time and would have probably won that day. Kempton suits him well and the better ground will suit him so I’m really looking forward to getting back on him.
“He just made a mistake at the last on his previous run but it was probably the fastest he had gone in his life. I don’t know what really happened as his jumping had been brilliant until then. He has schooled since though and has been brilliant since. Jumping is his forte.
“His form is very strong and we think he is the best juvenile we have had for a long time.”
John Locke is one of two horses set to make their jumping debut in the two mile contest.
However, trainer Dan Skelton reports the gelded son of Mastercraftsman, who raced on the Flat for Ralph Beckett, to have impressed over hurdles at home.
He said: “It’s his first run for us so we are a little bit in the dark there but he has done everything right at home and he jumps nicely. I wouldn’t be pitching him in at this level if I didn’t think that he could cope with it.
“How he gets on from a competitive angle, he has got to go out there and do it for us but he works nicely and is a decent horse on the Flat that looks to jump nicely from what we have seen.”
The Alcester handler holds strong claims of landing a first victory in the Grade Two Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle with last year’s German St Leger fourth Calico, who made his first start over jumps a winning one at Ludlow last month.
He added: “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.”
Donald McCain is another seeking a first victory in the race and he expects the return to a sounder surface to benefit his representative Mackenburg, who was last sighted winning a jumpers’ bumper contest at Newcastle.
He said: “It’s a big step up in grade going down to Kempton but he wants nicer ground. He ideally wants a lead as well which he hasn’t really had so far.
“He nearly got away with the ground at Wetherby but he had to do it on his own up front. The ground at Aintree was really tiring and he struggled to finish his race.
“The two miles there will be plenty sharp enough for him but he shows plenty of speed at home though the key thing is getting him back on nicer ground.
“I hope there is some improvement there so we will see what he can do.”
Other notable entries include last season’s Irish Cesarewitch winner Cape Gentleman from the yard of Emmet Mullins and the hat-trick seeking pair of Lunar Sovereign from the Fergal O’Brien yard and Atholl Street who is the representative of Paul Nicholls.
Only four will go to post in the Grade Two Close Brothers Pendil Novices’ Chase, including the Jamie Snowden-trained Ga Law.
The Lambourn handler expects the five year old, who is already a winner at this level having landed the Rising Stars Novices’ Chase at Wincanton in November, to benefit from the step back up to two and a half miles on his return from a short break.
He said: “Ga Law is in great form. We gave him a winter break after he finished third in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown. Two miles around there was a bit sharp for him and he was taken off his feet by Allmankind.
“The step back up in trip looks the right thing and the nicer ground will help him. He has got a 5lb penalty for his Grade Two win but hopefully he will run well again.
“He is not a horse that takes a huge amount of work to get the weight off and he is back at the weight he needs to be.”
The quartet is completed by this season’s Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Coole Cody from the Evan Williams yard, the Nicky Henderson-trained Son Of Camas and Tamaroc Du Mathan who will fly the flag for 11 times champion trainer Nicholls and last seen when runner-up to Shishkin in the Grade Two Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase over two miles in December.