Living in Braintree Essex makes visiting the majority of racecourse quite a challenge especially as I use the trains but Kempton is one of the easier course's to get to and despite the freezing cold weather there was no way I was not going to attend today's excellent card featuring one of the tracks flagship races the Racing Plus Chase.
The first port of call when arriving at the track was the excellent racing memorabilia stand which has a excellent range of horse racing items for sale including this years 'Racing Post Cheltenham Festival' Guide which has only just been published so was delighted to get my hands on this very informative book along with 'Gone Down To The Beaten' which is a book assembled of story's from every Grand National from post WW2 to 2010 with tales from many different jockeys who rode in the race so i am sure this will be a most interesting read.
After a dry week the going was described as 'good good to soft in places' a very rear occurrence this winter after the record rainfall of 2012 leaving virtually every track up and down the land left saturated and the opening race of the day went to the Alan King trained Midnight Sale who was always towards the head of affairs which is usually a must around Kempton and kept on strongly up the home straight to hold off the challenge of Lexicon Lad.
The grade 2 Adonis Hurdle for 4 year olds has thrown up several future Cheltenham Festival winners over the years with the races roll of honour including the likes of Zarkanda, Punjabi, Binocular, Soldatino and Well Chief and this it would be no surprise to see magnificent looking Irish Saint ridden here by Ruby Walsh go on to future Festival glory after holding off the challenge of Vasco Du Ronceray who could himself be a challenger at the Festival for something like the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle but the winner who looked to be slightly tapped for toe coming into the home straight eventually stayed on powerfully to gain a narrow victory and will surely be better suited to the much stiffer track at Cheltenham and looks a horse with bags of potential.
The Pendil Novice Chase has been dominated by Paul Nicholls in recent years and Grandioso continued the champion trainers stranglehold on the race thou he may have been slightly fortunately after the fall off Theatre Guide who took a nasty fall at the last when still holding every chance but jumpings the name of the game and Grandioso completed a double for Ruby Walsh holding of the challenge of the favourite Molotof by a length. Interestingly the the last three winners of this have all gone on to win the grade 2 chase for second season chasers at Down Royal later on in the year in November so it will be interesting to see if Grandioso follows suit.
Forgotton Voice a former Royal Hunt Cup winner at Royal Ascot put up his best performance to date since being switched to hurdles quickening up smartly to run out a impressive winner of the Dovecote Novice Hurdle finding the better ground here much more to his liking and he could be very interesting at Aintree a track could be tailor made for this Nicky Henderson trainer 8 year old.
The feature race of the day and one of the highlights of the entire year at Kempton the Racing Plus saw a strong field of 13 assembled for this £100,000 chase with the weights headed by the Alex Fergurson owned What A Friend. This would also be the final race of the popular two time winner of this race Nacarat who threw away any chance with a terrible mistake at the 8th. Wyck Hill was sent off 3-1 favourite by found things happening too quick for him here with Quinz going off at a fast pace and jumping superbly out in front and only giving way after the 3rd last to the novice's Opening Batsman and Rolling Aces who engaged in a terrific battle over the final few fences and it would be the 7 year old Opening Batsman coming out on top and in the process giving Harry Fry the biggest win so far in what is becoming a very a successful first season in the training ranks since branching out on his own after four years as assistant to Paul Nicholls trainer of the runner up Rolling Aces.
I decided along with many other to make a early exit after the feature race on this bitterly cold day but there was plenty of nice performances to look back on and I would like to thing that the 4 year old Irish Saint may emerge to be the best horse that was on show today but the 1st and 2nd in the Racing Plus Chase must also have a bright future ahead of them as not many novices are capable of taking races like this in there opening season over fences and I expect there are plenty of nice races to be won with these two likable young chasers.