January can very much seem like the poor relation of the National Hunt season, such can be the lack of engaging action in between the feasts that are the Christmas racing and the Dublin Racing Festival. This Saturday is unlikely to considered a highlight for many, but it does present some fascinating betting prospects.
King can be victorious
At Warwick, the 15:00 Agetur UK Ltd Classic Handicap Chase will be the main betting race for many and the one I like is the Alan King-trained Notachance. The eight-year-old showed that this extreme test of stamina is just what he wants when winning this very race last year in similar conditions. It was a strong performance on the day and the form worked out well in the main thereafter.
Though, Notachance didn't make a good contribution to the future form of the race, as he has been pulled up in three of his four starts since. That has resulted in him being dropped back to 139, the same mark off which he won that day.
However, there was certainly more encouragement to be taken from his latest outing at Haydock, which was his second run of the season. While he was beaten 28 lengths in sixth, he definitely showed more sparkle prior to weakening late on.
It was a run that hinted at a potential revival in fortunes and it wouldn't be at all surprising if Alan King has been training him to peak for this contest after he showed such a liking for this test last year.
The final and crucial piece is the puzzle is the fact that his connections now apply a first-time visor to him. He has long shaped like a horse that could do with a concentration aid and it wouldn't at all surprise if the visor if a notable help to him. He is definitely worth supporting.
Previous NAP can kick on this time
Over at Kempton, the 15:15 Coral Committed To Safer Gambling Handicap Chase will give this column the opportunity to gain some belated compensation for a previous disappointment. A month ago, I napped Caribean Boy in the Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot only for him to fall at the very first fence.
As frustrating as that was, the reasons for fancying him on that occasion remain applicable to this contest. The eight-year-old had run well in two of his previous three starts in high-class handicap chases, shaping on both occasions that a step up to three miles would be to his liking.
As well as that, despite shaping quite well on both occasions, the handicapper dropped him a total of 8lb, making him look well handicapped. The cherry on top at Ascot was the application of first-time cheekpieces, which also appealed as being likely to help him. That headgear is retained for this contest.
As well as all of that, this contest is a much weaker one than the Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot. That fact makes it an easy decision to go in on him again. Hopefully he will reward my faith in him.