Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls has a busier outing at Kempton with six runners across the card. Hear how Paul hopes to get on...
"Has been a brilliant horse for us, a pleasure to train and he was arguably in the best form of his life last season. He won this race twelve months ago after warming up at Chepstow and also won twice more including the Grade 2 National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell. So he has to carry a 6 lbs penalty here which is not ideal but this isn't a mega hot race and Verdana Blue, a recent winner on the flat, looks the one to beat."
- Paul Nicholls on Old Guard in the 16:10 Kempton
There was a lot to like about his debut for us seven days ago at Chepstow where he jumped and travelled beautifully but couldn't quite get past Montestrel, a newcomer who looks smart. The pair finished a long way clear of the rest and the form is solid.
Quel Destin has come out of the race in good order and given his experience over jumps and on the flat in France he should go one better here though a double penalty makes life a bit tougher for him.
Good to progress here
I was thrilled to see him take a nice step forward at Chepstow last week and win in style. I've always rated him but have to admit he became a bit frustrating last season because he was too keen for his own good and wasn't finishing his races.
A wind op in the summer has helped him turn a corner and it was pleasing to see he relaxed better through the race at Chepstow before galloping all the way to the line. He gets in here without a penalty and this looks a good opportunity for him to progress again.
Making a comeback
He is another of mine who had surgery to help his breathing over the summer. We checked him out because he was stopping quickly towards the end of his races and we found he had a trapped epiglottis.
Hopefully that has been sorted out now and we can kick on with Copain de Classe who is a lovely big chasing sort who doesn't want the ground too soft. He is ready to go and this is a good starting point.
Old Guard stands ground
Has been a brilliant horse for us, a pleasure to train and he was arguably in the best form of his life last season. He won this race twelve months ago after warming up at Chepstow and also won twice more including the Grade 2 National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell.
So he has to carry a 6 lbs penalty here which is not ideal but this isn't a mega hot race and Verdana Blue, a recent winner on the flat, looks the one to beat.
This should put Old Guard spot on for his next race which could well be the three mile Bet365 Hurdle at Wetherby on November 3.
Further down the line I am tempted to explore the chasing option with him once again by having a look at a graduation Chase.
Life was always going to be harder for San Benedeto last season after he won six times over fences in the previous campaign including the Grade 1 Novice Chase at Aintree.
But he performed with great honour in defeat and reserved his best for last when putting it up to Altior in the Celebration Chase at Sandown in April. San Benedeto ran well in this a year ago in finishing second to Old Guard before tackling the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter where he was runner up to Politologue. He will follow the same programme again.
Maturity pays off
He was a bit backward in training with us early last season so after a disappointing debut at Exeter we sent him point to pointing with Rose Loxton who produced him to win at Stafford Cross in April. Hugos Horse is stronger and more mature now and ready to press on. I imagine his future lies in handicaps.