Coral Trophy Handicap Chase Day | Greatness awaits for Pauling

Cheltenham Festival 2024

The run-in towards the Cheltenham Festival continues to shorten and shorten as the days pass, and one marker on the road to Prestbury Park is Coral Trophy Handicap Chase Day at Kempton.

Once known as the Racing Post Trophy, the £150,000 contest highlights a good day of action from the Middlesex-based track which also includes the Grade 2 Adonis Juvenile Hurdle, Grade 2 Pendil Novices’ Chase, and Grade 2 Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle.

With a few bets in mind, let’s get started.


1:15 Kempton – Joker De Mai @ 4/1 with William Hill – 2pt Win

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Harry Derham could take it to the ‘Max’ on Saturday at Kempton thanks to a number of interesting runners, though the one I’m siding with is Joker De Mai in the opener for owner-jockey David Maxwell.

Backing a Maxwell-ridden horse does require some bravery, but that is usually taken into the price and this progressive five-year-old can continue his rise through the ranks.

Formerly in France, the Balko gelding has plenty of experience on his side and he even won two chase contests before his move over to the UK. My French form knowledge isn’t amazing, but the horse he beat on his final start – Jardin D’Arthel – beat Excello (now rated 144 and with Nicky Henderson) on his next start before a fair fifth in the Grade 1 Prix Ferdinand Dufaure.

As for Joker De Mai, he beat Awaythelad, a horse who has won twice since, on his second start in the UK and both the fourth, I’d Like To Know, and the fifth, Naturally High, have gone some way to frank the form.

Although he failed to win last time out, that race came just 10 days after his Lingfield win and that potentially showed with the way he finished his race.

With a 65-day break on his side, I’m hoping for a much better outing off a mark of 128.


1:58 Chepstow – Zambezi Fix @ 3/1 with BetVictor – 2pt Win

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Zambezi Fix has been a joy to watch this season for Bernard Llewellyn; this isn’t pocket talk, though his success at Chepstow two starts ago has contributed to this opinion slightly.

Connections have mixed between hurdles and fences with their nine-year-old and off a hurdles mark of 120, he returns to the smaller obstacles this weekend.

Over fences, he has tended to jump cautiously – something which potentially lost him the race last time out – but he is a fairly solid jumper over hurdles.

His form over sticks is pretty good as he was third to JPR One at Taunton in March 2023, though it’s his form around Chepstow that shines the brightest.

From 12 runs at the track, he has placed four times behind the likes of Funambule Sivola and Le Cameleon, and he has won twice.

Soft ground is no problem to him and in what is a winnable contest, he should go close this weekend.


3:00 Sandown – Lump Sum @ 6/4 with BetVictor – 2pt Win

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Visually, Lump Sum is a horse that has pleased me so far this season and Saturday could see him collect his first piece of graded silverware.

In his formbook, the first race people will look at is his effort behind Jeriko Du Reponet at Doncaster in the Grade 2 Supreme Trial Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle.

I’ll be the first to admit that my liking for Jeriko Du Reponet isn’t a strong one, but he made up plenty of ground on a potential Grade 1 horse from the rear which can’t be ignored.

Prior to that, he beat Onethreefivenotout, a subsequent maiden hurdle winner, at Wincanton on heavy ground while giving seven pounds away.

Looking even further back, he tried to give The Doyen Chief, two-time novice hurdle winner, seven pounds in a Hereford bumper and ran with credit.

If he continues his progress on Saturday, he should be the one to beat and his price of 6/4 is fair.


3:37 Kempton – Bowtogreatness @ 13/2 with William Hill – 1pt EW

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All season, I have waited eagerly to see Bowtogreatness in a three-mile handicap chase with race fitness on his side, and finally, the Coral Trophy Handicap Chase is where we get to see this happen.

Having suffered a setback in the first few months of the season, his opening run of the campaign blew the cobwebs off and his second run was over a trip shorter than ideal.

Thanks to these two performances, the handicapper has dropped the eight-year-old by two pounds in the handicap to a mark of 133, just one pound above the mark he was on when second in the valuable William Hill Handicap Chase at Aintree.

Ben Pauling has always rated this horse in high regard, and three miles around the flat nature of Kempton should suit as he doesn’t lack speed.

Interestingly, although he has won on heavy and soft over hurdles, Pauling has pulled him out of races due to soft ground in the past.

This is a small worry as the track is officially soft, but Kempton is unlikely to receive any more rain before racing. Furthermore, the Westerner blood on his sire’s side, and the family on his dam’s side, suggests soft ground should cause no issues.

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