Tom George has two keen contenders at Clondaw Castle and Double Shuffle as he wants to continue his excellent record in the Close Brothers handicap pursuit at Kempton.
Nacarat won for George in 2009 and 2012, and he came close on other occasions – most notably with Double Shuffle, who was a finalist in 2017 and 2019.
The Cotswolds coach usually doesn’t run two horses in the same race but goes against the grain on Saturday as both deserve their chance.
“It’s a race in which we did well,” he said.
“These two horses should both try their luck, even if it is not ideal to run them against each other.”
This will be Double Shuffle’s fourth round in the race in its various forms, in a venue where he also finished second in the King George VI Chase in 2017 and the course and distance winner last month.
“Double Shuffle loves the track and loves the good ground, and ran well on it,” added George.
“He’s had a hard time in the last year running the wrong tracks on the wrong ground, all wrong – and the handicapper didn’t give him a chance – but I like to think he retains a lot of ability. and that he is in good shape.
George thinks the step up to three miles will be fine at Clondaw Castle.
“He’s ready for a three-mile stride. That’s what we expected, and it’s a good opportunity to do it,” he said.
“He’s got a lot of pace. He’s been placed in an Arkle, but at the end of the day he’s going to be a stayer, so we should hopefully see a lot of progress escalate on the journey.”
Cap Du Nord is part of the opposition, having run third in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster – where his trainer Christian Williams felt the three miles in test conditions just found out.
“I think the ground will be perfect, and he’s been around the track already,” said Williams.
“He made a mistake on the second to last at Doncaster, but I still think he would have finished third – I just think he got left behind by two more experienced horses, who were good leftovers.
“I think he jumped and traveled well in the race, but the ground just zapped him. It was great to be involved in a race like that and to be in the top four.
“It’s been the plan ever since.”
Connections of Slate House will be hopeful the nine-year-old can return to the form that earned him the first-year success in chasing the novice Kauto Star on the course and distance on Boxing Day 2019.
“He’s a first-year winner on the track,” said Joe Tizzard, his father Colin’s assistant.
“He ran a great race over two and a half years in Wincanton last time around, and that just proved him right, hopefully. It’s a competitive race – but I think it’s the right race for him.
“Things haven’t quite gone as planned for him this season – and while he didn’t run badly at Wincanton last time around, he’s not the easiest horse to keep right, so we were a little restrained at the start of seasoning it with him.
“His next goal is this one from Wincanton – and while it’s probably two more weeks than he needed, it was the right race to aim for.”
Black Corton wants to do better than 12 months ago, when he was beaten to two lengths by Mister Malarkey, trained by Tizzard.
“I was expecting this better pitch for Black Corton – who had done well with Secret Investor, courageous Denman Chase winner last Sunday,” coach Paul Nicholls told Betfair.
“I left him alone in the worst of winter, when things were heavy everywhere, and he’s ready to go.
“While Black Corton doesn’t get any help from the handicapper, it’s encouraging to see that he ran well in this race last year and always rode well. He’s ready and could very well go.”
The Ditcheat manager also saddles Southfield Stone, who was second in pursuit of the sophomore novices on that card last year.
“He won an all-season bumper at Kempton the other day, also won hurdles on the track and all of his best performances are on good ground,” he said.
“Since he’s never run more than two and a half miles, he’s now stepping into the three-mile unknown for the first time. But I always felt he would stay that far, especially on this flat track on good ground. So there are a lot of positives. “
Alan King hopes Talkischeap can confirm his place in the Randox Grand National.
“I have to run him – he hasn’t had a chase since this race last year,” said the Barbury Castle handler.
“He needs a little practice, and we have to lead him to qualify for Aintree.
“I think whatever he does he’ll improve for that. He’s had both runs the whole time – and they definitely brought him – but I’m just hoping for a good, solid race and then we can. take the lead towards Aintree. “
Mellow Ben has repeatedly run in the loss to Kempton, and his trainer Chris Gordon thinks that will serve him well.
“He looks in very good shape at home,” he said.
“He’s got good form there to get him a good deal.
“I think the terrain will suit him. I can’t wait for him to have a decent race.”