By Graham Clark
Clondaw Castle gave trainer Tom George’s season a significant boost after following in the hoofprints of his former stable star Nacarat by claiming victory in the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Kempton Park.
Having saddled Grade One winner Nacarat to glory in the race in 2009 and 2012, the Slad handler captured the prize for a third time after Clondaw Castle took a step up to three miles in his stride to secure his second victory over fences this season.
In a race that was run at a strong pace the nine year old, who was fourth on his two previous Grade One starts in the 2019 Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival and Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree, was ridden with restraint by Johnny Burke to ensure he got the trip.
Taking the shortest route closest to the far side rail up the home straight, 17-2 chance Clondaw Castle moved into clear daylight on the run to last, which he measured safely, before prevailing by two lengths from Erick Le Rouge.
George said: “As a young horse he was always very keen and it was a question of restraining him. He has matured a lot. He was fourth in an Arkle, he won his bumper, novice hurdle. His owners have been incredibly patient as they have let me just tip along slowly, slowly and I’ve always said to them at the end of the day he is going to need three miles.
“They’ve let me wait to run him over three miles rather than push me. We wanted to wait and do it on a big day.
“Johnny said they were going so quick that he couldn’t have been closer. They went a fair gallop round there and he said he just had to sit tight, wait for his moment and once they started coming back to him he knew he had it under control.
“He was probably a bit unlucky in the Peterborough Chase but the ground was very soft that day and this is his ground. A flat track and three miles is his optimum I would have thought.
“He was off 154 today and that puts him into graded class which we always thought.”
A return to Grade One level appears most likely for Clondaw Castle, who holds an entry in the Grade Three Ultima Handicap Chase at The Festival™ supporting WellChild, with George keen on the idea of running him in the Betway Bowl, a race he claimed with Nacarat in 2011.
He added: “He is in at Cheltenham (Ultima Handicap Chase) but in the back of my mind I had it he would go from here to Aintree. He will be a fresh horse.
“Nacarat won this and won a Grade One there (Aintree). He has had a good long break before today and he should keep on improving. He will be off a mark of 160 by Aintree and that (Betway Bowl) is where we should be going I would have thought.”
An outing in the Randox Grand National will be next on the agenda for the Colin Tizzard-trained, Mister Malarky, who had to settle for third on this occasion having claimed top honours 12 months ago.
Joe Tizzard, son and assistant trainer said: “I’m chuffed to bits with him and he has run a blinder. He has run well today with a lot of weight on his back. He loved that ground.
“Harry (Kimber) got a really good start on him and he has run his race. I think so (Grand National). Off the back of that I think that will convince everybody. I think we will swerve Cheltenham and go straight there as he has earned his place in the race.”
A spin over the Grand National fences in the Randox Topham Handicap Chase is one option for My Way, who completed doubles for Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden with a front running two and a quarter length success in the Close Brothers Motor Finance Handicap Chase.
Nicholls, who teamed up with Cobden to claim Grade Two glory with Tamaroc Du Mathan in the Pendil Novices’ Chase, said: “I was getting a bit frustrated with him being second and running and getting beat. He ran okay at Chepstow on heavy ground and he wouldn’t have liked that ground. The blinkers have sharpened him up and I would have been disappointed if he got beat today.
“I would run him over those fences if he got in (Topham) and it would not surprise me at all if that is the race he goes for. There is a two and a half mile handicap at Ayr as well. I’ve put him in at Cheltenham to get balloted out for the consolation chase here.”
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