You would imagine anyone who christens their horse Notachance begins with low expectations but the gelding of that name is a young stayer on the up and makes plenty of appeal for the Mccoy Contractors Civil Engineering Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick on Saturday.
The Alan King-trained seven-year-old, quoted at 11-2 by William Hill, is the least exposed runner among the 22 entries and everything about him points to him relishing tackling beyond three miles in the mud for the first time.
By contrast, the bulk of the opposition are either out of form or have questions to answer.
Notachance’s ten career runs consist of five spins over hurdles and fences, and he has improved from one run to the next, all the while hinting that it will be a case of the further the better for him.
He ran well in each of his four races over fences last season and took his form to a new level on his return over 3m at Bangor in November, after ten months off, when landing the Anne Duchess Of Westminster Memorial Handicap.
The Mahler gelding asserted in the closing stages of a race that exposed stamina limitations and lack of fitness. Captain Chaos and Django Django, who could re-oppose, were among several who waved the white flag and were pulled up.
A 7lb rise will obviously heighten his task on Saturday but he has more to offer up in trip and the form has substance with The Two Amigos, beaten seven lengths into third, subsequently chasing home handicap snip Secret Reprieve in the Welsh Grand National.
Notachance would himself not have been out of place in the Chepstow marathon but it can be a gruelling race and I’m guessing that King, who has handled him with patience from day one, probably thought it might come a little early in his career and that Warwick represented a better option.
King certainly has a soft spot for the Classic Chase. He has scooped two of the past 11 renewals with D’Argent and West End Rocker, and has also twice saddled the runner-up in recent years via Godsmejudge and Midnight Prayer, with former (four runs over fences before lining up) having a similar profile to that of Notachance in 2013.
The fences come thick and fast at the Midlands venue but Notachance has impressed in the jumping department. And if the 160-rated Ballyoptic stands his ground (as seems likely) he is going to have a lovely racing weight, off his mark of 139, with the name of regular rider Tom Cannon already pencilled in against him.
More rain is forecast, and with the going already soft testing ground seems a formality. That will not inconveniece Notachance, who has shown he can cope with deep conditions.
Rather than put all my eggs in one basket, I’m also going to have a small saver on Achille, chalked up at 14-1 by Sky Bet and bet365.
The 11-year-old has been absent 14 months since finishing runner-up in the 3m 3f handicap at Cheltenham’s November Meeting but fitness is rarely an issue for the stable’s runners and, despite his age, the grey has got few miles on the clock.
Soft ground and a distance of ground evidently suits him, as befits a son of Dom Alco, and he’s able to resume off the same mark as Cheltenham. I also like the fact that he generally races towards the head of affairs, as it does not usually pay to come from too far back at Warwick
Le Breuil, Late Romantic and Red Infantry have all been declared for the North Yorkshire Grand National at Catterick on Thursday – so I’d say it is safe to assume they will not be taking part – and few of the others make much appeal, including two towards the top of the ante-post market in Storm Control and Captain Chaos.
Storm Control has gone up an aggregate of 11lb for his Cheltenham wins this term but, more worryingly, is not certain to stay and has run poorly in three previous spins at Warwick. Captain Chaos traded odds-on in-running when runner-up last year but he’s run three successive shockers this campaign.
How To Bet £20 ante-post on the Classic Chase
£17 win on Notachance at 11-2 with William Hill
£3 win on Achille at 14-1 with Sky Bet and bet365
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