Kingmaker preview: Saint Calvados and North Hill Harvey clash in search of Warwick crown

Fri 9 Feb 2018

Arkle Trophy contenders Saint Calvados and North Hill Harvey lock horns in the Betway Kingmaker Novices' Chase at Warwick on Saturday.

Both Flagship Uberalles (1999) and Voy Por Ustedes (2006) claimed this Grade Two prize en route to Arkle glory, while the prestigious roll of honour also includes subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Long Run (2010) and his Queen Mother Champion Chase-winning stablemate Finian's Rainbow (2011).

This year's renewal has attracted just four runners but does not lack intrigue, with Harry Whittington's Saint Calvados and the Dan Skelton-trained North Hill Harvey rated among the best novices in Britain.

Saint Calvados is unbeaten in two starts since arriving from France and steps up in class after dominating his rivals in novice handicaps at Newbury.

Whittington said: "He looks fantastic and is kicking the door down to get out. We're looking forward to it.

"The Arkle is the plan at the moment. I can't see why we should step him up in trip. He'll probably stay over two miles next season. He's got a lot of speed.

"We'll let Saturday and Cheltenham decide. It's the Kingmaker and then the Arkle.

"He gets the weight allowance and doesn't carry a penalty for his two handicap wins, which is nice as well, so he's going to carry a nice weight on Saturday."

North Hill Harvey won his first two starts over fences at Cheltenham, including the Arkle Trophy Trial in November.

He proved no match for Alan King's Sceau Royal in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase at Sandown the following month and must concede 7lb to his major rival this weekend, but jockey Harry Skelton is looking forward to the challenge.

He said: "He's had a nice break since Sandown and he's going into Saturday fresh and well.

"Hopefully this will be a nice stepping stone to Cheltenham. We know he loves Cheltenham and the stiff finish there.

"He's in good form and we're looking forward to running him."

Saint Calvados is a general 12-1 shot for the Arkle on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, with North Hill Harvey a best-priced 16-1 chance.

Saturday's field is completed by Harry Fry's hat-trick chasing Drumcliff and the Paul Nicholls-trained Diego Du Charmil, but both need to improve to challenge the two big guns.

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