Whilst the thoughts of many may be turning to finalising those Cheltenham Festival punting plans by the time we reach late February, we perhaps shouldn’t be focusing solely on the March showpiece just yet.
There’s still a whole host of high-quality action between now and then, including an excellent card at Kempton Park. Won by the likes of Grand National hero Rhyme ‘N’ Reason, and the great Desert Orchid, it is this valuable staying handicap chase contest which takes centre stage.
Next Race: TBD
The next renewal of this race has not been scheduled yet. We will update this once the schedule has been released for next season. The race info, trends and tips shown below will be updated for the next renewal once the final declarations have been made.
Last Run: 27th February 2021
- Winner: Clondaw Castle
- SP: 17/2
- Trainer: Tom George
- Jockey: Jonathan Burke
A field of 18 goes to post for this Grade 3 Handicap Chase contest over the 3m trip. Set to be take place on good ground this year, the race offers £75,000 in total prize money.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Good||3m||Grade 3||£75,000||18 Runners||1/4 1-4|
Close Brothers Handicap Chase Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2021. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
Philip Hobbs is the most successful of the modern-day trainers in this race with four wins to his name, but a little surprisingly doesn’t hold an entry this year. Of the trainers who are on show, Messrs Tom George, Neil Mulholland, Paul Nicholls and Colin Tizzard boast the best records with two wins apiece.
The returning Mister Malarky took this as a seven year old 12 months ago, and overall it is the younger horses who have been favoured of late, with nine of the past 10 editions falling to a runner aged nine or younger.
Six of the past 10 winners of this have returned a single-figure SP. The race has nevertheless been a complete blank for favourite backers over this period, with last year’s second-place finish by Black Corton being as close as the market leader has come to success.
|Cap Du Nord||9/2||10st 10lbs||Christian Williams||Jack Tudor|
|Double Shuffle||9/1||10st 13lbs||Tom George||James Bowen|
|Delire D’Estruval||20/1||11st 0lbs||Ben Pauling||Daryl Jacob|
Cap Du Nord – 9/2
The Christian Williams runner Cap Du Nord is the one the market seems to have latched onto ahead of this year’s renewal, with the eight year old son of Voix Du Nord favourite across the board in what on paper looks a wide-open heat.
There’s certainly a lot to like about this one on this season’s form, with the horse seeming to have emerged as a much-improved performer following a 280-day break from the track. Beginning the current campaign on a mark of 124, his efforts in his four starts so far this term now see him head into this off 142, and connections will be hoping he hasn’t stopped improving just yet. Just the one of those four previous outings have resulted in a success – when slamming subsequent winner Canelo at Newbury – but a second-place finish to Royal Pagaille reads just as well, whilst he would likely have finished closer last time out at Doncaster but for a mistake at the second last.
Boasting form figures of 242 at the track, and with all six of his career wins coming on ground containing the word “good” in the going description, he would look to have plenty in his favour.
Double Shuffle – 9/1
As mentioned, it is the younger runners who have held sway here of late. However, a few of those now into double figures do boast the form to go close – none more so than Tom George’s admirable 11 year old warrior, Double Shuffle.
Boasting overall Kempton form figures of 12252731, this Milan gelding clearly likes it around here, and there are a couple of extremely high-class efforts amongst those numbers – most notably when a gallant second to a peak form Might Bite in the 2017 King George. It seems unlikely he will run to anything like that Grade 1 level here, but he has twice filled the runners up spot in this handicap event in the past; beaten by half a length off 149 in 2017 and going down by a length off 154 in 2019.
Getting in off 145 this year, he would look to be firmly in the mix from a ratings perspective. Current form is of course always a question with these older performers, but this one gets a big tick on that score having landed a handicap over this course and distance last time out – coming home one and a quarter lengths to the good despite losing a shoe in the race. The one slight doubt would be whether he needs the ground as quick as this, but he still seems likely to run a solid race at a decent each way price.
Delire D’Estruval – 20/1
There are plenty in with a squeak at bigger prices, with even rank outsider Young Wolf not completely out of this on the best of his good ground form. However, the most interesting of the double-figure options to our eyes is the Ben Pauling-trained Delire D’Estruval, who goes in the colours of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.
Formerly with Guillaume Macaire over in France, this son of Youmzain has proven to be a most consistent sort since joining the Pauling operation in 2017 – finishing in the first three in nine of his 11 chase outings for the trainer. That stat augurs well for the possibility of an each way return, and whilst the horse will be having his first crack at 3m here, there was certainly encouragement to be gained from his most recent outing over 2m4f at this track.
Seemingly out with the washing as they approached the final two flights that day, the penny suddenly seemed to drop for Delire D’Estruval in the closing stages as he powered home to mow them all down for a half-length success. That success did come back in March, so his current fitness does have to be taken on trust to a degree but, with the possibility that this step up in trip may bring about further improvement, he could be worth chancing with Daryl Jacob in the saddle.
Close Brothers Handicap Chase Winners
|2021||Clondaw Castle||17/2||Tom George||Jonathan Burke|
|2020||Mister Malarky||9/1||Colin Tizzard||Jonjo O'Neill Jnr|
|2019||Walt||14/1||Neil Mulholland||Sam Twiston-Davies|
|2018||Master Dee||8/1||Fergal O’Brien||Barry Geraghty|
|2017||Pilgrim’s Bay||25/1||Neil Mulholland||James Best|
|2016||Theatre Guide||6/1||Colin Tizzard||Paddy Brennan|
|2015||Rocky Creek||8/1||Paul Nicholls||Sam Twiston-Davies|
|2014||Bally Legend||28/1||Caroline Keevil||Ian Popham|
|2013||Opening Batsman||12/1||Harry Fry||Noel Fehily|
|2012||Nacarat||9/2||Tom George||Paddy Brennan|
About the Close Brothers Handicap Chase: Springboard to Biggest Handicaps
The Close Brothers Handicap Chase has been an important part of the jumps racing calendar ever since its introduction to the schedule in 1949. Trainers use it to ready their horses for some even bigger handicaps to come but it carries a healthy prize fund in its own and is a tough race to win.
1988 the Turning Point
The history of the Close Brothers Handicap Chase can basically be thought of in two distinct halves. The first half regards the first 40 years of the event. This three mile chase always attracted some quality horses to Kempton Park but it wasn’t until 1988 that the contest really caught the attention of the wider racing public.
The 1988 renewal was the first time the race was run under its new name of the Racing Post Chase. The new sponsor brought a big boost to the prize fund of the contest which, in turn, attracted entries from the more powerful yards.
It was known as the Racing Post Chase all the way through to 2011 when rival paper, Racing Plus, took over sponsorship duties. That partnership was short lived and the race was subsequently sponsored by BetBright, Betdaq, 888sport, Betway and, as of 2021, the banking firm Close Brothers.
Along the way, the growing stature of the race saw it promoted to the Grade 3 level. The main draw for the Close Brothers Handicap Chase is its place in the schedule, towards the end of February. That makes it the perfect race for trainers who want to get one more significant test in the legs of their horses before the Cheltenham Festival. It has also been used as a warm up for the Grand National with Rhyme ‘n’ Reason and Rough Quest winning both this race and the big one at Aintree in 1988 and 1996 respectively.
Close Brothers Handicap Chase Records
Philip Hobbs is one trainer who understands the importance of the Close Brothers Handicap Chase. He regularly sends quality competitors to Kempton and nobody has trained more than his tally of four winners (as of the 2020 renewal). Peter Cazalet was the first trainer to reach four winners though when Different Class won in 1968.
Richard Johnson broke the record for wins as a jockey in this contest with his fifth win in 2011. Johnson actually won the race three years in a row between 2000 and 2002, a feat which had previously been achieved by Richard Pitman between 1972 and 1974.
Close Brothers Handicap Chase Hat-Trick Winning Jockeys
|Richard Johnson||Richard Pitman|
|2002||Gunther McBride||Philip Hobbs||1974||Pendil||Fred Winter|
|2001||Young Spartacus||Henry Daly||1973||Pendil||Fred Winter|
|2000||Gloria Victis||Martin Pipe||1972||Crisp||Fred Winter|
The second and third of Pitman’s consecutive wins came on board Pendil, one of just three horses to have won the Close Brothers Handicap Chase twice alongside Docklands Express (1991 and 1992) and Nacarat (2009 and 2012).
Trends to Keep in Mind
Examining the history of the Close Brothers Handicap Chase throws up a number of trends to consider when trying to profile a winner of future editions. The first thing that stands out is that this is not a race for horses who come in cold. It is rare for a winner to have less than three previous wins in that season. It is also rare for this to be a horse’s first win over fences. Indeed, a certain amount of experience is vital so it is no surprise that 13 of the 14 winners between 2007 and 2020 were aged between seven and nine years.
Previous winning form at Kempton is important if not vital but it is essential to only support horses who have at least attempted three miles before. The ground at Kempton can often be quite tacky in February so a certain amount of stamina is required alongside solid jumping ability. As for the odds, winners can come from pretty much any part of the market even if winning favourites are something of a rarity.