Nicholls trio in mix for Kempton feature

Cyrname missing as Gifford takes a chance on Glen Rocco

  • Monday 18 February
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Paul Nicholls has three of 16 remaining entries in the 888Sport Handicap Chase at Kempton.

The former champion trainer dominated last weekend with an across-the-cards eight-timer, highlighted by Cyrname in the Betfair Ascot Chase, but has resisted any temptation to run that Grade One winner again under a penalty on Saturday.

Instead for Nicholls, in the same Johnny de la Hey colours, is Adrien Du Pont – a winner at the track over Christmas – Modus and Romain De Senam.

Nicky Henderson has the current top weight Janika and Rather Be still involved after Monday’s confirmations.

Nick Gifford’s Glen Rocco was second to Arkle hope Glen Forsa on Boxing Day and a 23-length winner next time out, both times at this track, and will aim to defy a 13lb rise.

Double Shuffle may represent Tom George – who has a good record in the race thanks to dual winner Nacarat – while Venetia Williams has left in Saturday’s Ascot winner Calipto, Belami Des Pictons and Didero Vallis.

Talkischeap, Flying Angel, Catamaran Du Seuil, Walt, Duke Des Champs and Ange Des Malberaux complete the list.

Gifford admits he is taking a step into the unknown with the improving Glen Rocco, an eight-year-old novice part-owned by talk-show host Jeremy Kyle.

“He is in great form and he will go there loving that ground, because it is supposed to be a dry week,” said the Sussex trainer.

“He will have a few entries at Cheltenham, but (first) we will see how he gets on on Saturday.”

After unseating at the first on his chasing debut, the winning Irish point-to-pointer’s jumping has been a notable asset in just four subsequent starts – and Gifford admits that factor has already had him dreaming about Aintree one day.

“I’ve just got this thing about the Topham – because I’ve been chinned in it twice before, and I would love to win it,” he said.

“If we think he is a Grand National horse next year I would love to run him in that as a way of introducing him to the fences.

“I do wonder ‘did the race fall apart a bit last time?’ – and Josses Hill fell when holding every chance – but Glen Rocco is an improving horse. Has he improved enough to warrant going up 13lb, because that is a big hike?

“Normally this race would be run on softer ground, and I said to Jeremy (Kyle) ‘don’t get too excited, because it will probably rain the week before!’.”

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