Grandouet has the speed to beat Dodging Bullets
Grandouet never really had a chance to fulfil his potential over hurdles but can take his first step up the chasing ladder at Kempton on Friday. Injury prevented him from running in the 2012 Champion Hurdle and he was travelling well when falling in the race earlier this year.
Nicky Henderson decided to switch him over fences this term and he bounced back well from unseating his rider on his debut to run second at Sandown in December. After travelling strongly in behind the leaders, he was momentarily left flat-footed by Hinterland before rallying to close down to within a quarter of a length at the line.
That represents some of the strongest novice chase form on offer so far this season and he looks the one to beat on Friday. The big danger is Dodging Bullets who has hardly put a foot wrong in winning here and at Cheltenham this winter.
He was also a smart performer over hurdles and comfortably accounted for Raya Star last time out. Valdez was a wide-margin winner of two novice chases in November and warrants a step up in company here.
The Henderson and Geraghty team could also be on the mark with Snake Eyes in the handicap hurdle at 3.40. The son of Oscar has flattered to deceive on several previous occasions but is well handicapped if he can be settled early on.
Vicenzo Mio was disappointing when only fourth at Cheltenham last time after moving into contention two from home. The sharper track at Kempton should suit him better and he is worth another chance.
Mickie won a decent handicap at Newbury last time out and can follow up off a 7lbs higher mark in the Mares Handicap at 2.30. Scholastica and Ballinahow Star could give her most to do.
The three-mile handicap chase at 3.05 looks wide open but the Paul Nicholls-trained Merrion Square must go well after finishing second at Sandown. The gelding only went down by a neck to Parchment at Sandown last time and is only 4lbs higher in the handicap here.
Selections: 1.00 Vicenzo Mio, 1.30 Grandouet, 2.00 Mickie, 2.30 Sprinter Sacre, 3.05 Merrion Square, 3.40 Snake Eyes