Madison Du Berlais for first-class Post delivery

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The idea of a handicap is supposed to be racing’s attempt to observe some form of egalitarian principles, but the Racing Post Chase bucks that trend.
In the last 10 years only two winners have carried less than 11 stone which, if this is a trend rather than simply a succession of coincidences, would narrow this year’s field down to just two contenders.
Both Nacarat and Madison Du Berlais have shown good form at Kempton in the past couple of seasons, although their last appearance there saw them chasing the disappearing shadow of Kauto Star in the King George VI Chase in December.
The front-running Nacarat was the only one who really took on Kauto Star, cutting out the pace for most of the way before eventually wilting to finish four-and-a-half lengths behind the late finishing Madison Du Berlais, who was a further 36 lengths adrift of Kauto Star.
Nacarat is getting 4lbs from Madison Du Berlais in this race but he is also 11lbs higher in the handicap than when he won this race by nine lengths last year and there has to be a doubt as to whether Nacarat can dominate again from his current rating. Added to that his trainer, Tom George, has a strike-rate of just 8% since the beginning of December. 
Flat-track bully may be a term more readily attached to cricket but it is also an accurate reflection of the career of Madison Du Berlais. He has a record of five wins from eight runs at tracks like Newbury, Kempton and Aintree and has won a Hennessy, an Aon Chase and a totesport Bowl while, by comparison, he is 0-7 when encountering the undulations of Cheltenham. That as much as anything else may explain his poor run at that course last month and although he has yet to win this season he is now 7lbs lower than last spring’s career-high rating of 169, which could prove useful here.
Further down the weights both Kilcrea Castle and Fistral Beach have been supported in the markets but Kilcrea Castle has not won since December 2008 and Fistral Beach – who broke a run of eight placed runs when he won at Kempton last month – is not guaranteed to stay the three miles.
The three Grade Two races on the card are not guaranteed to provide winners for the Cheltenham Festival but they should at least produce some clues. The Adonis Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle appears to be at the mercy of Mille Chief, trained by Alan King, who is current favourite for the Triumph Hurdle.
After being brought down on his hurdling debut at Market Rasen, Mille Chief won his next two starts at Kempton and Huntingdon on his last two starts. However, not a lot has come out from either race in terms of top-class form and Nicky Henderson has an interesting prospect in Soldatino. 
Henderson will have a line on Mille Chief’s form as he trains Great Reason, who finished second to Mille Chief at Huntingdon, and a 29% strike-rate for February underlines the way that the Henderson yard has sustained its potency throughout the winter.
King also saddles the likely favourite for the Dovecote Novices´ Hurdle in Salden Licht but Grey Soldier could cause an upset. His three-length second to Rite Of Passage, at Leopardstown in January, looks strong form and Grey Soldier’s trainer, Gordon Elliott, has a 29% strike-rate with his runners in Britain this season.
As ever the figures from the partnership between Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh speak for themselves. Walsh has a 34% strike-rate this season riding for Nicholls in chases and The Nightingale should add to that for the pair in the Racing Post Weekender Pendil Novices’ Chase.



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