Slate House is on course to make a return to the scene of his greatest success after being confirmed among 19 remaining entries for the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Kempton Park this Saturday (27th February).
The Colin Tizzard-trained nine-year-old, who claimed the Grade One Kauto Star Novices’ Chase over course and distance in 2019, is one of two entries for the Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning handler in the three mile Grade Three contest, alongside last year’s winner Mister Malarky.
Things have not gone smoothly for Slate House since his Kauto Star success. However, he appeared to take a step back in the right direction on his most recent start following his latest wind operation when finishing third over two and a half miles under top-weight in a handicap chase at Wincanton last month.
Assistant trainer Joe Tizzard said: “He is a Grade One winner around the track. He ran a nice race over two and a half at Wincanton last time and that just put him right for it hopefully. It is a competitive race but I think it is the right race for him.
“Things haven’t quite gone to plan for him this season and though he didn’t run badly at Wincanton last time he is not the easiest horse to keep right so we were a bit held up in the early part of the season with him. His next target has been this since Wincanton and though it was probably a couple of weeks longer than what he needed it was the right race to aim for.
“It was either going to Ascot for the Grade One there over 2m 5f, which was probably not quite right, or this and he is a Grade One winner around Kempton and we just thought when we saw this race we thought it was a good pot to aim for with him.”
While Slate House is an intended runner at the weekend, stablemate Mister Malarky might have his attentions switched to tackle the cross country fences at The Festival™ supporting WellChild ahead of a potential tilt at the Randox Grand National at Aintree on April 10th.
Tizzard added: “You catch him once a year and he doesn’t always necessarily try the hardest. He had his big pot in this race at Kempton last season and this season he won that Listed race at Ascot. He is rated 156 so it is not straightforward for him.
“He has got the Grand National entry and we were half thinking about schooling him up for the cross country course at Cheltenham because those twists and different jumps might just help him a little bit. He is in the Grand National off 10st 12lbs and he would be a good ride in it, but sometimes he jumps a little bit too careful. When you catch him on his day he has got a lot of talent but he is not the easiest to judge.”
Last year’s runner up, and 2017 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase hero Black Corton is one of two entries in the race for Paul Nicholls alongside Southfield Stone.
Recent course and distance scorer Double Shuffle features among two potential runners for trainer Tom George, who is also represented by Clondaw Castle.
Elsewhere on the card Nicky Henderson’s chances of claiming a record-extending sixth victory in the Grade Two Close Brothers Adonis Juvenile Hurdle rest with last time out course and distance scorer Heross du Seuil, who is one of 16 entries in the two mile prize.
Dual Flat scorer Paso Doble is the sole representative of Ditcheat handler Nicholls, who saddled Solo to glory in the Grade Two race on his British debut 12 months ago, while there is French interest in the race courtesy of the Hugo Merienne-trained Margaret’s Legacy.
The Alan King-trained pair of Tritonic and Son Of Red are both double-entered with the pair featuring in the Adonis and among 12 names in the Grade Two Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle.
Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer King is not the only one with two entries in the Grade Two with 11-times champion trainer Nicholls responsible for Atholl Street and Lucky One.
Both Fergal O’Brien, with Lunar Sovereign and Volkovka, and Dan Skelton, who has entered Calico and Whispering Gypsy, are others with multiple representation.
A total of seven entries have been received for the Grade Two Close Brothers Pendil Novices’ Chase, including the Jamie Snowden-trained Ga Law, who is already a winner at the level having claimed the Rising Stars Novices’ Chase at Wincanton in November.