2019 Southern National tips – Course winner can deliver again for Nicholls in Fontwell marathon

Brian Healy casts his eye through the field set to contest this year’s Southern National and sides with one of the market leaders to get the win at Fontwell on Sunday 17th November.

The feature race of Sunday’s racecard at Fontwell sees the latest renewal of the Southern National Handicap Chase go to post, and the marathon 3m 3f contest sees a small but no less competitive seven-runner field take their chances in the race with each eyeing up the near-£13,000 first prize.

Brian Healy takes a runner-by-runner look at the field for Fontwell’s Sunday feature race.

Lucy Wadham’s Shanroe Santos (11/2 Unibet) won this race twelve months ago, scoring over Morney Wing from 1lb lower than today’s mark; but the Definite Article gelding could have his work cut out for him to successfully defend his crown.

Twelve months ago he arrived at the West Sussex track on the back of a decent return to action at Carlisle, but this time around he hasn’t had that luxury, and his record when fresh doesn’t really inspire confidence that he’ll be fully wound up ahead of his return.

He continued in largely decent form last term following his win, including finishing runner-up at Cheltenham on New Years’ Day, and he rounded off his campaign with a solid fourth at Ffos Las back in April when beaten three lengths by Achille.

He has had wind surgery since that outing, and he is handicapped to mount a bold bid if fully wound up, although there is a suspicion he may just need this.

The Two Amigos (11/4 Unibet) made a good start to his chase career following his move to this yard from David Pipe, and the Midnight Legend won three of his first four starts which included the Sussex National at Plumpton where Nicky Martin’s charge ran out a two lengths’ winner over Cailin Du Brizais.

A subsequent faller when upped in class to contest the Grand National Trial at Haydock, he departed the race when falling at the 14th but it was too soon to tell whether he’d have been involved, although he was still travelling well enough when crashing out.

Not seen out again until making his return over hurdles at Uttoxeter last month, he ought to strip fitter for that reappearance where he beat only three rivals home behind Sirobbie, and if his fall on his last chase start hasn’t dented confidence then he can post a big run although he does have plenty of weight to carry in the conditions.

CAPTAIN CATTISTOCK (3/1 Unibet) has also had the benefit of a prior run, finishing seventh at Wincanton last month but very much shaping as if that outing was needed.

Paul Nicholls’ charge had won three times over hurdles in the preceding seasons, and he has shaped well since switched to chasing where he won two of his four starts over the larger obstacles which included here in April when beating Station Master in first-time cheekpieces.

The Black Sam Bellamy gelding was beaten around 25 lengths on that recent return, losing his place mid-race before getting a second wind and running on although all too late to get involved. However, he should progress for that reappearance, and he has been eased 1lb in the weights ahead of this latest outing.

He has the services of Lorcan Williams for this outing whose 3lbs claim could prove crucial given he has a good amount of weight otherwise with 11-12; but he remains open to improvement and is unexposed as a staying chaser so could well find improvement for his return to do better here.

Shanroe Santos (right) won last year’s renewal of the Southern National.

The Caller (6/1 Unibet) showed useful form over hurdles for Warren Greatrex prior to a short stint with Mary Vestey for whom he had just one start, showing little on what was his first outing over fences.

The Yeats gelding however has found improvement for Robert Stephens, better for his return hurdles third at Newton Abbot to find the frame in successive chase starts at Sedgefield and Newton Abbot before getting off the mark in this discipline with a defeat of the reopposing Chasma back at Sedgefield latest in the Durham National.

He won by four lengths, getting 3lbs from the runner-up, but while unexposed he’ll do well to confirm that form on these revised weights.

Dan Skelton’s Chasma (10/1 Unibet) has plenty of chase experience to call upon, and she wasn’t an infrequent winner for previous handler Mick Easterby for whom she won six times over hurdles and fences.

Those successes included back-to-back wins in the spring of this year at Newcastle and Sedgefield respectively, and she has continued in decent heart following her move to the Skelton operation where she has had four starts.

A winner at Newton Abbot on her first start for Skelton, she has finished runner-up in each of her three subsequent outings, most recently in that outing behind the reopposing The Caller, and with a sizeable swing at the weights for this rematch then she could reverse the form and the Kayf Tara mare could post a big run.

Invincible Cave (20/1 Unibet) isn’t the most consistent of performers, but the Court Cave gelding was capable of useful form when with Gordon Elliott in Ireland, scoring her last success at Thurles in February albeit over hurdles.

She has since joined Chris Gordon following a spin over fences at Wexford on his final run for Elliott, but she ran disappointingly and failed to beat a rival home behind Redzor at Fakenham last month and this will demand a significant amount of improvement if she’s to get competitive in this contest.

She does feature on a handy mark on the pick of her Irish form, but she’ll need to do a good deal better than was the case last time, and others look to hold stronger claims.

Completing the line-up for this marathon is Nick Williams’ One Of Us (15/2 Unibet) who has been steadily progressive over fences, finishing runner-up in three of his first five starts over fences which included in a decent contest at Wincanton behind Potters Corner, and the Presenting gelding opened his account over fences with a win at Exeter in April when taking the Devon Stayers’ contest with a defeat of Sandhurst.

He then shaped well on his reappearance at Wincanton following six months off the track, shaping as if he’d be better for the outing and finishing just ahead of the reopposing Captain Cattistock although he was receiving lumps of weight from Paul Nicholls’ reopposing rival.

The pair reoppose on the same terms here, and there may not be too much between the pair again in this latest outing. However he possibly needs a shade more and perhaps may not quite have the same scope for improvement as the Nicholls runner although he ought to give a good account.

Captain Cattistock winning at Cheltenham in 2017.

VERDICT

Shanroe Santos is only 1lb higher than when winning this prize twelve months ago, but the defending champion might need this on his reappeance and CAPTAIN CATTISTOCK could prove the answer having looked in need of his reappearance at Wincanton three weeks ago.

Paul Nicholls’ Black Sam Bellamy gelding found improvement last term switching to chasing, winning two of his four starts which included here in April with a defeat of Station Master, and there could be better to come from him on the back of his reappearance behind Wandrin Star.

Conditions shouldn’t pose an issue as a dual-winner in heavy ground over hurdles, and he has been eased 1lb in the weights following that return which should have left him sharper heading into this contest so every chance he can build on the run to get back on the scoresheet under his good conditional rider.

While does have a fair bit of weight to carry over this marathon trip, he remains unexposed as a staying chaser and might have more in the locker to come, so he could be worth siding with to get back to winning ways.

2019 SOUTHERN NATIONAL SELECTION – CAPTAIN CATTISTOCK (3/1 Unibet)