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Mia's bids to cause a storm for the mares and end 20-year drought

32Red Kauto Star Novices' Chase (in memory of Nigel Clark)|  Grade 1 | 3m | 4yo+ | ITV/RUK

Twenty years have elapsed since the 32Red Kauto Star Novices' Chase was last won by a mare, but a two-decade drought could be brought to an end by Mia's Storm, who seeks to confirm the exciting impression she has made over fences at Kempton on Tuesday.

After trumping the reopposing Elegant Escape at Chepstow, the seven-year-old barely broke sweat to win a Listed prize at Market Rasen.

More will be needed on this occasion, but there have unquestionably been many better runnings of this Grade 1, in which the Alan King-trained candidate looks the one to beat.

"She isn't a big, robust mare, so the plan after Market Rasen was always to wait for Kempton," said King.

"I thought she was hugely impressive when winning her Listed race and this looks a sensible place to try her in Grade 1 company. I very much think the Kauto Star is a race in which she is well worthy of running."

This is a race full of horses connected by previous meetings.

Take, for example, former high-class staying hurdler Ballyoptic. He thrashed Elegant Escape by 13 lengths at Exeter but then came off second best at Cheltenham behind Black Corton, who then went on to chase home Elegant Escape at Newbury.

Writing in his Saturday Racing Post column, jockey Sam Twiston-Davies recommended the horse as his ante-post Cheltenham Festival tip at 25-1 for the RSA Chase.

The rider's father Nigel, who trains Ballyoptic, said: "He was a tiny bit unlucky not to win last time and the better ground will help him, so I hope he will put in a better run than at Cheltenham and reverse the form with Black Corton.

"Mia's Storm is going to be difficult to beat getting the mares' allowance but that [allowance] is part of life and we have to live with it."

It was in the 2015 Kauto Star Novices' Chase that Lizzie Kelly became the first woman to ride the winner of a Grade 1 jumps race in Britain. Two years later, Bryony Frost seeks to follow Kelly's lead aboard her great mate Black Corton.

As a team Frost and Black Corton won five consecutive races together between July and November, and although they were defeated by Elegant Escape at Newbury they now meet him on better terms.

"He has had a good season and ran well last time when he was giving 3lb to Elegant Escape," said trainer Paul Nicholls, who secured his first Grade 1 success when See More Indians took this contest – then known as the Feltham – in 1993.

He added: "My slight concern is he has been on the go for a long time and I hope this isn't one run too many. He keeps proving us wrong, and I might be wrong again, but whatever happens he'll have a break after this race."

West Approach has the early chance to remind older half-brother Thistlecrack of the way to do it around Kempton's three miles as he lines up with Colin Tizzard-trained stablemate Elegant Escape.

Both are facing Black Corton again, with the form lines suggesting Elegant Escape has bragging rights having beaten that rival at Newbury last time.

However, the trainer's son and assistant Joe warned: "On the bare form over fences you’d say Elegant Escape is in front of West Approach, but on hurdles form it would be the other way round. There’s not a lot between them."

West Approach has it all to do on the form of his effort at Cheltenham last month when trailing home last of three behind Black Corton and Ballyoptic.

Tizzard added: "They're both in really good form. Elegant Escape looks a million dollars and West Approach schooled lovely this week and looks really good."

Do not write off Fountains Windfall despite his fall in the race won by Elegant Escape at Newbury. That is the message from connections, who believe this Grade 1 presents "a realistic opportunity with a test that will suit".

The seven-year-old, a Grade 3 handicap hurdle winner over hurdles last season, impressed on his chasing debut at Southwell last month.

Trainer Anthony Honeyball said: "It was tempting to go for a nice little novice chase after that fall, but we felt his jumping was so good through the middle of the race and that conditions would suit him."

Of that fall at the third-last, the open ditch, he added: "The air he gave the ditch suggested he had plenty left in the tank, and it looked like he would have kept galloping and been there or thereabouts.

"The fall was just inexperience as he jumped the ditch as well as any other horse."

Honeyball's only concern is if there is heavy rain, but he added: "We might think again about running if it got very soft but that rarely happens at Kempton."

Dan Skelton hopes that bookmakers are wrong to dismiss Some Invitation as an outsider.

The six-year-old was left clear by Very First Time's fall two out when scoring on his chasing debut at Wetherby seven weeks ago, but the trainer said: "We've kept him for this race and the horse that he was upsides when he fell has won his next two starts.

"This is a very deep race but we'd like him to outrun his odds."

 

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