Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle Preview

Sky Bet Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle 15.00 Kempton
2 MILES (Grade 2) (CLASS 1) (4yo+)

The ITV4 cameras will be at Kempton on Saturday, and one of the best races on a quality card is the Grade 2 Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle. The ground is currently described as good at Kempton, but that could change with showers forecast overnight. This 2 mile contest has attracted 8 runners, and at least five of them have some sort of chance.

Favourites have a good recent record in the race, with 4 of the last 5 winning. Henderson, Nicholls and King are the trainers to follow in this contest, and they are all represented on Saturday. Before you have a bet, check out our preview and race prediction below.

Paul Nicholls/Sam Twiston-Davies
Odds: 5/2 fav Sky Bet

Paul Nicholls won this race back in 2014 with Irving, and that was his third victory overall. He relies on Capitaine this season, and this 5yo son of Montmartre is a very promising type. He has had six runs so far, two in bumpers and four over timber, and he has yet to finish outside the first two. He has won three of those starts, and he was most impressive when accounting for Captain Forez in the Supreme Trial at Ascot on his penultimate start.

He came up short at Sandown last time on his first try in Grade 1 company, but he found only Finian’s Oscar too good, and there was no shame in losing to a horse of that calibre. After he won his Grade 2, Nicholls suggested that this horse was a pure galloper, and a flat track like Kempton may not play to his strengths. However, he has the highest rating in the field, and the best form, so a big run at odds of 5/2 with Skybet would come as no surprise.

Alan King/Wayne Hutchinson
Odds: 4/1 Bet365

Alan King is another trainer with a superb record in this contest, and he won it for the fourth time last year with Winter Escape. He sends Elgin to Kempton in a bid to win it for a fifth time. This 5yo son of Duke Of Marmalade will be suited by the return to good ground after a heavy defeat behind Neon Wolf on his first try at Grade 2 level on soft ground last time at Haydock.

He had previously won a Listed heat over today’s course and distance, and he is unbeaten on good ground. If the rains arrive it would be an obvious worry, although he did win a weak maiden at Newcastle on an easy surface. However, this is a much stronger race and he would be getting 3lb from Capitaine in a handicap. 4/1 looks a bit skinny, and place money is probably his best hope.

Neil Mulholland/Noel Fehily
Odds: 6/1 Bet365

This very nicely bred 7yo has been brought along slowly since winning a Fairyhouse bumper in which subsequent Grade 1 winner Don’t Touch It chased him home. He was beaten on his only two runs last season, but he has looked like a different horse during this campaign. Two facile wins in Novice company were followed by an 11L romp at Newbury (16.5f gd) in a handicap off 130.

He then went on to run a cracker behind Lough Derg Spirit in a class 2 heat at Musselburgh last time. Peter The Mayo Man looks well worth a crack at this level, but the key to him is the ground. He has been beaten a total of 56L on his two soft ground starts, so keep a close eye on the weather. If the ground stays good, he could have a say at odds of 6/1 with Bet365.

Nicky Henderson/Nico De Boinville
Odds: 7/2 Paddy Power

Nicky Henderson has an amazing record in this race, winning it a total of seven times since 1988. He relies on River Wylde in the 2017 renewal, and this son of Oscar comes into the race on the back of two confidence boosting wins at Ludlow. He was impressive when winning his maiden there by 7L (16f gd/sft), but it was much harder work on soft next time when he was all out to score by 3L.

He has 3L to find with Elgin on their meeting in a bumper back in March 2016 (15.5f gd) and that rival has arguably shown a lot more over hurdles than River Wylde. If the rain arrives it will be a worry for this fella in this company, and his rating of 135 leaves him with a fair bit to find with the top two. However, you can never discount anything from Seven Barrows in this race, and a massive run at 7/2 with Paddy Power would not surprise.

Dan Skelton/Harry Skelton
Odds: 11/2 Bet365

The Skeltons run two in this race, and the one to be interested in is their hugely promising 5yo son of Network, Captain Forez. This former French performer has had just two starts so far in the UK, and he has bumped into some good horses. He was beaten 6L behind Jenkins on his English debut in a maiden at Newbury, and he improved massively on that run in a Grade 2 behind Capitaine last time at Ascot (15.5f gd/sft).

He was only beaten 3.5L by the Nicholls’ horse that day, and it was a superb effort on just his third career start. Captain Forez showed that he belongs at this level, at the very least, and he could be the one to put it right up to the favourite on Saturday. He has been awarded a rating of 134, but he could prove to be a lot better than that. He gets 7lb from his main market rivals, and he looks to have an outstanding chance at odds of 11/2 with Bet365.


The five horses discussed above will be hard to beat here. The Skeltons run another promising type in Mister Universum, but jockey bookings would indicate that Captain Forez is the more fancied of their two entries. Bazooka and Ronnie Baird look to be in at the deep end here, and if either of those were to win it would be a huge surprise.


The key to this race could turn out to be the ground. There is rain forecast, so conditions could well ease before racing. The likes of Peter The Mayo Man and Elgin need a decent surface, and the same could be said about River Wylde. Capitaine won’t mind a bit of rain but, as was outlined above, he might not be suited by the track.

At the current prices, we think it could be worth siding with Captain Forez. This lightly raced sort is open to any amount of improvement on just his fourth career start, and he won’t be bothered if the heavens open. He gets a nice bit of weight from the principals too, and he looks the value bet at odds of 11/2 with Bet365.