Kempton's first National Hunt fixture of the autumn heads up the action on Sunday. Keith Melrose from the Racing Post provides his three best bets on the card.
Novice handicap chases at this time of year often provide promising sorts, but they look in fairly short supply in this race which is dominated by Flat-breds and those who have been racing over the summer. The clear exception is four-year-old Hasty Parisian, who gets a handy weight-for-age allowance and is expected to relish the step up in trip. Hasty Parisian is bred to stay and trainer Milton Harris knows it because he trained his half-brothers.
Sensibly, this horse has been kept to 2m so far given his youth, and it looks like Harris is ready to start just teasing out his stamina over this 2m2f trip. Hasty Parisian signed off last season with a good fourth to Knappers Hill at Sandown on the final day of the campaign, so is clearly going forward anyway and the new discipline and longer trip can help him to prove it against a set of rivals who are not bred for this job the way he is.
On this card last year, Balko Saint won the Listed novices' hurdle and he returns this season in a handicap chase off 127. It is fair to say things have not gone to plan in the meantime, but he remains with potential as a five-year-old, not least over fences.
Balko Saint has run only twice in chases, the first time was in France and the second was at Ludlow in May. That day he pulled hard and Chester Williams lost an iron early on, which he was unable to recover. That was over 3m, too, which might be within Balko Saint's compass one day but was clearly too far at that stage. It is highly likely that he will be fit enough to do himself justice, given his history with this fixture, and this is far from the strongest race of its type.
Sceau Royal has been one of the most admirable sorts around for years now and underlined his consistency in the spring. He finished second in the Game Spirit Chase, third in the Melling Chase and second in the Celebration. He has always struggled against the very best, but this early-season Listed hurdle rarely provides that level of opposition and he showed that by winning it 12 months ago ahead of former Christmas Hurdle winner Silver Streak.
The opposition today is not so strong. Sebastopol is second best on Racing Post Ratings, but it is suspected he is here on an opportunistic prize-money hunt as he is a smart handicap chaser these days. Sceau Royal will likely be a short price but should have no trouble recording a second straight win in this race.