More to come from the winner
Cooper's Cross clearly relished this step up in trip and should remain well in after the handicapper has had his say.
He has been handicapped whilst competing over a trip short of his best which should give him another bite of the cherry off 133 next time.
His trainer had previously stated his concerns about his ability to handle good-to-soft ground which might be worth remembering.
The three mile, one furlong handicap chase at Aintree in April would be an obvious target for him, but before then we could easily see Cooper's Cross back at Doncaster to contest the Grimthorpe Chase in early March, assuming the ground is on the quick side of good-to-soft.
An inconsistent runner-up
On a going day Cap Du Nord is a fair bit better than his 125 rating, as he was third in this race in 2021 off 139, and third again last year when competing off 129.
This was presumably a big target race for him given his previous record, and if we take his previous high handicap marks into account, this then adds more to the performance of the winner.
In addition, his two-pound rise to 127 suggests that, at his best, Cap Du Nord remains well in for a return to Kempton at the end of February.
Three to take out of the race
- Ga Law
I am confident that the winner had Ga Law's measure when he took a horrible-looking fall at the final fence.
This was still an excellent effort against a winner that had been handicapped on the strength of competing over a trip shy of his best.
- Tea For Free
All was not lost when Tea For Free took a crashing fall at the second last fence, as I doubt very much that he would have troubled the impressive winner.
However, he would certainly have finished well in front of the eventual third horse to complete, and I will mark him up as remaining competitively handicapped after this performance.
The winner could turn out to be much better than his mark and the eventual runner-up is very well in when on a going day.
Tea For Free had won his previous four races, and when a long winning run comes to an end the market can often respond as if the horse in question has reached the ceiling of his ability level.
He has only been raised a pound for this excellent performance and he will not always come up against a horse as well handicapped as the Sky Bet Chase winner.
Some media comments stated that Undersupervision was making 'no impression' when being all but brought down at the second last fence, but personally, I would suggest he would have finished in third place if he had not been hampered.
When he won the Grimthorpe on soft ground over a longer trip here in March, he took most of the race to get into contention before wearing down the leader after the last.
He looks a real grinding stayer, and this is the second time he has performed well at this course and appeared to be more suited to this flat track compared to the undulations of Cheltenham.
Hopefully the way he was staying on here was rather disguised by losing his jockey at the second last fence. Surely, we will see him back here in early March to defend his Grimthorpe crown.
- You can read more of Andy Gibson's insights and analysis by visiting his Eyecatchers Service on the Tipstrr platform