Last Updated: 12/01/20 5:18pm
A review of the weekend's action in which Kimberlite Candy emerged as a Randox Health Grand National contender.
Kimberlite Candy served notice of his Aintree aspirations with a convincing victory in Warwick's McCoy Contractors Civil Engineering Classic Handicap Chase.
While Burrows Edge ended a vexed week for Nicky Henderson on a winning note in Kempton's Unibet Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle on Saturday - and Paul Nicholls' back-to-form Frodon was among the eye-catching Graded winners - Tom Lacey perhaps had most to smile about after Kimberlite Candy strutted his stuff in a noted Grand National trial.
It was in Warwick's marathon Grade Three handicap that One For Arthur prefaced his 2017 Aintree glory with a winning performance, and Lacey's eight-year-old was equally convincing with a 10-length triumph from Captain Chaos this time.
The 9-2 shot stayed on stoutly under Richie McLernon to emphatically overhaul the front-running Captain Chaos, consolidating last month's fine effort when he was runner-up in the Becher Chase over the big fences.
Lacey was delighted to see evidence of consistency from Kimberlite Candy, who has previously fallen short on that score.
"He'd never backed up a good run, so that obviously was a concern," said the Herefordshire trainer.
"He's a year older - and everything he does in his work, he's taking it better. Before, he was always behind the bridle.
"He's the finished article now, I think.
"Richie got him into a lovely rhythm, but said he didn't jump as well as he had done previously at Aintree (in the Becher).
"We'll see about the National. It would have to be soft ground. There's no point going there on quicker ground. He has to go up to get in anyway. It's an option."
Warwick's classy card also featured two Graded novice races.
Mossy Fen was a courageous winner of the Leamington Novices' Hurdle for Nigel and Sam Twiston-Davies, by a hard-fought three-quarters of a length from Irish challenger Decor Irlandais.
In the preceding Hampton Novices' Chase, Kim Bailey's Two For Gold also ground out his victory - galvanised by David Bass to outstay Hold The Note.
At Kempton, 2019 Ryanair Chase victors Frodon and Bryony Frost got the better of outsider Keeper Hill - with Henderson's favourite Top Notch only third of five - to take the Unibet Silviniaco Conti Chase by a length and a quarter.
Frodon had previously failed to reach last season's heights in two starts this term.
Frost said: "A few people might have been jumping ship - but after the season he had last season, it takes an exceptional horse to keep coming back in those big races.
"They are elite athletes, so for him to come back within three runs off that Ryanair shows you he is a tough cookie. People are quick to doubt, but you can never doubt your team members - especially one like him.
"To have horses like Frodon and the partnership I have with him out there is great. He is a boisterous, slightly cocky, in-your-face sort of chap.
"He wears his heart on his sleeve - and when he gets out there, you know he is going to give you everything, and you give him everything and you just see how far it takes you."
Henderson's fortunes did not immediately seem ready to change in the Listed Lanzarote, as Burrows Edge came under pressure in midfield. But Nico De Boinville was beginning to make ground when the front two, Debestyman and Notre Pari, both departed at the last - and the 5-1 winner stayed on well to land the spoils by nine lengths.
For good measure, Never Adapt then completed Henderson's double in the closing two-mile handicap hurdle.
Ireland provided Sunday's Graded action, with contrasting victories for odds-on favourites Carefully Selected and Andy Dufresne.
The former dominated the Killiney Novice Chase from the front for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend, stretching 24 lengths clear at the line - with closest pursuer Speak Easy already well-beaten when taking a heavy fall at the last.
Andy Dufresne had much more of a battle on his hands to get back to winning ways in the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle.
He did so, though, heading long-time leader Captain Guinness just after the last and closing out victory by three-quarters of a length.
Gordon Elliott's six-year-old was therefore re-stating his Cheltenham Festival credentials, reverting to an extended two miles after failing to justify his odds when only runner-up over further at Navan last month.
The winning trainer has yet to decide his best trip.
After this third victory from four starts under Rules, Elliott said: "I still don't think two and half is a problem to him - he stays well.
"The way he moves, he'll probably be better on better ground."