Friday, February 03, 2023

The 2023 Virgin Bet Heroes Handicap Hurdle at Sandown

The top drawer action over the weekend takes place at the Dublin Racing Festival. 

On this side of the Irish Sea racegoers pondering a trip to Sandown Park on Saturday will no longer need to study the course's sometimes troublesome sartorial standards after the Jockey Club announced yesterday it was dropping all dress code requirements with immediate effect at all of its 15 racecourses. 

With respect, allow me to suggest the time saved on such sartorial scrutiny might be better utilised searching for an each-way selection in the Pertemps qualifier, the Virgin Bet Heroes Handicap Hurdle (2.55), and to offer the following speculative suggestions.

Fifteen have been declared; the going on the hurdle course is described as good to soft, soft in places.

At the time of writing the Coral Gold Cup runner-up Remastered has been chalked up favourite. 

David Pipe's charge went on to win a three mile chase at Kempton the day after Boxing Day and as a result is now rated 152 over fences; his hurdle rating is just 142.

Over at Chepstow Flight Deck won the Coral Racing Club Handicap Hurdle the day after Boxing Day, beating Bells Of Peterboro four and a quarter lengths with Green Book sixth, over 40 lengths in arrears.

On revised terms the runner up looks entitled to finish considerably closer yet Flight Deck is priced up at 15/2 and Bells Of Peterboro 16/1 in a place.

Green Book, who won this last year off 130, has been well backed to repeat the feat off a mark four pounds higher and is now an 8/1 chance.

In a Pertemps qualifier over course and distance back in December Dolphin Square beat Call Me Lord a nose with Wilde About Oscar a short-head away in third. 

That result only tells half the tale as Call Me Lord's jockey Ben Bromley dropped his hands after passing the first Sandown winning post but, unfortunately, it was the second one that counted, allowing Mr David Maxwell to pinch the spoils.

Since then Dolphin Square and Call Me Lord finished fourth and fifth respectively behind Hector Javilex at Cheltenham on New Year's Day, with Wilde About Oscar stopping quickly at the business end of the race - he was pulled up before the last. 

Dan Skelton's charge has hinted at a return to form and connections fit a tongue-tie for the first time tomorrow; off a mark of 136 he looks a well-handicapped horse.

Jet Of Magic likes to race prominently and finished runner-up behind Hector Javilex at Cheltenham; the Nicholls inmate has gone up 13 pounds since moving to the yard in November.

Stellar Magic was sent off the 2/1 favourite at Lingfield on seasonal debut but was pulled up; his next run saw noteworthy improvement at Wincanton on Boxing Day, beaten threequarters of a length by Steal A March in another Pertemps qualifier. 

Philip Hobbs' charge was raised four pounds and has yet to win over this trip. 

Coquelicot has been in better form this term in mares' races but current stable form would be a concern while the last time we saw Party Business was at Haydock in May.

Storm Nelson may be ten years of age but he's never been better. Writing in this week's Weekender Sandy Thomson says:

"He is in very good order and off a career-high mark of 134 I expect him to be competitive in a valuable 3m handicap hurdle at Sandown on Saturday. He is a relentless galloper, and with plenty of give in the ground I would hope he has a serious chance."  

Schalke won last time out at Kelso and was raised 8 pounds for his trouble but Aaron Anderson can claim back five. 

It's not often you see Nico De Boinville on a 28/1 shot but Bothwell Bridge has failed to complete on his last four chase starts and Indefatigable hasn't hit form this term either - the yard last had a winner 351 days ago.

Some weeks, you know, it can be a bit of a struggle to identify one at a price but it's possible to make the case for a couple in this field.

Storm Nelson (14/1), Bells Of Peterboro (14/1) and Wilde About Oscar (20/1) are considered. 

On the second of three chase starts since the summer Bells Of Peterboro was beaten one and a quarter lengths by Tea For Free. 

On his first hurdle start this term Tim Vaughan's charge was the only one to get anywhere near Flight Deck at Chepstow and tomorrow he's four pounds better off for four and a quarter lengths.

Bells Of Peterboro is the speculative each-way suggestion, generally a 14/1 chance, with Sky Bet and William Hill paying five places.

Friday, January 27, 2023

The 2023 Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster

Cheltenham passed an inspection at midday today but undergoes a further check at 7.30 tomorrow morning. 

With frost covers in place and an overnight temperature forecast of -2C, hopes are high the Trials Day card will go ahead; the mooted contingency plan to race on Sunday is no longer considered necessary.

There are no such weather worries at Doncaster where the going is described as good.

Twelve have been declared for the Sky Bet Handicap Chase which is due off at 3.15. The last two winners, Takingrisks and Windsor Avenue, were both returned at odds of 40/1 - and were both ridden by Sean Quinlan.

Ga Law heads the market and the weights for this year's renewal after beating French Dynamite and Midnight River in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham 11 weeks ago. The runner-up that day finished second behind Fakir D'Oudairies at Thurles on Sunday while the third won Cheltenham's New Year's Day Handicap Chase from Stolen Silver.

Jamie Snowden's charge met plenty of trouble in running at Cheltenham yet powered up the hill to suggest this first attempt at three miles should be within his compass; since 2000 only two winners have carried more than 11-10 to victory: Calgary Bay (11-11) in 2012 and Ok Coral (11-12) in 2020.

Tea For Free has won all four chase starts to date and is likely to race prominently with Lilly Pinchin up but this represents a notable step up in class for Charlie Longsdon's charge; the last five winners have all been aged nine or older.

Last February Cap Du Nord beat stablemate Kitty's Light in the Coral Trophy Handicap Chase at Kempton off a mark of 127. 

The handicapper is doing his bit to help the cause as Cap Du Nord goes off 125 tomorrow but Christian Williams' charge has been out of form this term - he finished last of 11 behind Rapper four weeks ago (Java Point second) and before that fifth behind Zanza at Newbury (Demachine second, Java Point third). 

Mister Coffey has run well but has yet to win over the larger obstacles and and his general profile suggests he may prefer more cut underfoot.

Perhaps Cloth Cap isn't the force of old but he ran well for a long way at the head of affairs in the Becher Chase last time out; his chance is not dismissed. 

Undersupervision was pulled up behind Grumpy Charley at Newbury last month (Shanty Alley second) but finished fourth behind Le Milos at Sandown last February and then won the Grimthorpe over three and a quarter miles at this track in March, going by Mister Malarky after jumping the last. The ground rode soft that day and the suspicion is he just might be better suited by a stiffer test of stamina.

I was a tad disappointed with Cooper's Cross at Musselburgh on New Year's Day - in receipt of 17 pounds he could never threaten Minella Drama. He's a point winner over this trip and connections fit cheekpieces for the first time. 

Both Shanty Alley and Elvis Mail have shown their best form with more cut underfoot.

Last year Windsor Avenue won this off 144 (Cap Du Nord third, Demachine tenth). 

Over the years Brian Ellison's charge hasn't always been the most consistent but on his penultimate start he was beaten six and a quarter lengths into fourth behind L'Homme Presse, Into Overdrive and Happygolucky in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle. 

That form reads very well and, if in the same mood tomorrow, he would have every chance off 142; I'd imagine Sean Quinlan will try to race prominently as he did last year.

Demachine was sent off 5/1 for last year's renewal yet trailed in some 87 lengths behind the winner. He was third coming to four out before weakening, with connections subsequently reporting their charge had made a respiratory noise. 

After undergoing wind surgery he won the Sir Stanley and Lady Clarke Challenge Trophy at Uttoxeter, run over two and a half miles in May. 

On his next start in November Kerry Lee's charge had no answer to Newbury specialist Zanza - beaten 12 lengths into second with Java Point one and a quarter lengths further adrift in third. 

On New Year's Day at Cheltenham Java Point finished second behind Rapper over a trip of three miles two and a half furlongs while Demachine was perhaps a little disappointing when seventh behind Midnight River over two miles four and a half furlongs.

Demachine has been dropped two pounds for that effort and, on a strict interpretation of the run behind Zanza at Newbury, is weighted to confirm placings with Java Point; in addition Caoilin Quinn, who excelled on Botox Has at Haydock in November, can claim five.

I wasn't convinced Demachine stayed three miles until his second behind Remastered in the 2021 Reynoldstown at Ascot. A fine effort, yet I still harbour a suspicion his optimum distance is probably two and threequarter miles.

Several in this field prefer to race prominently; there is likely to be plenty of pace up front. 

With the benefit of wind surgery, Caoilin Quinn's five pound claim and decent ground to boot, Demachine is the each-way suggestion, 12/1 generally with most layers paying one fifth the odds four places.

Friday, January 13, 2023

The 2023 Classic Chase at Warwick

Princess Camilla won the inaugural running of what is now known as the Classic Chase in 1973. 

The going for tomorrow's 50th anniversary of that inaugural running is currently described as heavy, soft in places. Fourteen have been declared, and further rain has been forecast before the scheduled off-time of 3.00 pm.

There have been 12 abandonments over the years, and only 12 winners have carried more than 11-00 to victory - four of them in the past decade: Shotgun Paddy 11-07, 2014; Milansbar 11-02, 2018; Kimberlite Candy 11-04, 2020; and Eclair Surf 11-03, 2022.

Hey Big Spender (2012) remains the only horse to have carried top weight to victory.

At the time of writing the Willie Mullins trained Mr Incredible heads the market. 

I saw this one beaten over 30 lengths by Ahoy Senor at Newbury in November 2021 when trained by Henry De Bromhead. 

He didn't jump well that day, refused to race in first-time cheekpieces next time out and has failed to complete on both subsequent starts.

Threeunderthrufive got no further than the first in the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury seven weeks ago. 

He looks to have a difficult task carrying top weight on heavy ground but last year he made all and jumped well to win the Hampton Novices' Chase at this meeting.

Lord Du Mesnil can be a moody character but when he's in the mood he's very good. 

His second behind Le Milos in the Sir Charles Lowther Plate at Bangor in November reads very well (Notachance fourth, Grumpy Charley pulled up) as the winner that day went on to win the Coral Gold Cup. 

I'm wary as I've burned my fingers with 'the Lord' before and I just wonder whether he will stay this trip on heavy ground. In the 2020 Grand National Trial run over an extended three and a half mile trip at Haydock he was outstayed by Smooth Stepper. 

Grumpy Charley made connections very happy next time out, winning the Mandarin Chase at Newbury on New Year's Eve; he has been raised six pounds for that effort.

Iwilldoit appeared particularly well-named when winning the 2021 Welsh Grand National but we haven't seen him since. 

Sam Thomas' charge wasn't ready to run in this year's Chepstow showpiece and makes his seasonal debut here. His price appears to be on the drift this evening. 

Slipway was of interest at the five day declaration stage but handler Ben Pauling declared Nestor Park instead. 

Although the gelding has won only one of his 12 chase starts to date, he finished third behind No Cruise Yet (4/1 favourite Wouldubewell sixth) at Haydock last time.

Guetepan Collonges looks short enough in the market for a horse that hasn't always been fluent at his fences and has contested Class 4 and Class 5 chases to date. Handler Charlie Longsdon has described the gelding as 'a horse on the up'.

I tipped Fortescue for this year's Welsh National but he couldn't hold his pitch and looked beaten after the first fence. 

If they go a bit slower in this ground it will certainly help his cause but I don't think underfoot conditions are going to help Commodore.

Dingo Dollar has looked revitalised since a move to Sandy Thomson's yard which is operating at a 50% win strike-rate over the past fortnight. Miss Alice Stevens claims seven and the fact connections have decided to make the long trip south suggests they think he will be competitive.

Wouldubewell hails from the yard that won this last year with Eclair Surf and the mare, a remote sixth in the Welsh National last time out, could well be overpriced at 33/1.  Current stable form is a concern.

Course and distance winner Volcano runs from out of the handicap while Grand Mogul isn't guaranteed to see out the trip.

I'm going to take a chance with Notachance who won this two years ago off 139 and goes off 130 tomorrow. 

Writing in the Weekender handler Alan King tells readers the gelding lost his confidence after suffering an injury behind Lord Du Mesnil at Haydock next time out (20.02.21) and it has taken a long time to restore it.

Wearing a first-time visor he finished eighth in this race last year, 83 lengths behind Eclair Surf.  

His third behind Captain Cattistock at Cheltenham in April (13.04.22) marked an improvement and his fourth behind Le Milos at Bangor on seasonal debut confirmed progress. 

The handicapper dropped him a further two pounds for the Bangor run so he races tomorrow with 10-07. The trainer says he goes well fresh so has been deliberately kept back for this. 

Stable jockey Tom Cannon rides here (rather than Harbour Lake in the Lanzarote at Kempton) and Mr King is on record saying Warwick is his favourite track.

I'm hoping Notachance's confidence doesn't receive a setback tomorrow because if he's back to somewhere near his best, he must have some sort of chance. 

Notachance is the each-way suggestion, generally a 9/1 chance with Sky Bet and Paddy Power paying five places. 

Friday, January 06, 2023

The 2022 Veterans' Chase Series Final at Sandown

Eighteen have been declared for this year's final (3.00 Sandown); the going is currently described as soft, good to soft in places - particularly along the back straight - with rain forecast in the morning.

Plenty of old friends - and a couple of old foes - in the field but I must admit I was surprised to see Prime Venture replace Ramses De Teillee at the head of the market earlier today.

Evan Williams' charge won last year's renewal (Sir Ivan third, Indy Five pulled up, 13 ran) and races off the same mark but up front Lilly Pinchin and Valadom took no prisoners that day on ground officially described as heavy; several in the field had cried enough before Prime Venture stayed on best of all, as the the RP Weekender's form analysis highlighted:

"No hanging around courtesy of Valadom and it set up for the distant closers, with conditions taking a toll.

"PRIME VENTURE stays forever and loves testing ground. He took an age to get going but it was clear from two out he had things covered and he surged clear late for a first win in 14 months." 

I'm not sure tomorrow's renewal will 'set up for the distant closers'.

Ramses De Teillee showed benefit for a wind operation in the summer when winning Leg 10 of the series at Warwick in November (Snow Leopardess pulled up); David Pipe's charge has been raised five pounds and carries top weight. 

Current yard form is a concern, as is the fact the grey has never won going right-handed.

As mentioned above, Snow Leopardess was quickly pulled up in Leg 10 after slipping on the approach to the first fence. 

The mare showed no ill effects next time, running well for a long way in the Becher Chase at Aintree to eventually finish eighth. 

The handicapper has played his part and dropped her four pounds to a mark of 142 - she won off 145 at Exeter last February. 

The grey didn't appear to handle the occasion when pulled up in the Grand National in April but has an obvious chance here.

Back in March Saint Xavier was second behind Indy Five in Leg 3 (Prime Venture third, Kauto Riko outpaced and pulled up) and showed his current wellbeing by beating Up Helly Aa King at Haydock in November with subsequent Welsh National winner The Two Amigos third, Coo Star Sivola fifth - and entitled to improve for his seasonal reappearance - and Chambard pulled up, reportedly never travelling with stable form quiet at the time.

On his previous outing Chambard won the Kim Muir at Cheltenham at odds of 40/1 so his chance is certainly respected. 

Sir Ivan has finished third in the past two renewals of this final - last year off a mark off 140 - so 129 could prove lenient. 

Along with Elegant Escape he was pulled up behind Run To Milan in Leg 1 at Exeter in February and finished third behind Dingo Dollar and Wishing And Hoping in Leg 8 at Aintree in October.  

Run To Milan won Leg 1 off a mark of 132 so 128 is certainly workable; with just 20 starts to his name, Victor Dartnall's gelding has fewer miles on the clock than any in this field.  

I've been a Crosspark fan for quite some time but he has his fair share of weight these days. Now with Nick Kent, he finished a creditable second in the 2020 final behind Seeyouatmidnight. 

Up Helly Aa King won Leg 2 at Doncaster in February (Chirico Vallis third) but stable form has to be a concern. 

Chirico Vallis likes to race prominently and won the Native River Handicap Chase off this mark at Chepstow in October 2021, beating Kitty's Light a head before subsequently finishing third behind Eclair Surf in the Classic Chase at Warwick,  form that reads well. 

I've always thought Ballyandy a better hurdler than chaser while Elegant Escape has never been the most fluent of jumpers and the majority of Broken Quest's form is on good ground.

Bermeo races from out of the handicap.

A very competitive renewal with eight runners set to carry 11-9 or more and a number in the field who like to race up with the pace. 

I'll take a small each-way interest in Run To Milan, at the time of writing 12/1 with Coral who are paying five places.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

The 2023 Paddy Power New Year's Day Handicap Chase

Since the freeze I've found myself struggling to find a winner - that's the Big Freeze of 1963, you understand -  and with seventeen declared for tomorrow's New Year's Day Handicap Chase (1.55 Cheltenham) the Sisyphean search seems likely to continue for some time yet.

There has been plenty of rain around today. 

Earlier this afternoon Tea For Free won the final race of 2022 at Newbury on ground officially described as soft but it looked a lot worse than that. 

The going at Prestbury Park is currently described as good to soft.

A number in the field contested the Paddy Power Gold Cup over the Old Course here in November and probably would have renewed rivalry in the December Gold Cup over the New Course but frost claimed that fixture.

Back in November Midnight River finished third behind winner Ga Law with Il Ridoto fourth, Deyrann De Carjac fifth, Nassalam sixth, Simply The Betts seventh and Stolen Silver unseating Sam Twiston-Davies three from home.

I tipped Deyrann De Carjac each-way at a price that day and had planned to repeat the trick here with five pound claimer Alexander Thorne set to replace five pound claimer Harry Kimber but I fear the rain has scuppered that cunning plan.

Market leader Midnight River was held up in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, making headway from three out to claim third, beaten just under four lengths. I wonder if connections may try to race more prominently tomorrow; the handicapper has left Dan Skelton's charge on the same mark: 145.

Following wind surgery over the summer, Il Ridoto ran a noteworthy race for a five-year-old in such a competitive event, eventually finishing fourth. 

Paul Nicholls' charge was disputing second place coming to the last but a bad mistake didn't help the cause and he lost third spot on the run up the hill. 

With the New Course generally considered a greater test of stamina than the Old, and the official race distance recorded as a half furlong further, I just wonder whether the gelding can see out the trip sufficiently well to collect the spoils.

Course and distance winner Stolen Silver looked to have a hard enough race at the head of affairs on seasonal debut last time; in truth the jumping looked suspect long before the jock eventually departed.

On his only run at Cheltenham to date Brave Seasca came to grief at the fourth in the Arkle behind Edwardstone last March (War Lord fourth). 

He returned to action with an impressive win at Aintree four weeks ago on his first try at two and a half miles; the handicapper has reacted by raising Venetia Williams' charge nine pounds. 

I have to say I was a tad disappointed with War Lord in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter. 

He was outpaced at halfway and his jumping wasn't foot perfect either but he did rally to finish third behind Greaneteen and Dolos. Connections think this is his ideal trip.

Owned by Harry Redknapp, Shakem Up'Arry missed his intended target - the Paddy Power Gold Cup - but he beat Tile Tapper at Exeter a couple of weeks later. 

He's five pounds higher tomorrow and will appreciate any further rain; the stable is operating at a 23% win strike-rate over the past fortnight.

Happygolucky's third behind L'Homme Presse and Into Overdrive after a long layoff in Newcastle's Rehearsal Chase reads vey well - the former was second in the King George and the latter won the Rowland Meyrick on Boxing Day. Kim Bailey's charge has been raised one pound for that effort; I'm not certain this step back in trip will help his cause but further rain will.

Coconut Splash is a work in progress and has yet to win over fences but he was sent off favourite for a race at Wetherby nine weeks ago where he finished third behind Into Overdrive.

In a Stable Tour article [RP Weekender 12-16.01.22] handler Evan Williams said:

"I have faith in the horse and feel he could be one who could be dangerous in some decent handicaps off a low weight." 

He appears to have been backed this evening and is quoted a 10/1 shot at the time of writing. 

Last January Fantastic Lady won a Class 4 Novices' Handicap Chase at Warwick off a mark of 120.

Seven weeks ago the mare recorded her third chase win beating Zambella (winner since) just under five lengths at Market Rasen and is now rated 142. 

Henderson is particularly adept in his training of mares - Polly Peachum was a favourite of mine - and Nigel Twiston-Davies won this race last year with the mare Vienna Court; she beat Simply The Betts one and threequarters lengths.  

Simply The Betts raced off 153 that day and goes off 149 tomorrow with Mr David Maxwell able to claim three so from a handicap perspective the ten-year-old looks well treated. The last horse older than nine to come home in front was Too Forward in 2007.

Nassalam met some trouble in running behind Ga Law last time so in the circumstances did well to finish sixth. The handicapper has dropped Gary Moore's charge two pounds and connections have opted for first-time cheekpieces.

Last season Demachine ran in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury after his summer break, finishing fifth behind Cloudy Glen over a trip that clearly stretched his stamina; in my opinion it took him a long time to recover from that effort. 

He appears in better form this term and I'm just wondering whether connections will choose to adopt front-running tactics as they did with Storm Control in the November race. 25/1 with bet365 looks big but I'm not convinced there's much juice in the handicap mark.

Of the others Jacamar and Lostintranslation have been out of form while both Eden De Houx's chase wins have come at Ffos Las and the majority of the Sebastopol's chase experience has been gained in small fields.

I'm going to take a chance with the Gary Moore trained Nassalam, hoping those first-time cheekpieces can bring about improvement. 

Nassalam is the each-way suggestion, currently 16/1 across the board with Sky Bet, William Hill and Betway paying six places.

It just remains for me to wish all readers a very happy new year.

Monday, December 26, 2022

The 2022 Coral Welsh Grand National

Nineteen have been declared for tomorrow's Welsh Grand National (2.50 Chepstow) with the ground currently described as good to soft, good in places.

Heavy rain is forecast but at the time of writing it's questionable how much will fall before off time. 

Connections of leading fancy The Galloping Bear have indicated they won't run if the rain doesn't materialise - and I note a number of confirmed mudlarks are towards the top of the market.

The top weights in the past three years were rated 160 (Elegant Escape); 159 (Yala Enki); and 166 (Native River). 

The Big Dog, trained by Peter Fahey in Ireland, heads the weights tomorrow with a rating of 153.

Owners Damien and Colin Kelly had this race as a target last year but The Big Dog made a bad mistake at the ninth fence - jockey Jonathan Burke lost an iron - and the gelding was quickly pulled up; they try again tomorrow off a mark six pounds higher. 

Four weeks ago The Big Dog won the Troytown Handicap Chase at Navan (Regina Dracones fell at the second) worth 59,000 euros. The majority of his races have been on soft or heavy ground.

The mare Quick Wave heads the market this evening; she finished 28 lengths behind Fortescue at Sandown in March but subsequent wind surgery certainly looks to have helped Venetia Williams' charge who dotted up in the London National and is only four pounds higher here.

Her stablemate Farinet won the track's Welsh Grand National Trail three and a half weeks ago but hasn't been declared; at present he holds an entry for a handicap chase at Cheltenham on New Year's Day. 

Ask Me Early likes cut in the ground but unfortunately didn't make the cut for last year's race. His third behind Le Milos at Bangor on seasonal debut reads well given the winner won the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury next time out. 

Course winner The Big Breakaway was only just beaten by Fontaine Colonges at Haydock on seasonal debut (Musical Slave fifth, Truckers Lodge ninth). He ran a strange race that day with a couple of slow leaps in the early stages before making ground up the home straight.

Musical Slave certainly won't be inconvenienced if the rain stays away and his second behind Hewick in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in April reads well. 

He lost two places in the closing stages behind Fontaine Collonges last time; he hasn't looked entirely trustworthy in the past but the fitting of cheekpieces has certainly brought about improvement.

Truckers Lodge was second in this race in 2019 behind Potters Corner and third last year in first-time blinkers off a mark of 150.  

He has to be of interest off 141 and Freddie Gingell can claim seven in a race run in memory of his mother. I note the blinkers are back on; in the past Truckers has shown his very best form on soft / heavy ground.

Fantastikas looked to have a hard race up front in the Becher Chase last time (Fortescue fourth) but Movethechains looks relatively unexposed and could be anything. That said, the Weekender informs me: 'No winner in more than three decades was making its seasonal reappearance'.

Rebecca Curtis saddles two course winners - Pats Fancy and Wayfinder - and both were disappointing last time.

The former was tailed off in a handicap hurdle and the latter pulled up behind Farinet in the trial race referenced above - Time To Get Up was another pulled up in that same trial race.

Wouldubewell isn't the biggest of mares. She appeared to tire four out when sent off 4/1 favourite for a race at Haydock  last month; Ben Jones rode that day and he's aboard The Galloping Bear tomorrow.

The Two Amigos has run well in this race in the past and ideally wants more cut underfoot while Cyclop has a few miles on the clock but has been in good form this term finishing third in both the Southern National at Fontwell and the Scottish Borders National at  Kelso in the past six weeks.

The booking of Harry Cobden for the Irish-trained mare Regina Dracones catches the eye. She looks feasibly handicapped off 128 but appeared to just run out of petrol behind Punitive over three miles five at Fairyhouse last time.     

Gats and Co and D'Jango both race from out of the handicap.

As I highlighted in my last post, I think the Henry Daly trained Fortescue has had this as a target. 

His third behind Royal Pagaille in the Peter Marsh at Haydock at the beginning of the year reads well and although he looks quite high in the weights now pilot Hugh Nugent, whose grandfather owned and bred the horse, can claim three.

He finished second on his only run at the track in a novice chase three years ago and, admittedly in receipt of weight, has twice beaten favourite Quick Wave - at Exeter (March 2020) and Sandown (March 2021).

Fortescue looked a tad taken off his feet in rear in the early stages of the Becher last time before staying on to claim fourth - I'm hoping the fitting of first-time cheekpieces will help him hold a better pitch in this race.

Fortescue is the each-way suggestion, 14/1 with Sky Bet who are paying one fifth the odds seven places. 

Friday, December 23, 2022

Christmas capers...

This year the Christmas cranberry sauce has been made using four tablespoonsful of 2015 late bottled vintage port - Graham's, of course - and now, well, I'm obliged to polish off the rest. 

That's no particular hardship, you understand, as I do enjoy the odd snifter at this time of year but, on sober reflection, I should point out it does very little to help with those tricky Christmas wagers.

Rain has certainly arrived - the local parade of shops resembled a scene from Blade Runner earlier today - and apparently 18mm of the wet stuff fell at Kempton where the going for the King George meeting is now described as soft.

Three of the four races to be televised from the track have just five declared and the King George nine.

From a betting perspective the small fields don't generate much interest although 16/1 about Royal Pagaille in the main event might look fair value should the going deteriorate further.

I've started work on the Welsh Grand National (2.50 Chepstow, Tuesday). 

The trends seem to point to a horse aged between six and eight years of age that has previous form at the track and is burdened with a light(ish) weight. 

Ask Me Early fits the bill but in terms of quality this year's race would struggle to compete with the majority of renewals over the past ten years. 

At the moment I'm considering Fortescue at a bigger price (20/1) as I believe connections have had this as a target. 

After a pipe opener in a Bangor novice hurdle in November, Henry Daly's charge raced in rear in the Becher Chase at Aintree three weeks ago and looked one of the first beaten; however, he made eye-catching late headway from three out to eventually finish fourth, beaten ten lengths.

Granted, he has his share of weight (11-6) but, if confirmed, regular pilot Hugh Nugent can claim three, and form last season behind Five Star Getaway and Royal Pagaille reads well.

I'll try to post a preview of this race after racing on Boxing Day. 

In the meantime, I think it's time for another glass...

With very best wishes to all readers this Christmas time.

Friday, December 09, 2022

The 2022 December Gold Cup at Cheltenham

The course covers put in place earlier in the week ensured today's card at Cheltenham went ahead following a second inspection at 10.30am.

The race is now on to put the covers back down over an area of some 40 acres as temperatures start to fall away.

ITV Racing give tomorrow's meeting a 50-50 chance of survival.

In the event racing goes ahead I'll take an each-way interest in the AIS December Gold Cup (1.50) run over two miles four and a half furlongs on the New Course.

Fifteen have been declared and the going is described as good. A number of the more fancied horses have yet to win over the trip - Il Ridoto, Frero Banbou, War Lord, Fugitif, Cheddleton and Coconut Splash.   

The Paddy Power Gold Cup, run four weeks ago over the Old Course, is always considered a pertinent piece of form. 

On the back of his fourth in this year's renewal - five lengths behind winner Ga Law - Il Ridoto heads the market.

Only five years of age, Paul Nicholls' charge ran a fine race that day and was in the mix for second spot when a blunder at the final flight put paid to that chance; the gelding lost third to Midnight River on the run to the line. 

The trainer has a good record in this and in the past decade has collected the spoils with two four-year-olds: Unioniste (2012) and Frodon (2016).

In behind Il Ridoto last month were Deyrann De Carjac (fifth); Simply The Betts (seventh); Storm Control (eighth); and Stolen Silver (unseated rider).

On his penultimate run back in April Stolen Silver beat Simply The Betts 11 lengths over course and distance. 

However on seasonal reappearance Stolen Silver's jumping started to show the strain some way out; pilot Sam Twiston-Davies was unseated three from home.

Fantastic Lady, trained by Nicky Henderson, has decent form in the book and her chance is repsected. She beat Zambella over three miles in a listed mares' handicap chase at Market Rasen; her profile suggests she may just prefer a little more cut underfoot.

Frero Banbou is a talented individual but tries the trip for the first time and, to my mind, often jumps low at his fences.

War Lord's fourth behind Edwardstone in the Arkle reads very well. 

I quite fancied his chance in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter but the grey was disappointing behind Greaneteen and is another who may prefer more dig in the ground. His price has drifted in the market this evening.

Cheddleton finished behind War Lord at Carlisle last year while Fugitif hung left on occasions on his first outing on good ground behind Amarillo Sky over the Old Course last month.

Simply The Betts was sixth in the 2021 Paddy Power Gold Cup, beaten under six lengths, and just happened to bump into Vienna Court when second over course and distance on New Year's Day. Mr. David Maxwell's three pounds claim will help the cause here.

Coconut Splash is an interesting contender who has yet win over fences or to race on ground any better than good to soft; he has come in for market support this evening.

In a Stable Tour article [RP  Weekender 12-16.01.22] trainer Evan Williams said:

"I have faith in the horse and feel he could be one who could be dangerous in some decent handicaps off a low weight."

Sole Irish raider Sole Pretender finished behind Bambridge and Tommy's Oscar over two miles here last time. 

Irish runners don't have a strong record in the race but Chatham Street Lad won the 2020 renewal for Michael Winters by 15 lengths.

This looks a step up in class for Fern Hill whose chase experience to date is in novice events with eight runners or less. 

Storm Control jumped well for a long way at the head of affairs before tiring in the Paddy Power Gold Cup; however connections' first preference is the bet365 Handicap Chase (2.05 Doncaster) and the same comment applies to Kauto Riko. 

Jacamar sports a first-time visor but Milton Harris' charge hasn't been in good form so far this term. 

I tipped Deyrann De Carjac each-way for the Paddy Power Gold Cup; Alan King's charge made ground in the closing stages to finish fifth, beaten just under six lengths and less than one length behind tomorrow's market leader Il Ridoto. 

To my mind Deyrann remains ahead of his current mark of 128 - he's rated 132 over hurdles and twelve months ago the trainer thought the gelding not badly treated off 137; good ground will suit. In the current Weekender the trainer states:

"We put some cheekpieces on him at home and I can report he was very sharp schooling in them on Monday morning."

Those aids were tried on two previous occasions last season - with little discernible improvement - but the horse appears in better form this term. 

I'd like to see him race a little more prominently tomorrow and I'd like to think the additional half furlong on the New Course will help his cause.

I'm going to remain loyal to Deyrann.

Deyrann De Carjac is the each-way suggestion, 12/1 with Sky Bet who pay one fifth the odds five places provided 12 or more runners make the start - and, of course, the meeting survives the cold weather...

Friday, December 02, 2022

The 2022 Becher Chase

Walking in amongst the weeds - and The Poddington Peas - at the bottom of our garden earlier this afternoon, I couldn't help but think this year's Becher Chase (2.05 Aintree) looks more difficult than ever.

Twenty three of the original twenty five five-day declarations stand their ground; the going on the Grand National course is currently described as good to soft, soft in places.

In the last twenty years only four horses have carried more than 11-00 to victory: Eurotrek (11-07 in 2006): Mr Pointment (11-05 in 2007); Vic Venturi (11-12 in 2009); and Blaklion (11-06 in 2017).

That particular stat may be a tad misleading. 

Last year Snow Leopardess (10-04) beat Hill Sixteen (10-00) a nose racing off a mark of 140 (Domaine De L'Isle fourth, Didero Vallis sixth). This year the mare goes off 146 yet carries 11-13. 

Sixteen runners have been allocated a weight greater than 11-00; Jack Foley's three pound claim means Captain Kangaroo will carry 10-13.

In the past twenty years only two horses younger than eight have come home in front, both seven-year-olds: Silver Birch in 2004; and Vieux Lion Rouge in 2016.

Below, a brief note on each runner - which may prove helpful but, more probably, will not - along with a tentative each-way suggestion.

De Rasher Counter

Brought the bacon home in the 2019 Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury. Unfortunate to unseat Adam Wedge at the Canal Turn in this year's National. Second behind Ramses De Teillee in Veterans' Chase at Warwick 17 days ago.

Francky Du Berlais

Trainer has a respectable record with runners over the National fences - won the Grand Sefton and the Topham with Mac Tottie last year. This has been the target since winning the Summer Plate at Market Rasen in July.

Snow Leopardess

Grey mare just held on to win this last year. Well fancied for the National but patently failed to handle the preliminaries - pulled up after a circuit. On seasonal debut slipped badly coming to first in Veterans' Chase won by Ramses De Teillee at Warwick. Pulled up after mistake at first.

Hill Sixteen

Just beaten in this last year. Third behind Sounds Russian at Kelso last time reads well (De Rasher Counter fifth). Sandy Thomson four wins from 12 runs last fortnight.

Fortescue

Ran well for a long way in the Grand National before unseating Hugh Nugent four from home. Some way behind Dr Kananga in hurdle race won by Maximilian three and a half weeks ago.

Recite A Prayer

Third behind stablemate Captain Kangaroo in the Cork Grand National last month. Trainer Willie Mullins won the Topham with Cadmium in 2019 and Livelovelaugh in 2021. 

The Jam Man

Irish raider found the going a bit sticky when meeting trouble in running behind Hewick in Galway Plate. Connections try first-time cheekpieces here.

Fantastikas

Two wins at Lingfield last season; seventh behind Corach Rambler in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Stable won this with fourteen-year-old Hello Bud in 2012.

Cloth Cap

Pulled up abruptly three out when sent off favourite for the 2021 Grand National. Form fallen away since.

Dr Kananga

Front runner who has 'lesser' Nationals as legitimate targets. Second behind Maximilian in novice hurdle last time out should have put him spot on.

Ashtown Lad

Second behind Remastered in Pertemps Hurdle qualifier an excellent preparatory run (Remastered second behind Le Milos in Coral Gold Cup at Newbury last week). Short enough in market with only five chase starts to his name.

The Wolf

Trainer on record saying The Wolf is 'a very hard ride'.

Gesskille

Six-year-old only just failed to collar Al Dancer over these fences in the Grand Sefton four weeks ago. Not raced beyond two miles six and a half furlongs.

Correction. Gesskille won over three miles at Ludlow on 03.03.22. Updated 02.12.22 @ 23.15. 

Rapid Flight

Six-year-old Cartmel specialist. Stable won this with Highland Lodge in 2015.

Fagan

Twelve-year-old not seen since pulled up behind Commodore at Cheltenham a year ago.

Captain Kangaroo

Plenty of spring in his step when winning the Cork Grand National four weeks ago. Stablemate of Recite A Prayer, trained by Willie Mullins. Jack Foley claims three pounds.

Enqarde

Ten length defeat of Remastered in Tommy Whittle at Haydock twelve months ago reads well. Stable won the 2020 Grand Sefton with Beau Bay and the 2014 Grand National with Pineau De Re.

Domaine De L'Isle

Fourth in this race last year. Unseated Harry Bannister at The Chair in the Grand National.

Five Star Getaway

Beat Fortescue at Kempton last December and then third behind Le Milos at Sandown in February before finishing well behind Mac Tottie over these fences in the Topham. Fourth in a handicap chase at Bangor on seasonal debut last month looks a good preparatory run. First try beyond three miles.   

Now Where Or When

Seven-year-old Irish challenger who has placed on six of his seven chase starts to date. 

Percussion

Seven-year-old who caught the eye when third in the Grand Sefton at odds of 40/1 last month. Step up in trip to suit.

Didero Vallis

Raced prominently until outpaced from three out when finishing sixth last year. After quiet start stable now operating at win strike rate of 25%; Miss Lucy Turner claims five pounds. 

Minella Bobo

Races from one pound out of the handicap. Pulled up behind Le Milos at Bangor last time out.

A bit of a minefield. 

For those unable to resist temptation, Didero Vallis is the each-way suggestion, currently 22/1 with both Paddy Power and William Hill who pay one fifth the odds six places.

Friday, November 25, 2022

The 2022 Coral Gold Cup at Newbury

The Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup, known as the Ladbrokes Trophy since 2016 and now, for the first time, as the Coral Gold Cup, was first run in 1957 and boasts a long rich history. 

Sixteen have been declared; at the time of writing the going on the chase course is described as good with selective watering set to take place this evening.

Tomorrow's renewal (3.05) may lack a little in quality but the race looks wide open with layers betting 7/1 the field. 

To my mind market leaders Remastered, Gericault Roque and Le Milos would all essentially prefer more cut underfoot. 

Last year, after Remastered took a crashing fall four out when in with every chance, Cloudy Glen took up the running and had just enough left in reserve to repel the challenge of Fiddlerontheroof (Potterman pulled up).

Taking into account Fergus Gillard's three pound claim in last year's race, Remastered goes off the same mark this year (143) whereas Fiddlerontheroof starts off a mark five pounds higher (155) and sports cheekpieces for the first time. 

Remastered had wind surgery over the summer and appeared to show the benefit when winning off 132 over hurdles at Aintree at the beginning of the month. 

However stable jockey Tom Scudamore rides Gericault Roque who finished 25 lengths behind Remastered in that Aintree hurdle race...

Le Milos won well on heavy ground at Bangor 17 days ago.

Irish raider Busselton won the Guinness Kerry National at Listowel two months ago and comes into this having been placed in 11 of his 12 chase starts to date. No five-year-old has previously won this race.

In the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March Corach Rambler weaved his way through the field to come up the hill and beat Gericault Roque (second), Oscar Elite (third), Our Power (fifth) and Lostintranslation (eighth).

Gericault Roque, Oscar Elite and Our Power all raced from out of the handicap that day; Oscar Elite's effort in particular is noteworthy in that he lost second spot in the shadow of the post and was later reported to have bled from the nose.  

Both Gericault Roque and Oscar Elite are weighted to reverse that form - Lucinda Russell's charge is usually given a hold-up ride and recent renewals of this race have tended to go to horses that have raced with the pace. 

Threeunderthrufive has drifted noticeably in the betting and sports first-time cheekpieces having finished third behind Proschema in the West Yorkshire Hurdle four weeks ago (Oscar Elite fifth); Proschema didn't advertise the form when pulled up behind Champ in the Long Distance Hurdle earlier today.

Two who will appreciate the ground are Lord Accord and Our Power.

The former ran well behind Frodon in the Badger Beers at Wincanton last month (Potterman sixth) while Our Power won the Bateaux London Gold Cup at Ascot (Annsam seventh). I was impressed with that effort as I wasn't convinced the gelding would stay the three mile trip.

Sam Thomas has since said:

"There is no question about him staying - I have no doubt at all he'll stay further than three and a quarter miles."

Annsam was a little too fresh for his own good at Ascot and can improve but it's difficult to know what to expect from Lostintranslation.

Connections try a visor on Potterman who slipped early in the Badger Beers and took some time to regain his confidence. Alan King's charge likes top of the ground; writing in the Weekender, the trainer says:

"He shaped as though he'd benefit from headgear so he schooled in a visor on Monday and looked sharp. It would clearly need quite a transformation to make him a major contender on Saturday but it might just help him." 

Fanion D'Estruval races beyond two miles five furlongs for the first time while both Diablo Du Rouhet and Red Happy race from out of the handicap.  

It's possible to make the case for several in the field; from the Ultima form, the two on my shortlist are Oscar Elite and Our Power.

As the former has yet to win a chase and the latter likes the ground, Our Power is the each-way suggestion, 11/1 with Sky Bet who are paying one fifth the odds six places.

Friday, November 18, 2022

An each-way chance for the Haydock finale

Earlier today the going at Haydock was described as soft on the chase course; soft, good to soft in places on the hurdles course, with further rain forecast before tomorrow's meeting.

All eyes will be on A Plus Tard in the Betfair Chase (3.00) but I've decided to focus on the Best Odds On The Betfair Exchange Handicap Chase (3.35), run over the same distance as the Betfair Chase.

Incidentally the 14/1 offered by Ladbrokes / Coral earlier today about Botox Has in the Betfair Exchange Stayers' Handicap Hurdle (2.25) caught my eye. 

Gary Moore's charge ran a fine race on seasonal debut at Cheltenham four weeks ago, failing to concede 16 pounds to race-fit rival Shoot First by two lengths.

The handicapper raised Botox Has four pounds to a mark of 144 for that effort but Caoilin Quinn claims seven tomorrow.

Gary Moore doesn't send too many to Haydock and a couple in the field try the trip for the first time - including Might I (probably well-treated off 142) and Good Risk At All.

At the time of writing Botox Has is generally a 12/1 shot and 11/1 with William Hill who pay five places. 

After that slight digression, there's this.

It's a guess how the chase course is going to ride after the three preceding races on the card (12.40; 1.50; 3.00) but the chances are a slog in the mud will ensue.

With ten of the twelve declared set to carry more than 11-0 and joint top-weights Good Boy Bobby and Lord Du Mesnil 12-1, it's no real surprise to see Houston Texas with a weight of 10-5 chalked up favourite.

Nicky Richards' charge impressed at Carlisle three weeks ago but has yet to win going left-handed.

The mare Fontaine Collonges has not raced beyond two miles four and a half furlongs and the form of the Venetia Willaims stable is a concern with no winner for 210 days. 

Ms. Williams will be hoping for a change of fortune with Achile (12.40 Haydock), L'Homme Presse (2.05 Ascot) and  Frero Banbou (3.15 Ascot).

Top weights Good Boy Bobby and Lord Du Mesnil look closely matched. The former beat the latter one and threequarters lengths in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day. 

On a strict reading of the form, Lord Du Mesnil is weighted to reverse those placings but 'The Lord' is a bit of a character who on occasions doesn't put his best foot forward. 

Richard Hobson's charge beat Achille in the Grand National Trial over this course in 2021 and I fancied him to repeat the trick 12 months later but, carrying my hard-earned, he ran no race at all behind The Galloping Bear and was pulled up.   

That said, his comeback run behind Le Milos at Bangor ten days ago points to a bold show.

Musical Slave beat Enqarde over course and distance in April before finishing a fine second behind Hewick in the bet365 Chase at Sandown seven days later. 

In the past there have been questions over his jumping and the gelding hasn't always appeared overly keen but the fitting of cheekpieces appears to have helped significantly.

The Big Breakaway finished third behind Monkfish in the 2021 Brown Advisory at the Cheltenham Festival but, to date, hasn't built on that potential.

Freddie Gingell's ten pounds claim will help Truckers Lodge but on the eve of his eleventh birthday the suspicion is his best days are behind him and the same comment would apply to twelve-year-old Crosspark.

I'm a bit of Crosspark fan after he did me a favour in the 2019 Eider Chase at Newcastle. 

This one hasn't gone unbacked during the week on his first run for new connections but to my mind he has shown his very best form on good and good to soft ground in the past.

Rapid Flight was well beaten behind Crystal Glory at Hexham three days ago, If Not For Dylan races from out of the handicap and Easysland has been pulled up on his four runs for Jonjo O'Neill.

Three weeks ago Good Boy Bobby ran well for a long way behind Our Power at Ascot before fading into seventh, beaten 21 lengths, with Rapper a further three lengths adrift in ninth.

Rapper has been dropped two pounds to 139 - and last season progressed noticeably for his first run. The gelding won off a mark of 137 at Wincanton last February. 

Henry Daly has his team in rude health, operating at a win-strike rate of 38% in the past fortnight. 

With Good Boy Bobby generally priced at 6/1 (bet365 stand out at 8/1) and Rapper at 16/1, Rapper is the each-way suggestion - most layers are paying one fifth the odds four places.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Cheltenham November meeting 2022 - Paddy Power Gold Cup

Fifteen of the sixteen 48 hour declarations are set to face the starter for tomorrow's Paddy Power Gold Cup (2.20 Cheltenham, Editeur Du Gite the non-runner) with the official going currently described as good.

The trends point to a chaser aged between six and nine with previous course form carrying 11-0 or less while a recent run is considered a definite bonus - Galahad Quest and Ga Law both fit the profile. 

However, as I explain below, I still haven't quite recovered from the events of 12 months ago. 

The Mouse Morris-trained French Dynamite heads the market; there's a strong suspicion he's ahead of his current handicap mark of 148.

Irish trained runners don't have a particularly strong record in this race - when Tranquil Sea won the 2009 renewal, Edward O'Grady's charge became the first Irish-trained winner for 29 years.

Ga Law picked up an injury in the 2021 Pendil Novices' Chase at Kempton and only returned to action three weeks ago at Aintree where he ran with credit to finish third behind Riders Onthe Storm. 

Described as a potential standard bearer for the yard in a recent Weekender Straight from the Stable article, Jamie Snowden's charge has never faced more than seven opponents in each of his six chase starts to date.

Stolen Silver hails from the in-form Sam Thomas yard (38% strike-rate in the past fortnight). The grey beat Simply The Betts and Coole Cody over the new course in April and as a result starts off a mark of 150. 

Paul Nicholls saddles five-year-old Il Ridoto. 

I was at Newbury this time last year when he won the Jim Joel Memorial Trophy by six and a half lengths, a precocious effort in the circumstances. 

When Nicholls sent out the five-year-old Caid Du Berlais to win this race in 2014 the gelding became the first five-year-old to win since Cyfor Malta in 1998.

Last year's renewal still holds painful personal memories.

Coole Cody, bidding to win the race for the second consecutive year, went into a clear lead from the third and, despite jumping right on occasions, was still at the head of affairs coming to the penultimate flight where Evan Williams' charge crashed out of contention. 

Midnight Shadow took up the running to claim the spoils with Galahad Quest fifth, Simply The Betts sixth and Deyrann Du Carjac eleventh.

As I wrote at the time, I'd had the winner pencilled in after his second behind Chatham Street Lad the previous December. However, at the very last minute I was ambushed by a bullish Alan King piece in the Weekender concerning Deyrann De Carjac on seasonal debut.

The handler reported his charge 'not badly treated off a mark of 137 judged on his best form'. Tempted by the 33/1 on offer, I jumped ship and backed the beast each-way; I'm sure I don't really need to relate what happened next.

Deyrann struggled to go the early pace and looked likely to be pulled up before staying on in the latter stages; he eventually finished eleventh but was somehow beaten less than ten lengths.

Four weeks later he finished fifth off 133 behind Coole Cody in the Racing Post Gold Cup Handicap Chase over the new course.

In what was probably his best effort last season Deyrann finished fifth behind Vienna's Court in the New Year's Day Handicap Chase run over the new course (Simply The Betts second, Galahad Quest sixth, Coole Cody eleventh).  

Mr. King is certainly more circumspect this year: '...and it may be we're flying too high'. 

The horse is set to carry four pounds more than his long handicap weight on this occasion but this is offset by Harry Kimber's five pounds claim. 

I think Deyrann De Carjac is ahead of his current mark (126) - he's rated 132 over hurdles - but a similar case can be made for a few in this field. 

He appeared a little unlucky on seasonal debut to be caught in the shadow of the post at Wetherby a fortnight ago on ground softer than ideal. I'd like to think that he comes into the race in better form than last year and that the drying ground will also help eke out some further improvement.

This evening Alan King told the Racing Post:

"It was frustrating to see him caught close home at Wetherby but he's come out of the race fine and, as he will relish the prevailing good ground, we've decided to allow him to take his chance." 

In a race that always has plenty of pace, I'd want to see him hold a position in the early stages.

Deyrann Du Carjac is the each-way suggestion, currently priced 16/1 with Paddy Power who are paying one fifth the odds five places.

Friday, November 04, 2022

The 2022 Grand Sefton Handicap Chase

Fifteen have been declared for the Grand Sefton (2.11 Aintree) which is run over a trip of two miles five furlongs on the Grand National course; at the time of writing the going on the National course is described as soft, good to soft in places.

Two factors in particular have influenced my thinking on this year's renewal.

Firstly, since 2003 only two horses under the age of eight have come home in front and both were six-year-olds: Dark Room (2003) and As De Mee (2016), the latter trained by Paul Nicholls. 

This year six runners are aged seven - including the Nicholls trained favourite Broken Halo - while Gesskille is the sole six-year-old in the field. 

With just four starts over fences to his name, Broken Halo looks short on chase experience compared to most of his opponents.

Secondly, more than half the field - eight runners - race from out of the handicap.

Top weight Two For Gold ran up with the pace for a long way over these fences in the Grand National in the spring off a mark of 154; he eventually weakened and was pulled up before two out. I'd imagine handler Kim Bailey wasn't too pleased when the handicapper reacted by raising Two For Gold five pounds for that particular effort to 159. In 2018 Warriors Tale, trained by Paul Nicholls, carried 11-12 to victory.

Senior Citizen has a respectable record over these fences: seventh in this race in 2020 behind Beau Boy and then second last year behind Mac Tottie (Al Roc tenth). In addition he finished third in the 2021 Topsham behind Livelovelaugh and eighth behind Mac Tottie in this year's renewal of the Topsham (Spiritofthegames fifth). 

Most of those efforts have been on good to soft ground; trainer Alan King is on record saying his charge 'is a proper good-ground horse' so the recent rains won't have helped the cause.

Al Dancer moved from Nigel Twiston-Davies' yard to Sam Thomas last year. In a Straight from the Stable piece in the Weekender [22-26.12.21] Sam Thomas said of his new inmate:

"He's a cracking horse who has lost his way a little and our first objective was to get him to finish his race properly, which he did last time out at Sandown when we ran him back over hurdles. 

He'll have another run over hurdles, which will hopefully give him more confidence before we get him over fences again. He's still relatively young and there's more to come."

On his two subsequent chase starts, he finished third behind Destined To Shine and Eclair D'Ainay at Chepstow and then second, beaten a neck, by Lalor at Newbury. 

That form reads well - the fitting of cheekpieces certainly seems to have had the desired effect. 

He finished third off 154 in the 2020 Paddy Power Gold Cup (sent off 5/1 favourite) behind Coole Cody and Spiritofthegames; in that context a mark of 144 here could prove lenient if he's back to his best.

There wouldn't be much between Al Dancer and Spiritofthegames on the form of that 2020 Paddy Power Gold Cup but plenty of water has passed under the bridge since. 

Dan Skelton's charge tends to be held up and challenge late so slower ground here should help. His seasonal pipe-opener at Fakenham (beaten a neck by Shetland Bus over three miles) should ensure he's cherry ripe but a record of just one win from 20 chase starts tempers enthusiasm a little.

Lifetime Ambition had no chance when second behind Capodanno over three miles at the Punchestown Festival in April but Fury Road and Millers Bank were in arrears that day - and Bob Olinger pulled up. That looks strong form.  

Four of Jacamar's six wins to date have come at right-handed tracks. In a Straight from the Stable article [Weekender 12-16.10.22] handler Milton Harris said:

"He did well last season winning at Kempton and Leicester and has gone up to a career-high mark of 139, so life will not be easy, but he seems in very good order. He has been winning over 2m4f but I am thinking of stepping him up in trip to 3m and if his comeback goes well [fourth behind Peregrine Run in the Native River Handicap Chase at Chepstow] we may give him an entry for the 'Hennessy' [no entry made]."  

Of those racing from out of the handicap Gesskille (unexposed and won a listed chase at Auteuil in the summer despite a couple of slow leaps) and Cooper's Cross (connections immediately nominated this race as the target after carrying top weight to victory in a Class 4 handicap chase at Carlisle) are worth a second look.

Over the course of this evening the prices of all the main contenders have shortened markedly. 

I like the chance of Al Dancer but at the prices I'll take a small each-way interest in Two For Gold, 8/1 with bet365 who are paying four places.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Ascot's Bateaux London Gold Cup 2022

Following trips to Ludlow and Worcester - and a few ill-advised flirtations with the Flat - I've returned from my summer recess a little later than intended, distracted somewhat by the ongoing political brouhaha; to quote Alice Thompson using a Carrie Fisher quotation in The Times on Wednesday: 

'"Things are getting worse faster than I can lower my standards."'

Thirteen have been declared for the Bateaux London Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot tomorrow (3.15) where the going is currently good to soft.

Major Dundee, a fine third in the Scottish National at Ayr last time out, was chalked up favourite earlier in the week; trainer Alan King has said:

"I am also pleased how well Major Dundee did through the summer. He has strengthened up but needs a race before his first major target, the Coral Gold Cup [formerly the Hennessy], after which he could go to Warwick for the Classic Chase and possibly have a second trip to Ayr for the Scottish National."

To date Major Dundee has contested just two of his 13 starts at right-handed tracks (Ludlow and Kempton) and was well beaten on both occasions.

Earlier this afternoon Our Power joined Major Dundee at the head of the market. 

Most of his chase form is around two and a half miles; on a first attempt at three miles last February he finished third behind Cap Du Nord and Kitty's Light in the Coral Trophy at Kempton (Good Boy Bobby seventh and Annsam pulled up). Sam Thomas' charge subsequently finished fifth behind Corach Rambler in the Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival (Tea Clipper fourth, Full Back thirteenth and Rapper eighteenth), appearing to lose his pitch two out. To my mind Ascot's stiff uphill finish isn't going to help the cause.

Tea Clipper has yet to win over three miles. Last time out at Chepstow three weeks ago, he was headed on the run-in by Peregrine Run over a trip of two miles seven and a half furlongs (Kitty's Light sixth).

Up The Straight tries this trip for the first time under rules and the majority of Danny Kirwan's form is also around the two and a half mile mark but, by way of contrast, Annsam is a course and distance winner. 

Evan Williams has his team in fine form; here's what he had to say about Annsam in a recent Racing Post stable tour:

"I'd like to get a run under Annsam's belt quietly to blow the cobwebs away as he's a big, raw, strong horse. He's in a race at Ascot on Saturday but I'm not in love with going there. That said, he'll need a run because if he's too fresh he can be very, very bullish. He lost all chance when making a terrible early mistake in the old Racing Post Chase [Coral Trophy] last season but that was because I left him too fresh. He could be a horse, if he progresses, for the Coral Gold Cup or Grand National. He's lovely, still young and raw, but with a bit of luck I wouldn't rule out those good races. He's definitely got the ability."

The last time Full Back appeared at Ascot he didn't jump well behind Remastered in the Reynoldstown but the stable has a good recent record in this event, having won with Antony (2016), Traffic Fluide (2018) and Larry (2021). 

There's a suspicion top weight Good Boy Bobby prefers racing left-handed; in the past ten years only Traffic Fluide has carried more than 11-3 to victory.

Regal Encore loves this track and won the 2020 renewal off 145 - with Mister Malarky a distant sixth. 

Anthony Honeyball's charge is a credit to connections and goes off 136 this time - just two months shy of his fifteenth birthday. 

Mister Malarky, a course and distance winner with a mind of his own, was a distant fifth behind Larry last year but has appeared a tad more tractable on two appearances for new connections. His chance wouldn't be dismissed if in the mood.

Poppa Poutine has won at the trip and had a pipe opener at Perth five weeks ago. He likes to race up with the pace but faces a stiff enough task.

Kitty's Light is only six years old but ran some brave races in defeat last season. 

Not the biggest of individuals, he is generally given a hold-up ride in an attempt to avoid early scrimmaging and then allowed to work his way into a race. 

The first part of that plan was carried out to perfection at Chepstow three weeks ago behind Peregrine Run but, unfortunately, the second part failed to materialise completely - Christian Williams' charge was beaten some 40 lengths. The handicapper relented (somewhat) and dropped him two pounds to a mark of 142.

Searching for an elusive each-way wager, two make the short list - Full Back and Kitty's Light.

At the time of writing the former is generally a 9/1 chance while layers quote Kitty's Light 11/1 (five places) and 12/1 (four places).

I'm hoping that Chepstow run three weeks ago has blown away the cobwebs. 

Kitty's Light is the each-way suggestion, 11/1 with Sky who are paying one fifth the odds five places. 

And a frustrating footnote to finish on. Sam Brown appears overpriced at 25/1 in the Charlie Hall; unfortunately there are only five runners...

Friday, July 15, 2022

Market Rasen Summer Plate 2022

Having recently awoken from my rostered summer slumbers, I have been confronted with the news that summer jumping is in something of a 'dire state'. Apparently you're likely to find as many declarations for a Tory party leadership contest as for a race over the sticks around this time of year. 

Traditionally Saturday's card at Market Rasen is a highlight, marking the mid-point of the summer programme; fourteen are set to face the starter for the Summer Plate (3.14) with the official going described as good. 

Tomorrow's renewal certainly appears to lack the quality seen in recent years. 

Light N Strike, Peregrine Run and Francky Du Berlais share top weight on a handicap rating of 139; compare that rating with those of horses allocated to carry top weight in this race over the past decade:

2021: Talkischeap (150)

2020: San Benedeto (150)

2019: Pacific De Baune (149)

2018: Alcala (148)

2017: Henryville (152)

2016: Ballynagar (157)

2015: Conquisto (143)

2014: Pantxoa (142)

2013: Woolcombe Folly (153)

2012: Auroras Encore (149)

Last year Francky Du Berlais claimed the honours beating Exelerator Express seven and a half lengths off a mark of 137; he tries to repeat the trick tomorrow off a mark just two pounds higher.

Unusually, three in the field have raced in the past week.

Both Texard (won at Uttoxeter on Wednesday) and Rostello (won a Class 5 Handicap Chase at Stratford on Sunday with comparative ease) have been raised five pounds for their efforts while Al Roc finished 25 lengths second behind Chapmanshype at Newton Abbot on Monday. 

Mortlach heads the market at the time of writing on the back of three novice chase wins. 

Fergal O'Brien's charge has dominated small fields by racing from the front but this is likely to prove a different test altogether and certainly his stiffest to date. 

The Clarke Chase run at Uttoxeter at the end of May can often prove informative - Francky Du Berlais won last year's renewal. 

This year Demachine beat Manofthemountain three and a quarter lengths (Al Roc eighth); both had undergone wind surgery following their last run. 

To be honest, I expected to see Kerry Lee's charge entered here but he's nowhere to be seen. 

The handicapper has decided to leave Manofthemountain on a mark of 138. In April 2021 Emma Lavelle's inmate won a handicap chase at Cheltenham off 137; my slight concern is this tight track may not play to his strengths.

In the Summer Plate Trial Handicap Chase run over course and distance last month Mahler's Promise beat Statuario two lengths with third Costly Diamond 15 lengths adrift. On revised terms the pair look closely matched, although Peter Bowen's charge has yet to win in 13 attempts over fences. 

Two mares have come home in front in recent years - Casablanca Mix (2019) and Really Super (2020) - and J.P. McManus will be hoping La Domaniale can add to that total. La Domaniale has just three chase starts to her name.

The other mare in the field, Rapid Response, makes the trip over from Ireland. 

The stable has been operating at a win strike-rate of 23% on the Flat over the past fortnight; Rapid Response appears to have had this race as a target but she would probably prefer some cut underfoot.

Light N Strike has finished in the first three on all seven chase starts. 

His win at Stratford last time reads well and Jack Wildman claims seven but there's a slight question mark over this extended trip - a comment that also applies to Tardree. 

Since 1995 four six-year-olds have collected the spoils: Stately Home (1997); Chicuelo (2002); Iron Man (2007); and Really Super (2020). 

Stately Home remains the only winner to carry more than 11-07 to victory while just two older than ten have obliged: Saskia's Hero (1998) and Glinger (2004). 

I could certainly see Licklighter outrunning his current odds of 33/1 if allowed to bowl along in front while Peregrine Run should appreciate decent ground but, to date, no twelve-year-old has collected the spoils.

Not the highest quality renewal but a very competitive race nonetheless. 

The chance of  Francky Du Berlais in particular is respected - Peter Bowen has trained seven previous winners - but I'm going to take an each-way interest in Mahler's Promise; Seamus Mullins' charge has finished in the first three on nine of his ten chase starts.

Mahler's Promise is the each-way suggestion, at the time of writing 10/1 with bet365 who pay one fifth the odds four places.

Friday, April 29, 2022

A brief review of the 2021/22 jumps season

Champion jockey: Brian Hughes

Champion trainer: Paul Nicholls

Winning owner: J P McManus

Champion conditional jockey: Kevin Brogan

With 204 winners, 99 ahead of nearest challenger Sam Twiston-Davies, champion jockey Brian Hughes joined a select band of riders who have ridden more than 200 jump winners in a season - Peter Scudamore, Sir Anthony McCoy and Richard Johnson. 

In the week leading up to the Grand National Mr Sam Waley-Cohen announced his retirement from the saddle, indicating Noble Yeats in the National would be his last ride. He then went out and rode the 50/1 chance to victory, coming home two and a quarter lengths ahead of Any Second Now. Trainer Emmet Mullins won the Grand National with his first runner in the race. 

Robbie Power wanted to retire by winning the 2022 Cheltenham Gold Cup aboard 2021 winner Minella Indo. Unfortunately for Robbie Rachael Blackmore had unfinished business from last year; A Plus Tard came home 15 lengths ahead of his stablemate. Robbie's final ride was aboard Teahupoo in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle at Punchestown.    

And after a career spanning 36 years, Dave Roberts, jockey agent to the stars, was another to announce his retirement.

Rachael Blackmore won a second Champion Hurdle on Honeysuckle, Flooring Porter a second Stayers' Hurdle.  

L'Homme Presse looked impressive in the Brown Advisory but Ahoy Senor turned the tables at Aintree. 

This year's Champion Chase was billed a rematch between between Shiskin and Energumene. 

Nico De Boinville thought the former was 'cooked' in the Clarence House at Ascot but somehow his mount managed to dig deep and beat the latter a length in a race that, for once, lived up to all the pre-race hyperbole.

Heavy rain preceded the re-match. Shishkin never went a yard in the soft ground and was pulled up before the ninth; Energumene won at odds of 5/2. 

Constitution Hill's annihilation of his opponents in the Supreme will live long in the memory; Nicky Henderson's charge is currently quoted 2/1 favourite for the 2023 Champion Hurdle.

Prices of a different sort perturbed punters at this year's Festival: Guinness £7.00 a pint; pasty £7.50;  gin and tonic £14.00; Moet & Chandon (20cl) £29.00; bottle of sauvignon blanc £80.00. 

Many took to social media to voice their displeasure, vowing not to return next year. 

You can't help but wonder whether those in charge are in danger of killing the goose that lays the golden egg; plans for a five-day Festival appear to be at an advanced stage.   

During an unseasonably dry autumn Midnight Shadow won the Paddy Power Gold Cup, West Cork the Greatwood, Nube Negra the Shloer, A Plus Tard the Betfair Chase and Cloudy Glen the Ladbrokes Trophy.

The Robbie Dunne / Bryony Frost case allowed punters a peek into the inner sanctum of the weighing room and it didn't prove particularly edifying. Dunne was suspended for 18 months for bullying Frost; on appeal his ban was reduced to 10 months.

Snow Leopardess beat Hill Sixteen a nose in the Becher and was well backed for the National but the grey mare failed to handle the Aintree preliminaries. Aidan Coleman looked after her, pulling up after one circuit; he received plenty of earache for his troubles.

Champ won the Long Walk in December and was sent off 8/15 favourite for the Cleeve; he was comprehensively beaten by Paisley Park who lost 20 lengths at the start yet still came home over three lengths to the good. 

Frodon (Bryony Frost) and Minella Indo (Rachael Blackmore) took each other on from the start in the King George at Kempton allowing Danny Mullins and Tornado Flyer to come from behind and pick up the pieces.

Iwilldoit did it in fine style and won an attritional Welsh National.  

Conceding 16 pounds Royal Pagaille pipped Sam Brown half a length in the Peter Marsh at Haydock while Glory And Fortune became the first horse older than six to win the Betfair Hurdle since Geos in 2004. 

Saturday February 26th 2022 will be a day Christian Williams won't forget in a hurry. Win My Wings beat Eclair Surf in the Eider at Newcastle and half an hour later Cap Du Nord beat stablemate Kitty's Light in the Coral Trophy at Kempton. 

Five weeks later Williams saddled Win My Wings and Kitty's Light to finish first and second in the Scottish Grand National. 

Fellow Welsh trainer Evan Williams certainly has a character on his hands with Coole Cody. The 2020 Paddy Power Gold Cup winner was still in the lead when coming to grief two out in this year's renewal. Four weeks later  he won Racing Post Gold Cup over the course and distance - and the Craft Irish Whiskey Co Plate at the Festival at odds of 22/1. 

On the final day at Sandown Greaneteen won the Celebration Chase and Irish raider Hewick the bet365 Chase with something to spare.

For a second year Flooring Porter is nominated blog horse of the year for that victory in the Stayers' Hurdle.

I'm getting on a bit now, I know, but the sport just doesn't seem quite the same. In a recent post on his ATR blog Kevin Blake told readers National Hunt racing needs to wake up before it's too late

Some food for thought there.

Friday, April 22, 2022

bet365 Gold Cup 2022

There as a dramatic finish to last year's bet365 Gold Cup with Enrilo passing the post threequarters of a length ahead of Potterman with Kitty's Light a short-head behind in third. 

Following the inevitable stewards' inquiry, Potterman was awarded the race with Kitty's Light promoted to second and Enrilo demoted to third having hung badly left and hampered Kitty's Light racing up the hill; most commentators felt Kitty's Light would have have won given a clear run. 

The three do battle once again tomorrow along with Cap Du Nord who was only beaten five lengths in fifth. Enrilo is just one pound higher, Potterman two, Kitty's Light effectively five as Jack Tudor no longer claims three while Cap Du Nord goes off a mark five pounds lower.

15 face the starter at 3.32 tomorrow; the going is described as good, good to firm in places.

For some time this race has been the specific target of both Enrilo and Potterman.

Enrilo hasn't had the best of seasons - falling in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury and then pulling up behind Commodore at Cheltenham in December when sent off the 11/4 favourite. He ran better next time when fourth behind Cap Du Nord and Kitty's Light in the Coral Trophy at Kempton in February; to my mind he doesn't look the easiest of rides but Paul Nicholls tells readers of his Betfair blog the horse is 'ready to run for his life'.

Favourites do not have a good record in the race; Alistair Jones' preview in the Weekender indicates the last outright market leader to oblige was Mr Frisk in 1990.  

Christian Williams has certainly made a name for himself in recent weeks with the likes of Kitty's Light, Cap Du Nord and nine-year-old mare Win My Wings who became the first horse since Willsford in 1995 to win the Eider Chase at Newcastle and the Scottish Grand National at Ayr in the same season. 

She beat stablemate Kitty's Light seven lengths in the Scottish National (Fidux fourth, Prime Venture sixth with Via Dolorosa and El Paso Wood both pulled up) but has subsequently been clobbered 14 pounds by the handicapper; this looks a tough task. 

Kitty's Light isn't the biggest of individuals though; to date connections have preferred to avoid early scrimmaging and ride their race from the rear. The gelding was pulled up after suffering interference in the Ladbrokes Trophy - he has finished second four times this term. Cheekpieces are tried for the first time and I wonder whether Jack Tudor will give his mount a more prominent ride tomorrow.

Of his three runners Williams is on record saying he'd place his fiver on Kitty's Light.

Underfoot conditions will suit Irish raiders Hewick and Streets Of Doyen; the former doesn't look particularly well handicapped even allowing for Jordan Gainford's three pound claim while I'm not convinced the trip will play to the latter's strengths. 

The only Irish trained winner in the past 20 years was Church Island in 2010. 

In the same timeframe only four have carried more than 11-00 to victory: Puntal 11-04 (2004); Lacdoudal 11-05 (2006); Tidal Bay 11-12 (2012); and Potterman 11-09 (2021). 

Flegmatik is another with concerns about the trip but off a featherweight Musical Slave's chance is respected. 

Cheekpieces seemed to help this one beat Enqarde with something to spare at Haydock last Saturday and he goes off the same mark tomorrow. Back in January in receipt of one pound he finished just two lengths behind Win My Wings at Exeter.

Domaine De L'Isle finished fourth in the Becher behind Snow Leopardess, tenth in the Eider behind Win My Wings and unseated Harry Bannister at the Chair at Aintree a fortnight ago. 

Step Back likes it at Sandown and won the 2018 renewal; no horse older than 11 has ever come home in front.

At the time of writing the top of the market is centred around Enrilo, Kitty's Light and Win My Wings.

The bookmakers aren't taking any chances with Musical Slave; several pay five places and 12/1 about Potterman looks fair value. Last year's 'winner' underwent wind surgery in January and won the Borders Handicap Chase at Kelso last month.

I thought Fidux ran well at odds of 66/1 on his first try at a marathon trip in the Scottish National three weeks ago. 

That was his first outing for 112 days; Daryl Jacob takes the ride once again. 

The gelding certainly isn't weighted to reverse form with Kitty's Light or Win My Wings but he has won off this mark previously - the shorter trip and better ground here should help his cause.

Paddy Power, Betfair and William Hill are paying five places and offer 22/1 at the time of writing. 

Fidux is the each-way suggestion. 

Friday, April 15, 2022

The Challenger Staying Chase Series Final at Haydock

A short post this evening - apparently Easter holiday obligations have to take priority. I still can't quite put my finger on the precise moment when, many years ago, it all started to go wrong. 

Anyway, the result is I haven't done the detailed homework required for the Challenger Series Finals card at Haydock tomorrow but, what the hell, I'm going to have a wager in the Staying Chase Final at 3.52.

Favourite Bavington Bob has won his last four on the bounce; Ann Hamilton's charge has risen from a mark of 116 to 139.

Kap Auteuil beat Coral Trophy fifth Galahad Quest at Stratford last time and is now on a career high mark of 140.

Musical Slave's two length third behind Win My Wings at Exeter in January reads well, given that Win My Wings subsequently went on to win the Eider at Newcastle and the Scottish Grand National at Ayr. 

I've never been totally convinced this one is totally committed to the game - at Sandown last time the form book indicates Tom O'Brien 'cajoled' his mount mid-race before the pair came home ahead of Notachance. Connections will hope first-time cheekpieces aid the cause.

Breizh Alko is talented but has legs like glass while Quartz Du Rheu will certainly appreciate better ground.

Enqarde and Snuff Box complete the line-up and both are course and distance winners; the former is of interest.

Dr. Richard Newland's charge beat Remastered ten lengths in the Tommy Whittle here last December before being pulled up behind The Galloping Bear in the Grand National Trial in February. The going at Haydock that day was extremely testing - only three of the 11 runners completed - and a fortnight later Enqarde underwent wind surgery. 

This is his first run since and he wears a tongue-tie for the first time. Drying ground should help and I'd like to think he can be competitive.

7/1 at the time of writing, I'm going to have a bet on Enqarde to win.

Off to sort some Easter presents now...

Friday, April 08, 2022

Aintree Grand National 2022

The success of Irish trained horses in recent years has been well documented; the going for tomorrow's renewal, due off at 5.15, is currently described as good to soft. 

21 of the 40 runners are trained in Ireland; Gordon Elliott saddles seven - Davy Russell is aboard Run Wild Fred - and Willie Mullins four. 

The form of Gordon Elliott's string has been a cause of some concern recently while earlier in the week Willie Mullins was uncharacteristically downbeat about the chances of his charges.

Three of the four reserves - Commodore, School Boy Hours and Romain De Senam - will take their chance following the withdrawals of Phoenix Way (temperature), Easysland (bad scope) and Lord Du Mesnil (ground).  

Rachael Blackmore renews her partnership with last year's winner Minella Times. 

Henry De Bromhead's inmate heads the weights this year; the last horse to carry top weight to victory was Red Rum in 1974. Since then only three have collected first prize with a burden greater than 11-05: Red Rum 11-08 (1977); Neptune Collonges 11-06 (2012); and Many Clouds 11-09 (2015).

Minella Times hasn't been in such good form this term but nonetheless, at the time of writing, shares favouritism with Any Second Now (unlucky in third last year), Delta Work (denied Tiger Roll to win the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham 24 days ago) and grey mare Snow Leopardess (won the Becher Chase in December).

The last seven-year-old to come home in front was Bogskar in 1940 which doesn't augur too well for Coko Beach and Noble Yeats; the latter will be the last ride for amateur Sam Waley-Cohen who announced his retirement from race-riding earlier in the week.    

It's 99 years since 13-year-old won Sergeant Murphy won; 13-year-old Blaklion tries to repeat the feat tomorrow. 

Dan Skeleton's charge finished fourth behind One For Arthur in 2017, sixth last year and won the 2017 Becher Chase over these obstacles. Quoted at 100/1 with Paddy Power at the time of writing, to my mind he looks the best value longshot. 

Those who like to make their own selections may find the Racing Post's pinstickers' guide of some use; for everyone else, there's this:

1. Fiddlerontheroof

Placed in all 10 chase starts to date. Finished second in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury in November, making up a lot of ground up the long home straight. Two pounds well in at the weights.

2. Enjoy D'allen

Third behind Freewheelin Dylan in last year's Irish National and looks to have been laid out for this. Another placed in all 10 chase starts to date. 

3. Any Second Now

Unlucky last year finishing eight lengths third after being badly hampered by a faller at the 12th fence. Set to carry 13 pounds more than last year. 

4. Fortescue

Four pounds well in at the weights but regular rider Hugh Nugent can't use his five pounds claim. Finished well beaten in seventh in the Ladbrokes Trophy but beat Fiddlerontheroof in the Swinley Chase at Ascot seven weeks ago. Looks the type to appreciate a marathon test.

As always, check each-way place terms with your bookmaker - most High St. firms are paying six places; Sky Bet are paying seven.

It just remains for me to wish you all the very best of luck!

Friday, April 01, 2022

Scottish Grand National 2022

For the first time in as long as I can remember the Scottish Grand National is to be run before the Grand National.

24 made the final declaration stage for this year's Ayr showpiece (3.35) which, in terms of quality, wouldn't be the best of renewals. Last year top weight Lake View Lad raced off a mark of 155; Hill Sixteen starts off 147 tomorrow. Streets of Doyen has been declared a non-runner.

The going is currently described as good to soft, good in places.

Five weeks ago trainer Christian Williams had one Saturday afternoon he's unlikely to forget in a hurry. Win My Wings won the Eider Chase at Newcastle; half an hour later Cap Du Nord beat stablemate Kitty's Light in the Coral Trophy Handicap Chase at Kempton.

Kitty's Light heads the market for tomorrow's race - and all seven favourites obliged at Ayr today. 

A six-year-old, Kitty's Light already has the form of a seasoned handicapper in the book and appeared unlucky not to win the bet365 Chase at Sandown last April off 139; the run at Kempton last time served notice of a return to form. 

Not the biggest of individuals, the bay tends to be ridden conservatively in rear to avoid early scrimmaging before making ground in the latter stages of a race and that, coupled with a weight of 11-08, gives me cause for concern. 

Win My Wings, with Ryan Mania up, beat Innisfree Lad (third), Court Master (fourth) and History Of Fashion (unseated rider) in the Eider. The handicapper has raised the mare eight pounds for that effort but amateur Mr. Rob James claims seven so effectively starts on a mark just one pound higher. 

Ryan Mania on The Ferry Master will certainly know what he has to beat. 

Sandy Thomson's charge finished a creditable fourth off 133 behind Mighty Thunder last year and is five pounds lower this time - stablemate Dingo Dollar finished second and is quoted a 50/1 chance for next week's Aintree showpiece.

When I looked back at the race, it appeared The Ferry Master held every chance four out but lost ground up the home straight - and lost two places before the final fence. A wind operation at the end of January may help the cause but there's a lingering doubt whether he really sees out the trip.

Court Master also appeared to fade from two out in the Eider. 

Cool Mix has never won beyond two miles four and a half furlongs but he finished fifth last year, threequarters of a length behind The Ferry Master. He looks well handicapped off a mark six pounds lower and Alan Doyle claims seven. Iain Jardine's charge finished ahead of The Ferry Master in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle in November and sports a first-time tongue tie.

Stormy Judge's defeat of Enjoy D'allen and School Boy Hours in a Navan novice chase 12 months ago reads very well - and Danny Mullins takes the ride tomorrow. This one's chance is respected but his best form to date has come on soft / heavy ground and similar comments apply to stablemate History Of Fashion. Peter Fahy saddled Mister Fogpatches to finish third last year.

Novice chasers have a good record in this race. 

Ashtown Lad, a seven length third behind Ahoy Senor in the Towton at Wetherby, could be ahead of his mark as he races beyond three miles for the first time. Major Dundee has a similar profile while Nigel Twiston-Davies, who has won this three times with Captain Dibble (1992), Earth Summit (1994) and Hello Bud (2009), saddles Fantastikas. Fantastikas finished seventh behind Corach Rambler in the Ultima 18 days ago (One More Fleurie seventeenth and Vintage Clouds pulled up); the relatively quick turn out here isn't ideal. Ask A Honey Bee has shown a tendency to jump right on occasions.

Olly Murphy is on record saying The Wolf is 'a vey hard ride'. The gelding's tendency to miss one out here and there doesn't help the cause but he finished second behind Captain Cattistock in the Edinburgh National last time out.

Hill Sixteen's second behind Nut's Well in Kelso's Premier Chase four weeks ago reads well but has resulted in a harsh-looking nine pound rise; Jack Andrews can claim five. Since 2000 only two horses have carried more than 11-03 to victory: Grey Abbey (11-12 in 2004) and Vicente (11-10 in 2017).

Chirico Vallis and Via Dolorosa are two 10-year-olds in form. 

The former pipped Kitty's Light in the Native River Handicap Chase at Chepstow in October (Fidux sixth) but appeared to weaken over three miles five when second behind Eclair Surf in the Classic Chase at Warwick.  

The latter was raised 10 pounds when beating Potters Legend at Fakenham last time where he showed a tendency to jump right.

El Paso Wood has been kept busy since joining David Pipe in the autumn - this will be his ninth start. Last time he finished fourth at odds of 80/1 in the Midlands Grand National. 

He's now six pounds better off but I wonder whether the gelding has fully recovered from that slog in the Uttoxeter mud a fortnight ago.

Innisfree Lad wouldn't be the most consistent of individuals but of those at bigger prices Jersey Bean is certainly worth a second look. 

Oliver Sherwood's charge beat Furius De Ciergues in Haydock's Stayers' Handicap Chase over an extended three and a half miles in November and looks to have been trained specifically for this.

The ground is likely to be too quick for Prime Venture while Strong Economy races from four pounds out of the handicap.

As ever, a really competitive renewal - the two on the shortlist are Major Dundee and Jersey Bean. 

Alan King won this with novice Godsmejudge in 2013 and has a win strike rate of 18% over the past fortnight while Oliver Sherwood's last winner was some 78 days ago - the nod has to go to Major Dundee.

Major Dundee is the each-way selection, at the time of writing 12/1 with William Hill who are paying six places.