Friday, November 20, 2009

The return of a Star

Reigning Gold Cup champion Kauto Star returns to the track in tomorrow's Betfair Chase at Haydock, provided, of course, the weather relents. There has been plenty of build-up during the week, with several commentators voicing doubts over Kauto's ability to act on the track and the likely heavy going. Underfoot conditions will suit Irish raider Notre Pere who fell before the race had started in earnest in the Champion Chase at Down Royal a fortnight ago; normally he's a safe conveyance. Last year Madison Du Berlais was something of a revelation, taking the Hennessy at Newbury in November, the Levy Board Chase at Kempton in February and the Totesport Bowl at Aintree in the spring; Tom Scudamore prefers to ride here rather than go to Ascot for another of his favourites, Lough Derg. On the subject of the track, I'm sure I read somewhere over the summer that Paul Nicholls had been less than complimentary about certain aspects of its layout; later the champion trainer was said to be pleased with the adjustments made. On official ratings Kauto Star has 19 pounds in hand over Notre Pere and 17 pounds over Madison Du Berlais; the value about Notre Pere went early in the week - at the prices on offer Kauto Star has to be the selection.

Only four go to post in the Tune Into Timeform Radio Hurdle at 1.15; on official ratings Mr Thriller, an easy winner of the Silver Trophy at Chepstow four weeks ago, has the beating of Starluck. He steps back to two miles here and this sharp track will suit Starluck but Mr Thriller gets the vote.

The opener looks between Pepe Simo and Any Given Day. The latter looks 'well in' on official ratings but, although he has won on soft, most of his form is on better ground. He's been kept busy enough over the summer months while there might be more to come from Paul Nicholls' charge. I'll be tempted to take a chance on Pepe Simo provided he's not chalked up favourite.

We have to move down south for better ground where the feature Coral Ascot Hurdle, due off at 2.35, looks trappy enough. On ratings former champion hurdler Katchit would be the one but he was a disappointment last year, failing to win any of his five races. There's a suspicion he may just have become a little lazy - he has never won over the distance and Alan King's string have only recently started to find their form, many needing the first run. From the same stable Karabak will be riden by AP for owner JP - this one could make up into a World Hurdle horse come next spring. Triumph hurdle winner Zaynar puts his unbeaten record on the line here and tries this trip for the first time; he hails from the in-form Nicky Henderson operation and looks the one they all have to beat. The winner has come from the first three in the betting in the last ten renewals, with the favourite obliging on six occasions. Having said all that, I know connections hold Time For Rupert in high regard; he's an unexposed sort who has plenty to find with the principals but if the eight make it to post I'll pass by Zaynar and take a small each-way interest.

In the 3.10 I was considering taking on Voy Por Ustedes with Planet of Sound but Philip Hobbs' yard has been a little hit and miss of late - I'll adopt a watching stance.

Finally in the concluding bumper I'll keep a close eye on the progress of Any The Wiser who won with plenty in hand at Uttoxeter the other day. This is far more competitive, especially with a penalty, but I'd expect a reasonable show on the back of that victory three weeks ago.


Ben Aitken said...

For the sake of my Tote10tofollow I'm hoping for Planet Of Sound although he would not be ideal for Dosage Ratings (not disastrous though)......Mixed emotions should he win.

GeeDee said...

Ben - did very well to finish second, given the absolute howler he made at the ninth; Richard Johnson did well to stay in the plate. He rode well thereafter too, not rushing POS but giving him every chance to get back into his stride. Having said that, it was McCoy who drove this race from the front on Albertas Run.

GeeDee said...

An absolutely thrilling finish to the Betfair Chase with Kauto Star (4/6f) holding Imperial Commander (9/1) a nose on the line, the pair twenty four lengths clear of Madison Du Berlais in third. Things started to take shape as the two protagonists rounded the home turn; Paddy Brennan rode a cracking race, kicking on just after the bend to go three lengths clear. Ruby Walsh responded to get Kauto a couple of lengths ahead two out but the sapping ground began to take its toll on the champion and IC, trying this trip for the first time, stayed on superbly as the horses flashed passed the post together. My first impression was that IC had claimed the spoils; in the event it wasn't to be, but Twiston-Davies now knows he has a Gold Cup horse on his hands. Ruby reported Kauto would come on for the run, something Paul Nicholls was evidently pleased to hear. The disappointment was Notre Pere (4/1) who finished a well-beaten fifth. Jockey Andrew Lynch said, 'I'd say he was feeling something and we will have to check him out when we get home.' The final word after an epic victory has to go to Ruby Walsh... 'This is as good a horse as we have ever seen and we should all appreciate him.'
Another thriller with Mr Thriller (8/15f) who looked in trouble up the home straight and a beaten horse as Starluck (5/2) went on after the last. On the long run to the line though, the heavy ground came into play; Starluck tied up and Mr Thriller fought back close home to win by half a length.
Plenty of money for Pepe Simo (10/11f) meant he was favourite on the day and the money was right on this occasion as he beat market rival Any Given Day (13/8) five lengths; this horse is beginning to look a decent prospect.
Zaynar (9/4jf) put in a stunning performance in the Coral Ascot Hurdle, beating Karabak six lengths in spite of looking a little green and running around as he hit the front. Full marks to jockey Andrew Tinkler - connections had taken the decision to leave the cheekpieces off on this first try at this trip. The jock sent his charge on early in the home straight and the Triumph Hurdle winner showed a cracking turn of foot. Unfortunately, I passed by the opportunity to bet him and instead had a speculative wager on Time For Rupert (11/1) who came in for bits and pieces before the off. He raced prominently behind Lough Derg for much of the race but the game was up a full half mile from home as the pilot started to send out the distress signals; TFR finished a well-beaten seventh of the eight runners. I guess he was outclassed here but I haven't given up on him completely by any stretch of the imagination. This evening Zaynar is generally quoted at 8/1 for the Champion Hurdle in March.
To be fair to trainer Alan King, in the prelims he warned punters Voy Por Ustedes (7/2) would come on for the run. A quote of 13/2 about Planet Of Sound was broadcast first thing on The Morning Line - he was eventually sent off 100/30 joint favourite. Planet Of Sound made one absolute howler and missed another one out so on the face of it he did jolly well to get within three lengths of winner Albertas run (7/1) giving that one six pounds.
Philip Hobbs' Dunraven Storm (12/1)took the bumper, holding 6/4 favourite Lush Life half a length with Any The Wiser (3/1) a further seven lengths back in third - note that both the second and third were conceding seven pounds to the winner.