Friday, October 28, 2011

Wetherby and Ascot

There are eight declarations for what looks a competitive renewal of Wetherby's Charlie Hall Chase. Nacarat did this blog a favour when collecting the spoils last year and connections will be hopeful of a repeat performance - in my opinion good ground is the key to this horse and he's likely to get that tomorrow. Diamond Harry heads the market but he hasn't been seen since winning last year's Hennessy at Newbury - he has a good record fresh and stable jock James Reveley was bullish enough about the gelding's chance last week. Writing in the Weekender Paul Kealy points out that Poquelin has won 9 from 15 between October and December but has never won from January through to April; having said that Paul Nicholls' black gelding has never raced beyond two miles five. Time For Rupert disappointed last time in Cheltenham's RSA Chase but he had a valid excuse that day (broke blood vessel) and will be a threat to all if back to his best. Chicago Grey appeared unlucky when useating his pilot two out with the race apparently at his mercy a fortnight ago at Cheltenham; he could have a fitness edge over his main rivals here. At the weights Poquelin is the one to beat but there are questions about the trip while Diamond Harry is short enough in the market; I'll side with Time For Rupert.

Fair Along bids for a third successive win in the John Smith's Hurdle (2.45). The gelding can be a tricky customer but he has gone well fresh in the past and is likely to try and make all. What A Friend, part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, finished fourth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and was then pulled up in the Grand National; he is rated 159 over fences and has been priced up favourite this evening but is another who can't be considered the easiest of rides - I'm not convinced this return to smaller obstacles will suit. I do like Restless Harry but it's well known he's a poor traveller so the journey north may have taken its toll. Ashkazar is somewhat inconsistent but when he's good, he's very good; Timmy Murphy should be able to ride his preferred waiting race with Fair Along in the field. Carlito Brigante is respected, having won the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival as he liked. He hasn't won over three miles and there may just be a stamina question over this trip of three miles one furlong; having said that the gelding had the benefit of a pipe-opener on the Flat three weeks ago. At the time of writing both 6/1 Fair Along (William Hill) and 5/1 Carlito Brigante (bet365) strike me as reasonable value; I'll stick with Fair Along.

On official ratings Alasi is the one in the mares' hurdle (2.15) but she's priced accordingly and I've burned my fingers on this event in the past so I'll adopt a watching brief. Similarly no bet in the novices' hurdle (4.00) but the 2008 William Hill Lincoln winner Smokey Oakey, part-owned by Dame Judi Dench, is an interesting runner, having won a maiden hurdle at Aintree in June.

The Ascot card looks difficult so brief comments only on a couple of the runners. Katies Tuitor (listed handicap hurdle at 3.00) likes a quick surface and a right-handed track and should have a fitness edge over some of these having been kept busy during the summer on the all-weather (trained by J S Moore). Over the years this gelding has obliged at a big price on more than one occasion but I just can't see that happening tomorrow - in addition I think he's better on a flat track so Ascot's stiff finish is unlikely to help the cause. Two worth monitoring are Nicky Henderson's filly A Media Luz (Weekender reports her trainer saying she is potentailly top-class provided she learns to settle) and Colin Tizzard's Third Intention (seventh behind Zarkander in the Triumph Hurdle last March).

The Cushman & Wakefield Novices' Hurdle (4.15) should prove useful for future reference while I'm surprised to see Tiger O'Toole declared for the novice chase after falling on his first try over fences at Ludlow; the obstacles here are much less forgiving.

Finally in a recent Stable Tour article Colin Tizzard described Xaarcet as 'probably our best unraced horse for the season.' The gelding goes in the concluding bumper.

1 comment:

GeeDee said...

Diamond Harry's withdrawal changed the market for this race. There was plenty of money for Time For Rupert just before the off (SP 11/8f) and the horse ran creditably but he didn't jump the penultimate flight well and had no answer to Weird Al (7/1) who won thee and a half lengths.

Restless Harrry (7/2f) and Fair Along (11/2) took the John Smith's Hurdle by the scruff of the neck. The former went on after the final bend and won an astonishing 20 lengths. In the past the gelding hasn't travelled long distances from his Stratford base particularly well but he was calm here and is clearly very exciting.