Friday, November 18, 2011

Haydock and Ascot

At 3.05 tomorrow all eyes will be on Haydock's Betfair Chase as Long Run makes his first appearance on a racecourse after winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup last March. He faces five opponents and on official ratings has upwards of twelve pounds in hand over his rivals; owner Robert Waley-Cohen believes the only thing that can stop his pride and joy here is a lack of race fitness. I'm cautious and with Long Run priced odds-on I prefer to look elsewhere for some value. During the week Paul Nicholls indicated he has done plenty of work with previous Gold Cup winner Kauto Star who is some six weeks away from his 12th birthday. In the past Nicholls has used this race as a stepping stone to the King George and the Gold Cup but the implication is Kauto will not lack for fitness - this time it's the younger horse who has those races as targets. The predicted ground may help Kauto's cause a bit but these days I tend to see Haydock as more of a speed track - the likelihood is a younger animal will go by the former champion up the long home straight. Having said that, should Kauto win, there won't be a dry eye in the house.

That's the Gold Cup winners dealt with! Weird Al raised a few eyebrows on his first run for the McCain stable when beating Time For Rupert three and a half lengths in the Charlie Hall at Wetherby; that was Rupert's first run since disappointing in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival where he broke a blood vessel. Paul Webber's charge wasn't foot perfect at his fences last time and would be entitled to come on for that run - I'm not convinced placings will be confirmed. Earlier today a tweet from well-repsected observer NarrowTheField highlighted Weird Al's form in chases with less than ten runners 111-1-1 so he looks to have every chance and Timmy Murphy is riding exceptionally well at the moment. Hennessy winner Diamond Harry is very talented but notoriously fragile; he was favourite for the Charlie Hall three weeks ago but was found lame on the morning of the race. He goes well fresh and has been allocated the best speed rating in the Weekender; if he makes it to the course in one piece, he represents a value play at 5/1 or bigger - Diamond Harry gets the vote.

Plenty of old friends (and foes) in the three mile fixed brush handicap hurdle at 2.30. We've seen several of these over fences and one or two will be looking to exploit a more lenient hurdle rating, including Robinson Collonges (chase rating 148, hurdle rating 136); Synchronised (chase rating 155, hurdle rating 147) and Sa Suffit (chase rating 144, hurdle rating 135). No bet for me in this ultra competitive event but I hope old favourite Knockara Beau, who never really took to chasing, is fit enough to do himself justice on this seasonal debut.

Nicky Henderson is in fine form with five winners bagged earlier today; his Grandouet goes in the opener, having taken a crashing fall at Wincanton a fortnight ago. Although an odds-on chance here, he'll need to be at the top of his game to give Domtaline eight pounds. I like Marsh Warbler who has had a pipe-opener on the all-weather at Southwell but the penalty he carries makes things difficult. Tim Vaughan's First Fandago won over two and a half miles at Leicester on Monday and on official ratings isn't completely out of it while stablemate Rigidity was formerly with Sir Henry Cecil before showing promise at Edward O'Grady's over in Ireland.. For those brave enough, Paul Nicholls' Domtaline rates a play against the favourite (7/2 with William Hill this evening).

In the Coral Hurdle at Ascot the winner has come from the top two in the betting on nine occasions in the past decade; Silviniaco Conti was third best in the market when taking last year's renewal. Paul Nicholls fields another relatively unexposed sort in King Of The Night but I prefer Overturn to likely favourite Oscar Whisky - Henderson has indicated he is concerned about his charge giving eight pounds to the selection. Ladbrokes offer 3/1 about Overturn this evening.

Despite a field of just six the Amlin 1965 Chase looks very trappy. Master Minded wasn't convincing first time up in Aintree's Old Roan Chase; as he's grown older he appears to need a bit of cut underfoot and he won't be certain to get it here. Connections have said Boxing Day is their target but if you want to oppose, what to choose?  Alan King predicts a big run from Haldon Gold Cup winner Medermit but is under no illusion to the size of the task while improvement is expected from Kalahari King who sports a first-time tongue-tie. 8/1 Kalahari King looks value but that is nothing more than the most tentative of tentative suggestions...

1 comment:

GeeDee said...

Two races for the price of one in the Betfair Chase with the two Gold Cup winners having a private battle up the home straight while the young pretenders were generally disappointing. Ruby on Kauto Star (6/1) controlled the race from the front and the old horse put in a fabulous round of jumping to keep Long Run (6/5f) at bay eight lengths. The current Gold Cup holder, never the most reliable of jumpers, put in a couple of dodgy leaps down the back straight and did well to get as close as he did. The pair look set to meet again at Kempton on Boxing Day. Weid Al (7/1) faired best of the remainder, staying on past Diamond Harry (7/2) who travelled strongly early and looked Kauto's main rival on the home turn but he couldn't go with them. Time For Rupert (6/1) was the first to crack - he finished fifth of the six runners. This was D-Day for Diamond Harry and Time For Rupert and both didn't really come up to scratch; connections are still keen to go to for King George with Diamond Harry.

Grandouet (8/13f) won with plenty in hand but hit the last flight hard with Marsh Warbler (9/1) holding Domtaline (11/4) for second.

Overturn (5/2) obliged in a dramatic Coral Hurdle with 5/6 favourite Oscar Whisky taking a heavy fall at the last when holding every chance.

Master Minded won at Ascot but I was disappointed to see Kalahari King pulled up (lame) as IMO he would have taken a hand in the finish if remaining sound.