Friday, December 07, 2012

From Sandown to Aintree and back

Tomorrow's Tingle Creek has been billed a match between Sprinter Sacre and Sandown specialist Sanctuaire; that's about the long and short of it and at the prices on offer I'm not tempted to play. Trying to pick holes in the form looks something of a futile exercise. I note that both race keenly and like to get on with it (as, indeed, does Kumbeshwar and Doeslessthanme) which on this testing ground could, in theory, lead to the race being set up for something to come from behind - you can have 40/1 His Excellency if you like - but the stats suggest there's no real value to be had as six favourites have obliged in the past decade with 2002 winner Cenkos (6/1) returned at the biggest price during that timeframe.

Underfoot conditions appear to have frightened off a number of the interesting five day entries on the rest of Sandown's card (Overturn, My Tent Or Yours, New Year's Eve, Cotton Mill) so I've decided to take a look at Aintree's Becher Chase run over the National fences where the going is currently described as heavy.

I tipped West End Rocker at 14/1 to win the race last year and, unusually for one of my selections, he came home in something of a common canter. On the back of that performance, I tipped the same horse for the National in April but he got no further than the second. A fortnight later connections brought him out for what was supposedly some compensation in the Betfred Gold Cup (at Sandown) but the gelding ran an absolute stinker out the back, eventually being pulled up. At the time trainer Alan King made comments about the horse having had a bad experience at Aintree and not liking the fences there which I thought odd given the same beast had won the Becher. Much later the handler put it down to the brouhaha of the occasion but I'm wary; on top of that tomorrow's pilot, Choc Thornton, has never won on the horse.

Martin Keighley's Any Currency was my fancy for the finale at Sandown until I realised the Becher was the target! This one failed to make the cut for the National in April but stayed on into third behind Tidal Bay in the Betfred Gold Cup after losing his position mid-race. He comes here with two runs under his belt but in an interview connections appeared ambivalent as to whether their charge would take to the obstacles; if he does, next year's National definitely will be on his agenda.

Nine of the past ten winners have been aged eight or older which puts me off Join Together, Problema Tic and bottom one Ballyvesey.

For this I do tend to prefer one with form over these fences; of the market leaders Big Fella Thanks makes most appeal to this observer - his record in the National reads sixth in 2009; fourth in 2010; seventh in 2011. Now with Tom George, the horse blundered and unseated Paddy Brennan last time out but is forgiven that particular lapse. At an each-way price I was very tempted by Any Currency (12/1) but marginally prefer another lightweight in the shape of Kim Bailey's Midnight Haze who finished a very distant 15th behind Neptune Collonges in the National; he's priced up at 25/1 with Coral this evening.

Two selections against the field - Big Fella Thanks (7/1 generally) and Midnight Haze each-way (25/1 Coral).

Finally, I have to return to the finale at Sandown, the London (rather than Aintree) National. If they do race at Aintree, just five will face the starter at Sandown where the Paul Nicholls trained favourite Tempo De Cotte is worth opposing on the back of his disappointing fourth at Plumpton last time - his first run in this country. Golan Way is a law to himself (refused to race on his seasonal debut last year) but if in the mood could easily win - trainer Sheena West saddled 7/1 chance Captain Cardington to take the opener at the course today - but the Trevor Hemmings owned Lively Baron carries just ten stone five and with Dickie Johnson in the plate is the selection.


GeeDee said...

Sprinter Sacre (4/11f) took the Tingle Creek in sensational style, beating nearest rival Kumbeshwar (25/1) 15 lengths; in some places he is now quoted as low as 2/5 for the Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March.

A thrilling renewal of the Becher Chase saw old timer Hello Bud repel all comers from the front to take the spoils at 14/1 just a couple of weeks short of his 15th birthday. Selection Big Fella Thanks (7/1) was going well within himself two out and looked a big threat but he couldn't get to the winner and was passed by Join Together (7/1) on the run-in to come home third, beaten a neck and one and threequarter lengths.

Each-way longshot Midnight Haze (16/1) was never on the premises after an error at the ninth and was pulled up before the penultimate fence.

Lively Baron was sent off 15/8 favourite for the London National; Tempo De Cotte was returned a 5/2 chance. The latter was the first beaten while the selection looked ready to win with something in hand when Richard Johnson sent his mount on before the Pond Fence. It was far from plain sailing though with Lively Baron not doing too much in front and the jocks behind rallying on Major Malarkey (3/1) and Golan Way. In the event, Johnson got home by a neck from Major Malarkey with Golan Way just under three lengths further back in third; Dickie had a broad grin on his face as he pulled up - he certainly wouldn't have been smiling like that had he been turned over on the run up the hill.

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