Friday, January 04, 2013

The Welsh Grand National, Clare Balding, Mr Little's Noisy Car and the Tolworth...

Originally Clare Balding was rostered to cover the Welsh National at Chepstow for the BBC so there's a certain irony in the fact that, due to mitigating circumstances, nine days on she fronts this year's renewal for her new employers at Channel 4.

Channel 4's brand new racing coverage didn't get off to the most auspicious of starts on new year's day. Cheltenham was called off so Balding gave us a whirlwind tour of Nicky Henderson's stable instead; a couple of races from Musselburgh were thrown in for the sheer hell of it while Nick Luck, Jim McGrath, Graham Cunningham and Tanya Stevenson spent a sizeable chunk of the airtime available impersonating a job interview panel.

Their appearance brought to mind a previous occasion when one such panel enquired of me 'What was the last work of fiction you read and what do you remember most about it?' I replied 'Mr. Little's Noisy Car. The thing I remember most was Mr. Little finding a tiger in the boot of the car.' The kids were quite small at the time; I didn't get the job.

It's early days for Channel 4's new team and I don't want to appear too judgmental. Mrs Tips, never one to keep quiet for no reason whatsoever, tells me the jury is out...

18 have been declared for the Chepstow feature tomorrow but the picture is complicated somewhat by the fact that both Across The Bay and Alfie Spinner have also been declared for the 3.40 at Sandown. The perceived wisdom is Across The Bay runs at Chepstow while my Welsh National fancy, Alfie Spinner, is heading to Sandown. Gutted.

Teaforthree has an obvious chance with underfoot conditions sure to suit; this has been the target all season. He's tipped up everywhere - the layers appear to be taking the name literally as several offer no more than a rather miserly-looking 3/1. I share John Francome's view on Michel Le Bon - the horse just doesn't jump anywhere near well enough.

The last winner older than nine was Riverside Boy back in 1993, a stat that knocks out half the field. I've looked for something with course form that's aged under ten and with less than 11 stone to carry - Charlie Longsdon's Universal Soldier fits the bill. This one finished just over 13 lengths behind Teaforthree in the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham in March and is now six pounds better off; the first-time blinkers are a cause for slight concern. I'll take a small each-way interest in Universal Soldier at 10/1.

The Tolworth at Sandown (2.25) looks most intriguing with layers offering 7/2 each of three this evening. Geraghty rides Royal Boy rather than course and distance winner Golden Hoof; the latter-named boasts the same official rating as Melodic Rendezvous (135) who had Royal Boy threequarters of a length behind at Cheltenham three weeks ago. That was Royal Boy's first run for nearly two years and connections will fancy their chance of turning the form around. Clive Cox's Poet, a winner of Group Three races on the Flat, jumped like an old-hand on his first try over hurdles at Newbury 17 days ago; an article in yesterday's Times indicated John Francome has done much of the work with this one with the Champion Hurdle the target if things go to plan here. Of the principals, I have to oppose both Poet (on account of age - eight) and Melodic Rendezvous (his handler was decidely downbeat about his charge's chance on heavy ground before the Cheltenham race.) Court Minstrel is not lightly dismissed and appeared a little unlucky in running when bumped and hampered after the last behind Dodging Bullets at Cheltenham - Henderson has a benchmark in  River Maigue, second that day and a winner since. Royal Boy gets the nod; whatever happens, the race will prove useful for future reference.

I won't play in the finale at Sandown. I suspect Team Tizzard are giving Hey Big Spender a runout before another crack at Warwick's Classic Chase (next weekend) while at the time of writing my former Welsh National fancy Alfie Spinner is priced up favourite. Triolo D'Alene has had a breathing operation and could come on for his seasonal debut but to date hasn't proved he stays this trip. Fruity O'Rooney definitely does stay the trip and could well make a bold bid (seventh in Hennessy) but in the past has tended to jump out left when racing on right-handed tracks.

1 comment:

GeeDee said...

First things first...

Originally Ms Balding may well have been rostered to cover the Welsh National for the BBC. And you'd expect to see the new 'flagship' presenter broadcasting on the first full Saturday of the new Channel 4 contract. In the event she was nowhere to be seen, that in spite of advertisements aired during the programme encouraging viewers to 'join Clare Balding and the team' for racing in 2013. Where was she? Preparing for her new Saturday night series (with the BBC) Britain's Brightest perhaps? We're unlikely to be told.

Just like Clare Balding, my selection in the Welsh National failed to turn up. Universal Soldier (8/1) was held up in rear and after the fourth struggled to maintain that position - he was pulled up five from home. In spite of some poor jumping Monbeg Dude (10/1) came from well off the pace under a patient Paul Carberry ride to collar Teaforthree (11/4f) after the last and win by half a length.

Royal Boy (5/2f) raced from the front in the Tolworth but the gelding never jumped with any fluency, frequently losing ground at the obstacles. He was still there two out but another mistake put paid to his chance as Melodic Rendezvous (7/2) went on to beat Pendra (6/1) four and a haf lengths with the selection a modest third, some seven lengths further adrift.

For the record Katenko (5/1) took the Sandown finale in some style; it will be interesting to see where connections decide to go from here.