Friday, February 01, 2013

Ffos Las fancies

Tomorrow's Sandown card is an all-chase affair, the hurdles track having failed to cope with recent rain and snow. At this stage several Champion Hurdle contenders who were amongst the original declarations for the opener at the Esher course have now been re-routed to Doncaster for Monday's 32Red hurdle including Darlan, Rock On Ruby and Grandouet.

All eyes will be on Captain Conan at Sandown in the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase at 2.25. Barry Geraghty appears confident his mount will stay; I certainly wouldn't be tempted at odds of 2/5. His three opponents have all won over the trip while the favourite was beaten on both starts over two miles two last season.

After his horse Oscar Whisky had finished a neck second to Reve De Sivola at Cheltenham last week, Ffos Las owner Dai Walters took the opportunity to plug tomorrow's card at the West Wales track, pointing out that the £15 entrance fee was considerably cheaper than a ticket to the Wales v. Ireland rugby international - the match is scheduled to be transmitted on the large screen at the course.

As an aside, I fancy Ireland at the Millennium Stadium (13/10 Coral) but, getting back to the racing, the highlight is the Welsh Champion Hurdle (2.05), a limited handicap run over two and a half miles. Two years ago Mr Walters won this race with the aforementioned Oscar Whisky; this time he relies on Tanerko Emery but he doesn't appear particularly confident... Nicky Henderson's Oscara Dara is bound to be popular after victory in the Lanzarote at Kempton three weeks ago; his ungainly stumble at the last that day was far from pretty on the eye but the manner in which he recovered to win suggested there was a bit left in the tank. The handicapper has noticed though - he races off a mark 14 pounds higher here. It's interesting to see connections revert to the smaller obstacles with Tiger O'Toole; a talented individual on his day, in my book he has never really taken to chasing. His hurdles mark is nine pounds lower than his chase rating and although some of that advantage is negated by the race conditions, the 33/1 available generally looks too tempting; Tiger O'Toole is the each-way selection.

Twelve declared for the West Wales National at 2.40 (although Summery Justice has the 3.35 at Sandown as first preference) in which the bottom seven race from out of the handicap. Alfie Spinner is marked up favourite this evening - this one got no further than the third in the Hennessey and was then firmly put in his place by Katenko (winner since) at Sandown. At the last minute connections opted for that Sandown engagement rather than the Welsh National at Chepstow (presumably as it looked the easier task) so the fact the gelding was beaten some 27 lengths doesn't inspire confidence. Cannington Brook had a particularly hard race in the Tommy Whittle at Haydock six weeks ago, holding Jonjo O'Neill's Merry King a nose on the line. Junior holds claims but is quirky so at the prices I'll take an each-way interest in Our Island (16/1 Ladbrokes) from Tim Vaughan's stable. This one ran well for a long way in the Welsh National having previously finished third in the Devon Marathon Handicap Chase at Exeter; he has place claims even though seven pounds 'wrong' at the weights.

Four go in the novice chase (3.10); Sir Mattie has his first run for 237 days but the other three look closely matched. I was at Warwick three weeks ago when Tour Des Champs came to grief two out in the race won by Rocky Creek. My impression was Tour Des Champs may have finished second that day but it was a crashing fall and his completion rate over the larger obstacles leaves a little to be desired. Benheir made a mistake at the first in the Classic Chase at that meeting and struggled thereafter but may show improvement with AP McCoy replacing seven pound claimer Patrick Corbett in the saddle. To be fair to the claimer, the pairing has won previously over the course and on their penutlimate outing finished 15 lengths behind Carruthers (goes in the 2.40). One In A Milan could be anything after an easy course and distance win last time out. Rebecca Curtis said in a Weekender stable tour (24-28 October 2012) that Benheir would be aimed at the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham - the stable won that race last year with Teaforthree - and, as McCoy has an excellent record riding for the yard, I'm going to give the vote to Benheir ahead of Tour Des Champs.

The same trainer / jockey combination will be worth a second look with Internationalapeal, described as 'a very big horse for his age' in the concluding bumper.


GeeDee said...

Perhaps Ffos Las follies / flops would have been a more appropriate title for this particular posting...

Naively I was half hopeful of Tiger O'Toole's chance in the Welsh Champion Hurdle following a snippet on the Morning Line where connections indicated a 'bold show' was on the cards. Unfortunately Tiger (25/1) wasn't in a listening mood as he started off at the back and finished plum last. The race went to 6/1 chance Medinas with the bold show coming from the Rebecca Curtis trained Pechamenko (25/1) in second.

Our Island was a non-runner in the West Wales National won by Carruthers (6/1) but Benheir (6/4) was pulled up in the novice chase won by Tour Des Champs (5/4f) and 2/1 joint favourite Internationalapeal was disappointing in the bumper, sixth behind the other joint favourite Heath Hunter from the Pipe yard.

Searching desperately for positives, Captain Conan's victory was hard-earned and looked a trifle fortunate as Third Intention idled in front up the Sandown hill while Ireland hung on to beat Wales at Cardiff.

Back to the drawing board as they say...

GeeDee said...

Quick follow-up...

BBC reports less than 2,000 paying customers at Ffos Las on Saturday

Future clashes with rugby internationals are likely to be avoided.

I've also seen hints that Captain Conan didn't appreciate being held up in the Sandown race. Connections are undeterred and Cheltenham bound, the horse quoted the 5/1 favourite for the Jewson Novices Chase.