Friday, February 15, 2013

Haydock's National Trial and the Ascot Chase

Alistair Whitehouse-Jones informs us in this week's Weekender that 'the silly season' is nearly upon us, refering to the surfeit of Cheltenham preview nights which are set to take place up and down the country. On balance I share that view - the previews just lead to confusion; in the past I have tended to give these events a wide berth as you end up with more tips than you can shake a stick at, although I did go to last year's event at Haydock racecourse organised by Coral.

Still, this week there has been no shortage of Grand National talk.

Tuesday saw the weights for the 2013 race unveiled over a lunch at the Savoy... No sooner had punters learned that Tidal Bay was tasked to carry top weight than the horse was declared a non-runner after a stress fracture was diagnosed. Following fatalities in the previous two runnings of the Aintree showpiece, racing looks towards this year's renewal with particular trepidation. Yet while the horsemeat scandal may be growing by the day Daily Telegraph cartoonist Matt can see the lighter side with a wry angle on racehorse ownership (cartoon February 15).

Tomorrow's Grand National Trial (2.55) is the highlight on the Haydock card; 14 are declared for the three and a half mile trip which will be run on ground described as heavy. Silver By Nature won the penultimate running of this trial with top weight and tries to repeat the trick but hasn't been seen on course since finishing a distant 12th behind Ballabriggs in the 2011 National. Monbeg Dude, part-owned by former England rugby captain Mike Tindall, denied Teaforthree in the Welsh National last month and generated plenty of headlines in the process; the winner didn't jump well that day and has apparently been booked for schooling sessions with Zara Phillips, Tindall's wife. Teaforthree is three pounds better off for half a length here and is fancied to reverse placings. Cannington Brook has had a couple of hard races of late but last year's winner Giles Cross, the only favourite to oblige in the past decade, is forgiven his effort in the Welsh National (leading four out but quickly pulled up) as the stable was under a cloud at the time. That one deserves respect, as does Well Refreshed who beat Rigadin De Beauchene three and a half lengths in receipt of a stone at Lingfield before Christmas. Since then the former has won the Sussex National at Plumpton while the latter-named has taken the Classic Chase at Warwick - I was at the track that day and Rigadin's jumping wasn't foot-perfect. On Lingfield form, Rigadin has the beating of Gary Moore's charge.

It's a most competitive renewal but I'm going to take an each-way chance on Triggerman (12/1) who ran well for an awful long way in the Welsh National and now has a ten pounds pull with Teaforthree for 11 lengths, while claimer James Best can take off another three. Quoting Richard Johnson after the Welsh National:

"I was getting excited turning in as I knew we were getting plenty of weight from Teaforthree. I'm sure this horse can pick up a decent long-distance chase in the spring."

At Ascot the feature is the surprisingly-named Ascot Chase due off at 3.50; only six go to post but, as the betting suggests, this is trappy. On ratings Finian's Rainbow is the one to beat but he disappointed behind Captain Chris at this course last time out; he's had a minor breathing operation since but has only once raced beyond two and a half miles, finishing third in Newbury's Challow Hurdle to Reve De Sivola. Somersby isn't lightly dismissed after a decent seasonal debut behind Sprinter Sacre in the Victor Chandler but on balance I see the race between Cue Card and Captain Chris. Writing in the Weekender Nick Mordin says of the former  '...I rate him the fastest chaser in training by far over more than two miles and less than three.' Captain Chris was the best part of 20 lengths ahead of Cue Card in the King George but Colin Tizzard's charge clearly didn't stay the three mile trip. Will the seven-year-old stay two miles five furlongs 110 yards up the Ascot hill on heavy ground? I'm leaning towards no and, as Captain Chris has four pounds in hand on official ratings, Captain Chris, who has done the blog a favour already this term, is given the vote.

Favourites have won five of the past ten renewals of the Reynoldston (2.05); Rocky Creek looks the one but he'll be no price.

The booking of Ruby Walsh on Queens Grove catches the eye in the handicap hurdle (3.15) but this represents a step up in class for Kevin Bishop's grey mare while course and distance winner Captain Cutter has to give weight to his field but is preferred in the bumper (5.00).


Mulldog said...

"Silly Season"...I like that phrase. Very true.

GeeDee said...

Cheers, Mully ;)
Trust you're keeping well.

GeeDee said...

The Welsh National form didn't hold up that well at Haydock, Monbeg Dude (8/1) faring best in third while Teaforthree (5/1) could only manage tenth (still reported on course for Aintree) with Trigggerman (12/1) pulled up five from home. The selection raced prominently in fourth for much of the trip but the leaders always seemed to be going half a stride faster - the distress signals came out as they left the back straight for the final time and that was that. The Lingfield form showed up well with Well Refreshed (9/2f) winning decisively and emphatically confirming placings with second placed Rigadin de Beauchene (6/1) on 12lbs worse terms.

At Ascot the Ascot Chase developed into a match between Cue Card (15/8f) and Captain Chris (11/4) as they raced off the home bend. Under strong driving from Dickie Johnson, the selection had probably just about got his nose in front when he made an horrendous mistake at the penultimate flight that brought the partnership to a practical standstill, thereby allowing the favourite to collect the spoils; the Captain had to settle for second. What would have happened without the error is anybody's guess and academic anyway but aftterwards Johnson said it would have been close - Tizzard had still to ask his mount for his effort at that penultimate flight.

Johnson has stated he still wishes to ride Captain Chris in the Gold Cup.

GeeDee said...

Correction made to original post - the Sussex National is run at Plumpton, not Fontwell as previously stated.