Friday, January 27, 2017

Brief notes on Cheltenham Trials Day 2017

There are nine races on tomorrow's Cheltenham Trials Day card; the re-arranged Clarence House Chase is scheduled for 1.45 while the first is due off at 12.00.

I've always been wary of Trials Day. There will be Festival clues aplenty and they will be scrutinised in some detail but the main targets for many of tomorrow's participants take place in six and a half weeks' time.

There are some short-priced favourites on the card I'm not particularly inclined to oppose: Un De Sceaux, 1/2 for the Clarence House at 1.45; Thistlecrack, 2/5 for the Cotswold Chase at 2.15 (although no favourite has obliged in this race for the past ten years) and Unowhatimeanharry, even money for the Cleeve Hurdle at 4.00.

Earlier in the week I started to plan a cunning Baldrick-like plot that involved Thomas Crapper in the Hugo's Restaurant Barbados Trophy Handicap Chase at 1.10 but Paul Kealy flushed that one straight down the pan by highlighting the chance of Robin Dickin's course and distance winner on the front page of the Weekender. Thomas Crapper has had a wind issue in the past but sneaks in at the bottom with 10-1; he wouldn't want the ground a bog and is quoted 6/1 second favourite in the tissue.

A number of the usual suspects are amongst the declarations including Annacotty, Tenor Nivernais, Buywise, Aso and Saphir Du Rheu; the latter is habitually priced up market leader for similar events yet in my opinion struggles to jump well enough in a big field.

Get Involved, a 66/1 chance, runs from out of the handicap in a hot novice chase at 12.35. I'll watch with interest; this one was well thought of when I visited Dickin's yard in the autumn.

At that time the gelding was recovering from an infection and had been on the easy list for roughly three weeks. At Sandown in December his jumping looked particularly laboured; hampered by a loose horse, Charlie Poste was unseated at the eighth when any chance had long gone.

The gelding is reportedly on better terms with himself now but got no further than the second at Newbury ten days ago... His second behind Solstice Son over three miles one last April reads well; a clear round would help inform.

The Neptune at 3.25 looks open. William Henry and Wholestone head the market but I'll have a small each-way wager on course and distance winner Coo Star Sivola who has yet to finish out of the places on five runs in this country; his third in the Fred Winter last March reads well.

Returning from a long layoff William Henry was beaten a length by Pingshou over two miles here in December. Subsequently, in receipt of ten pounds, Coo beat Pingshou twelve lengths over two and a half miles here on New Year's Day. Nicky Henderson's charge steps up in trip for the first time tomorrow but the trainer feels the extra mile half will suit.

There are plenty in with chances but at 14/1 with Paddy Power Coo Star Sivola appeals as an each-way chance.

I've opposed Unowhatimeanharry this season and have the burnt fingers to prove it. West Approach was in the process of running a big race before coming to grief in the Long Walk; Ruby Walsh rides Colin Tizzard's charge in the Cleeve tomorrow. I'm just saying...

Finally a quick footnote on Johnny Og who was pulled up in a five runner chase at Taunton earlier today. Wearing cheekpieces for the first time, Johnny was led in at the start but was unable to dominate his field. He lost his place from the sixth and was pulled up before three out.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Haydock's Peter Marsh Chase 2017

Old friends Johnny Og, Thomas Crapper and Wolf Of Windlesham hold entries on tomorrow's card at Ascot but I'm afraid prospects of racing going ahead look about as remote as one of my selections coming in.

Fourteen have been declared for the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock due off at 3.15. Market leader Alary, quoted as low as 16/1 in places for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, makes his debut in this country carrying top weight off a mark of 162.

That looks a pretty stiff ask for Colin Tizzard's charge, particularly on soft ground, although his participation ensures the bottom five must race from out of the handicap.

Market rivals Bristol De Mai and Definitely Red finished second and third respectively behind Otago Trail in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle in November with Bishops Road fourth, Virak sixth.

On Boxing Day Definitely Red won Wetherby's Rowland Meryck in impressive style. Last season in races at both Warwick and Wetherby I felt his jumping wasn't quite good enough but there have been no such problems this term.

Bristol De Mai meets Definitely Red seven pounds better off tomorrow. Twiston-Davies' charge holds entries in the Ryanair and the Cheltenham Gold Cup and bids to become the first six-year-old to win this race since its inception in 1981. The last day was his first attempt beyond two miles four; he appeared to stay the trip but there is just a hint of a doubt and on occasions his jumping can be a little wayward.

Rehearsal winner Otago Trail subsequently blotted his copybook when pulling up at Leopardstown over Christmas. Nonetheless his chance is respected, as are the chances of two course and distance winners, Sausalito Sunrise and Virak - the latter finished second in last year's renewal and tries this time from a mark seven pounds lower although some of that benefit is now eroded as Harry Cobden can only claim three.

Bishops Road was beaten nine lengths in the Rehearsal on his seasonal debut but he disappointed badly behind Native River in the Welsh National (Firebird Flyer eighth) eventually coming home in tenth. Handler Kerry Lee explained there was a valid excuse that day and anticipates an improved showing.
The market suggests Vintage Clouds, owned by Trevor Hemmings, is the one worth a second look from those out of the weights.

Two each-way options that make some appeal are Virak and Bishops Road.

18/1 Virak could well look big after the race if Paul Nicholls' charge bounces back to form but Bishops Road (12/1) appears a more consistent proposition; he finished over thirty lengths ahead of Virak in the Rehearsal so gets the nod.

Finally, eight weeks today we'll know the winner of this year's Cheltenham Gold Cup. The Festival bandwagon is already moving into gear with pundits starting to make predictions. It's far too early for me; I offer just one piece of information which has come my way - Dan Skelton is aiming North Hill Harvey at the County Hurdle, the race he won last year with Superb Story.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Warwick Classic Chase day 2017

With the course covered since Wednesday and temperatures tonight forecast to dip no lower than freezing, prospects for tomorrow's Betfred Classic Chase day, the biggest meeting of the year at my local track Warwick. look good.

Twenty are set to contest the featured Classic Chase at 3.35 run over a distance of three miles five furlongs; the current going is officially described as soft, heavy in places.

Three former winners line-up - Rigadin De Beauchene (2013); Shotgun Paddy (2014) and Russe Blanc (2016).

Amongst those behind Russe Blanc last year were Midnight Prayer (second), Houblon Des Obeaux (fourth), and Vivaldi Collonges (fifth) with both Rigadin De Beauchene and Sego Success falling; just five of the fourteen starters completed.

Tomorrow's renewal is typically competitive. Ballycross is at or near the top of most lists; last time out in receipt of eight pounds he was beaten just under six lengths by Pobbles Bay who runs in the 1.50.

Rated 139 Shotgun Paddy appears to have been given every chance having won off a mark of 145 in 2014 and then finishing third off 147 the following year.

Last month Vieux Lion Rouge pipped Highland Lodge in heart-breaking fashion in the Becher Chase at Aintree - the form is represented here by One For Arthur (fifth), Bob Ford (seventh) and Midnight Prayer (ninth).

One For Arthur, beaten under three lengths that day, travels down from Scotland and connections fit a tongue-tie for the first time; the gelding's sound jumping should serve him well at this track.

Kim Bailey saddles Knockanrawley who hasn't seen a racecourse for 427 days. The handler states:

"He's as fit as I can get him at home, but I'm afraid he's still as big as a house. He looks like a double decker bus!"

Occasionally I've thought there might be a race like this in Bob Ford. His trainer is presently in good form but to date all his wins have come at either Ffos Las or Chepstow; at the weights he will struggle to reverse Becher Chase form with One For Arthur.

Down the years I've preferred experience in this race; on the back of Alan King's notes in the Weekender (horse in fine fettle, likes Warwick) Midnight Prayer is no more than a tentative each-way suggestion. He's priced up 22/1 in places.

Peregrine Run is the suggestion for the Leamington (3.00) on the back of his defeat of Wholestone last time. Gayebury is short enough but finished third behind Ballyandy in a Newbury bumper last February.

Finally there are some big weights in the opening novices' handicap hurdle at 12.40.

Robin Dickin's Wildmoor Boy was kept busy over the summer months and landed a Class 3 event at Cheltenham's Open meeting. The horse is talented but a bit of a worrier who needs a lot of walking; the last day at Leicester the trainer reported the horse had left his race somewhere on the M69 - readers may recall Restless Harry from the same yard who suffered with similar issues.

Wildmoor Boy runs at his local track tomorrow so the travelling shouldn't be a problem - the trouble is the ground's far from ideal... That's racing.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Sandown veterans

I've been on the lookout for a young unexposed type in the 32Red Veterans' Handicap Chase at Sandown tomorrow but haven't had that much luck... Aerial from the Nicholls yard has the fewest miles on the clock with five wins recorded from nineteen runs.

These vets, they're an absolute credit to the game.

Top weight Shuil Royale boasts the best career wins-to-runs ratio in the field at 30.3% while just three record a figure lower than 15%; in 2011 Cody Wyoming won a Lingfield maiden hurdle at odds of 100/1 and currently shows a profit of £86.45 to a £1.00 stake.

In fact twelve of the runners boast a profit to level stakes - if only they'd given me this list of horses eight years ago...

Of course, with over £100,000 in added prize money, tomorrow's renewal is highly competitive - Aachen, beaten a neck by Soll last year, tries once again at the grand old age of thirteen.

In working through the form, I've discarded the four horses that have not previously won over three miles or more (Astracad, Ericht, Baileys Concerto and Cody Wyoming) and have then looked at the Scotty Brand Veterans' Handicap Chase, the last qualifying leg of the series, run over 22 furlongs at Kelso in early December.

That day Gas Line Boy made most to beat Cloudy Too (second), Aerial (fourth), Wychwoods Brook (fifth) and Dynaste (seventh). Ratings for that race and tomorrow's are compared below:

Gas Line Boy          was 136  now 145
Cloudy Too             was 142  now 140
Aerial                      was 135  now 134
Wychwoods Brook was 132  now 130
Dynaste                  was 150  now 145

I'm not inclined to take the Kelso form too literally. Dynaste never turned up, Wychwoods Brook was making his seasonal debut and there's a possibility Brian Hughes may have pinched the race up front over a shorter trip on slightly better ground.

Of those named above, it's hard to be confident about Dynaste and he's short enough in the market (comments that apply to Rocky Creek too).

Wychwoods Brook has a Peter Marsh Chase to his name and jockey James Nixon can claim seven but he hasn't always been the cleanest of jumpers so the 2016 Peter Marsh Chase winner Cloudy Too (14/1 generally) is the each-way selection with Aerial feared. Rain would certainly help the selection -  most layers are paying a quarter the odds four places.

Capitaine is my idea of the Tolworth winner but the race makes little appeal as a betting medium.

Over at Wincanton, Oneida Trial, mentioned in last week's post, goes in the 1.30 but the price - 12/1 with Paddy Power - doesn't really tempt on what we know so far while Daryl Jacob has a word for Fortunate George in the 3.15; Daryl travels to the track from Sandown after riding Midnight Jazz in the mares' listed hurdle.