Friday, January 11, 2019

Warwick's Classic Chase 2019

There will be lots of betting opportunities to lose your hard-earned between now and the Cheltenham Festival in March but that simple fact isn't going to stop large sections of the media from writing about Cheltenham, talking about Cheltenham, discussing Cheltenham entries, Cheltenham bankers, reporting from Cheltenham preview nights and generally trying to look up to eight weeks or so into the future.

Those in need of a timely fix may want to refer to Lydia Hislop's recently updated Road to Cheltenham series - the hurdlers and its counterpart the chasers.

For my part I've set myself the admittedly difficult but rather more modest task of trying to come up with one who'll at least give me a run for my money in tomorrow's Classic Chase at Warwick (3.00), my local track.

This doesn't have the look of a typical renewal with thirteen declared and the going described as good, good to soft in places; showers are forecast.

At the time of writing Callet Mad, Step Back and Duel At Dawn are all vying for favouritism.

Callet Mad seems to have been around for ages but he's the youngest in this field; since 2000 only two seven-year-olds have come home in front - Baron Windrush (2005) and Shotgun Paddy (2014).

Step Back has only five chase starts to his name and Duel At Dawn, well backed during the week, six but to my mind this race often rides quite rough and generally I tend to prefer a more experienced sort.

Rocky's Treasure and Ibis Du Rheu held five day entries for this and the Hampton Novices' Chase (1.50). Connections of the former have taken the easier option while Ibis Du Rheu's jumping appeared to suffer over the final three fences when well beaten behind The Worlds End at Cheltenham last month.

Jumping is always at a premium at Warwick, particularly down the back straight where the five flights come pretty quickly one after another.

Impulsive Star was fourth in the four miler at Cheltenham last March but he looked ring-rusty on his seasonal debut at Plumpton behind Ok Corral (goes in the Hampton at 1.50); he'll certainly need to be more fluent over the obstacles here. Robert Waley-Cohen has indicated son Sam may not be able to make full use of his three pound claim.

Fourth looked the best Carole's Destrier could hope for jumping the last at Newbury when last seen but Neil Mulholland's charge came with a late rattle to pinch the spoils. A three pound penalty looks manageable and the ground will suit; jockey Robbie Dunne won the 2013 renewal aboard Rigadin De Beauchene.

I've concentrated efforts on the two who can boast previous course winning form - last year's winner Milansbar and Cogry who finished 11 lengths adrift in second that day. 12 months on winning jock Bryony Frost goes to Kempton to ride for Paul Nicholls; Jack Andrews can't do the weight so this year the ride on Milansbar goes to Jack's sister Gina who claims three.

Milansbar looks weighted to confirm last year's placings with Cogry; the latter has gone up three pounds after defeating Singlefarmpayment a head at Cheltenham. That said, Milansbar is now twelve years old and would probably prefer more cut underfoot.

Of the remainder Un Temps Pour Tout has his second run after wind surgery; since 1974 Hey Big Spender (2012) is the only horse to have carried top weight to victory. Of Colin Tizzard's pair Sizing Codelco faces a stiff task after 252 days off the track while Ultragold appeared to stay on his first try beyond three miles one the last day and just may be overpriced at 22/1 - Richard Johnson rides.

Crosspark was fourth in last year's race beaten some 28 lengths (Gina Andrews up) while Chase The Spud has been out of sorts of late.

On the book Milansbar is weighted to finish ahead of Cogry but I'm hoping quicker ground will help the Twiston-Davies inmate. Cogry (7/1 Ladbrokes one fifth the odds four places) is the each-way suggestion.

Friday, January 04, 2019

The Veterans' Chase Final at Sandown

Small fields for the most part at Sandown tomorrow.

Ed Chamberlin won't be the only one desperate to see the Irish-trained mare Laurina, currently as low as 7/2 with several layers for the Champion Hurdle, make her seasonal debut at 1.50. She faces just three opponents.

Thirty five minutes later six face the starter for the Tolworth. Seven days ago at Newbury the Challow turned into something of a tactical affair; here both Elixir De Nutz and Southfield Stone have made all previously so, hopefully, we'll see a truly run race.

By contrast seventeen runners have been declared for the Veterans' Handicap Chase at 3.00. 

Those looking for an unexposed type in this sort of race might usually expect to have their work cut out but market leader Rock Gone has relatively low mileage on the clock with just six chase starts to his name; he has never won over this trip.

Sam Twiston-Davies rides for Dr Richard Newland and I'm assuming Sam has chosen Rock Gone, having also ridden the favourite's stablemate Band Of Blood when fourth behind Cultram Abbey at Kelso last month. 

Cultram Abbey was raised five pounds for that effort but he looked good. He has done a lot of his racing around Perth and Carlisle.

Charlie Longsdon saddles Pete The Feat and Loose Chips who finished first and third respectively in the 2017 renewal; both clearly love it around here and hold each-way chances.

Aged 15, the former is the oldest runner in the race while the latter beat Rock Gone over this course and distance in November (Rathlin Rose fourth, Pete The Feat seventh, Tenor Nivernais ninth and Theatre Guide tenth) and now meets the second eight pounds worse off.

Rathlin Rose would be expected to come on for that fourth behind Loose Chips on his seasonal debut and has also been dropped two pounds to a mark of 130. Last March Rathlin Rose won at Ascot off 128 with Houblon Des Obeaux third, Loose Chips fourth and Band Of Blood fifth.

Buywise came home in front last year (Pete The Feat second, Loose Chips fifth and Houblon Des Obeaux sixth) but he has always been a horse that takes at least one liberty at the obstacles in his races.

With the covers down and the going on the chase track currently described as good to soft, soft in places, good in places on the back straight, underfoot conditions may not be quite as testing as in some previous years. 

Course and distance winner Le Reve is likely to appreciate better ground and that comment may also apply to top weight Exitas and Houblon Des Obeaux who appeared to get stuck in the mud behind Daklondike at Haydock last time. Although apparently unfancied in the market, Venetia Williams' charge is there with every chance on Racing Post ratings and the stable is in very good form.

Henlan Harri likes it here, will appreciate the better ground and has gone well after a layoff in the past but the stable hasn't had a winner for 24 days.

A wide open event and, of course, it's possible to make a case for several in the field. 

I'm tempted by Band Of Blood who should certainly finish closer to Cultram Abbey but Sam Twiston-Davies is clearly keen on Rock Gone so I'm going to take an each-way interest in Houblon Des Obeaux, sixth in this race last year off 143, beaten under 12 lengths. Paddy Power offer 20/1 and pay one fifth the odds six places.

A quick footnote on Plumpton's card on Sunday. The novice chase at 1.10 should prove highly informative while my New Year's Day each-way selection Big Meadow tries again in the Sussex National after unseating at the first at Exeter. Richard Johnson rides but the drying ground is still the negative.