Friday, October 25, 2019

An each-way chance for the second day of the 2019 Cheltenham Showcase

The omens for yesterday's annual trip to the Ludlow races weren't particularly favourable beforehand and when we missed the winner of the first (Ballinsker 4/1) - stuck the wrong side of one of the road crossings, unable to gain access to the course until the runners had passed - I sort of knew it was going to be one of those days.

And that's exactly what transpired - a number of second places without ever really threatening to bring home the bacon.

Six went to post for the feature novices' chase at 3.40 in which every runner held a plausible chance. I certainly didn't expect to see the Harry Whittington trained Sparkleandshine start the 2/1 favourite although the yard had sent out Arzal to win this race in 2015; unfortunately Sparkleandshine failed to sparkle or shine, coming to grief at the first.

Court Royale did me a favour in the novices' hurdle at this meet last year and carried my money again yesterday. Held up, the gelding came with his challenge in the home straight and may have led for a stride or two as they approached the final flight but he had no answer to the turn of foot shown by What's Occurring who looks a fair prospect. Quoting Oliver Sherwood in the Weekender stable tour 19-23.12.18:

"...he'll be a cracking chaser next season. He's a super jumper and has the most wonderful attitude."

This year's wet autumn certainly made this meeting more competitive than many I've attended in the past.

Onwards and upwards as they say...

Twenty have been declared for tomorrow's first race on the second day of the Cheltenham Showcase meeting. The going is currently described as good to soft, soft in places, with any amount of rain forecast overnight.

Cogry won the 2017 renewal and was just pipped by Relentless Dreamer last year (West Approach third, Shantou Village sixth and Captain Chaos fourteenth). He holds an obvious chance but I note that every winner in the past decade has been aged between seven and nine.

For that same reason I'm also going to pass over previous course and distance winner The Young Master who had his prep race on the all-weather at Kempton three and a half weeks ago.

West Approach ran a fine race form the front when third last year but he still takes the odd liberty at one or two of his fences and to my mind is better over the smaller obstacles. Underfoot conditions may help the cause.

Rocky's Treasure can boast a fine record over fences but after a quick look through his profile I wasn't entirely convinced he would see out every yard of this trip on soft ground; he was beaten 13 lengths by Cobra De Mai here in April.

With Harry doing the steering, Cobra De Mai looks the pick of Dan Skelton's trio but this looks a tough task carrying top weight on soft ground.

Previous course winner Royal Vacation won't appreciate further rain while Rolling Dylan will stay but wouldn't be guaranteed to come out on top in a tight finish.

At the prices three have caught my eye - Crosspark, Shantou Village and Red Infantry.

I'll admit I'm a fully paid-up member of the Crosspark fan club after he won the Eider in February carrying my money and then went on to finish a gallant second behind Takingrisks in the Scottish National.

During the course of last season he was raised from a mark of 136 to 148; the handicapper has relented slightly after that effort in the Scottish National but he still has to shoulder 11-5 tomorrow which is a concern. That said, last year Caroline Bailey's charge won first time out after the summer break.

Shantou Village was in with a fighting chance before a blunder at the last in the Kerry National 45 days ago. Sixth in this last year, he tries again, this time off a mark two pounds lower; his completion rate doesn't look entirely convincing. Using the Kerry National form as a yardstick, the chance of Na Trachtalai Abu would also have to be respected.

Red Infantry came home seventh in the Scottish National and won't mind further rain. He ran in a Pertemps Hurdle qualifier at this meeting last year before beating Bishops Road at Haydock next time out; fitness will have to be taken on trust but that comment applies to plenty in the field. I'd assume the wet autumn means that several trainers will be reasonably well forward with their horses.

Layers offer 20/1 Crosspark and pay one fifth the odds five places so Crosspark is my each-way suggestion.

A quick footnote to the two mile handicap chase at 3.10...

I shall monitor Mcgroarty on the back of these comments made by Dr Richard Newland after Mcgroarty's latest win at Kelso three weeks ago:

"Mcgroarty still seems to be on an upward curve and he's landed a good pot. He loves his jumping and that's been getting better and better. He was unproven on that ground [soft] and that opens doors to us now to campaign him a bit differently as he looks like he handles winter ground. We might look at the handicap at the October Cheltenham meeting that we won with Boondooma in 2015."

Friday, October 11, 2019

A quick check-up at Chepstow

Chepstow's two day meeting is seen by many as the start of the core National Hunt season.

Earlier this afternoon Thyme Hill ran out a determined winner of the Persian War Novices' Hurdle (2.10) outpacing Fiddlerontheroof after the final flight on ground described as good to soft.

That going description changed to soft before the 'Professor Caroline Tisdall Supports Heroic Jumpers Veterans' Handicap Chase (Leg 7 of Vets' Series)' at 3.55 in which the aforementioned professor Caroline Tisdall held a share in two of the runners, Dell'Arca and Vieux Lion Rouge.

The former was tipped up on Radio 4 this morning, the logic being, presumably, that if an owner decides to sponsor a race, they are likely to be reasonably well motivated to try and win some of their own money; unfortunately for the Radio 4 tipster, the latter obliged at odds of 9/2.

Looking at tomorrow's card, Relentless Dreamer (3.20) did me a big favour at odds of 16/1 at Cheltenham around this time last year but he hasn't been seen out since; on balance I think Rebecca Curtis' charge would prefer slightly better conditions underfoot. To my mind Lil Rockerfeller's jumping of the larger obstacles is not consistent enough.

Only three contest the novice chase at 3.55 but all eyes will be on the widely touted Reserve Tank.

Connections have decided to allow Ballyandy to take his chance in the Silver Trophy (4.30) and Nigel Twiston-Davies' charge has to concede a minimum of 14 pounds to all 17 rivals; that looks particularly difficult on soft ground.

Paul Kealy tips up Coolanly in the Weekender.

I thought this one had a chance in the Challow last December but on the day he drifted like a barge in the betting and was one of the first beaten; once or twice afterwards I thought he just looked bossed out of it when the chips were down.

The Evan Williams trained Bold Plan is likely to be popular while Remastered looks unexposed on his first run in a handicap.

The trouble with a wager at this time of year is you often have to take fitness on trust. Of the 18 declared just three have run within the last three months - Didtheyleavuoutto, Man Of Plenty and last year's winner Garo De Juilley.

The last-named is rated three pounds higher this time but looks to have had this as his target following a pipe-opener over fences. He finished well beaten behind Champagne Court and Coolanly in the Martin Pipe but prior to that was thirteen lengths adrift of Paisley Park in Ascot's Long Walk Hurdle (run on soft ground) and just over ten lengths behind Capitaine in the Greene King Handicap Hurdle at Taunton.

That form reads well and Sophie Leech's charge appears to handle underfoot conditions; last year's winning rider Paddy Brennan is aboard Coolanly but the booking of Adrian Heskin catches the eye.

Ordinarily I would be distinctly reticent this early in the season but, hell, several layers (including Betfair, Paddy Power, Sky Bet and Bet Victor) are offering 33/1 and paying one fifth the odds five places.

To use the vernacular, I'm not convinced I have my eye in but at the prices Garo De Juilley is the each-way suggestion.