Friday, November 15, 2019

BetVictor Gold Cup 2019

The first day of Cheltenham's Open meeting may have been lost to the wet weather but earlier this afternoon the track passed its inspection for Saturday's card. Racing goes ahead but, due to concerns about the ground in the area, the third last fence and the third last hurdle will be omitted.

The first race is scheduled for 12.05 with the feature BetVictor Gold Cup due off at 2.25.

Saint Calvados and Royal Vacation have been declared non-runners which leaves a field of eighteen; as a result of the withdrawal of Saint Calvados, the weights have gone up seven pounds with the Joseph O'Brien trained Us And Them now at the head of the handicap.

Twelve of the eighteen runners are set to carry more than 11-0 on ground currently described as soft, heavy in places.

At the time of writing Slate House heads the market with support evident for Siruh Du Lac.

The former won on heavy ground over course and distance last month after undergoing wind surgery in June while the latter has won six of his eight chase starts culminating in victory in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase at the Festival in March (Spiritofthegames third, Eamon An Cnoic fourth, Splash Of Ginge seventeenth).

Regular pilot Lizzie Kelly claims a useful-looking three pounds on Siruh du Lac; she returns to race-riding having broken her right arm and injured her left shoulder in a heavy fall from Rococo River at Exeter five weeks ago.

Spiritofthegames is another who underwent wind surgery over the summer and boasts a fine record first time out while Count Meribel won the Steel Plate and Sections Novices' Chase over course and distance last year and came home two and a quarter lengths behind Lostintranslation on his seasonal reappearance a fortnight ago.

Guitar Pete, third in this race last year off a mark of 137, beat Happy Diva and Demi Sang (Splash Of Ginge sixth) at Wetherby last time out; he goes off a mark of 141 tomorrow.

Happy Diva is a consistent mare who will handle the ground and pilot Richard Patrick can claim three; she has been raised one pound for her effort behind Guitar Pete while Demi Sang has been dropped one pound and at 50/1 looks a big price on the back of that piece of form. I'm assuming the price would contract sharply if owner J P McManus thought there was some value on offer... The last mare to win this race was Lady Cricket in 2000.

On the back of his second to Waiting Patiently at Carlisle in 2017, Belami Des Pictons is a talented individual but he has clearly had his problems and looks high enough in the weights at the moment.

Since the first running of this race in 1960 (as the Mackeson Gold Cup) only two five-year-olds have come hone in front - Cyfor Malta in 1998 and Caid Du Berlais in 2014. The latter was trained by Paul Nicholls and the same trainer saddles five-year-old Magic Saint tomorrow. On balance I'm not convinced the gelding would be guaranteed to see out the trip on this sort of ground and that same reservation is held about the chance of Highway One O One.

Several commentators talk of this as a 'strong trends' race with just two winners priced over 12/1 in the past ten years; in the same timeframe the winner has come from the first three in the market on four occasions. The last favourite to oblige was Tranquil Sea in 2009.

Two are of interest at an each-way price: Springtown Lake and Eamon An Cnoic.

Fifith in the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase at the Festival, Springtown Lake likes to race up with the pace and will appreciate underfoot conditions; the cobwebs were blown away behind Vinndication at Ascot a fortnight ago. At around 11/1 I can't help but feel a lot of the value has already been snaffled up.

Fifth in this last year, Eamon Na Cnoic hails from a yard that can boast a strong record in this race. He enters calculations on the back of his three and a half length fourth behind Siruh Du Lac at the Festival in March. On revised terms David Pipe's charge looks well in at the weights with both Siruh Du Lac and Spiritofthegames; he should certainly be competitive and will appreciate the slower ground.

Both BetVictor and Coral offer 16/1 one fifth the odds five places. Eamon Na Cnoic is the each-way suggestion.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Caught in two minds...

I'm going to start this evening's post by saying that at 16/1 (18/1 in a couple of places) I think Bigmartre looks a big price for tomorrow's 2.05 at Aintree.

I'm prepared to forgive his effort in the Old Roan a fortnight ago on the back of these comments by trainer Harry Whittington in this week's Weekender:

"...his jumping is his strength and he had no chance when they took out all those fences [on account of the low sun].  Basically it turned into a speed test and I knew it wouldn't suit him. He jumped great and was always in a good position at his fences, but Page [Fuller] never got a chance to fill him up as they were going too fast. She did a great job, though, as she looked after him... I'd expect him to run well."

Ten are declared and the top four in the betting all make their seasonal reappearance; Cepage's second behind Frodon in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup last December - War Sound a distant tenth - obviously catches the eye.

The favourite has failed to oblige in each of the past ten renewals while in the same timeframe the winner has been aged between seven and nine.

A number in the field don't have an awful lot of experience over the larger obstacles; for me Riders Onthe Storm and The West's Awake in particular have questions to answer in the jumping department.

In 2018 Duke Street won a Worcester novices' chase off a mark of 130 but tomorrow goes off a mark of 141 following two victories over the smaller obstacles. War Sound won last year's renewal but tries this time weeks short of his eleventh birthday.

Bigmartre is just one pound inferior to top-rated War Sound on RP ratings but... he has proved hard to catch right in the past.

Over at Wincanton fourteen have been declared for the feature race of the day, the Badger Beers Silver Trophy Handicap Chase. A number of fancied sorts failed to make the overnight declaration stage, presumably on account of the good ground, with the result the prices about potential selections have contracted sharply.

Present Man has won the past two renewals and tomorrow attempts to win the race for a record-breaking third time.

Sumkindofking chased home the winner twelve months ago and finished fourth behind Wandrin Star here thirteen days ago. The Colin Tizzard trained White Moon appeared to have the spoils in the bag that day when he stumbled and fell after the last. Beau Du Brizais ran a very respectable trial in second; on revised terms he looks weighted to confirm form with Sumkindofking (whose regular pilot Jonathan Burke rides up at Aintree).

Just A Sting from the Harry Fry yard was one of those of interest earlier in the week but the price has long since disappeared.

The Philip Hobbs trained pair Rock The Kasbah and Beau Du Brisais remain of interest. The former has a decent enough record when fresh and will appreciate underfoot conditions if the rain keeps away but he can be hard to catch right - William Hill and Bet Victor offer 11/1 at the time of writing.

Stablemate Beau Du Brisais is priced 18/1 with both Paddy Power and Bet Victor who pay one fifth the odds four places.

Aintree or Wincanton? Bigmartre or Beau Du Brisais?

In the hope this hasn't come up a tad too quickly, Beau Du Brisais is the each-way suggestion.

Friday, November 01, 2019

An each-way chance in the 2019 Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot

Earlier today Gordon Elliott bagged a five-timer at Down Royal, with the 2018 Ballymore Novices' Hurdle winner Samcro making a big impression on his first run over the larger obstacles.

The 2018 Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner Summerville Boy also made a successful chase debut - at Uttoxeter - but Tom George's charge wasn't quite as slick over the fences.   

It's Charlie Hall Chase day at Wetherby tomorrow and England are playing South Africa in a World Cup final but it's Ascot for me where the going is currently described as good to soft, good in places but with gusty winds and heavy rain forecast.

Seventeen have been declared for the Sodexo Gold Cup (3.20); top weight Black Corton is set to concede at least seven pounds to all his opponents.

The Kim Bailey trained Vinndication heads the market. I've plenty of time for this youngster who tries three miles for the first time having undergone wind surgery in April. The layers price him up a full three points shorter than joint second favourites Mister Malarky and On The Blind Side.

Mister Malarky won the Reynoldstown Chase over course and distance in February (Top Ville Ben, a well-beaten fifth that day, goes in the Charlie Hall at 3.40) and then went on to finish an excellent fourth behind Topofthegame in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham the following month.

Now I know they tell you to forgive and forget, and I can see why some of those rugby fans might be tempted to support On The Blind Side, but I'll be honest - I have found it extremely difficult to forget On The Blind Side's run in that RSA Chase last March; he was the first one beaten - and he happened to be carrying my money as well.

Gary Moore won this with Traffic Fluide last year and with Antony in 2016; Gary's Larry, presumably not named after the Downing Street cat, looks another likely contender this year. Last November, conceding two pounds, Larry was one length adrift of Mister Malarky when coming to grief two out in a Plumpton novices' handicap.

Soft ground should suit Springtown Lake, fifth in the Close Brothers Handicap Chase at Cheltenham, but he jumped left when winning at Sandown and also when finishing fourth behind Adrien Du Pont at Kempton last Christmas.

At around 16/1 the Paul Nicholls inmate makes some appeal but at a recent stable open day the handler indicated this one can be difficult as he has to be held up and can encounter traffic problems in running. In addition, the jumping isn't always foot perfect, all of which tempers enthusiasm somewhat.

Potterman is a young horse who has made hay this summer. Quoting Alan King in the Weekender:

"He's a proper good-ground horse and could have one more run before having a winter holiday with a view to coming back for a decent handicap in the spring."  

It's slightly more difficult to make a case for some of the older runners but 2017 winner Go Conquer loves Ascot and goes well fresh while an old favourite of mine, Relentless Dreamer, would be entitled to come on for his third behind Ballyoptic at Chepstow last month (Ballyoptic another declared for the Charlie Hall at 3.40). There appears to have been some support for Rebecca Curtis' charge this evening.

And I see Double Shuffle, second to Might Bite in the 2017 King George, is 25/1 in places but, to my mind, he prefers a flat right-handed track (called Kempton).

Since its inaugural running in 2006 as the United House Gold Cup just two horses older than nine have come home in front - See You Sometime (2006) and Roberto Goldback in (2012). I've concentrated my efforts on the younger participants with potential.

At the time of writing bet365 offer 10/1 Larry and pay a quarter the odds four places; Larry is the each-way suggestion.