Friday, January 03, 2020

Sandown segue

What were the chances of this then?

First post of the new decade and I'm talking about, er, Cheltenham.

In the very first race on New Year's Day the stewards controversially disqualified first past the post Protektorat and declared the second, Imperial Alcazar, the winner; one imagines Sir Alex Ferguson, part owner of Protektorat, would not have been amused. Dan and Harry Skelton certainly weren't - the trainer told the Racing Post the decision had ruined his trip to Disneyland and an appeal can be expected. 

A little over an hour later Champ took a crashing fall two from home in the Dipper; connections have been forced back to the drawing board. The Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot next month is a possibility but Nicky Henderson's charge remains the clear 7/2 favourite in ante-post markets for the RSA come March.

That's twice Champ has raced at Cheltenham and twice he has come back beaten - he finished second to City Island in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle last March.

I'd be the first to admit the eyesight isn't what it used to be but when Nicky Henderson told reporters that up to that fateful encounter with the penultimate flight it was the best he'd seen the horse jump, well, I nearly fell in a heap of my own. To my mind some jumps were good but others less so and Richard Hoiles said as much in commentary. Watch this space as they say.

The Tolworth Hurdle (2.25) is the highlight on the card at Sandown tomorrow while the Veterans' Handicap Chase (3.00) is being run in memory of Houblon Des Obeaux who suffered a heart attack here in the London National last month.

I've spent my preparation time looking at the Read Nico De Boinville's Unibet Blog Handicap Hurdle at 3.35; the going on the hurdle track is described as soft, heavy in places.

Nico De Boinville is booked to ride market leader Gunnery so, taking the advice proffered by the race title, I've taken a quick peek at Nico's blog. Rated 90 on the Flat, Gunnery may well appear well handicapped allocated a hurdle rating of 121; he won a Class 4 handicap hurdle at Doncaster six days ago but, that said, tomorrow's race looks far more competitive.

Often displaying a tendency to pull hard, Gunnery raced from the front at Doncaster; he's likely to face competition for the lead tomorrow with Totterdown another who likes to front run. Sent off an even money shot on his debut for the Fergal O'Brien yard in November, Totterdown ran his rivals ragged over course and distance.

A listed race here last month ties in a couple of tomorrow's runners. Mack The Man beat Protektorat (see above) with Smarty Wild fourth, Ruacana fifth and Distingo sixth. The handicapper has since tinkered with the weights but with less than five lengths covering the trio you might expect the layers' prices to be far closer - this evening Smarty Wild is quoted 13/2, Distingo 16/1 and Ruacana 20/1.

Distingo is of most interest - from Gary Moore's Straight from the Stable tour in the Weekender 16-20.01.19:

"We thought a lot of this horse last season and he hasn't quite delivered yet." 

The gelding's third behind Jolly's Cracked It (November 2018) reads well and if he can build on his most recent effort, 16/1 looks value.

I'm prepared to oppose the four runners who have been off the track for some considerable time - Colin Tizzard's two course and distance winners Eldorado Allen (392 days) and Ainchea (700 days); Mill Green (262 days but supported in the market this evening); and Remiluc (643 days).

It seems barely believable that John Constable won the Market Rasen Summer Hurdle off a mark of 150 in 2017, and the following December, off a mark of 156, finished four and a half lengths adrift of My Tent Or Yours in the International Hurdle.

You don't need me to tell you it has been downhill since.

Without holding my breath, I've been waiting for any small sign of revival from Evan Williams' charge who starts tomorrow's race off 127 - and trainer's daughter Isabel can claim a further seven. His latest effort at Cheltenham last month was the first sign of an improvement in form.

On his seasonal debut Blu Cavalier was soundly beaten in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot but three weeks later he came out and won well at Doncaster. The handicapper has raised him four pounds for that effort but my reading of the form is the pilot that day, Jonjo O'Neill Jr, was unable to claim whereas tomorrow Ben Jones (also known as 'Jones the Jockey' in our house) can claim five so, in effect, he's one pound better off.

Last February Ali Stronge's ten-year-old finished third in the Betfair Hurdle at Ascot behind Al Dancer and Magic Dancer; that form reads well but a ten-year-old hasn't won this in the past ten years.

On balance I prefer Blu Cavalier's profile to that of Distingo. Sky Bet offer 11/1 and pay one fifth the odds four places; Blu Cavalier is the each-way selection.

1 comment:

GeeDee said...

The question before the race - would Blu Cavalier (12/1) be able to maintain a position in the early part of the race given the anticipated pace of both Gunnery (5/2f) and Totterdown (7/2)? Unfortunately, the answer was an emphatic no.

Ben Jones positioned Blu Cavalier prominently at the start and the pair raced in third for a couple of furlongs but once Totterdown went to the head of affairs Ali Stronge's gelding slowly started to drift back through the field, racing in sixth down the back straight while the leader opened up a 10 length lead over his nearest pursuers.

Totterdown came back to his field off the home turn with Mill Green (14/1), Eldorado Allen (7/1) and Smarty Wild (9/2) challenging from two out. The tight finish was fought out by two horses returning from a long break - Nicky Henderson's second string Mill Green prevailed over Eldorado Allen by threequarters of a length while Totterdown stayed on for third and Smarty Wild fourth; selection Blu Cavalier finished a well-beaten seventh, some 17 lengths behind the winner.