Friday, December 04, 2020

Aintree 2020: the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase

The last time the Grand National fences saw any particular use was this time last year when Walk In The Mill beat Kimberlite Candy in the Becher and Hogan's Height scooted away from rivals after clearing the last in the Grand Sefton.

I like a bet in the Becher and Walk In The Mill and Kimberlite Candy head the market for tomorrow's renewal. I also like to bet one that has jumped the unique National obstacles previously and the fact that a few near the head of the market for the Grand Sefton - Huntsman Son, Modus and Lord Du Mesnil - undertake this particular test for the very first time has piqued interest.

Hogan's Height was the first horse since Rebel Rebellion in 2013 to win this on his first attempt over the fences. Seven of the last 10 Grand Sefton winners had previously encountered the fences, with five of those seven winners having raced in the Topham nine months earlier.

Of course, as a result of coronavirus, there was no Topham in April but two in tomorrow's field competed in the 2019 renewal - Flying Angel finished sixth behind Cadmium, Beau Bay ninth.

Huntsman Son comes to this in good form having beaten Two For Gold at Wetherby last time but the handicapper has raised Alex Hales' charge nine pounds for that effort. The trainer has expressed a worry the ground could be too soft...

Modus beat Springtown Lake eight lengths over the Mildmay fences here four weeks ago. The handicapper has raised Paul Nicholls' charge nine pounds for that effort while Springtown Lake's rating remains unchanged; on revised terms they look closely matched. For me, Modus is a horse with a big engine who can find the fences cause him trouble. 

Paul Nicholls has won three renewals in the past decade: Rebel Rebellion (2013); As De Mee (2016); and Warriors Tale (2019). He also saddles Sametegal - of the pair I prefer the chance of Samtegal. 

Lord Du Mesnil was in the midst of a purple patch this time last year, winning the Tommy Whittle at Haydock; Paul O'Brien claims three pounds off the top weight but ideally I think Richard Hobson's inmate would prefer more of a test of stamina. The trainer reports his charge has schooled well over the Lambourn National fences.

In last year's renewal Beau Bay (40/1) finished third, Flying Angel (11/4f) fourth, Didero Vallis fifth (7/1), Touch Kick (6/1) sixth with Federici (14/1) pulled up.

Of those, Beau Bay, Flying Angel and Didero Vallis make the shortlist but Touch Kick was moved from Paul Nicholls to Simon West three and a half weeks ago and looks to face a tough challenge on his seasonal debut while a couple of better fancied sorts didn't put their best foot forward in the race Federici won at Carlisle recently.

There's a suspicion Beau Bay may have been slightly flattered by third spot last year, reflected in his current price of 25/1. This year's renewal looks a deeper affair but, taking into account Charlie Hammond's claim, he races off a mark four pounds lower. Stablemate Caid Du Lin has shown his best form over two miles on right-handed tracks.

Flying Angel wouldn't be the easiest to predict and he put up a bit of a Halloween horror show at Ascot the last day. His trainer says 'he's in really good form now', but Sam Twiston-Davies prefers stablemate Crievehill. This one ran up with the pace in the Old Roan Chase before fading to finish 16 lengths behind Nuts Well in eighth. That form reads well enough; the handicapper has relented and dropped the horse three pounds - but he's still four pounds higher than his last winning mark.

Coming to two out Didero Vallis looked to have every chance last year but he weakened thereafter, eventually beaten a total of 24 lengths. A year older - and stronger - and racing off a two pounds lower mark, it's easy to see why Venetia Williams' charge has been backed into 6/1 favouritism this evening.

Alan King hopes Dingo Dollar takes to these fences while stablemate Senior Citizen is open to improvement but relatively inexperienced with just five chase starts chalked up. A senior citizen lacking experience - what the hell is that about? For the record, since 2003 only two horses younger than eight have come home in front - Dark Room (2003) and As De Mee (2016).

I've seen a tip here and there for 2017 RSA winner Might Bite - on the back of his recent run at Ascot - and for Pink Eyed Pedro too - most of his best form has been on good ground. 

25/1 Beau Bay is tempting but the two Twiston-Davies runners have dominated thoughts. Of the pair Crievehill looks the more reliable so I'm going to stick with Sam. 

Sixth in the 2018 running when aged six (beaten just over 10 lengths) Crievehill is the each-way suggestion; Betfair, Paddy Power and Bet Victor offer 16/1 and pay five places.


The Becher has been the target for Smooth Stepper for some time. On his seasonal debut he finished fifth behind Step Back at Ascot (Samtegal third), beaten less than 10 lengths. 

He hasn't jumped these National fences before, and he'll certainly need to, but if he does, he'll stay. 

Back in 2018 this horse did me one big favour in a race at Kelso and, as a general rule of thumb,  I don't tend to forget favours like that. Occasionally, even now,  I re-live the dream

On the other hand, I still haven't quite forgiven myself for missing him at odds of 33/1 when he beat Lord Du Mesnil in the Grand National Trial at Haydock last February... 


Anonymous said...

A cracking day’s racing and a good write-up on the Grand Sefton.

The Aintree going at 06:48 is Soft and Huntsman Son [going] is a significant non-runner.

Grand Sefton Handicap Chase

181,Senior Citizen(Gb),15.9
176,Springtown Lake(Ire),10.6
169,Didero Vallis(Fr),8.1
168,Huntsman Son(Ire),7.1
172,Swift Crusador(Gb),5.5
169,Touch Kick(Ire),5.2
166,Flying Angel(Ire),5.1
165,Beau Bay(Fr),3.2
167,Amalfi Doug(Fr),3
168,Dingo Dollar(Ire),2.9
170,Pink Eyed Pedro(Gb),2.8
163,Sir Jack Yeats(Ire),2.2
161,Might Bite(Ire),2.2
164,Lord Du Mesnil(Fr),0.2
161,Caid Du Lin(Fr),0.2

It is currently a no-bet race for me though Senior Citizen and Springtown Lake both look potentially very well handicapped if coping with the fences and Sametegal looks a solid enough EW bet with those enhanced places but I’d need him to drift a bit [> 14/1] before getting involved.

I can see the case you’ve made for Crievehill; that said the system does not think he has anything in hand off his current mark.

My two darts today are:-

Foxrock Handicap Chase

Chatham Street Lad [CSL] is toward the head of the market [5/1] following his win at Cork over 2m on heavy ground LTO under a 3lb claimer. CSL has been put up 9 lbs for that win to 137 where as 10yo Kitten Rock [KR] (btn 10L in 5th) has been dropped 3lb to 130, making KR up to 15 lbs better of today.

Clearly KR is not the horse he once was but his effort last time suggested he’s not far away from the form he showed in the spring in two handicaps off marks of 135 & 137, he’ll appreciate the better ground in this race, first time blinkers are interesting and his odds look bigger than expected and is perhaps worth an EW play at 20/1 [5plcs 1/5 odds].

Coral Welsh Grand National Trial Handicap Chase

Captain Tommy caught my eye in this. His effort LTO when 2nd at Bangor with some decent yardsticks finishing in the first 4 suggest a mark of 125 is not beyond him. He’s assisted today Lilly Pinchin who claims a handy 5lbs and may be worth most of it given her current form. 10 wins from 50 rides since September [20%] with a level stake profit of 36.81. Win odds of 8.0+ on the Exchange were enough to tempt me in.

Good luck!


GeeDee said...

Thanks for providing your ratings, TW.

Will keep an eye on the Welsh National Trial with the main event just around the corner - The Two Amigos finished fifth last year. Nicky Martin's charge goes off the same mark today - would like to see a decent run in preparation...

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Your old friend Crosspark must have some sort of chance in the London National. The two younger horses at the head of the market look to have one or more questions to answer. Cloudy Glen might find a mark of 145 a bit too much and Classic Ben is not a guaranteed stayer. 11/2 about Crosspark is closer to fair than generous but, following two good efforts already this term, I’d not be surprised to see him involved in the finish.


GeeDee said...

Crosspark was clearly out of sorts last season, TW, but looks to have returned to form this. Held an entry in the Becher but connections go to Sandown.

I have this theory - when he's right, he's better on good / good to soft (won Eider on good to soft and second in Scottish National on good) rather than soft / heavy so I'll watch from the sidelines.

Cloudy Glen barely broke sweat at Fontwell but, yes, a rise of 11 pounds looks big. Share your reservations about Classic Ben; perhaps an upset in the offing?

Anonymous said...

Crosspark's best days have been on better ground so your theory looks sound.

That has not stopped me having an "in it for the long term" 1/2 PT EW Treble on Crosspark along with Captain Tommy & Kitten rock at 1300/1+

I'll not hold my breath...


GeeDee said...

I wish you well with that each-way treble, TW!

Anonymous said...

25/1 Beau Bay is tempting....

Pity Beau Bay was not a bit more tempting.


GeeDee said...

Bah! Where's me tablets?

Selection Crievehill (12/1) raced from the front for the first half of the race but he wasn't going fast enough for Sir Jack Yeates (33/1) who went on as they headed towards Becher's.

Richard Spencer's charge had better fancied rivals in plenty of trouble some way from home; jumping the last it looked as though he'd done enough but as they raced to the elbow, Charlie Hammond squeezed the diminutive Beau Bay (20/1) ahead on the inside of James Best's mount and Dr Richard Newland's runner scooted clear to win by five lengths. Modus (15/2) made late headway to claim third with Flying Angel (12/1) fourth and Springtown Lake (11/2) fifth.

A slow leap at the Canal Turn didn't help Crievehill; he continued to race prominently but as they turned for home, Sam was hard at work - and going backwards quickly. He eventually came home tenth, over 50 lengths behind the winner.