Friday, February 26, 2021

Eider Chase 2021

Last year the amendments Newcastle Racecourse announced to the running of the Eider Chase were of little consequence as the meeting was abandoned due to a waterlogged track.

This year's renewal will be the first run over the revised distance of four miles one furlong and 56 yards. Don't quote me but, after the Aintree Grand National, I think this race may the longest in the calendar.

12 have been declared for tomorrow's renewal with the going currently described as soft, heavy in places; at the time of writing Salty Boy and Sam's Adventure head the market. 

Sam's Adventure went into a number of notebooks on his penultimate start when he comfortably beat Sojourn over three miles one and a half furlongs at Haydock with Salty Boy, in receipt of 11 pounds, six and a quarter lengths behind the winner in third; next time out Sam parted company with jock Ryan Mania in the Haydock race won by Royal Pagaille. 

Back in September Brian Ellison said:

"This lad [Sam's Adventure] loves a trip and plenty of mud....

The big target for him this season will be the Welsh National, where you would expect him to get his preferred conditions." 

Last month Salty Boy, yet to win over fences, was sent off  9/2 joint second favourite for the Sussex National at Plumpton over a trip of three miles four and a half furlongs. He finished sixth behind Seaston Spirit, beaten just under six lengths, with connections indicating the sharp track didn't suit.

On revised terms Salty Boy and Sam's Adventure look closely matched.

Crosspark did me a big favour winning this two years ago off a mark of 135; tomorrow he carries top weight racing off 150. Caroline Bailey's charge has finished second on four occasions this season - and has been raised eight pounds for his trouble. Comply Or Die (2008) was the last horse to carry top weight to victory (off a mark of 139). To date, Crosspark has shown his very best form on good or good to soft ground.

Big River seems to have been around for ever. 

His fifth in the Ultima at Cheltenham last year reads well, beaten just over three lengths, as does his fifth in the 2019 Scottish National. Eighth in the rescheduled Welsh National last month, the ground underneath the required frost covers probably proved better than ideal for this one once they were removed. Perhaps I'm being a tad unfair to the old boy but over the years I've felt his jumping hasn't always been quite up to scratch; of his seven wins under rules, six have come at Kelso.

For his age The Dutchman doesn't have that many miles on the clock. 

On his penultimate start he was pipped on the line by Late Romantic over a trip of three miles one and a half in a veterans' chase at Haydock. Last time he held a narrow lead when taking a crashing fall four from home in the Rowland Meyrick on Boxing Day.

Previously with David Dennis, Cyclop clocked up three of his four chase wins following the move to Tom Symonds' yard last October. Now in the care of Matt Sheppard, he has been kept busy enough over the winter months; the booking of Brian Hughes here catches the eye.

Crossley Tender is another who has been kept on the go - this will be his ninth start since October. His defeat of Samuel Jackson last month was franked earlier this afternoon when that one beat Tea Time On Mars a neck in the Devon National Handicap Chase at Exeter. 

Springfield Fox has struggled in the jumping department this term. Connections try cheekpieces while David Bass travels north for this one ride.

Those not already mentioned race from out of the handicap. 

Little Red Lion lost his confidence on his last run over the larger obstacles, eventually coming to grief five from home; since then he returned to winning ways over hurdles at Chepstow. 

On the face of it, this one doesn't have an obvious chance but I'm wary - I'm sure I can recall the yard having a stab or two at this race in the past and, of course, Comply Or Die won in 2008. If Ben Jones can do the necessary, he'll be able to claim three of the five pounds 'overweight'; in the last 12 months Ben's lowest riding weight is recorded as 9-12.

The mare Haul Us In (47 lengths behind Tea Time On Mars at Bangor last time) is probably the stable's second string and Friends Don't Ask is 27 pounds 'wrong' but from three pounds out of the handicap Strong Economy is worthy of a second look. 

Last time out this one won on heavy ground over three miles three at Ayr and he comes into this in decent form - and a good deal fresher than a few of his rivals. He hails from the yard that sent out 2015 winner Milborough. 20 of the 21 starts to date have been at Ayr (the other one at Perth) so I'm hoping a change of scenery might eke out some further improvement, together with the first-time cheekpieces.

For those with a (particularly) strong constitution Strong Economy is the each-way suggestion. At the time of writing Paddy Power offer 14/1 and pay one fifth the odds four places.

Regular contributor TW has provided his ratings and selection for this race:

Vertem Eider Handicap Chase

166,BIG RIVER(IRE),17.4
166,SALTY BOY(IRE),8.5
161,HAUL US IN(IRE),0.4

11YO Crosspark running off a career high mark of 150 surely not? But with most of his rivals having one or more questions to answer it is perhaps not beyond the realms of possibility.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Haydock's William Hill Grand National Trial 2021

Look, you wouldn't say Notachance was particularly well-named.

Five weeks ago Alan King's charge held Achille half a length to win the Classic Chase at Warwick and prior to that he beat The Two Amigos seven lengths into third in the Anne Duchess of Westminster Memorial Handicap Chase at Bangor-on-Dee. 

Immediately after that latest success the trainer was asked about the Aintree Grand National. Mr King was unequivocal - the Scottish Grand National is his target. 

He subsequently wrote in the Weekender [20-24.01.21]:

"Although I'm not sure whether he'll race again beforehand, I can say for certain he'll not run in the Grand National, this year or ever."

Part owner Tim Leadbeater had a share in West End Rocker who didn't enjoy his excursions over those big Aintree fences back in 2011 and 2012.

Some bookies think Notachance has a favourite's chance in tomorrow's William Hill Grand National Trial (Haydock 2.40) even though, strictly speaking, both Achille and The Two Amigos are weighted to reverse recent form. 

To quote Mr King again:

"Although he [Notachance] doesn't do much when he hits the front, he was always holding the runner-up [Achille] in a race few really got into." 

The gelding also holds an entry in the Swinley Chase (Ascot 2.25) but the Haydock marathon has been nominated as the first preference.

Nobody would begrudge The Two Amigos his day in the limelight. 

Nicky Martin's charge races prominently, jumps for fun and found only Secret Reprieve too good in the re-arranged Welsh Grand National six weeks ago (Lord Du Mesnil ninth, reported to have shown signs of post-race heat stress; Ramses De Teillee tailed off in twelfth). He finished fourth behind Smooth Stepper in last year's race here and can be expected to improve on that effort. 

Course and distance winner Lord Du Mesnil looked the winner of last year's race as they turned for home but the petrol gauge started to show empty at the penultimate flight and he was collared after the last. 

Richard Hobson's charge was racing off a mark of 147 that day - ten pounds above his previous winning mark. He hasn't been in quite the same form this term and has been withdrawn from a couple of possible engagements on account of the ground.

Both Potters Legend and Perfect Candidate may be getting on a bit but they both like this track.

The former finished second last time, a long way behind Royal Pagaille who is now as low as 6/1 with Sky Bet for next month's Gold Cup, while the latter beat Fortified Bay 45 lengths over course and distance in November.

Enqarde has certainly made his mark over here since coming from over there in France. 

On four runs to date for new connections he has won twice, been beaten a neck into second, and unseated in the race won by Sam's Adventure here in December. He won 'comfortably' off mark of 124 at Ascot last time and has been raised eight pounds. With Charlie Hammond claiming three, he's open to further improvement (as they say) racing off a featherweight on his first try at an extended trip.

With just four chase starts to his name, Sojourn has the least experience over the larger obstacles. His second behind Sam's Adventure reads well - he looked the winner for much of the trip that day. The yard has been quite quiet of late.

Four weeks ago Venetia Williams' stable jockey Charlie Deutsch preferred to go to Ascot to ride Espoir De Guye (fourth) and Fanion D'Estruval (fourth) rather than to go to Haydock to ride Royal Pagaille -Tom Scudamore was the principal beneficiary. Charlie will be hoping he has made the right decision this time - Venetia sends Yalltari (Daryl Jacob) and Cloudy Glen (Tom Scudamore) to Ascot.

On revised terms Achille meets Notachance three pounds better off for half a length although, as Mr King indicated, his charge doesn't do a lot when in front. Even so, that was a decent seasonal debut from Venetia's grey and there could be a bit more to come. 

Unfortunately the price has contracted slowly during the day but with Sky Bet paying four places Achille is the each-way suggestion (15/2 quoted at the time of writing). 


There may not be too much value in Achille's price but Sub Lieutenant looks overpriced at 40/1 with Paddy Power / Betfair paying four places in the "My Oddsboost" on Betfair Swinley Chase (Ascot 2.25). 

Formerly with Henry De Bromhead, the gelding is now trained in Tenbury Wells on the Worcestershire / Shropshire border by Georgie Howell. Fourth over this course and distance behind Mister Malarky on his first run for new connections, he was beaten just under 10 lengths. Tabitha Worsley is well worth her five pound claim and the trainer has hinted they intend to adopt more aggressive riding tactics tomorrow. The long term aim is the Grand National.

Friday, February 05, 2021

The 2021 Edinburgh National at Musselburgh

With early morning inspections scheduled at Sandown and Wetherby, I've taken a very quick look at the Edinburgh National Handicap Chase (Musselburgh 3.45); 12 have been declared with the ground described as soft, good to soft in places.

At Newbury back in December 2018 Le Breuil finished third behind Santini, beaten just over seven lengths, on his first try at a trip beyond two miles five furlongs. 

On his subsequent ten outings Ben Pauling's charge has won just the once - the National Hunt Challenge Cup at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival - but recently he stayed on noticeably well to claim third behind Notachance at Warwick on his first run following wind surgery. 

The form catches the eye - on official ratings he's the best horse in the race so carries top weight - and consequently the bookmakers make him 3/1 favourite.

Market rival The Ferry Master has been in good form this season but races beyond three miles for the first time.

Last year Bob Mahler and Little Bruce were sent off 9/2 joint favourites for this; off a mark of 135 the former collared Chic Name a short head on the line to collect the spoils, with Little Bruce the best part of 20 lengths away in fourth. 

The following month Bob Mahler was a highly creditable third behind Milan Native in the Fulke Walwyn at Cheltenham but this season Warren Greatrex's charge has been pulled up on three occasions, the most recent behind Dino Boy in the Scottish Borders National at Kelso in December. 

Several commentators have pointed out Dino Boy looked a tad lucky that day when Duc De Grissay sprawled on landing as they jumped the final flight together; that said, he came home 15 lengths ahead of Classic Escape in second. 

Dino Boy's owners, Mr & Mrs Raymond Anderson Green, like to target Nationals north of the border; they won the 2010 and 2012 renewals of the Scottish Grand National with Merigo and this race in 2018 with Full Jack.

Classic Escape's stablemate Billy Bronco finished second at Hereford last time out and in 2018 finished second in the North Yorkshire Grand National at Catterick and then eighth in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter.

After being pipped at the post last year with Chic Name, trainer Richard Hobson will be hoping for better luck with Saint Xavier who races beyond three miles one and a half for the first time. With the blinkers fitted, his chance is respected.

Lucinda Russell's Mighty Thunder was disappointing last time but has won at this track previously while Fortified Bay did not jump well at Haydock the last day, beaten some 45 lengths into second by Perfect Candidate.

With just four chase starts to her name, The Delray Munky looks inexperienced; I'm put off after a poor show in a mares' chase at Wetherby, although, to be fair, the ground was desperately heavy that day - only one of the four runners completed. 

Stay Humble is similarly inexperienced and has yet to win over fences.

The last day Dino Boy beat Classic Escape 15 lengths at Kelso; on revised terms Dr Richard Newland's charge is entitled to finish eight lengths closer. The disparity in current market prices doesn't really reflect this with Dino Boy 11/2 and Classic Escape 14/1 with some layers. 

There was a hint at Kelso Classic Escape's petrol gauge was starting to show empty in the final couple of furlongs - I'm hoping this flat track and slightly better ground will help the cause.

Classic Escape is the each-way suggestion, currently 12/1 with Sky Bet who are paying five places.