Friday, October 29, 2021

A right Ascot Malarky...

Fourteen have been declared for tomorrow's Bateaux London Gold Cup (3.20 Ascot). The going at the Berkshire track is currently described as good to soft; rain showers are forecast throughout the morning.

Two previous winners re-oppose: Vinndication and Regal Encore. 

The former beat the latter five lengths on the same terms in the 2019 renewal (Larry tenth, Mister Malarky twelfth). Regal Encore showed his particular liking for Ascot when taking last year's race (Mister Malarky sixth).

Vinndication's price looks short enough given Kim Bailey's charge didn't look too fluent at a couple of the obstacles in the Charlie Hall last year; he subsequently unseated David Bass in the Ladbrokes Trophy won by Cloth Cap. 

Connections opted to revert to the smaller obstacles thereafter but again the jumping looked a cause for concern with Vinndication finishing sixth behind Flooring Porter in the Stayers' Hurdle and twelfth behind Thyme Hill at Aintree.

Regal Encore comes alive at Ascot - the veteran's enthusiasm is something to behold - but just a few weeks shy of his fourteenth birthday, I'm not tempted.

I've seen Johnbb tipped up here and there. His chance is respected on the back of his second behind Happygolucky at Aintree in April; the handicapper raised Tom Lacey's charge three pounds for that effort.

Jerrysback has finished behind Vinndication and Regal Encore at this track and has yet to win going right-handed, a comment that also applies to One More Fleurie.

Regal Encore's stablemate Sojourn enters calculations after winning Carlisle's Cumberland Handicap Chase in a hack canter and then finishing four lengths behind Sam's Adventure in the Tommy Whittle at Haydock - Sam's Adventure went on to win the Eider at Newcastle. 

Subsequently Sojourn was pulled up behind Lord Du Mesnil in Haydock's Grand National Trial and has undergone wind surgery over the summer.

Bennys King doesn't look guaranteed to stay, course and distance winner Captain Chaos usually needs a run or two to be seen at this best, and I've always held reservations about Larry. 

That said, Gary Moore's charge was in the process of running his best race for some time when hampered by a loose horse at Fakenham 15 days ago. 

Larry, Real Steel and Mister Malarky are the only runners in the field to have had a recent outing; Larry races from one pound out of the handicap.

Glen Forsa has his first run for new connections while Checkitout has shown his best chase form in smaller fields. 

Didero Vallis would be no forlorn hope on the back of his neck second to Kitty's Light at Kelso in March. Trainer Venetia Williams' runners are always worth a second look here; on the balance of form, Didero usually needs that first run.

At the prices I'm going to take a chance with Mister Malarky. 

He's a precarious proposition at the best of times, more miss than hit, and not one for the faint-hearted.

In the past couple of years he hasn't shown the best of form on seasonal debut - he finished 83 lengths behind Vinndication in the 2019 renewal of this race and 25 lengths behind Regal Encore last year. 

He finished 82 lengths adrift of Chirico Vallis in the Native River Handicap Chase at Chepstow three weeks ago.

All that said, he beat The Conditional and Regal Encore over course and distance last December and is bang there on Racing Post ratings; pilot Harry Kimber claims a handy seven pounds. 

After everything that happened last year, and with Joe set to take over the reins from Colin, I'm banking on the Tizzards having their string a little more forward this year - and Mister Malarky feeling in the mood.

Sky Bet offer 16/1 and pay one fifth the odds five places; Mister Malarky is the each-way suggestion.

What a malarkey!

Friday, October 22, 2021

A tentative suggestion on Cheltenham's Saturday Showcase card (2021)

A curtailed post this week - I've only just returned from a trip to the Ludlow races on Thursday. A number of us took advantage of the pre-booking offer: entrance, racecard and a free pint of beer in the Ludlow Brewery marquee for the princely sum of just £16.00.

Kudos to Kevin Morley who tipped up Key To The Moon in the Weekender, the 8/1 winner of the first. Unfortunately, due to travel issues, I was still in the car park as the course commentator described in some considerable detail the closing stages; Nigel Twiston Davies' charge successfully held the challenge of 8/13 favourite Full Of Light.

Golden Taipan and Just The Man ensured we left the course with a bit more moolah than we came in with; Gouet Des Bruyeres and Dynali both ran well in defeat. Sustained vespertine sustenance was subsequently sampled at The French Pantry followed by further postprandial refreshment in a number of the town's hostelries.

The result is I haven't done the spadework for tomorrow's card at Cheltenham. 

That said, Straw Fan Jack has been on the radar since winning a novice hurdle at Aintree last December. In March he was beaten one and a half lengths by Pasvolsky at Kempton. 

He faces no easy task burdened with top weight in the opener (1.45) but underfoot conditions will suit, he's in with every chance on Racing Post ratings and his running style should help at this track. 

Of course, fitness has to be taken on trust but with Sky Bet offering 12/1 and paying six places I'm going to take a small each-way interest in Straw Fan Jack.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Welsh Champion Hurdle 2021

Champions Day at Ascot tomorrow but I prefer the Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las instead.

Last year's winner Sceau Royal goes to Kempton on Sunday while the  runner-up Ballyandy tries his luck once again off a mark three pounds lower. 

That looked a particularly strong renewal with last week's Cesarewitch winner Buzz third and subsequent Scottish Champion Hurdle winner Milkwood fourth.

Tomorrow's renewal doesn't appear to be quite up to that standard but it's ultra competitive nonetheless. 

12 have been declared to face the starter at 4.35; the going is described as good with showers forecast.

At the time of writing the four five-year-olds in the field occupy the top four positions in the betting. 

Favourite Calico was last seen finishing fourth behind Milkwood in the Scottish Champion and has since had wind surgery (Diego Du Charmil eighth in that race).

Cormier came home second behind Copperless in Haydock's Swinton Hurdle in May and has been running on the Flat over the summer.

Amarillo Sky and Dobryn reappear after a summer break and both look unexposed; the former is joint top-rated with Ballyandy on Racing Post ratings.

The Tom Lacey trained Glory And Fortune is another unexposed type, coming into this after comfortably winning a Plumpton handicap last month. 

The Pipe team holds a strong hand with Umbrigado and Leoncavallo. 

On seasonal debut last year Umbrigado finished second behind War Lord in a Haydock handicap hurdle over a slightly longer trip. His five subsequent starts were all in chases - he won three, including the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury in March. I suspect this could be a pipe-opener for another campaign over the larger obstacles.

In the past Leoncavallo has run well after a break.

Ballyandy seems to have been around forever - he beat Battleford a nose in the 2016 Cheltenham bumper - and is as tough as old boots. Like the rest of us, he isn't getting any younger but the 10/1 bet365 are offering makes some each-way appeal.

The one that interests me is the Emma Lavelle trained Hang In There. 

This one brings decent recent form to the table. He was beaten a head by Stonific in the Summer Hurdle at Market Rasen in July, with Valentino Dancer a neck behind in third and Camprond fourth. 

Valentino Dancer was entitled to reverse that form when the pair re-opposed last month, again at Market Rasen, and he did just that, beating Hang In There two and a half lengths. Hang In There made a bad mistake at the final flight that day but the error probably didn't cost him the race.

Last weekend Valentino Dancer was beaten a head in a competitive handicap hurdle at Chepstow while Camprond won the Persian War Novices' Hurdle.

The handicapper has raised Hang In There two pounds for that latest run; regular pilot Joe Anderson claims ten.

Admittedly there are a few unexposed types in this field but with several layers quoting 16/1 and paying one fifth the odds four places, I've made a decision to hang in there.  

Hang In There is the each-way selection.

Friday, October 08, 2021

Chepstow chat - and an each-way chance

Chepstow's two day meeting is generally seen as the start of the 'core' jumps season and, for me, is usually the time form study begins again in earnest. 

That said, I followed the summer racing circuit more closely this year; I wouldn't be confident the bank account is going to see any particular benefit.

Earlier this afternoon the more experienced Camprond came home ahead of well-backed stablemate Luttrell Lad in the Persian War Novices' Hurdle. 

First Street (Nicky Henderson) and Paso Doble (Paul Nicholls) were easy enough to back beforehand and the market was proven correct with both runners disappointing, beaten 21 and 36 lengths respectively.

Knappers Hill obliged for the champion trainer in the opener but there were disappointments with Threeunderthrufive (10//11f), Hell Red (5/2f) and Mondora (15/2).

A ten-year-old had won four of the last five renewals of the Veterans' Handicap Chase (2.10) and two ten-year-olds, Some Chaos and Vivas, finished first and second this year. 

I was at Warwick when Vivas unseated his pilot a couple of weeks ago; known to go well fresh, he was quite well fancied that day in a race in which he had finished second behind Young Wolf the year before.

The form of that race has piqued interest in tomorrow's Native River Handicap Chase (2.25); 14 have been declared.

Although beaten twice by Francky Du Berlais, Exelerator Express has been impressive this summer; the handicapper has raised Neil Mulholland's charge nine pounds following his latest win at Worcester just over seven weeks ago. He may well have a crucial fitness edge over a number of tomorrow's rivals. 

Writing in the Weekender Maddy Playle has a word for Full Back but this looks a big ask for Garry Moore's novice - no six-year-old has won this in the past ten years.  

Of course, you could argue that stat would be a worry where Kitty's Light is concerned but the five-year-old was a revelation last year. 

The gelding finished third behind El Presente in the Badger Beers at Wincanton in the autumn before winning the Borders Handicap Chase at Kelso and then being 'promoted' to second behind Potterman in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown after being hampered by Enrilo on his run to the line. Several commentators felt that without the interference he would have won that race.

At a price, two from the Warwick race won by Haul Away are of interest.

Irish Prophecy was beaten under six lengths at Warwick and previously was still in with a shout in Exelerator Express' race at Worcester when making a bad mistake five from home, with jock Tom Bellamy losing an iron.

After Warwick the handicapper dropped Emma Lavelle's charge two pounds.

On 17 May 2019 Cobra De Mai won the Weatherite Handicap Chase at Cheltenham off a mark of 142.

In the 2020 renewal of the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival the gelding finished less than nine lengths behind winner The Conditional off the same mark.

Last season Cobra lost his form; in February he was moved out of Dan Skelton's yard to join Caroline Bailey.

On his first run for new connections, he raced with enthusiasm for the first time since the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, weakening to cede third place to Irish Prophecy on the run-in, eventually beaten under nine lengths.

The handicapper has dropped him a further four pounds for that effort; tomorrow he races off 128 and will appreciate the good ground.

At the time of writing Irish Prophecy is generally at 16/1 chance while Cobra De Mai is 18/1 with Paddy Power who pay four places one fifth the odds.

I tipped up Cobra De Mai for last season's Badger Beers (under the heading: 'What's this? A Cobra in the Badger Beers'). Off 138 that day he ran like a drain - and he may well do the same tomorrow - but I'm hoping he's going to build on the promise shown at Warwick 18 days ago and at least give me a run for my money...

Cobra De Mai is the each-way suggestion.