Friday, January 28, 2022

Doncaster's Sky Bet Chase 2022

Connections of Aye Right (rated 159) and Simply The Betts (rated 157) have chosen to contest tomorrow's Cotswold Chase (2.30 Cheltenham) rather than take up alternative options, namely the Sky Bet Handicap Chase (3.20 Doncaster) and the Paddy Power Cheltenham Countdown Podcast Handicap Chase (1.55 Cheltenham) respectively. 

The Trials Day card has a number of small fields - just five declared for both the Cotswold Chase and the Cleeve Hurdle (3.05) and six for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle (3.40); officials have put this down in part to the prevailing going, now described as good.

I've decided to head north. 

The going at Doncaster is described as good, good to soft in places; 17 are set to face the starter for the Sky Bet Handicap Chase due off at 3.20.

A number in the field have questions to answer over this trip.

Favourite Fusil Raffles won the Charlie Hall at Wetherby on his first try at three miles but that day Shan Blue was 20 lengths to the good when taking a crashing fall three out.

Demachine appeared to be outstayed by Remastered in the Reynoldstown at Ascot last February and Cap Du Nord likewise when third behind Takingrisks in this race last year. 

Midnight Shadow and Nuts Well try the trip for the first time while both Janika and Grand Sancy look suspect stayers.

Kapcourse is another to try three miles for the first time. 

I'm guessing this one has been difficult to train but the gelding didn't appear to be stopping when taking the Sir Peter O'Sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase at Newbury over two miles six and a half furlongs (Grand Sancy fourth). The handicapper has raised Paul Nicholls' charge eight pounds for that effort but his chance is respected. 

Debece joined the Skelton yard last spring and on his first run for new connections was passed by Fortescue after the last at Sandown. Now aged 11, he underwent wind surgery in September - the market would appear to indicate a bold run is anticipated. 

Canelo's defeat of Snow Leopardess (Windsor Avenue third) in the 2020 Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby reads well. 

Trainer Alan King won the 2016 and 2017 renewals of this race with Ziga Boy. Canelo came home fourth behind Takingrisks last year but the gelding has been out of form this term and the yard hasn't recorded a win over the sticks in 47 starts over the past month.

Windsor Avenue ran with credit to finish second behind Snow Leopardess at Bangor on seasonal debut but next time was never travelling in the Rowland Meyrick and was pulled up; connections try first-time blinkers. 

Cloudy Glen isn't the most consistent of individuals - another pulled up behind Good Boy Bobby in last month's Rowland Meyrick - but Charlie Deutsch prefers to ride the Ladbrokes Trophy winner here rather than Farinet at Cheltenham.

Demachine's stablemate Storm Control bounced back to form at Newbury - the worry would be that race was just 10 days ago. 

Rocco looked a horse to keep an eye when racing up with the pace and then going on to win the Badger Beer Handicap Chase at odds of 40/1 (Hurricane Harvey third, Cap Du Nord fourth and Some Chaos pulled up). However he didn't jump well next time behind Commodore at Cheltenham.

The form of Snow Leopardess acts as a useful benchmark for a few of these and I'm going to make a case for Hill Sixteen.

Hill Sixteen wasn't the most consistent last term and moved up to Sandy Thomson's yard in Berwickshire in the autumn. 

After finishing sixth behind Hold That Taught on seasonal debut at Carlisle he ran a stormer in the Becher Chase from four pounds out of the handicap, beaten a nose by Snow Leopardess. 

I expected a reasonable showing in the Welsh Grand National next time but he was nowhere to be seen and was eventually pulled up. This year's Welsh National was a messy affair run on desperate ground - the start was an absolute shambles - and, with only five of the 20 completing, I'm prepared to forgive that effort.

Hill Sixteen has previously been trained by Sue Smith and Nigel Twiston-Davies. Sandy Thomson's yard has a respectable record with this type of animal; if the gelding can rediscover that Becher form, 20/1 looks value. 

Hill Sixteen is the each-way suggestion, generally a 20/1 chance, with sponsors Sky Bet paying six places.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Haydock's Peter Marsh Chase 2022

During the week concern was expressed that the 'Lingfield Million' initiative might have an adverse effect on the number of runners in the Peter Marsh at Haydock. Eight set off in last year's renewal; ten are set to face the starter at 2.35 tomorrow. 

The going is described as soft, heavy in places on the chase course.

12 months ago Royal Pagaille won in something of a common canter, Tom Scudamore doing the steering after regular pilot Charlie Deutsch opted to go to Ascot instead. At the time I wrote:

An analysis I've read of Royale Pagaille's victory at Kempton over Christmas talks of  'a performance of some note' indicating the horse 'won't look out of place in Graded company'.

It's no surprise therefore to see Venetia Williams' charge priced up favourite but the gelding has been raised 16 pounds for that effort and now sits on a mark of 156. There's Gold Cup talk in the background as well, with layers quoting odds of 50/1 for the Cheltenham showpiece in March. 

So I still haven't quite worked out why regular pilot Charlie Deutsch has decided to go to Ascot to ride Espoir De Guye (3.00) and Fanion D'Estruval (3.35). Did Charlie, like the rest of us, expect Haydock to be abandoned? Or does he prefer his chances at Ascot?  

Scudamore clearly enjoyed his armchair ride that day but it must have made for painful viewing for Charlie with Fanion D'Estruval finishing fourth behind First Flow in the Clarence House and Espoir De Guye also fourth behind  Dashel Drasher in the bet365 Handicap Chase.

Fanion D'Estruval has been declared for tomorrow's renewal of the bet365 Handicap Chase - this year, though, Charlie rides at Haydock. I note the gelding also holds an entry in the Fleur De Lys Chase at Lingfield on Sunday but connections' preference is for the Ascot engagement.

Conceding 12 pounds and upwards to the rest of the field represents no easy task for Royal Pagaille who goes off 163. Historically just four horses with a rating of 160 or higher have competed in this event;  Jodami is the only one to come home in front, in 1997, off a rating of 169.

Last time out in the Betfair Chase Royal Pagaille finished 22 lengths second behind A Plus Tard, the current 7/2 favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. 

The ground at Haydock that day was described as good to soft but rode nearer to good; Venetia Williams' charge came back in with an injury to the right hind pastern and in the circumstances ran a very good race.  

Tom Scudamore rides Remastered who was running a big race when taking a crashing fall four from home in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury; thankfully he came out unscathed. Next time he ran a fine second here but had no answer to Enqarde in the Tommy Whittle (Sam's Adventure pulled up).

The Rowland Meyrick run at Wetherby on Boxing Day looks a significant piece of form. 

Good Boy Bobby was tenacious up front to see off the attentions of Lord Du Mesnil by one and threequarters lengths with Lake View Lad some 16 lengths adrift in fourth.

That only tells half the story though as Empire Steel looked to be travelling ominously well when coming to grief four from home. His chance is respected here but under the conditions of the race he is obliged to go off three pounds higher than his allotted handicap mark.

Exasperated with the family's Boxing Day festivities, I sought some simple temporary solace in backing Lake View Lad each-way at Wetherby on the back of Nick Alexander's comments that the grey had been trained  specifically for the race. 

Unfortunately the gelding provided no Boxing Day solace whatsoever, struggling to keep tabs on the principals over the second circuit. 

The handicapper has dropped his mark three pounds to 146 and the grey has a good record at this track but it's difficult to see him finishing ahead of Empire Steel (provided he completes) or Lord Du Mesnil (provided he's in the mood).

With just six chase starts to his name, Sam Brown has looked difficult to train but as a consequence still remains relatively unexposed for a ten-year-old. Last time out at Aintree he finished a distant third behind Protektorat - currently a 9/1 chance for the Gold Cup; two years ago he won a two and a half mile novice chase on this card. 

Kalooki's jumping has proved problematic in the past - connections will hope first-time cheekpieces can help - while Alnadam has done a lot of his racing over two and half miles.

Beaten over 40 lengths, Fortescue wasn't disgraced finishing seventh in the Ladbrokes Trophy at odds of 50/1 and at Kempton over Christmas he was beaten a length by Five Star Getaway. He is three pounds 'wrong' at the weights but the additional burden is offset by Hugh Nugent's five pounds claim.  

Last season Sam's Adventure won the Tommy Whittle over course and distance off 133 and the Eider Chase at Newcastle off 139. This season Brian Ellison's charge has been bang out of form; he went off at 40/1 for the Rehearsal Chase in November (finished 49 lengths behind winner Aye Right) and, four pounds 'wrong' at the weights tomorrow, is quoted at a similar price.

The market suggests the race rests between Royal Pagaille, Remastered and Empire Steel; two each-way chances of interest are Lord Du Mesnil and Sam Brown.

The former isn't entirely predictable and wouldn't be guaranteed to build on his second in the Rowland Meyrick (for which he was raised two pounds) but he has a lot more experience over the larger obstacles than most in the field and his record at the track reads 1121.

The latter has something to find on ratings but handler Anthony Honeyball is quoted in the Racing Post as saying: 'I'll be very disappointed off his current mark if he isn't thereabouts at the finish.' Sam Brown has been the subject of support in the market this evening.

Lord Du Mesnil is the each-way suggestion, at the time of writing 10/1 with bet365 and BetVictor, both paying three places.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Warwick's Classic Chase 2022

I can't quite recall the last time I tipped a horse that even placed in Warwick's Classic Chase and, with recent results predictably more miss than hit, I thought I'd check out Old Moore's Almanac for inspiration. 

The Almanac - a family favourite once upon a time - informs me that a nine-year-old carrying 10-11 may win this year's race. As the only nine-year-old declared, The Hollow Ginge, shoulders 11-11, and not one of the 15 runners has been allocated 10-11, I've had to revert to type.

Tomorrow's card needs to pass an 8.00 am inspection; frost sheets were deployed in vulnerable areas on Wednesday. The going is described as soft, good to soft in places on the chase course.

The quality of this year's race, due off at 3.00 pm, falls some way short of recent renewals, illustrated by the fact that Notachance won last year off 139 carrying 10-5 yet 12 months later tries to repeat the feat off the same handicap mark carrying 11-9.

Top weight tomorrow Corach Rambler goes off 142. Only once in the past ten years has the top weight been rated below that figure - Missed Approach rated 139 in 2018; in 2013 Auroras Encore raced off 142.

2012 winner Hey Big Spender remains the only horse to have carried top weight to victory - indeed, the only horse to have won carrying more than 11-7.

Corach Rambler's trainer, Lucinda Russell, collected the spoils with One For Arthur in 2017. She describes Corach Rambler as 'Scu's favourite horse'; having won his last two chase starts, the gelding has gone up a total of 15 pounds.

His chance is certainly respected but I'm not totally convinced this tight track will play to his strengths.

At the time of writing Gericault Roque heads the market, probably on the back of his noteworthy second behind Saint Palais in the Mandarin Chase at Newbury 17 days ago. 

I note this one is part-owned by Professor Caroline Tisdall and I'm just wondering whether connections see the gelding as a replacement for the recently retired Vieux Lion Rouge - with a crack at the Grand National the long-term aim.  

The horse has only had three chase starts to date and has yet to come home in front but David Pipe's charge has been well backed during the week. 

Evan Williams sent out Prime Venture to win the Veterans' Chase at Sandown last Saturday and Supreme Escape to win the North Yorkshire Grand National at Catterick yesterday. 

He saddles No Rematch here who has also been well backed. The trip shouldn't be a problem but this one has just two chase starts to his name.

In a race that can ride quite rough, I tend to prefer one with a little more experience over fences.

This has been the target for Notachance who ran well for a long way in the Tommy Whittle at Haydock last time and sports a first-time visor. 

Conceding five pounds he beat Achille half a length in last year's renewal (The Hollow Ginge pulled up) although the grey never looked likely to go past the leader. 

Venetia Williams' charge ran well to finish fourth behind Iwilldoit in an attritional Welsh National 19 days ago in which 15 of the 20 starters failed to finish. That looked a hard race and I wonder whether this might come a little too soon.

Padleyourowncanoe moved to Dan Skelton's yard at the beginning of November and just before Christmas ran a respectable third at odds of 40/1 behind Jesuitique in a Haydock hurdle. His fourth behind Minellacelebration off a mark of 140 in the 2020 Summer Cup at Uttoxeter reads well.

Eclair Surf was close enough to Iwilldoit in the Welsh Grand National Trial at the beginning of December but made a mistake five from home that put paid to his chance; on occasions his jumping  hasn't quite been up to scratch.

Grace A Vous Enki has been racing over fences in France but last time fell three out on his third hurdle start in this country. This will be the gelding's first try over fences over here; the only six-year-old to win this race was Colonel Christy in 1981.

Jerrysback and The Hollow Ginge wouldn't be the most consistent of individuals but the latter underwent wind surgery after his latest run and his record after a break of 50 days or more reads 313211UP2. 

Chirico Vallis made all to defeat Kitty's Light a head at Chepstow in October - noteworthy form. That was run on good ground and I just wonder whether he'll stay this extended trip in prevailing conditions. 

In contrast Game Line has no stamina concerns having won the Norfolk National over three miles five furlongs in May and finished third in the Sussex National at Plumpton last time out. 

The handicapper dropped Peter Bowen's charge one pound after that run to a mark of 116; the lowest official rating of the past 10 winners is 122 (Rigadin De Beauchene in 2013).

Two recent Ludlow winners come into this in fine form. 

Head To The Stars beat Didero Vallis three lengths last time while Minella Encore beat Bobo Mac an eased-down 18 lengths and on the back of that performance is of interest. 

Dr Richard Newland's charge doesn't have a lot of mileage on the clock and looked to have benefitted from wind surgery at Fakenham in October before disappointing at Cheltenham the following month. The fitting of first-time blinkers certainly helped the cause at Ludlow, the handicapper subsequently raising the gelding nine pounds.

I'm hoping the blinkers can continue to work their magic and that the horse can see out see out this extended trip on this ground.

At the time of writing William Hill offer 14/1 and pay one fifth the odds five places.

Minella Encore is the each-way suggestion.

Friday, January 07, 2022

The 2021 Veterans' Chase Final at Sandown

Thirteen have been declared for tomorrow's final due off at 3.00, with the going on the chase course currently described as soft, good to soft in places; heavy rain is predicted throughout most of the day and conditions are expected to deteriorate.

Market leader Aso came home under four lengths behind Blaklion in Leg 12 of the series run on heavy ground at Haydock just over five weeks ago. 11 started that day but only five completed with Dashing Perk, Psychedelic Rock and Primo Venture all pulled up - Primo Venture was subsequently reported to have bled from the nose.

Venetia Williams' charge was raised two pounds to 149 for that effort and, after taking jockey allowances into consideration, has to concede 10 pounds and upwards to the rest of the field.

Final Nudge may have finally nudged 13 years of age recently but he finished third behind Time To Get Up and Midnight Thunder in the Midlands Grand National last March and then reappeared in Leg 10 of the series at Warwick in November to beat Fagan, with Sir Ivan six and a half lengths behind in fourth.

Raised just three pounds, Fergal O'Brien's charge looks weighted to confirm the form.

Sir Ivan is a consistent sort who finished third behind Seeyouatmidnight in last year's renewal off a mark of 135. 

Back in March he beat Valadom (128) and The King's Writ (139) in Leg 3 at Newbury but at the moment, off 140, would appear to be in the grip of the handicapper.

Last time out The King's Writ finished 49 lengths behind L'Homme Presse over an inadequate trip. 

Now on 133, he makes some appeal with amateur rider Mr Joshua Newman able to claim another seven pounds; Kayley Woollacott's charge has been well backed today.    

I prefer David Bass to Lee Marvin aboard Wandrin Star who beat Dancing Shadow and Gwencily Berbas over course and distance nine weeks ago. This one goes particularly well fresh but wouldn't be guaranteed to reproduce his form next time out.

Meanwhile, after that race, Gwencily Berbas made the short journey from David Pipe's yard to Exeter racecourse where, tipped up by Mick Fitzgerald, he won ten lengths at odds of 25/1 over a trip of three miles six and a half furlongs (Dancing Shadow third). A rise of eight pounds to 132 looks reasonable.

After a spell point-to-pointing Rolling Dylan finished second behind Wishing And Hoping in Leg 8 at Aintree in October and then second behind Bali Body over course and distance last month (Valadom third). 

The official going was good that day; to my mind both Rolling Dylan and Valadom prefer better ground, a comment that also applies to Psychedelic Rock.

Prime Venture's fifth behind stablemate Secret Reprieve in the Welsh Grand National 12 months ago reads well. Evan Williams' charge will appreciate underfoot conditions but only has one chase win to his name - a three runner Sedgefield novice - while Dashing Perk doesn't look guaranteed to stay the trip.

Both Indy Five and Dancing Shadow run from out of the handicap. 

The former hasn't looked the easiest at the start this term but made all to win comfortably at Doncaster the last day while the latter had Sir Ivan and Indy Five behind when finishing third to Some Chaos on seasonal debut.

I was impressed with the ride Tom Scudamore gave Gwencily Berbas last time and the manner in which the horse won. Since the move over from Ireland in May the gelding has finished in the first three on all four starts.

At the time of writing Gwencily Berbas is 10/1 with bet365 and Paddy Power who pay one fifth the odds four places.

Gwencily Berbas is the each-way selection.

Finally, I'm going to take another look at Navajo Pass in the finale (3.35). 

Top weight on heavy / desperate ground and the fitting of first-time cheekpieces rings the alarm bells, added to which Donald McCain's charge finished a long way behind Samarrive over course and distance five weeks ago. That said, on his best form - and current RPR ratings - he's entitled to be in the mix and has been backed this evening. 

After the gelding won over two and a half miles at Musselburgh 12 months ago, the trainer indicated his charge would be a better horse this term. 

Navajo Pass underwent wind surgery after finishing well beaten behind Goshen in the Kingwell Hurdle in February and then missed Aintree after suffering a setback. 

Was that run behind Samarrive (Zambezi Mix second) a sighter for this?