Friday, February 25, 2022

Eider Chase 2022

Following changes made in 2020, the Eider Chase, now run over a distance of four miles one furlong and 56 yards, is, by my reckoning, the third longest race in the calendar behind the Aintree Grand National and the Midlands Grand National run at Uttoxeter. 

Unfortunately the race fell foul of the weather in 2020; last year Sam's Adventure became the first winner over the extended distance, beating Crossley Tender threequarters of a length with Salty Boy a further 10 lengths adrift in third.

The going is currently described as good to soft; they're due off at 3.15.

Of 17 declared for tomorrow's renewal, I've arbitrarily concentrated on seven in the field that have shown some kind of form over a distance beyond three and a half miles, although I have to admit the drying ground might negate the validity of that premise to a certain degree; Checkitout only just fails to meet this threshold.

The seven referenced are: Eclair Surf; Lake View Lad; Potters Corner; Achille; Innisfree Lad; Gwencily Berbas; and Cash To Ash.

Three of those seven - Lake View Lad, Potters Corner and Achille - are aged 12; the last 12 year old to oblige was the Jenny Pitman trained Willsford in 1995.

Eclair Surf proved something of a revelation in the Classic Chase at Warwick last time out, making all to win by 13 lengths (Achille seventh). 

The horse hadn't been too fluent at the fences up to that point but he jumped really well at Warwick and has been raised 10 pounds for his trouble. Earlier today he was replaced at the head of the market by Irish raider History Of Fashion who looks to have been given every chance by the British handicapper.

Lake View Lad's seventh behind Mighty Thunder in the Scottish Grand National last April off a mark of 155 reads well; Nick Alexander's charge hasn't been in quite the same form this term and races off 142.

I'm prepared to forgive Potters Corner his most recent effort when he was pulled up in the Welsh National at Chepstow - only five finished that day (Achille fourth); Captain Drake, pulled up in the same race, won the Devon National at Exeter earlier this afternoon. 

On his penultimate start Potters Corner was beaten a nose by Diesel D'Allier in the Glenfarclas Crystal Cup Cross Country Handicap Chase at Cheltenham; a reproduction of that form would give Christian Williams' charge a chance and jockey Ellis Collier can claim seven. 

The yard is currently operating at a 27% win strike rate; the market suggests stablemate Win My Wings has a better chance on her first try beyond three and a quarter miles..

It's difficult to see the Venetia Williams trained grey Achille reversing Warwick form with Eclair Surf.

On his penultimate run Gwencily Berbas looked impressive winning at Exeter but David Pipe's charge appeared to be taken out of his comfort zone by Valadom and deep ground next time at Sandown and his jumping suffered as a result. 

Back in December Cash To Ash and Innisfree Lad finished second and third respectively behind Big River in the Scottish Borders National at Kelso; the pair look closely matched again. That day Cash To Ash may have finished slightly closer to the winner but for a mistake at the last.

Cash To Ash has since finished second behind Sidi Ismael in the Lincolnshire National and then second again behind Big River at Kelso while Innisfree Lad has won at Plumpton but was well beaten at Newbury and on a return visit to Plumpton. 

I marginally prefer Cash To Ash but stable form is a concern and his profile doesn't match that of recent winners:

2009 winner: Merigo (125); top-rated: Harmony Brig (136)

2010 No race

2011 winner: Companero (132); top-rated: Comply Or Die (144)

2012 winner: Portrait King (131); top-rated: Mister Marker (135)

2013 No race

2014 winner: Wyck Hill (133); top-rated: Junior (145)

2015 winner: Milborough (134); top-rated: Shotgun Paddy (147)

2016 winner: Rocking Blues (126); top-rated: Shotgun Paddy (144)

2017 winner: Mysteree (127); top-rated: Straidnahanna (139)

2018 winner: Baywing (140); top-rated: Chase The Spud (149)

2019 winner: Crosspark (135); top-rated: Daklondike (148)

2020 No race

2021 winner: Sam's Adventure (139); top-rated Crosspark (150)

(Seven of the ten winners listed carried a weight between 10-13 and 11-01.)

Cash To Ash may prove well-named but he stays and has been in consistent form this term. 

With William Hill, Paddy Power and Sky Bet paying six places Cash To Ash is the each-way suggestion, a 16/1 chance at the time of writing.

Postscript: Strong Economy has been declared a non-runner this evening leaving a field of 16.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Haydock's Grand National Trial 2022

Tomorrow's card at Haydock is subject to an early morning inspection with the going currently described as heavy; rain is forecast.

Following the release of the weights for the 2022 Randox Grand National earlier in the week, 11 have been declared for the William Hill Grand National Trial which is due off at 2.40.

Secret Reprieve won the 2020 Welsh Grand National and on his next run finished fifth behind Iwilldoit in the 2021 renewal. That was a decent effort after such a long layoff; he has a nice racing weight here (10-05) and is the clear market leader. 

Evan Williams' charge missed the cut for last year's Aintree showpiece and there's every chance the same will happen again this year too. 

As an aside, unfortunately it looks as though a similar fate awaits my early Aintree fancy. 

Hill Sixteen was beaten a nose by Snow Leopardess in the Becher from four pounds out of the handicap 10 weeks ago yet is 66/1 with several layers while the likeable grey mare is priced up 16/1 joint favourite. 

I digress.

Pulled up in last year's Grand National, Bristol De Mai loves Haydock and has underfoot conditions to suit but has to concede nine pounds and upwards to his rivals; since 2000 three horses have carried 11-12 to victory: Shotgun Willy (2003); Miko De Beauchene (2008); and Silver By Nature (2011).

Four weeks ago Sam Brown was beaten half a length by Royale Pagaille in the Peter Marsh here (Kalooki fifth, Lord Du Mesnil sixth). 

The winner took all the plaudits that day but with a couple of cleaner jumps at the final two flights Sam Brown could easily have come home in front. 

The handicapper raised Anthony Honeyball's charge just two pounds for that effort which looks on the lenient side - the extended trip here is an unknown but his chance is very much respected.

At 13 years of age what a wonderful horse Blaklion is!

In 2017 he went off 7/2 favourite for this race to come home second behind Vieux Lion Rouge before finishing fourth behind One For Arthur at Aintree. 

At odds of 50/1 he finished sixth in last year's National and has demonstrated this term he still retains all his enthusiasm for the game with two victories at this track. The oldest horse to come in front was 12-year-old Giles Farnaby in 1958.

Enqarde beat Remastered 10 lengths here in the Tommy Whittle just before Christmas. 

That form reads well although Remastered didn't appear to stay the same trip when fading into fourth behind Royale Pagaille and Sam Brown last month. 

Dr Richard Newland's charge was sent off the 4/1 favourite for this race last year but appeared to weaken after the last finishing fourth behind Lord Du Mesnil. 

On his first run for over 12 months The Galloping Bear made all to carry top weight to victory on heavy ground in the Surrey National at Lingfield four weeks ago. 

Ben Clarke's charge is unbeaten over fences and, after reassessment, is rated five pounds higher. That looked a hard race the last day - and this looks a better race.

Sidi Ismael is another to try a step up in grade. 

David Pipe's charge won the Lincolnshire National at Market Rasen on Boxing Day; his fall next time out in the North Yorkshire National at Catterick is a cause for concern. 

Time To Get Up beat Mighty Thunder in last year's Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter; he returns after suffering a setback following his run in the Grand Sefton in November. 

I'm not sure this trip is going suit Mint Condition.

Going back to the Peter Marsh last month both Kalooki and Lord Du Mesnil were soundly beaten behind Royale Pagaille. 

To my mind Kalooki's jumping isn't always foot perfect but I was disappointed by Lord Du Mesnil - I'd tipped him for the race - who was beaten as soon as they turned for home. 

Although the official going that day was reported soft, the night before the race handler Richard Hobson indicated he was concerned the ground may not be deep enough after a drying week.

Provided the course passes its inspection tomorrow, there should be no concerns on that front this time. Lord Du Mesnil races off a mark just one pound higher than when he won last year's renewal (four pounds higher if  Paul O'Brien's three pound claim is taken into account).

I'm hoping the extended trip and deep ground will show Lord Du Mesnil in a better light. 

Betfred, Coral and William Hill are amongst layers paying four places; 11/1 at the time of writing, Lord Du Mesnil is the each-way suggestion.   

Friday, February 11, 2022

The 2022 Betfair Hurdle

It looks like a sign of the times with a field of just 14 declared for tomorrow's renewal of the UK's richest handicap hurdle (3.35 Newbury).

A couple of stats for starters:

The last horse older than six to come home in front was Geos in 2004.

Since the inaugural running of the race in 1963 (then known as the Schweppes Gold Trophy) only five horses have carried more than 11-05 to victory: Persian War (11-13) in 1968; Make A Stand (11-07) in 1997; Copeland (11-07) in 2002; Essex (11-06) in 2005; and Al Dancer (11-08) in 2019.

It comes as no surprise to see novices Broomfield Burg and Jpr One at the head of the market; both horses hold entries for the Supreme and the Ballymore at Cheltenham next month.

The former looked good at Kempton on Boxing Day while the latter was beaten a head by Datsalrightgino on his penultimate start; the fourth that day - Socialist Agenda - was in receipt of six pounds and last weekend turned out to win the Scottish County Handicap Hurdle at Musselburgh off  118 and is now rated 124.

Top weight Soaring Glory beat 22 opponents to win this last year off a mark of 133 (Fifty Ball second, Glory And Fortune thirteenth) with horses in behind including Edwardstone, Buzz, Guard Your Dreams and Milkwood.

Soaring Glory and Glory And Fortune look to face a stiff task at the weights this time but Fifty Ball goes off 131 - exactly the same mark as twelve months ago. 

I've seen a couple of tips for Gary Moore's inmate who comes into this on the back of three unsuccessful starts over the larger obstacles. Interest is tempered by this comment in the Weekender last week:

"The key to his chance is soft ground and if he gets those underfoot conditions then he has a big each-way shout again."

Of stablemate Royaume Uni Moore says:

"...but life is proving difficult off his mark of 123. I think he is as high as he is going to get and if we are going to get any improvement then it will be on ground that is riding quicker than he has encountered lately."

Boothill, third behind Soaring Glory in the listed Bateaux London Handicap Hurdle at Ascot in November, disappointed over fences at Exeter next time but remains relatively unexposed while Jetoile goes well from the front but may be rated on his second behind Constitution Hill in the Tolworth.

Tritonic and Glory And Fortune appear closely matched on their running in the Greatwood. Alan King's charge beat Onemorefortheroad in the Betfair Exchange Trophy at Ascot just before Christmas and was subsequently raised five pounds.

On his first run after wind surgery First Street won comfortably at Kempton last month (Royaume Uni third, 3/1 favourite Lord Baddesley pulled up); a rise of nine pounds looks a trifle harsh but trainer Nicky Henderson says you'd struggle to split First Street and stablemate Broomfield Burg at home. 

Howdyalikmenow has done well since joining Evan Williams' yard in the autumn but has no collateral form with others in this field and is priced up at 66/1 this evening.

Knappers Hill encountered defeat for the first time in the Kennel Gate at Ascot behind Jonbon - currently 11/2 for the Supreme - and Colonel Mustard with I Like To Move It fifth. 

The recent form of the Nicholls yard has been well documented - one winner from 37 runs in the past fortnight and no runners at the track since Sunday; it's difficult to know what to expect tomorrow but if Bravemansgame, Clan Des Obeaux and Hitman run to form, the 10/1 currently on offer will look big.

I Like To Move It also holds entries for the Supreme and the Ballymore. 

Just before Christmas he had to concede weight to all his opponents in that tactical renewal of the Kennel Gate won by Knappers Hill. Prior to that his defeat of Tritonic at Cheltenham reads well (re-opposes here on the same terms) as does his defeat of Washington conceding three pounds. 

On a line through Washington he has a few pounds to find with Jpr One but Twiston-Davies boasts a decent record with novices in this race, having won with Splash Of Ginge (2014); Ballyandy (2017); and Al Dancer (2019).

At the time of writing William Hill offer 11/1 and pay five places; I Like To Move It is the each-way selection.

Friday, February 04, 2022

A dry January

'How was the dry January, PG?'

'Usual struggle - no winners, a couple placed.'

'Similar to the parched November and dried out December then?'

'Dry as a bone.'

The Racing Post reports officials 'relatively pleased' with field sizes for tomorrow's card at Sandown 'despite the driest January in 25 years'. The official going is described as good to soft, good in places on the chase course.

Look, I'll be honest with you - I've struggled to find a wager this weekend. Over the past seven days I've seen more comings and goings than Boris Johnson. 

Still, I've manged to pick out one from the 18 declared for Virgin Bet Heroes Handicap Hurdle which is due off at 2.55. 

At the time of writing Green Book, Ree Okka and Beauport head the market.

Green Book was sent off the 9/2 favourite for the Lanzarote at Kempton three weeks ago but, unfortunately, got no further than the second flight, badly impeded by the fall of Ch'tibello and unseating Ned Fox. Cobblers Dream ran out an impressive winner that day with Call Me Lord third and Dans Le Vent fifth.

Ree Okka won a Kempton novice hurdle easily last time out. Connections feel this one is a chaser in the making; the gelding has been allocated a mark of 130 in this first handicap.

Beauport won the EBF Novices' Handicap Hurdle Final at this track last March. The handicapper raised Nigel Twiston-Davies' charge nine pounds and has subsequently raised him a total of five pounds more for finishing second twice this season - last time behind Dashel Drasher at Newbury.

In a recent stable tour (Weekender 08-12.12.21) Peter Fahey indicated the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham is the target for Bold Patriot:

"I was delighted with his run in the Pertemps qualifier at Cheltenham in October and the plan is to go back for the final. 

"He will have one more run over hurdles and that will leave him right for the festival but this season will be geared around that."

Orbys Legend boasts smart form this term, winning the Silver Trophy at Chepstow in October and then a Pertemps qualifier at Wincanton on Boxing Day (Flemcara third and If The Cap Fits over 20 lengths back in fourth).

Call Me Lord's record at Sandown - 1121323 - speaks for itself while at Haydock on good ground in November we saw this trip holds no fears for Dans Le Vent (Orbys Legend back in seventh, If The Cap Fits ninth, Ask Dillon eleventh).

There was a hint The Brimming Water didn't see out that same Haydock trip on soft ground last time, beaten into third by Small Present and Tokyo Getaway which leads me on to Jesuitique.

Just before Christmas, in receipt of seven pounds, Jesuitique beat Tokyo Getaway 'easily' five and a half lengths (Padleyourowncanoe third) at Haydock. 

The race summary in the RP Weekender states: 'A one-sided handicap, the winner looking a long way ahead of his mark...' and then goes on: 'The handicapper can get stuck into him but he's totally unexposed around 3m and further improvement is on the cards.'

The handicapper raised the gelding 10 pounds for that effort. 

Prior to that in November, in receipt of 16 pounds, Dr Richard Newland's charge beat Beauport one and a half lengths over two and a half miles at this track. Taking jockey allowances into consideration, Jesuitique meets Beauport on eight pounds worse terms tomorrow; Cillin Leonard has taken the ride on all four runs in this country to date.

I'm hoping with improvement to come Jesuitique can be competitive in what is an extremely competitive handicap. 

At the time of writing Paddy Power / Betfair offer 12/1 and pay six places. Jesuitique is the each-way suggestion.

Off to the nearest watering hole now - spitting feathers I am!