Friday, March 04, 2022

A Giant step - in the right direction?

With Cheltenham on the horizon I haven't spent a lot of time on tomorrow's cards but the opener at Newbury has piqued interest.

Eight have been declared for the 'Play Pick Six and win £1000 Veterans' Handicap Chase' due off at 1.15. Three and a quarter miles is the trip with the going currently described as soft.

At the time of writing Aso heads the market but looks eminently opposable. Venetia Williams' charge carries top weight, has never won beyond two miles five and didn't appear to quite stay the stiff three miles at Exeter last time out. 

Indy Five doesn't have any issues on that score and comes into this in good form having won off a mark of 115 at Doncaster in December and subsequently finishing second behind Manwell at Catterick; he meets better quality opposition here. 

Kauto Riko's fourth behind Chantry House in the Cotswold Chase catches the eye - Chantry House is quoted a 16/1 chance for the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup in a fortnight's time - and his staying on second behind Two For Gold at Doncaster in December also reads well. 

Kim Bailey's charge franked that form on his next two starts - winning the Fleur de Lys Chase at Lingfield and finishing second behind Fakir D'Oudairies at Ascot two weeks ago.

Kauto's form looks the best on offer here.

Prime Venture won the final of the 2021 veterans' series at Sandown at the beginning of January (both Aso and Indy Five pulled up) but that was run on desperate, heavy ground - only five of the 13 starters completed after Valadom spread-eagled the field with a punishing front-running performance before fading between the final two flights.

Evan Williams' charge was raised seven pounds for that effort. Last week he became detached in a three mile hurdle race at Chepstow before staying on dourly to finish 17 lengths behind Ballyandy.

Christmas In April is one of a number in this field who like to race prominently. 

Colin Tizzard's charge won the Devon National at Exeter two years ago (Indy Five fifth); after posting a decent effort conceding six pounds to Hold That Taught at Carlisle in October, he appears to have gone off the boil and, sporting first-time blinkers, was well beaten at Wincanton last month.

Saint Xavier didn't jump well behind Big River at Kelso last time and I'm not convinced this is his best trip - in November 2021 he won over two miles one and half furlongs at Auteuil.

Minellacelebration faded out of contention in a veterans' chase at Warwick three and a half months ago but I've convinced myself Encounter A Giant is worth a second look provided eight make it to the start.

This one hasn't been easy to train; as a result, with just three starts to his name, he looks one of those most uncommon sorts - an unexposed ten-year-old.

In a recent stable tour [RP Weekender 16-20.02.22] handler Alastair Ralph had this to say of his charge:

"He had been off the radar since winning easily at Hereford in December 2019 but finally came back at Exeter last week when he was pulled up. He'd been away a couple of times and was as sharp as we could get him. I love him as he's a big, galloping sort but he has been plagued by problems, hence the low mileage." 

Although those comments are no ringing endorsement Encounter A Giant was highlighted as the 'dark horse' selection for the stable. He was dropped three pounds for that effort at Exeter and Alex Edwards claims three.

Kauto Riko is my idea of the winner but I'm hoping Encounter A Giant can build on that recent comeback and outrun current odds of 28/1.

Provided eight make the start, I'll take an each-way interest in Encounter A Giant

1 comment:

GeeDee said...

With Aso declared a non-runner overnight, I didn't play.

In the event Indy Five (7/2) set off in front and wasn't for catching.

Held up, 9/4 favourite Kauto Riko was close enough at the cross fence but was outpaced up the home straight and could never land a blow, eventually finishing fifth.

Encounter A Giant, 18/1 in the morning, went off a 10/1 shot. He travelled well within himself in fifth on the first circuit and moved into a share of fourth going down the back straight for the final time. He was niggled at after the cross fence but was unable to sustain his challenge in the home straight, weakening from two out to finish well beaten in sixth, just under 60 lengths behind the winner.

With Cheltenham on the horizon, the form of Venetia Williams' yard is a concern: