Friday, November 25, 2022

The 2022 Coral Gold Cup at Newbury

The Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup, known as the Ladbrokes Trophy since 2016 and now, for the first time, as the Coral Gold Cup, was first run in 1957 and boasts a long rich history. 

Sixteen have been declared; at the time of writing the going on the chase course is described as good with selective watering set to take place this evening.

Tomorrow's renewal (3.05) may lack a little in quality but the race looks wide open with layers betting 7/1 the field. 

To my mind market leaders Remastered, Gericault Roque and Le Milos would all essentially prefer more cut underfoot. 

Last year, after Remastered took a crashing fall four out when in with every chance, Cloudy Glen took up the running and had just enough left in reserve to repel the challenge of Fiddlerontheroof (Potterman pulled up).

Taking into account Fergus Gillard's three pound claim in last year's race, Remastered goes off the same mark this year (143) whereas Fiddlerontheroof starts off a mark five pounds higher (155) and sports cheekpieces for the first time. 

Remastered had wind surgery over the summer and appeared to show the benefit when winning off 132 over hurdles at Aintree at the beginning of the month. 

However stable jockey Tom Scudamore rides Gericault Roque who finished 25 lengths behind Remastered in that Aintree hurdle race...

Le Milos won well on heavy ground at Bangor 17 days ago.

Irish raider Busselton won the Guinness Kerry National at Listowel two months ago and comes into this having been placed in 11 of his 12 chase starts to date. No five-year-old has previously won this race.

In the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March Corach Rambler weaved his way through the field to come up the hill and beat Gericault Roque (second), Oscar Elite (third), Our Power (fifth) and Lostintranslation (eighth).

Gericault Roque, Oscar Elite and Our Power all raced from out of the handicap that day; Oscar Elite's effort in particular is noteworthy in that he lost second spot in the shadow of the post and was later reported to have bled from the nose.  

Both Gericault Roque and Oscar Elite are weighted to reverse that form - Lucinda Russell's charge is usually given a hold-up ride and recent renewals of this race have tended to go to horses that have raced with the pace. 

Threeunderthrufive has drifted noticeably in the betting and sports first-time cheekpieces having finished third behind Proschema in the West Yorkshire Hurdle four weeks ago (Oscar Elite fifth); Proschema didn't advertise the form when pulled up behind Champ in the Long Distance Hurdle earlier today.

Two who will appreciate the ground are Lord Accord and Our Power.

The former ran well behind Frodon in the Badger Beers at Wincanton last month (Potterman sixth) while Our Power won the Bateaux London Gold Cup at Ascot (Annsam seventh). I was impressed with that effort as I wasn't convinced the gelding would stay the three mile trip.

Sam Thomas has since said:

"There is no question about him staying - I have no doubt at all he'll stay further than three and a quarter miles."

Annsam was a little too fresh for his own good at Ascot and can improve but it's difficult to know what to expect from Lostintranslation.

Connections try a visor on Potterman who slipped early in the Badger Beers and took some time to regain his confidence. Alan King's charge likes top of the ground; writing in the Weekender, the trainer says:

"He shaped as though he'd benefit from headgear so he schooled in a visor on Monday and looked sharp. It would clearly need quite a transformation to make him a major contender on Saturday but it might just help him." 

Fanion D'Estruval races beyond two miles five furlongs for the first time while both Diablo Du Rouhet and Red Happy race from out of the handicap.  

It's possible to make the case for several in the field; from the Ultima form, the two on my shortlist are Oscar Elite and Our Power.

As the former has yet to win a chase and the latter likes the ground, Our Power is the each-way suggestion, 11/1 with Sky Bet who are paying one fifth the odds six places.

Friday, November 18, 2022

An each-way chance for the Haydock finale

Earlier today the going at Haydock was described as soft on the chase course; soft, good to soft in places on the hurdles course, with further rain forecast before tomorrow's meeting.

All eyes will be on A Plus Tard in the Betfair Chase (3.00) but I've decided to focus on the Best Odds On The Betfair Exchange Handicap Chase (3.35), run over the same distance as the Betfair Chase.

Incidentally the 14/1 offered by Ladbrokes / Coral earlier today about Botox Has in the Betfair Exchange Stayers' Handicap Hurdle (2.25) caught my eye. 

Gary Moore's charge ran a fine race on seasonal debut at Cheltenham four weeks ago, failing to concede 16 pounds to race-fit rival Shoot First by two lengths.

The handicapper raised Botox Has four pounds to a mark of 144 for that effort but Caoilin Quinn claims seven tomorrow.

Gary Moore doesn't send too many to Haydock and a couple in the field try the trip for the first time - including Might I (probably well-treated off 142) and Good Risk At All.

At the time of writing Botox Has is generally a 12/1 shot and 11/1 with William Hill who pay five places. 

After that slight digression, there's this.

It's a guess how the chase course is going to ride after the three preceding races on the card (12.40; 1.50; 3.00) but the chances are a slog in the mud will ensue.

With ten of the twelve declared set to carry more than 11-0 and joint top-weights Good Boy Bobby and Lord Du Mesnil 12-1, it's no real surprise to see Houston Texas with a weight of 10-5 chalked up favourite.

Nicky Richards' charge impressed at Carlisle three weeks ago but has yet to win going left-handed.

The mare Fontaine Collonges has not raced beyond two miles four and a half furlongs and the form of the Venetia Willaims stable is a concern with no winner for 210 days. 

Ms. Williams will be hoping for a change of fortune with Achile (12.40 Haydock), L'Homme Presse (2.05 Ascot) and  Frero Banbou (3.15 Ascot).

Top weights Good Boy Bobby and Lord Du Mesnil look closely matched. The former beat the latter one and threequarters lengths in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day. 

On a strict reading of the form, Lord Du Mesnil is weighted to reverse those placings but 'The Lord' is a bit of a character who on occasions doesn't put his best foot forward. 

Richard Hobson's charge beat Achille in the Grand National Trial over this course in 2021 and I fancied him to repeat the trick 12 months later but, carrying my hard-earned, he ran no race at all behind The Galloping Bear and was pulled up.   

That said, his comeback run behind Le Milos at Bangor ten days ago points to a bold show.

Musical Slave beat Enqarde over course and distance in April before finishing a fine second behind Hewick in the bet365 Chase at Sandown seven days later. 

In the past there have been questions over his jumping and the gelding hasn't always appeared overly keen but the fitting of cheekpieces appears to have helped significantly.

The Big Breakaway finished third behind Monkfish in the 2021 Brown Advisory at the Cheltenham Festival but, to date, hasn't built on that potential.

Freddie Gingell's ten pounds claim will help Truckers Lodge but on the eve of his eleventh birthday the suspicion is his best days are behind him and the same comment would apply to twelve-year-old Crosspark.

I'm a bit of Crosspark fan after he did me a favour in the 2019 Eider Chase at Newcastle. 

This one hasn't gone unbacked during the week on his first run for new connections but to my mind he has shown his very best form on good and good to soft ground in the past.

Rapid Flight was well beaten behind Crystal Glory at Hexham three days ago, If Not For Dylan races from out of the handicap and Easysland has been pulled up on his four runs for Jonjo O'Neill.

Three weeks ago Good Boy Bobby ran well for a long way behind Our Power at Ascot before fading into seventh, beaten 21 lengths, with Rapper a further three lengths adrift in ninth.

Rapper has been dropped two pounds to 139 - and last season progressed noticeably for his first run. The gelding won off a mark of 137 at Wincanton last February. 

Henry Daly has his team in rude health, operating at a win-strike rate of 38% in the past fortnight. 

With Good Boy Bobby generally priced at 6/1 (bet365 stand out at 8/1) and Rapper at 16/1, Rapper is the each-way suggestion - most layers are paying one fifth the odds four places.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Cheltenham November meeting 2022 - Paddy Power Gold Cup

Fifteen of the sixteen 48 hour declarations are set to face the starter for tomorrow's Paddy Power Gold Cup (2.20 Cheltenham, Editeur Du Gite the non-runner) with the official going currently described as good.

The trends point to a chaser aged between six and nine with previous course form carrying 11-0 or less while a recent run is considered a definite bonus - Galahad Quest and Ga Law both fit the profile. 

However, as I explain below, I still haven't quite recovered from the events of 12 months ago. 

The Mouse Morris-trained French Dynamite heads the market; there's a strong suspicion he's ahead of his current handicap mark of 148.

Irish trained runners don't have a particularly strong record in this race - when Tranquil Sea won the 2009 renewal, Edward O'Grady's charge became the first Irish-trained winner for 29 years.

Ga Law picked up an injury in the 2021 Pendil Novices' Chase at Kempton and only returned to action three weeks ago at Aintree where he ran with credit to finish third behind Riders Onthe Storm. 

Described as a potential standard bearer for the yard in a recent Weekender Straight from the Stable article, Jamie Snowden's charge has never faced more than seven opponents in each of his six chase starts to date.

Stolen Silver hails from the in-form Sam Thomas yard (38% strike-rate in the past fortnight). The grey beat Simply The Betts and Coole Cody over the new course in April and as a result starts off a mark of 150. 

Paul Nicholls saddles five-year-old Il Ridoto. 

I was at Newbury this time last year when he won the Jim Joel Memorial Trophy by six and a half lengths, a precocious effort in the circumstances. 

When Nicholls sent out the five-year-old Caid Du Berlais to win this race in 2014 the gelding became the first five-year-old to win since Cyfor Malta in 1998.

Last year's renewal still holds painful personal memories.

Coole Cody, bidding to win the race for the second consecutive year, went into a clear lead from the third and, despite jumping right on occasions, was still at the head of affairs coming to the penultimate flight where Evan Williams' charge crashed out of contention. 

Midnight Shadow took up the running to claim the spoils with Galahad Quest fifth, Simply The Betts sixth and Deyrann Du Carjac eleventh.

As I wrote at the time, I'd had the winner pencilled in after his second behind Chatham Street Lad the previous December. However, at the very last minute I was ambushed by a bullish Alan King piece in the Weekender concerning Deyrann De Carjac on seasonal debut.

The handler reported his charge 'not badly treated off a mark of 137 judged on his best form'. Tempted by the 33/1 on offer, I jumped ship and backed the beast each-way; I'm sure I don't really need to relate what happened next.

Deyrann struggled to go the early pace and looked likely to be pulled up before staying on in the latter stages; he eventually finished eleventh but was somehow beaten less than ten lengths.

Four weeks later he finished fifth off 133 behind Coole Cody in the Racing Post Gold Cup Handicap Chase over the new course.

In what was probably his best effort last season Deyrann finished fifth behind Vienna's Court in the New Year's Day Handicap Chase run over the new course (Simply The Betts second, Galahad Quest sixth, Coole Cody eleventh).  

Mr. King is certainly more circumspect this year: '...and it may be we're flying too high'. 

The horse is set to carry four pounds more than his long handicap weight on this occasion but this is offset by Harry Kimber's five pounds claim. 

I think Deyrann De Carjac is ahead of his current mark (126) - he's rated 132 over hurdles - but a similar case can be made for a few in this field. 

He appeared a little unlucky on seasonal debut to be caught in the shadow of the post at Wetherby a fortnight ago on ground softer than ideal. I'd like to think that he comes into the race in better form than last year and that the drying ground will also help eke out some further improvement.

This evening Alan King told the Racing Post:

"It was frustrating to see him caught close home at Wetherby but he's come out of the race fine and, as he will relish the prevailing good ground, we've decided to allow him to take his chance." 

In a race that always has plenty of pace, I'd want to see him hold a position in the early stages.

Deyrann Du Carjac is the each-way suggestion, currently priced 16/1 with Paddy Power who are paying one fifth the odds five places.

Friday, November 04, 2022

The 2022 Grand Sefton Handicap Chase

Fifteen have been declared for the Grand Sefton (2.11 Aintree) which is run over a trip of two miles five furlongs on the Grand National course; at the time of writing the going on the National course is described as soft, good to soft in places.

Two factors in particular have influenced my thinking on this year's renewal.

Firstly, since 2003 only two horses under the age of eight have come home in front and both were six-year-olds: Dark Room (2003) and As De Mee (2016), the latter trained by Paul Nicholls. 

This year six runners are aged seven - including the Nicholls trained favourite Broken Halo - while Gesskille is the sole six-year-old in the field. 

With just four starts over fences to his name, Broken Halo looks short on chase experience compared to most of his opponents.

Secondly, more than half the field - eight runners - race from out of the handicap.

Top weight Two For Gold ran up with the pace for a long way over these fences in the Grand National in the spring off a mark of 154; he eventually weakened and was pulled up before two out. I'd imagine handler Kim Bailey wasn't too pleased when the handicapper reacted by raising Two For Gold five pounds for that particular effort to 159. In 2018 Warriors Tale, trained by Paul Nicholls, carried 11-12 to victory.

Senior Citizen has a respectable record over these fences: seventh in this race in 2020 behind Beau Boy and then second last year behind Mac Tottie (Al Roc tenth). In addition he finished third in the 2021 Topsham behind Livelovelaugh and eighth behind Mac Tottie in this year's renewal of the Topsham (Spiritofthegames fifth). 

Most of those efforts have been on good to soft ground; trainer Alan King is on record saying his charge 'is a proper good-ground horse' so the recent rains won't have helped the cause.

Al Dancer moved from Nigel Twiston-Davies' yard to Sam Thomas last year. In a Straight from the Stable piece in the Weekender [22-26.12.21] Sam Thomas said of his new inmate:

"He's a cracking horse who has lost his way a little and our first objective was to get him to finish his race properly, which he did last time out at Sandown when we ran him back over hurdles. 

He'll have another run over hurdles, which will hopefully give him more confidence before we get him over fences again. He's still relatively young and there's more to come."

On his two subsequent chase starts, he finished third behind Destined To Shine and Eclair D'Ainay at Chepstow and then second, beaten a neck, by Lalor at Newbury. 

That form reads well - the fitting of cheekpieces certainly seems to have had the desired effect. 

He finished third off 154 in the 2020 Paddy Power Gold Cup (sent off 5/1 favourite) behind Coole Cody and Spiritofthegames; in that context a mark of 144 here could prove lenient if he's back to his best.

There wouldn't be much between Al Dancer and Spiritofthegames on the form of that 2020 Paddy Power Gold Cup but plenty of water has passed under the bridge since. 

Dan Skelton's charge tends to be held up and challenge late so slower ground here should help. His seasonal pipe-opener at Fakenham (beaten a neck by Shetland Bus over three miles) should ensure he's cherry ripe but a record of just one win from 20 chase starts tempers enthusiasm a little.

Lifetime Ambition had no chance when second behind Capodanno over three miles at the Punchestown Festival in April but Fury Road and Millers Bank were in arrears that day - and Bob Olinger pulled up. That looks strong form.  

Four of Jacamar's six wins to date have come at right-handed tracks. In a Straight from the Stable article [Weekender 12-16.10.22] handler Milton Harris said:

"He did well last season winning at Kempton and Leicester and has gone up to a career-high mark of 139, so life will not be easy, but he seems in very good order. He has been winning over 2m4f but I am thinking of stepping him up in trip to 3m and if his comeback goes well [fourth behind Peregrine Run in the Native River Handicap Chase at Chepstow] we may give him an entry for the 'Hennessy' [no entry made]."  

Of those racing from out of the handicap Gesskille (unexposed and won a listed chase at Auteuil in the summer despite a couple of slow leaps) and Cooper's Cross (connections immediately nominated this race as the target after carrying top weight to victory in a Class 4 handicap chase at Carlisle) are worth a second look.

Over the course of this evening the prices of all the main contenders have shortened markedly. 

I like the chance of Al Dancer but at the prices I'll take a small each-way interest in Two For Gold, 8/1 with bet365 who are paying four places.