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.


TW said...

BoyleSports Best Odds Guaranteed On Racing Grand Sefton Handicap Chase

Going this morning on the National course is good to soft, soft in places and it looks like Aintree may miss the worst of the band of rain sweeping across the UK.

The system’s quirky take on the race is:

165,14.40%,BROKEN HALO(GB)
166,10.30%,TWO FOR GOLD(IRE)
163,7.90%,ONE TRUE KING(IRE)
170,5.90%,AL DANCER(FR)
149,1.00%,AL ROC(FR)

Using your short listing methodology [aged 8+ and in the handicap] Spritofthegames looks a cracking bet...but Two For Gold should be in the mix as well.

Like many French bred Gesskille has plenty of experience for a 6yo [16 starts, 11 over the bigger obstacles] and I’ve warmed to him in the Grand Sefton. That 6yo stat and the 3lb out of the handicap means he’s probably not top of most short-lists but he does have a bit going for him. He already had decent form in France and he’s possibly taken that up a notch since joining his new yard. His two recent excursions across the channel have resulted in a 2nd and a 1st against decent sorts which suggests to me he can exceed his 136 Rating. More rain will be a plus, optimistic he’ll enjoy the fences and the yard is in a nice vein of form. After timing but I took 12/1 4 places 1/5 odds last night as it looked a decent bet to me.

61st Badger Beer Handicap Chase

Without the forecast rain I’d have been all over Neville’s Cross as he just looks a better horse on better ground. Red Happy is another than could outrun his odds but, on balance, Lord Accord looks the most likely winner. I’ll take another look closer to post time.

Good luck!


GeeDee said...

Thanks for providing your thoughts and ratings, TW.

Once Frodon was declared, I decided to give the Badger Beer a miss. That said, in the past the favourite has on occasions jumped out to his left when racing right-handed.

I still think Cap Du Nord worth a second look in the race.

Good luck with Gesskille!

TW said...

I like the chance of Al Dancer ...

A heart warming winner given the week connections have had.


GeeDee said...

Racing prominently throughout and jumping well in the main, Al Dancer (5/1) appeared to be coming to the end of his tether approaching the final flight. The grey jumped markedly to his right and in doing so carried rival Lifetime Ambition (7/2f) with him.

That manoeuvre allowed TW's pick Gesskille (6/1) to make ground on the inside as they raced towards the elbow. On the long run-in Al Dancer's lead was gradually whittled away by the challenge of Gesskille, the pair eventually flashing across the line together in a photo-finish. The judge took his time to award the race to the grey by a nose.

I'd imagine connections will be delighted with Percussion (40/1) who put in a noteworthy effort to finish third while Lifetime Ambition claimed fourth.

Selection Two For Gold (12/1) raced in midfield for much of the trip and was asked for his effort three from home. He was unable to keep tabs on the principals but came home fifth, some 13 lengths adrift of the favourite in fourth.