Saturday, December 31, 2022

The 2023 Paddy Power New Year's Day Handicap Chase

Since the freeze I've found myself struggling to find a winner - that's the Big Freeze of 1963, you understand -  and with seventeen declared for tomorrow's New Year's Day Handicap Chase (1.55 Cheltenham) the Sisyphean search seems likely to continue for some time yet.

There has been plenty of rain around today. 

Earlier this afternoon Tea For Free won the final race of 2022 at Newbury on ground officially described as soft but it looked a lot worse than that. 

The going at Prestbury Park is currently described as good to soft.

A number in the field contested the Paddy Power Gold Cup over the Old Course here in November and probably would have renewed rivalry in the December Gold Cup over the New Course but frost claimed that fixture.

Back in November Midnight River finished third behind winner Ga Law with Il Ridoto fourth, Deyrann De Carjac fifth, Nassalam sixth, Simply The Betts seventh and Stolen Silver unseating Sam Twiston-Davies three from home.

I tipped Deyrann De Carjac each-way at a price that day and had planned to repeat the trick here with five pound claimer Alexander Thorne set to replace five pound claimer Harry Kimber but I fear the rain has scuppered that cunning plan.

Market leader Midnight River was held up in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, making headway from three out to claim third, beaten just under four lengths. I wonder if connections may try to race more prominently tomorrow; the handicapper has left Dan Skelton's charge on the same mark: 145.

Following wind surgery over the summer, Il Ridoto ran a noteworthy race for a five-year-old in such a competitive event, eventually finishing fourth. 

Paul Nicholls' charge was disputing second place coming to the last but a bad mistake didn't help the cause and he lost third spot on the run up the hill. 

With the New Course generally considered a greater test of stamina than the Old, and the official race distance recorded as a half furlong further, I just wonder whether the gelding can see out the trip sufficiently well to collect the spoils.

Course and distance winner Stolen Silver looked to have a hard enough race at the head of affairs on seasonal debut last time; in truth the jumping looked suspect long before the jock eventually departed.

On his only run at Cheltenham to date Brave Seasca came to grief at the fourth in the Arkle behind Edwardstone last March (War Lord fourth). 

He returned to action with an impressive win at Aintree four weeks ago on his first try at two and a half miles; the handicapper has reacted by raising Venetia Williams' charge nine pounds. 

I have to say I was a tad disappointed with War Lord in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter. 

He was outpaced at halfway and his jumping wasn't foot perfect either but he did rally to finish third behind Greaneteen and Dolos. Connections think this is his ideal trip.

Owned by Harry Redknapp, Shakem Up'Arry missed his intended target - the Paddy Power Gold Cup - but he beat Tile Tapper at Exeter a couple of weeks later. 

He's five pounds higher tomorrow and will appreciate any further rain; the stable is operating at a 23% win strike-rate over the past fortnight.

Happygolucky's third behind L'Homme Presse and Into Overdrive after a long layoff in Newcastle's Rehearsal Chase reads vey well - the former was second in the King George and the latter won the Rowland Meyrick on Boxing Day. Kim Bailey's charge has been raised one pound for that effort; I'm not certain this step back in trip will help his cause but further rain will.

Coconut Splash is a work in progress and has yet to win over fences but he was sent off favourite for a race at Wetherby nine weeks ago where he finished third behind Into Overdrive.

In a Stable Tour article [RP Weekender 12-16.01.22] handler Evan Williams said:

"I have faith in the horse and feel he could be one who could be dangerous in some decent handicaps off a low weight." 

He appears to have been backed this evening and is quoted a 10/1 shot at the time of writing. 

Last January Fantastic Lady won a Class 4 Novices' Handicap Chase at Warwick off a mark of 120.

Seven weeks ago the mare recorded her third chase win beating Zambella (winner since) just under five lengths at Market Rasen and is now rated 142. 

Henderson is particularly adept in his training of mares - Polly Peachum was a favourite of mine - and Nigel Twiston-Davies won this race last year with the mare Vienna Court; she beat Simply The Betts one and threequarters lengths.  

Simply The Betts raced off 153 that day and goes off 149 tomorrow with Mr David Maxwell able to claim three so from a handicap perspective the ten-year-old looks well treated. The last horse older than nine to come home in front was Too Forward in 2007.

Nassalam met some trouble in running behind Ga Law last time so in the circumstances did well to finish sixth. The handicapper has dropped Gary Moore's charge two pounds and connections have opted for first-time cheekpieces.

Last season Demachine ran in the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury after his summer break, finishing fifth behind Cloudy Glen over a trip that clearly stretched his stamina; in my opinion it took him a long time to recover from that effort. 

He appears in better form this term and I'm just wondering whether connections will choose to adopt front-running tactics as they did with Storm Control in the November race. 25/1 with bet365 looks big but I'm not convinced there's much juice in the handicap mark.

Of the others Jacamar and Lostintranslation have been out of form while both Eden De Houx's chase wins have come at Ffos Las and the majority of the Sebastopol's chase experience has been gained in small fields.

I'm going to take a chance with the Gary Moore trained Nassalam, hoping those first-time cheekpieces can bring about improvement. 

Nassalam is the each-way suggestion, currently 16/1 across the board with Sky Bet, William Hill and Betway paying six places.

It just remains for me to wish all readers a very happy new year.

Monday, December 26, 2022

The 2022 Coral Welsh Grand National

Nineteen have been declared for tomorrow's Welsh Grand National (2.50 Chepstow) with the ground currently described as good to soft, good in places.

Heavy rain is forecast but at the time of writing it's questionable how much will fall before off time. 

Connections of leading fancy The Galloping Bear have indicated they won't run if the rain doesn't materialise - and I note a number of confirmed mudlarks are towards the top of the market.

The top weights in the past three years were rated 160 (Elegant Escape); 159 (Yala Enki); and 166 (Native River). 

The Big Dog, trained by Peter Fahey in Ireland, heads the weights tomorrow with a rating of 153.

Owners Damien and Colin Kelly had this race as a target last year but The Big Dog made a bad mistake at the ninth fence - jockey Jonathan Burke lost an iron - and the gelding was quickly pulled up; they try again tomorrow off a mark six pounds higher. 

Four weeks ago The Big Dog won the Troytown Handicap Chase at Navan (Regina Dracones fell at the second) worth 59,000 euros. The majority of his races have been on soft or heavy ground.

The mare Quick Wave heads the market this evening; she finished 28 lengths behind Fortescue at Sandown in March but subsequent wind surgery certainly looks to have helped Venetia Williams' charge who dotted up in the London National and is only four pounds higher here.

Her stablemate Farinet won the track's Welsh Grand National Trail three and a half weeks ago but hasn't been declared; at present he holds an entry for a handicap chase at Cheltenham on New Year's Day. 

Ask Me Early likes cut in the ground but unfortunately didn't make the cut for last year's race. His third behind Le Milos at Bangor on seasonal debut reads well given the winner won the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury next time out. 

Course winner The Big Breakaway was only just beaten by Fontaine Colonges at Haydock on seasonal debut (Musical Slave fifth, Truckers Lodge ninth). He ran a strange race that day with a couple of slow leaps in the early stages before making ground up the home straight.

Musical Slave certainly won't be inconvenienced if the rain stays away and his second behind Hewick in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in April reads well. 

He lost two places in the closing stages behind Fontaine Collonges last time; he hasn't looked entirely trustworthy in the past but the fitting of cheekpieces has certainly brought about improvement.

Truckers Lodge was second in this race in 2019 behind Potters Corner and third last year in first-time blinkers off a mark of 150.  

He has to be of interest off 141 and Freddie Gingell can claim seven in a race run in memory of his mother. I note the blinkers are back on; in the past Truckers has shown his very best form on soft / heavy ground.

Fantastikas looked to have a hard race up front in the Becher Chase last time (Fortescue fourth) but Movethechains looks relatively unexposed and could be anything. That said, the Weekender informs me: 'No winner in more than three decades was making its seasonal reappearance'.

Rebecca Curtis saddles two course winners - Pats Fancy and Wayfinder - and both were disappointing last time.

The former was tailed off in a handicap hurdle and the latter pulled up behind Farinet in the trial race referenced above - Time To Get Up was another pulled up in that same trial race.

Wouldubewell isn't the biggest of mares. She appeared to tire four out when sent off 4/1 favourite for a race at Haydock  last month; Ben Jones rode that day and he's aboard The Galloping Bear tomorrow.

The Two Amigos has run well in this race in the past and ideally wants more cut underfoot while Cyclop has a few miles on the clock but has been in good form this term finishing third in both the Southern National at Fontwell and the Scottish Borders National at  Kelso in the past six weeks.

The booking of Harry Cobden for the Irish-trained mare Regina Dracones catches the eye. She looks feasibly handicapped off 128 but appeared to just run out of petrol behind Punitive over three miles five at Fairyhouse last time.     

Gats and Co and D'Jango both race from out of the handicap.

As I highlighted in my last post, I think the Henry Daly trained Fortescue has had this as a target. 

His third behind Royal Pagaille in the Peter Marsh at Haydock at the beginning of the year reads well and although he looks quite high in the weights now pilot Hugh Nugent, whose grandfather owned and bred the horse, can claim three.

He finished second on his only run at the track in a novice chase three years ago and, admittedly in receipt of weight, has twice beaten favourite Quick Wave - at Exeter (March 2020) and Sandown (March 2021).

Fortescue looked a tad taken off his feet in rear in the early stages of the Becher last time before staying on to claim fourth - I'm hoping the fitting of first-time cheekpieces will help him hold a better pitch in this race.

Fortescue is the each-way suggestion, 14/1 with Sky Bet who are paying one fifth the odds seven places. 

Friday, December 23, 2022

Christmas capers...

This year the Christmas cranberry sauce has been made using four tablespoonsful of 2015 late bottled vintage port - Graham's, of course - and now, well, I'm obliged to polish off the rest. 

That's no particular hardship, you understand, as I do enjoy the odd snifter at this time of year but, on sober reflection, I should point out it does very little to help with those tricky Christmas wagers.

Rain has certainly arrived - the local parade of shops resembled a scene from Blade Runner earlier today - and apparently 18mm of the wet stuff fell at Kempton where the going for the King George meeting is now described as soft.

Three of the four races to be televised from the track have just five declared and the King George nine.

From a betting perspective the small fields don't generate much interest although 16/1 about Royal Pagaille in the main event might look fair value should the going deteriorate further.

I've started work on the Welsh Grand National (2.50 Chepstow, Tuesday). 

The trends seem to point to a horse aged between six and eight years of age that has previous form at the track and is burdened with a light(ish) weight. 

Ask Me Early fits the bill but in terms of quality this year's race would struggle to compete with the majority of renewals over the past ten years. 

At the moment I'm considering Fortescue at a bigger price (20/1) as I believe connections have had this as a target. 

After a pipe opener in a Bangor novice hurdle in November, Henry Daly's charge raced in rear in the Becher Chase at Aintree three weeks ago and looked one of the first beaten; however, he made eye-catching late headway from three out to eventually finish fourth, beaten ten lengths.

Granted, he has his share of weight (11-6) but, if confirmed, regular pilot Hugh Nugent can claim three, and form last season behind Five Star Getaway and Royal Pagaille reads well.

I'll try to post a preview of this race after racing on Boxing Day. 

In the meantime, I think it's time for another glass...

With very best wishes to all readers this Christmas time.

Friday, December 09, 2022

The 2022 December Gold Cup at Cheltenham

The course covers put in place earlier in the week ensured today's card at Cheltenham went ahead following a second inspection at 10.30am.

The race is now on to put the covers back down over an area of some 40 acres as temperatures start to fall away.

ITV Racing give tomorrow's meeting a 50-50 chance of survival.

In the event racing goes ahead I'll take an each-way interest in the AIS December Gold Cup (1.50) run over two miles four and a half furlongs on the New Course.

Fifteen have been declared and the going is described as good. A number of the more fancied horses have yet to win over the trip - Il Ridoto, Frero Banbou, War Lord, Fugitif, Cheddleton and Coconut Splash.   

The Paddy Power Gold Cup, run four weeks ago over the Old Course, is always considered a pertinent piece of form. 

On the back of his fourth in this year's renewal - five lengths behind winner Ga Law - Il Ridoto heads the market.

Only five years of age, Paul Nicholls' charge ran a fine race that day and was in the mix for second spot when a blunder at the final flight put paid to that chance; the gelding lost third to Midnight River on the run to the line. 

The trainer has a good record in this and in the past decade has collected the spoils with two four-year-olds: Unioniste (2012) and Frodon (2016).

In behind Il Ridoto last month were Deyrann De Carjac (fifth); Simply The Betts (seventh); Storm Control (eighth); and Stolen Silver (unseated rider).

On his penultimate run back in April Stolen Silver beat Simply The Betts 11 lengths over course and distance. 

However on seasonal reappearance Stolen Silver's jumping started to show the strain some way out; pilot Sam Twiston-Davies was unseated three from home.

Fantastic Lady, trained by Nicky Henderson, has decent form in the book and her chance is repsected. She beat Zambella over three miles in a listed mares' handicap chase at Market Rasen; her profile suggests she may just prefer a little more cut underfoot.

Frero Banbou is a talented individual but tries the trip for the first time and, to my mind, often jumps low at his fences.

War Lord's fourth behind Edwardstone in the Arkle reads very well. 

I quite fancied his chance in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter but the grey was disappointing behind Greaneteen and is another who may prefer more dig in the ground. His price has drifted in the market this evening.

Cheddleton finished behind War Lord at Carlisle last year while Fugitif hung left on occasions on his first outing on good ground behind Amarillo Sky over the Old Course last month.

Simply The Betts was sixth in the 2021 Paddy Power Gold Cup, beaten under six lengths, and just happened to bump into Vienna Court when second over course and distance on New Year's Day. Mr. David Maxwell's three pounds claim will help the cause here.

Coconut Splash is an interesting contender who has yet win over fences or to race on ground any better than good to soft; he has come in for market support this evening.

In a Stable Tour article [RP  Weekender 12-16.01.22] trainer Evan Williams said:

"I have faith in the horse and feel he could be one who could be dangerous in some decent handicaps off a low weight."

Sole Irish raider Sole Pretender finished behind Bambridge and Tommy's Oscar over two miles here last time. 

Irish runners don't have a strong record in the race but Chatham Street Lad won the 2020 renewal for Michael Winters by 15 lengths.

This looks a step up in class for Fern Hill whose chase experience to date is in novice events with eight runners or less. 

Storm Control jumped well for a long way at the head of affairs before tiring in the Paddy Power Gold Cup; however connections' first preference is the bet365 Handicap Chase (2.05 Doncaster) and the same comment applies to Kauto Riko. 

Jacamar sports a first-time visor but Milton Harris' charge hasn't been in good form so far this term. 

I tipped Deyrann De Carjac each-way for the Paddy Power Gold Cup; Alan King's charge made ground in the closing stages to finish fifth, beaten just under six lengths and less than one length behind tomorrow's market leader Il Ridoto. 

To my mind Deyrann remains ahead of his current mark of 128 - he's rated 132 over hurdles and twelve months ago the trainer thought the gelding not badly treated off 137; good ground will suit. In the current Weekender the trainer states:

"We put some cheekpieces on him at home and I can report he was very sharp schooling in them on Monday morning."

Those aids were tried on two previous occasions last season - with little discernible improvement - but the horse appears in better form this term. 

I'd like to see him race a little more prominently tomorrow and I'd like to think the additional half furlong on the New Course will help his cause.

I'm going to remain loyal to Deyrann.

Deyrann De Carjac is the each-way suggestion, 12/1 with Sky Bet who pay one fifth the odds five places provided 12 or more runners make the start - and, of course, the meeting survives the cold weather...

Friday, December 02, 2022

The 2022 Becher Chase

Walking in amongst the weeds - and The Poddington Peas - at the bottom of our garden earlier this afternoon, I couldn't help but think this year's Becher Chase (2.05 Aintree) looks more difficult than ever.

Twenty three of the original twenty five five-day declarations stand their ground; the going on the Grand National course is currently described as good to soft, soft in places.

In the last twenty years only four horses have carried more than 11-00 to victory: Eurotrek (11-07 in 2006): Mr Pointment (11-05 in 2007); Vic Venturi (11-12 in 2009); and Blaklion (11-06 in 2017).

That particular stat may be a tad misleading. 

Last year Snow Leopardess (10-04) beat Hill Sixteen (10-00) a nose racing off a mark of 140 (Domaine De L'Isle fourth, Didero Vallis sixth). This year the mare goes off 146 yet carries 11-13. 

Sixteen runners have been allocated a weight greater than 11-00; Jack Foley's three pound claim means Captain Kangaroo will carry 10-13.

In the past twenty years only two horses younger than eight have come home in front, both seven-year-olds: Silver Birch in 2004; and Vieux Lion Rouge in 2016.

Below, a brief note on each runner - which may prove helpful but, more probably, will not - along with a tentative each-way suggestion.

De Rasher Counter

Brought the bacon home in the 2019 Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury. Unfortunate to unseat Adam Wedge at the Canal Turn in this year's National. Second behind Ramses De Teillee in Veterans' Chase at Warwick 17 days ago.

Francky Du Berlais

Trainer has a respectable record with runners over the National fences - won the Grand Sefton and the Topham with Mac Tottie last year. This has been the target since winning the Summer Plate at Market Rasen in July.

Snow Leopardess

Grey mare just held on to win this last year. Well fancied for the National but patently failed to handle the preliminaries - pulled up after a circuit. On seasonal debut slipped badly coming to first in Veterans' Chase won by Ramses De Teillee at Warwick. Pulled up after mistake at first.

Hill Sixteen

Just beaten in this last year. Third behind Sounds Russian at Kelso last time reads well (De Rasher Counter fifth). Sandy Thomson four wins from 12 runs last fortnight.


Ran well for a long way in the Grand National before unseating Hugh Nugent four from home. Some way behind Dr Kananga in hurdle race won by Maximilian three and a half weeks ago.

Recite A Prayer

Third behind stablemate Captain Kangaroo in the Cork Grand National last month. Trainer Willie Mullins won the Topham with Cadmium in 2019 and Livelovelaugh in 2021. 

The Jam Man

Irish raider found the going a bit sticky when meeting trouble in running behind Hewick in Galway Plate. Connections try first-time cheekpieces here.


Two wins at Lingfield last season; seventh behind Corach Rambler in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Stable won this with fourteen-year-old Hello Bud in 2012.

Cloth Cap

Pulled up abruptly three out when sent off favourite for the 2021 Grand National. Form fallen away since.

Dr Kananga

Front runner who has 'lesser' Nationals as legitimate targets. Second behind Maximilian in novice hurdle last time out should have put him spot on.

Ashtown Lad

Second behind Remastered in Pertemps Hurdle qualifier an excellent preparatory run (Remastered second behind Le Milos in Coral Gold Cup at Newbury last week). Short enough in market with only five chase starts to his name.

The Wolf

Trainer on record saying The Wolf is 'a very hard ride'.


Six-year-old only just failed to collar Al Dancer over these fences in the Grand Sefton four weeks ago. Not raced beyond two miles six and a half furlongs.

Correction. Gesskille won over three miles at Ludlow on 03.03.22. Updated 02.12.22 @ 23.15. 

Rapid Flight

Six-year-old Cartmel specialist. Stable won this with Highland Lodge in 2015.


Twelve-year-old not seen since pulled up behind Commodore at Cheltenham a year ago.

Captain Kangaroo

Plenty of spring in his step when winning the Cork Grand National four weeks ago. Stablemate of Recite A Prayer, trained by Willie Mullins. Jack Foley claims three pounds.


Ten length defeat of Remastered in Tommy Whittle at Haydock twelve months ago reads well. Stable won the 2020 Grand Sefton with Beau Bay and the 2014 Grand National with Pineau De Re.

Domaine De L'Isle

Fourth in this race last year. Unseated Harry Bannister at The Chair in the Grand National.

Five Star Getaway

Beat Fortescue at Kempton last December and then third behind Le Milos at Sandown in February before finishing well behind Mac Tottie over these fences in the Topham. Fourth in a handicap chase at Bangor on seasonal debut last month looks a good preparatory run. First try beyond three miles.   

Now Where Or When

Seven-year-old Irish challenger who has placed on six of his seven chase starts to date. 


Seven-year-old who caught the eye when third in the Grand Sefton at odds of 40/1 last month. Step up in trip to suit.

Didero Vallis

Raced prominently until outpaced from three out when finishing sixth last year. After quiet start stable now operating at win strike rate of 25%; Miss Lucy Turner claims five pounds. 

Minella Bobo

Races from one pound out of the handicap. Pulled up behind Le Milos at Bangor last time out.

A bit of a minefield. 

For those unable to resist temptation, Didero Vallis is the each-way suggestion, currently 22/1 with both Paddy Power and William Hill who pay one fifth the odds six places.