Friday, January 27, 2023

The 2023 Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster

Cheltenham passed an inspection at midday today but undergoes a further check at 7.30 tomorrow morning. 

With frost covers in place and an overnight temperature forecast of -2C, hopes are high the Trials Day card will go ahead; the mooted contingency plan to race on Sunday is no longer considered necessary.

There are no such weather worries at Doncaster where the going is described as good.

Twelve have been declared for the Sky Bet Handicap Chase which is due off at 3.15. The last two winners, Takingrisks and Windsor Avenue, were both returned at odds of 40/1 - and were both ridden by Sean Quinlan.

Ga Law heads the market and the weights for this year's renewal after beating French Dynamite and Midnight River in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham 11 weeks ago. The runner-up that day finished second behind Fakir D'Oudairies at Thurles on Sunday while the third won Cheltenham's New Year's Day Handicap Chase from Stolen Silver.

Jamie Snowden's charge met plenty of trouble in running at Cheltenham yet powered up the hill to suggest this first attempt at three miles should be within his compass; since 2000 only two winners have carried more than 11-10 to victory: Calgary Bay (11-11) in 2012 and Ok Coral (11-12) in 2020.

Tea For Free has won all four chase starts to date and is likely to race prominently with Lilly Pinchin up but this represents a notable step up in class for Charlie Longsdon's charge; the last five winners have all been aged nine or older.

Last February Cap Du Nord beat stablemate Kitty's Light in the Coral Trophy Handicap Chase at Kempton off a mark of 127. 

The handicapper is doing his bit to help the cause as Cap Du Nord goes off 125 tomorrow but Christian Williams' charge has been out of form this term - he finished last of 11 behind Rapper four weeks ago (Java Point second) and before that fifth behind Zanza at Newbury (Demachine second, Java Point third). 

Mister Coffey has run well but has yet to win over the larger obstacles and and his general profile suggests he may prefer more cut underfoot.

Perhaps Cloth Cap isn't the force of old but he ran well for a long way at the head of affairs in the Becher Chase last time out; his chance is not dismissed. 

Undersupervision was pulled up behind Grumpy Charley at Newbury last month (Shanty Alley second) but finished fourth behind Le Milos at Sandown last February and then won the Grimthorpe over three and a quarter miles at this track in March, going by Mister Malarky after jumping the last. The ground rode soft that day and the suspicion is he just might be better suited by a stiffer test of stamina.

I was a tad disappointed with Cooper's Cross at Musselburgh on New Year's Day - in receipt of 17 pounds he could never threaten Minella Drama. He's a point winner over this trip and connections fit cheekpieces for the first time. 

Both Shanty Alley and Elvis Mail have shown their best form with more cut underfoot.

Last year Windsor Avenue won this off 144 (Cap Du Nord third, Demachine tenth). 

Over the years Brian Ellison's charge hasn't always been the most consistent but on his penultimate start he was beaten six and a quarter lengths into fourth behind L'Homme Presse, Into Overdrive and Happygolucky in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle. 

That form reads very well and, if in the same mood tomorrow, he would have every chance off 142; I'd imagine Sean Quinlan will try to race prominently as he did last year.

Demachine was sent off 5/1 for last year's renewal yet trailed in some 87 lengths behind the winner. He was third coming to four out before weakening, with connections subsequently reporting their charge had made a respiratory noise. 

After undergoing wind surgery he won the Sir Stanley and Lady Clarke Challenge Trophy at Uttoxeter, run over two and a half miles in May. 

On his next start in November Kerry Lee's charge had no answer to Newbury specialist Zanza - beaten 12 lengths into second with Java Point one and a quarter lengths further adrift in third. 

On New Year's Day at Cheltenham Java Point finished second behind Rapper over a trip of three miles two and a half furlongs while Demachine was perhaps a little disappointing when seventh behind Midnight River over two miles four and a half furlongs.

Demachine has been dropped two pounds for that effort and, on a strict interpretation of the run behind Zanza at Newbury, is weighted to confirm placings with Java Point; in addition Caoilin Quinn, who excelled on Botox Has at Haydock in November, can claim five.

I wasn't convinced Demachine stayed three miles until his second behind Remastered in the 2021 Reynoldstown at Ascot. A fine effort, yet I still harbour a suspicion his optimum distance is probably two and threequarter miles.

Several in this field prefer to race prominently; there is likely to be plenty of pace up front. 

With the benefit of wind surgery, Caoilin Quinn's five pound claim and decent ground to boot, Demachine is the each-way suggestion, 12/1 generally with most layers paying one fifth the odds four places.

Friday, January 13, 2023

The 2023 Classic Chase at Warwick

Princess Camilla won the inaugural running of what is now known as the Classic Chase in 1973. 

The going for tomorrow's 50th anniversary of that inaugural running is currently described as heavy, soft in places. Fourteen have been declared, and further rain has been forecast before the scheduled off-time of 3.00 pm.

There have been 12 abandonments over the years, and only 12 winners have carried more than 11-00 to victory - four of them in the past decade: Shotgun Paddy 11-07, 2014; Milansbar 11-02, 2018; Kimberlite Candy 11-04, 2020; and Eclair Surf 11-03, 2022.

Hey Big Spender (2012) remains the only horse to have carried top weight to victory.

At the time of writing the Willie Mullins trained Mr Incredible heads the market. 

I saw this one beaten over 30 lengths by Ahoy Senor at Newbury in November 2021 when trained by Henry De Bromhead. 

He didn't jump well that day, refused to race in first-time cheekpieces next time out and has failed to complete on both subsequent starts.

Threeunderthrufive got no further than the first in the Coral Gold Cup at Newbury seven weeks ago. 

He looks to have a difficult task carrying top weight on heavy ground but last year he made all and jumped well to win the Hampton Novices' Chase at this meeting.

Lord Du Mesnil can be a moody character but when he's in the mood he's very good. 

His second behind Le Milos in the Sir Charles Lowther Plate at Bangor in November reads very well (Notachance fourth, Grumpy Charley pulled up) as the winner that day went on to win the Coral Gold Cup. 

I'm wary as I've burned my fingers with 'the Lord' before and I just wonder whether he will stay this trip on heavy ground. In the 2020 Grand National Trial run over an extended three and a half mile trip at Haydock he was outstayed by Smooth Stepper. 

Grumpy Charley made connections very happy next time out, winning the Mandarin Chase at Newbury on New Year's Eve; he has been raised six pounds for that effort.

Iwilldoit appeared particularly well-named when winning the 2021 Welsh Grand National but we haven't seen him since. 

Sam Thomas' charge wasn't ready to run in this year's Chepstow showpiece and makes his seasonal debut here. His price appears to be on the drift this evening. 

Slipway was of interest at the five day declaration stage but handler Ben Pauling declared Nestor Park instead. 

Although the gelding has won only one of his 12 chase starts to date, he finished third behind No Cruise Yet (4/1 favourite Wouldubewell sixth) at Haydock last time.

Guetepan Collonges looks short enough in the market for a horse that hasn't always been fluent at his fences and has contested Class 4 and Class 5 chases to date. Handler Charlie Longsdon has described the gelding as 'a horse on the up'.

I tipped Fortescue for this year's Welsh National but he couldn't hold his pitch and looked beaten after the first fence. 

If they go a bit slower in this ground it will certainly help his cause but I don't think underfoot conditions are going to help Commodore.

Dingo Dollar has looked revitalised since a move to Sandy Thomson's yard which is operating at a 50% win strike-rate over the past fortnight. Miss Alice Stevens claims seven and the fact connections have decided to make the long trip south suggests they think he will be competitive.

Wouldubewell hails from the yard that won this last year with Eclair Surf and the mare, a remote sixth in the Welsh National last time out, could well be overpriced at 33/1.  Current stable form is a concern.

Course and distance winner Volcano runs from out of the handicap while Grand Mogul isn't guaranteed to see out the trip.

I'm going to take a chance with Notachance who won this two years ago off 139 and goes off 130 tomorrow. 

Writing in the Weekender handler Alan King tells readers the gelding lost his confidence after suffering an injury behind Lord Du Mesnil at Haydock next time out (20.02.21) and it has taken a long time to restore it.

Wearing a first-time visor he finished eighth in this race last year, 83 lengths behind Eclair Surf.  

His third behind Captain Cattistock at Cheltenham in April (13.04.22) marked an improvement and his fourth behind Le Milos at Bangor on seasonal debut confirmed progress. 

The handicapper dropped him a further two pounds for the Bangor run so he races tomorrow with 10-07. The trainer says he goes well fresh so has been deliberately kept back for this. 

Stable jockey Tom Cannon rides here (rather than Harbour Lake in the Lanzarote at Kempton) and Mr King is on record saying Warwick is his favourite track.

I'm hoping Notachance's confidence doesn't receive a setback tomorrow because if he's back to somewhere near his best, he must have some sort of chance. 

Notachance is the each-way suggestion, generally a 9/1 chance with Sky Bet and Paddy Power paying five places. 

Friday, January 06, 2023

The 2022 Veterans' Chase Series Final at Sandown

Eighteen have been declared for this year's final (3.00 Sandown); the going is currently described as soft, good to soft in places - particularly along the back straight - with rain forecast in the morning.

Plenty of old friends - and a couple of old foes - in the field but I must admit I was surprised to see Prime Venture replace Ramses De Teillee at the head of the market earlier today.

Evan Williams' charge won last year's renewal (Sir Ivan third, Indy Five pulled up, 13 ran) and races off the same mark but up front Lilly Pinchin and Valadom took no prisoners that day on ground officially described as heavy; several in the field had cried enough before Prime Venture stayed on best of all, as the the RP Weekender's form analysis highlighted:

"No hanging around courtesy of Valadom and it set up for the distant closers, with conditions taking a toll.

"PRIME VENTURE stays forever and loves testing ground. He took an age to get going but it was clear from two out he had things covered and he surged clear late for a first win in 14 months." 

I'm not sure tomorrow's renewal will 'set up for the distant closers'.

Ramses De Teillee showed benefit for a wind operation in the summer when winning Leg 10 of the series at Warwick in November (Snow Leopardess pulled up); David Pipe's charge has been raised five pounds and carries top weight. 

Current yard form is a concern, as is the fact the grey has never won going right-handed.

As mentioned above, Snow Leopardess was quickly pulled up in Leg 10 after slipping on the approach to the first fence. 

The mare showed no ill effects next time, running well for a long way in the Becher Chase at Aintree to eventually finish eighth. 

The handicapper has played his part and dropped her four pounds to a mark of 142 - she won off 145 at Exeter last February. 

The grey didn't appear to handle the occasion when pulled up in the Grand National in April but has an obvious chance here.

Back in March Saint Xavier was second behind Indy Five in Leg 3 (Prime Venture third, Kauto Riko outpaced and pulled up) and showed his current wellbeing by beating Up Helly Aa King at Haydock in November with subsequent Welsh National winner The Two Amigos third, Coo Star Sivola fifth - and entitled to improve for his seasonal reappearance - and Chambard pulled up, reportedly never travelling with stable form quiet at the time.

On his previous outing Chambard won the Kim Muir at Cheltenham at odds of 40/1 so his chance is certainly respected. 

Sir Ivan has finished third in the past two renewals of this final - last year off a mark off 140 - so 129 could prove lenient. 

Along with Elegant Escape he was pulled up behind Run To Milan in Leg 1 at Exeter in February and finished third behind Dingo Dollar and Wishing And Hoping in Leg 8 at Aintree in October.  

Run To Milan won Leg 1 off a mark of 132 so 128 is certainly workable; with just 20 starts to his name, Victor Dartnall's gelding has fewer miles on the clock than any in this field.  

I've been a Crosspark fan for quite some time but he has his fair share of weight these days. Now with Nick Kent, he finished a creditable second in the 2020 final behind Seeyouatmidnight. 

Up Helly Aa King won Leg 2 at Doncaster in February (Chirico Vallis third) but stable form has to be a concern. 

Chirico Vallis likes to race prominently and won the Native River Handicap Chase off this mark at Chepstow in October 2021, beating Kitty's Light a head before subsequently finishing third behind Eclair Surf in the Classic Chase at Warwick,  form that reads well. 

I've always thought Ballyandy a better hurdler than chaser while Elegant Escape has never been the most fluent of jumpers and the majority of Broken Quest's form is on good ground.

Bermeo races from out of the handicap.

A very competitive renewal with eight runners set to carry 11-9 or more and a number in the field who like to race up with the pace. 

I'll take a small each-way interest in Run To Milan, at the time of writing 12/1 with Coral who are paying five places.