Friday, February 24, 2023

The 2023 Eider Chase at Newcastle

Sooner or later it was bound to happen. 

The doc took one look at my bloods and, in no uncertain terms, duly announced it was time for the statins.

I picked up the prescribed medication and, before starting to pop the pills, thought it judicious to read the accompanying documentation which referenced in some detail a number of possible side effects: nausea; wind; indigestion; constipation; diarrhoea; sexual difficulties; headaches; vomiting; belching; backache; insomnia; fatigue.

Now, I was just about to pick up the phone to point out to the doc that the listed side effects constituted a fairly accurate summation of the past 40 odd years when, all of a sudden, I was distracted by a report that Lucinda Russell was 'absolutely delighted' with the weight of 10-05 allocated to Corach Rambler in this year's National... 

I'd imagine Christian Williams would have been nearly as pleased as Lucinda when Cap Du Nord was raised five after winning the LK Bennett Swinley Handicap Chase by a comfortable seven lengths at Ascot last Saturday. 

Tomorrow his charge tries to repeat last year's victory in the Coral Trophy Handicap Chase at Kempton, with Cian Quirke - claiming five - in the plate.

It was twelve months ago this very weekend Christian Williams sent out Win My Wings to win the Eider Chase at Newcastle and barely twenty minutes later Cap Du Nord and Kitty's Light to finish first and second respectively in the Kempton feature.

And five weeks on Win My Wings beat Kitty's Light seven lengths in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr.

The Williams yard may have had a quiet time of things so far this term but up at Newcastle Kitty's Light - Jack Tudor up - tries to emulate Win My Wings in this year's Eider (3.25) and the bookmakers seem to think there's one horse in the race. 

It's easy enough to see why - after finishing third behind Hewitt in the bet365 Chase at Sandown last April off a mark of 145, Kitty's Light goes off 132 tomorrow. 

A modest third behind Ansaam at Kempton last month hinted at a revival; this seven-year-old has a few miles on the clock for one so young and at the prices makes little appeal for betting purposes - the last seven-year-old to come home in front was Portrait King in 2012.

The favourite faces fourteen rivals (thirteen now Young Bull is a non-runner) with the going at Newcastle currently described as good to soft. Just nine days ago a brouhaha broke out at the track after the going was abruptly changed to good, good to firm in places.

Sam's Adventure won the 2021 renewal off 139 and races off 125 tomorrow.

Brian Ellison's charge comes into this on the back of a win in a Catterick Veterans' Handicap Chase last month but finished behind No Cruise Yet at Haydock in November and behind Bushypark in the North Yorkshire Grand National.

Bushypark was back to his best on heavy ground at Catterick that day. In December 2021 he beat Doyen Breed off a mark of 132; drying ground is a concern.

With just five chase starts to his name, The Galloping Bear hasn't had much racing. 

This time last year he beat Bristol De Mai in the Grand National Trial at Haydock but was subsequently disqualified when a banned substance was detected in the sample provided. His chance is respected.

Bavington Bob has the assistance of Brian Hughes in the plate but Ann Hamilton's charge has jumped out to his right on occasions and doesn't looked guaranteed to stay; connections fit blinkers for the first time.

To my mind top weight Eva's Oskar looked to have a hard enough race at Sandown three weeks ago, fading out of contention from two out. The last horse to carry top weight to victory was Comply Or Die in 2008.

All three of Houston Texas' wins to date have come at Carlisle. He was outpaced three out here last time but rallied well before finishing fourth behind French Paradoxe.  

No Cruise Yet also likes Carlisle but his tendency to jump right on a left-handed track isn't ideal. 

That said, Sam England's inmate won over an extended three and a half miles ay Haydock in November and finished second in the North Wales National Handicap Chase at Bangor 15 days ago. He races from two pounds out of the handicap.

In Rem was well backed for the London National at Sandown in December but he hit the third and came to grief at the eighth; the jumping remains a work in progress.

Shanty Alley is better judged on his second at Newbury behind Grumpy Charley. Last time he never really recovered from a blunder at the first in the Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster won by Cooper's Cross.

Amateur has won the past two renewals of the West Wales National at Ffos Las and that may well be the target again. His most recent effort - sixth in a Hereford handicap chase behind Only The Bold at odds of 125/1 - merits respect. Paul Kealy highlights his chance in the Weekender along with that of Rath An Iuir. 

Rose Dobbin's charge finished sixth behind Win My Wings in last year's race but didn't appear to quite stay the trip, weakening from three out. Cheekpieces are fitted for the first time.

Both One More Fleurie and Mighty Thunder have shown little since the spring of 2021. 

The former was pulled up in last year's Scottish National while the latter won the 2021 Scottish National off 144 but has failed to complete in five of his eight starts since. He races off 132 tomorrow, Patrick Wadge claims seven and the yard is in good form but a leap of faith is required.

Young Bull has just been declared a non-runner.

Here's a list of recent winners:

2009 winner: Merigo (125); top-rated: Harmony Brig (136)

2010 No race

2011 winner: Companero (132); top-rated: Comply Or Die (144)

2012 winner: Portrait King (131); top-rated: Mister Marker (135)

2013 No race

2014 winner: Wyck Hill (133); top-rated: Junior (145)

2015 winner: Milborough (134); top-rated: Shotgun Paddy (147)

2016 winner: Rocking Blues (126); top-rated: Shotgun Paddy (144)

2017 winner: Mysteree (127); top-rated: Straidnahanna (139)

2018 winner: Baywing (140); top-rated: Chase The Spud (149)

2019 winner: Crosspark (135); top-rated: Daklondike (148)

2020 No race

2021 winner: Sam's Adventure (139); top-rated Crosspark (150)

2022 winner: Win My Wings (132); top-rated Domaine De L'Isle (144)

A strong pace looks likely with Shanty Alley, Bushypark, One More Fleurie and No Cruise Yet among those who like to race prominently.  

A very competitive renewal. With showers forecast before the off, a chance is taken with Bushypark in the hope the ground doesn't dry out completely.

Bushypark is the each-way suggestion, at the time of writing 11/1 with both Paddy Power and William Hill who are paying five places. 

Now, what the hell have I done with those tablets?

Friday, February 17, 2023

The 2023 Haydock Grand National Trial

Sturgeon's gone - and now Scudamore as well. Whatever next?

Fifteen have been declared for tomorrow's Grand National Trial (2.40 Haydock) where the going is described as good to soft.

In the past this race has been run after the weights for the National have been revealed but this year it's a different story with the announcement being made at St George's Hall, Liverpool, next Tuesday.

Cloudy Glen, Fortescue, Grumpy Charley and Quick Wave all hold entries for this year's Aintree showpiece.

Venetia Williams saddles three with stable jockey Charlie Deutsch aboard favourite Fontaine Collonges. 

The mare just held The Big Breakaway at this track on seasonal debut (Tom Scudamore up) and then finished fourth, beaten nine lengths, behind Remastered at Kempton over Christmas (Tom Scudamore up). All of her racing prior to this season has been over trips between two and two and a half miles.

Top weight Bristol De Mai needs no introduction, having won three Betfair Chases at the track; he was awarded this race last year following the disqualification of The Galloping Bear. 

The grey is five pounds lower now but probably not as good as he once was and connections have indicated the drying ground isn't ideal. Should he come home in front, there won't be a dry eye in the house.

This looks a big weekend for Alex Hales' Northamptonshire yard with Millers Bank going to Ascot to mix it with Fakir D'oudairies, Shiskin et al. while Omar Maretti takes his chance here. 

The gelding only has five chase starts to his name but he's certainly built for the job. Like several in the field, he'd prefer more cut and stable form would be a concern but he has been well supported today and at the time of writing is vying for favouritism.

Course and distance winner Tim Pat is another to have been well backed during the day, now as low as 7/1 with some layers. 

Donald McCain's charge was only beaten a neck on good ground at Doncaster the last day and he sports cheekpieces for the first time tomorrow. All that said, he has just five chase starts under his belt and he races from out of the handicap - the last seven-year-old to come home in front was Heltornic (Michael Scudamore trained, Tom Scudamore up) in 2007.

Sue Smith's Small Present has yet to win over the larger obstacles and has been on the drift but his third behind Bangers And Cash in the Lincolnshire National at Market Rasen on Boxing Day reads well.

Fortescue was my tip for this year's Welsh National but he never went a yard and was beaten after the first. 

Henry Daly's charge hasn't shown such good form this term - I'm waiting for some signs of revival before giving him further consideration.

Grey mare Snow Leopardess is another who has been out of sorts this season. Connections will hope cheekpieces can bring about a revival.

At least Notachance gave me a run for my money in this year's Classic Chase at Warwick, eventually finishing third behind Iwilldoit and Mr Incredible. 

He won the 2021 running of the Classic Chase before suffering an injury in this race five weeks later behind Lord Du Mesnil. It has taken connections a long time to rebuild confidence but, given that he won the 2021 Classic Chase off  a mark of 139, he  must have some sort of chance off 132 tomorrow.

Nobody could begrudge The Two Amigos his Welsh National victory last December, given he finished second to Secret Reprieve the year before. 

Nicky Martin's charge may not be the biggest but he's terrier-like and likes to race from the front. He'd prefer more dig in the ground but earlier in the week his handler indicated he was 'bouncing out of his skin'.

First Lord Du Cuet has finished second in all five chase starts to date while Grumpy Charley struggled in the recent Classic Chase at Warwick.

Venetia's other mare Quick Wave is forgiven her effort behind The Two Amigos at Chepstow - she lost her right-fore shoe. Prior to that she had won the London National at Sandown in something of a common canter - but Charlie Deutsch has opted for the other mare. 

Seven or so weeks ago Time To Get Up ran well enough in the Welsh National before pulling up and finished third in this race last year - subsequently promoted to second - following the disqualification of The Galloping Bear. 

He was 26 lengths adrift of Bristol De Mai that day but meets that opponent on six pounds better terms on good to soft ground tomorrow. 

This one won the 2021 Midlands National at Uttoxeter off 138 and finished third in that race off 142 last year. 

The Midlands National may well be the target once again but he goes off 133 tomorrow so is obviously worth a second look; earlier today bet365 stood out going 33/1 about this J.P.McManus owned runner - he's now generally a 14/1 shot.

A very competitive renewal. 

The three on my each-way shortlist are Notachance, The Two Amigos and Time To Get Up. 

In a race that often goes the way of a more experienced sort, Time To Get Up is the each-way suggestion, currently 14/1 with William Hill, Paddy Power and Sky Bet all paying five places.

Friday, February 10, 2023

The 2023 Betfair Hurdle

Eighteen were declared for tomorrow's Betfair Hurdle (3.35 Newbury) but Hacker Des Places is now a non-runner; the going is described as good, good to firm in places.

When Glory And Fortune won last year's renewal off a mark of 143 he became the first horse older than six to come home in front since Geos in 2004. Racing off 148 tomorrow, Tom Lacey's charge carries top weight and is unlikely to appreciate quick ground.

Novices boast an excellent record in the race - unfortunately a fact bookmakers have taken the trouble to factor into their prices. 

Given the trends, I've focused attention on trying to identify a young horse whose handicap mark might have some juice in it. 

Icare Allen looks to have his share of weight with the ground an unknown. 

Rubaud, trained by Paul Nicholls, will handle the ground but was beaten seven lengths by Rare Edition in a Kempton novice hurdle on Boxing Day; Rare Edition was beaten by Marble Sands in the listed Sidney Banks Memorial Novices' Hurdle at Huntingdon earlier this week.

Between them trainers Gary Moore and Nigel Twiston-Davies are responsible for six winners since 2007 - and Nigel went close with I Like To Move It last year. 

His Master Chewy was beaten by Gary's Hansard at Plumpton last month which suggests Gary will know where he stands with his two runners, Teddy Blue and Yorksea. 

Teddy Blue won a Lingfield maiden hurdle eleven days ago - demolishing the final flight and taking half of it with him - for which he was raised five pounds.

Yorksea finished behind his stablemate in the Gerry Feilden but beat some fair sorts next time in a Class 3 handicap hurdle at Fontwell - second Pyramid Place won at Wetherby last weekend.

Monviel was impressive at Ascot the last day; his chance is respected even with a ten pounds hike but to date he has not raced on a left-handed track.

Alan King saddles two - Restitution and Tritonic. In the Weekender the handler is more bullish about Restitution:

"This is quite a big step up for him but he's maturing and I think he's quite a progressive horse. He's one who wouldn't mind the quicker ground and I could see him running well." 

Tritonic, beaten over 16 lengths in this last year, sports cheekpieces for the first time as 'he can be a bit lazy in the early part of a race'.

Of the older horses I thought Aucunrisque, who likes to race up with the pace, worth a second look returning to the smaller obstacles. 

His second behind Frere D'Armes over fences at this track in November reads well, as does his second behind Boothill in the Wayward Lad Novices' Chase at Kempton at Christmas. Rated 145 over fences, he goes off 138 tomorrow.  

However, given the strong record of younger horses, I'm going to take a chance with the Sam Thomas trained Deere Mark. 

In a Straight from the Stable article [Weekender 09-13.11.22] the handler said about his charge:

"He is an exciting horses (sic) who is not overly big, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in speed...

"The plan will be to try and get him a handicap mark high enough to get in the Betfair Hurdle in which novices have a very good record in. A strong gallop over 2m will suit him perfectly. He is among the best work horses I have, although that does not always mean he will be the best on the track, but the way he travels and quickens marks him out as a nice prospect."

Since the publication of the above resume Deere Mark disappointed behind Fennor's Cross in a Supreme Trial Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham before winning a Hereford maiden and then a Class 3 Handicap Hurdle at Kempton.

Violet Dancer (132) is the lowest rated winner over the past ten years.  

Deere Mark's rating of 125 looks too low by comparison but I'm hoping in a fast run affair on quick ground the gelding will be able to show the speed his trainer has seen on the gallops.

As always, an ultra competitive affair.  

Deere Mark is the each-way suggestion, 16/1 generally at the time of writing with Sky Bet, Paddy Power and William Hill all paying one fifth the odds six places. 

Friday, February 03, 2023

The 2023 Virgin Bet Heroes Handicap Hurdle at Sandown

The top drawer action over the weekend takes place at the Dublin Racing Festival. 

On this side of the Irish Sea racegoers pondering a trip to Sandown Park on Saturday will no longer need to study the course's sometimes troublesome sartorial standards after the Jockey Club announced yesterday it was dropping all dress code requirements with immediate effect at all of its 15 racecourses. 

With respect, allow me to suggest the time saved on such sartorial scrutiny might be better utilised searching for an each-way selection in the Pertemps qualifier, the Virgin Bet Heroes Handicap Hurdle (2.55), and to offer the following speculative suggestions.

Fifteen have been declared; the going on the hurdle course is described as good to soft, soft in places.

At the time of writing the Coral Gold Cup runner-up Remastered has been chalked up favourite. 

David Pipe's charge went on to win a three mile chase at Kempton the day after Boxing Day and as a result is now rated 152 over fences; his hurdle rating is just 142.

Over at Chepstow Flight Deck won the Coral Racing Club Handicap Hurdle the day after Boxing Day, beating Bells Of Peterboro four and a quarter lengths with Green Book sixth, over 40 lengths in arrears.

On revised terms the runner up looks entitled to finish considerably closer yet Flight Deck is priced up at 15/2 and Bells Of Peterboro 16/1 in a place.

Green Book, who won this last year off 130, has been well backed to repeat the feat off a mark four pounds higher and is now an 8/1 chance.

In a Pertemps qualifier over course and distance back in December Dolphin Square beat Call Me Lord a nose with Wilde About Oscar a short-head away in third. 

That result only tells half the tale as Call Me Lord's jockey Ben Bromley dropped his hands after passing the first Sandown winning post but, unfortunately, it was the second one that counted, allowing Mr David Maxwell to pinch the spoils.

Since then Dolphin Square and Call Me Lord finished fourth and fifth respectively behind Hector Javilex at Cheltenham on New Year's Day, with Wilde About Oscar stopping quickly at the business end of the race - he was pulled up before the last. 

Dan Skelton's charge has hinted at a return to form and connections fit a tongue-tie for the first time tomorrow; off a mark of 136 he looks a well-handicapped horse.

Jet Of Magic likes to race prominently and finished runner-up behind Hector Javilex at Cheltenham; the Nicholls inmate has gone up 13 pounds since moving to the yard in November.

Stellar Magic was sent off the 2/1 favourite at Lingfield on seasonal debut but was pulled up; his next run saw noteworthy improvement at Wincanton on Boxing Day, beaten threequarters of a length by Steal A March in another Pertemps qualifier. 

Philip Hobbs' charge was raised four pounds and has yet to win over this trip. 

Coquelicot has been in better form this term in mares' races but current stable form would be a concern while the last time we saw Party Business was at Haydock in May.

Storm Nelson may be ten years of age but he's never been better. Writing in this week's Weekender Sandy Thomson says:

"He is in very good order and off a career-high mark of 134 I expect him to be competitive in a valuable 3m handicap hurdle at Sandown on Saturday. He is a relentless galloper, and with plenty of give in the ground I would hope he has a serious chance."  

Schalke won last time out at Kelso and was raised 8 pounds for his trouble but Aaron Anderson can claim back five. 

It's not often you see Nico De Boinville on a 28/1 shot but Bothwell Bridge has failed to complete on his last four chase starts and Indefatigable hasn't hit form this term either - the yard last had a winner 351 days ago.

Some weeks, you know, it can be a bit of a struggle to identify one at a price but it's possible to make the case for a couple in this field.

Storm Nelson (14/1), Bells Of Peterboro (14/1) and Wilde About Oscar (20/1) are considered. 

On the second of three chase starts since the summer Bells Of Peterboro was beaten one and a quarter lengths by Tea For Free. 

On his first hurdle start this term Tim Vaughan's charge was the only one to get anywhere near Flight Deck at Chepstow and tomorrow he's four pounds better off for four and a quarter lengths.

Bells Of Peterboro is the speculative each-way suggestion, generally a 14/1 chance, with Sky Bet and William Hill paying five places.