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beaker1

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beaker1 last won the day on February 8 2017

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  1. 12:10 - Play Ladbrokes 5-A-Side On Football Mares' Novices' Hurdle (Listed Race) There is clear favourite for this mares’ novices’ hurdle as Mrs Hyde sets a good standard for the others to aim at in the Listed contest. Trained by Brian Ellison, she was a useful performer in bumpers as she finished runner-up at Listed level and has taken very well to hurdling this year. The seven-year-old has won four of her five races since being sent over hurdles in July, recording back-to-back Listed wins last month. The first of those victories came on good ground at Kempton where she got the better of Paul Nicholls’ Fidelio Vallis, before she then stepped out of novice company to put up a big performance at Wetherby’s Charlie Hall meeting. The ground may have been unfavourable for Verdana Blue that day, but Mrs Hyde was always doing enough to see off Nicky Henderson’s 155-rated mare despite having to concede weight. Mrs Hyde is a worthy favourite to make it a hat-trick on Saturday, but she does have to carry a penalty and is up against some unexposed rivals. Irish raider Politesse has to be respected as she ran a good race in a Grade 3 on only her second start over hurdles last month. Trained by Mrs Lorna Fowler, she got off the mark in bumpers at the third attempt in February before making a winning debut over hurdles the following month at Thurles. The form of that maiden was boosted last weekend as the second, Gordon Elliott’s Fakiera, won a Grade 3 at Navan on Sunday. Politesse was then upped straight to Grade 3 level herself for her seasonal reappearance at Down Royal last month and the six-year-old arguably shaped best of all in the race. She travelled nicely through the contest but maybe the lack of race-fitness paid in the end as she finished fifth after not being fluent at the final obstacle. She was only beaten three lengths though and could go well making the trip over to Newbury this weekend. However, a chance is taken on ESTELLE MA BELLE to build on her first run in Britain and take the step up to Listed company in her stride for Paul Nicholls. She began her career in France on the Flat where she won twice and ran in a Group 1 back in 2017, even if she may have finished down the field. She was then recruited to go jumping for Willie Mullins and after an absence of over two years she had one run in Ireland where she finished second in a maiden at the Galway Festival. However, ESTELLE MA BELLE was subsequently switched to the Paul Nicholls’ yard and after another year off she made a winning comeback at Ffos Las last month having had wind surgery. She did not jump fluently during the mares’ maiden but showed that she has a big engine as she still managed to win easily by five lengths. ESTELLE MA BELLE falls into the ‘could be anything’ category and if she can brush up on her jumping then she could put up a big performance on Saturday. Another interesting contender is Galice Macalo who has won her two starts this season for Mrs Jane Williams. She has not been the easiest of rides so far in her career as she can race very keenly, but she is definitely talented as she was able to make all in her two races last month. Last time out the four-year-old was reluctant to even line-up at Stratford, but she went on to win the novice contest comfortably by eleven lengths. Galice Macalo could have the ability to compete at Listed level but her style of racing might make it difficult for her now up against much tougher opposition. advice: ESTELLE MA BELLE 1pt E/W @ 11/2 (General) 12:40 – The Ladbrokes John Francome Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) This should be a classy novices’ chase with many of these having fine form over the smaller obstacles and last year’s connections are back again to defend their crowns. Danny Whizzbang took this race with ease last year with a sound display of jumping, after being sent off as the outsider. This year, Harry Cobden gets to hop aboard the market leader Next Destination, who was formerly with the Willie Mullins stable. After landing two Grade 1’s in novice company over hurdles in the 2017/18 season, this horse clearly has a lot of potential to be classy over fences too. After being off the track for 820 days, Paul Nicholls gave him a run in the West Yorkshire Hurdle (Grade 2) at Wetherby, in which he managed to finish second. Even though he will probably produce a strong performance on his chasing bow if he avoids ‘the bounce’, I think experience could pay a big factor today and many of his rivals already have that over fences. Paul Nicholls’ other chance in the race is Southfield Stone. Another in this field who was a useful hurdler, landing the Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) at Kempton, it was clear that he was going to be sent over fences sooner rather than later. It took a while for the penny to drop for this horse over fences, hitting the frame on numerous occasions, but he finally got off the mark to win in a decent 3-runner field this season with a nice performance at Cheltenham. However, he failed to follow up next time out. Although he’s clearly a solid performer, this seven-year-old is trying this trip for the first time and looks vulnerable to being beaten again by some unexposed types with plenty of potential. Hold The Note is yet to fire over fences but does look a smart type and is a slick jumper. After running into some difficult rivals along the way, including Imperial Aura, this six-year-old definitely has ability and already has a rating of 145 over fences, without a win. However, the fact that he is winless over the five bids so far and ran in snatches on his seasonal debut gives us little encouragement. It’s relatively easy to look elsewhere in this field but a win will happen for this horse eventually and he’s one to keep an eye on in handicaps going forward. After a decent spell over hurdles at three miles, Nick Williams was quick to try his luck over the larger obstacles with One For The Team. After a respectable third in the Persian War Novices’ Hurdle at Chepstow, he was sent off as favourite on his chasing bow, where he was set to finish second at this course but was no match for KALOOKI on the day and unseated his rider late on. Out of the Honeyball stable, Acey Milan also made a positive start to his career over the larger obstacles after taking an immediate step forward to land the spoils on his chasing debut in handicap company at Aintree. This was a decent effort on his seasonal reappearance, looking to have a lot in hand as he bolted home up the home straight. This is a much tougher ask but he could play a hand and certainly looks one to note for the future. However, after being progressive over hurdles last season, a chance is taken for KALOOKI to back up the impression he made on his chasing debut, despite not putting in an excellent round of jumping. After clouting a few fences on his way round this track last time, he still won with ease and having that experience under his belt this time round, he may well be tough to beat if he jumps better. The second from that race has since gone on to score, so that form has taken a further boost in the right direction, and he looks more than capable of going in again as long as he gives his obstacles a little more respect. advice: KALOOKI 1pt WIN @ 11/4 (BetVictor) 1:15- Sir Peter O’sullevan Memorial Handicap Chase. On first look at this race, the most striking thing is the number of entries that come from JP McManus. 16 go to post and four of them are owned by J P McManus across three different yards, all wearing the colours of the late Sir Peter, so it’s a race JP would dearly love to win. Two come from the Paul Nicholls yard, including the 2018 winner Kapcorse. Canelo represents the Alan King yard and As You Like lines up for Jonjo O’Neill with R P Mclernon taking the ride. Three of the JP runners have contested this race at some point or other, with varying degree of success. No trainer has a stand out record in the race and a whole host of trainers have sent their horses here. It is a very competitive field, this is highlighted by the favourite being 5/1, which presents a lot of each way value as bookmakers are paying between 4/5 places. The ground looks to be getting better and better and despite racing on Friday, with no rain forecast, it should be perfect good, good to soft ground. Hopefully there will still be sufficient give in the ground for my selection. One horse who has been struggling for any form at all this season is Captain Chaos, he has been pulled up on both of his starts this season, after being given a mark of 142, due to his win at Doncaster. He has off 140 tomorrow and I’m struggling to see how he wins the race. All his wins have come in testing ground and he doesn’t look to be the same horse he was previously. Dan Skelton won the race last year and this is his only runner but barring a significant bounce back to form I can’t see him featuring here. Cap Du Nord for Christian Williams also featured last year and was interestingly off a 5lb higher mark, when you factor in Jack Tudors claim. He was an eye catching fourth on his reappearance and now gets stepped up in trip, which will suit. At the bottom of the weights he’s a very interesting runner. I would have concerns about the Trainer’s form however, as he has failed to really get started this season. Orchardstown Cross is a real consistent performer but I just worry he is at the edge of his capabilities in this race. He has failed to really get close to winning off 130 and remains on that mark tomorrow. He will like the ground and stays the trip but I just question whether he is quite good enough to win this race. Almazhar Garde was a last time out winner and has risen swiftly through the handicaps over the last year. Charlie Longsdon has been in fantastic form and his charge’s recent win at Kelso was a good one, after disappointing on his return at Wetherby. He is untried at this trip, although watching his last performance I don’t see why he wouldn’t get the extra few furlongs. He got 5lb extra from the handicapper for that win but also had a claimer on his back at Kelso, so is effectively off a mark 8lb higher. It would be a mighty ask in a much more competitive field. Canelo would have been run very close by Northofthewall last time out, but even if that rival had stayed on his feet when coming down at the second last, I think Canelo would have won anyway - regardless it was an emphatic performance. He hasn’t been the most consistent of performers and is now at a career high mark. I think he has the best chance out of the four JP runners and could be open to more improvement. However, I would like to take him on with something more consistent, as he is rather short in the betting. Kapcorse won the race two years ago but we have seen him precious few times since that win. He gets his first start after almost 650 days off the track and you’d be a brave man to back him at such short odds, when he has not been seen for so long. There is no doubting how dangerous he could be at his current mark off 138 but I’d like to see him show it before I backed him. He also has needed the run on each of his comebacks and this is his longest time off the track to date. Rockys Treasure was once a Graded performer but has failed to get around on his last three starts. He was quite well backed on his last start but unseated at the first. Carrying 11 stone 12 lb, I’m not even sure David Bass, who can do no wrong at the minute, will be able to get him past the finishing line first. The two I have come down on are, Highest Sun and Doctor Dex. The latter has only had three starts over fences, winning his first start and then finishing second and was then pulled up on his last start when he was never travelling. He has beaten On The Slopes twice who has gone on to be a 140 horse whereas Doctor Dex only has a mark off 135. There could still be a lot of improvement to be had and his trainer has won this race before. The trip is the greatest unknown but I’d like to see him given a positive ride from the front as that is where he was at his best. He has won off a break so that wouldn’t concern me and he is better than his last run. However, with the question mark over trip and the competition I think he will have for a lead, I will have to leave him alone on this occasion. He’ll be one for a future race I’m sure though. My pick will instead be HIGHEST SUN who looked like this step up of an extra few furlongs is exactly what he needs. He was a well-backed second favourite on his first start back and was staying on well despite finishing 5th. He got badly outpaced that day and the Tizzard team was in atrocious form back then. Now they are bang in form and off 136 I think HIGHEST SUN could be dangerously well handicapped. He finished only four lengths behind RSA winner Champ last year and three lengths behind Pym in different races, so his quality is reflected in those efforts and therefore this handicap mark should really be a workable one. Hopefully his jumping and fitness will have improved for his earlier run and, providing the ground isn’t rattling fast, I would really fancy his chances of grabbing a place and maybe even winning. advice: HIGHEST SUN 0.5pts E/W @ 12/1 (William Hill - 5 places) 1:50 Newbury - Get Your Ladbrokes £1 Free Bet Today Handicap Hurdle. A tasty little race this, which Champ landed in 2018 and The Cashel Man took in dominating style last year. Nicky Henderson runs three, Colonial Dreams, Rathhill and Champagne Platinum. All three make their seasonal debuts, but it’s hard to split them in truth – despite the difference in odds. Colonial Dreams has struggled off a mark this high before and looks set to struggle again, while Rathhill hasn’t won since his hurdling debut – here at Newbury. He’s yet to face this trip though, and was largely anonymous in handicap hurdles at Down Royal and Cheltenham last season and that is concerning enough. Champagne Platinum has been campaigned rather strangely. He has talent, no doubt, with him going off favourite for the Kim Muir enough of a signal to show that. His jumping was much better than he’d ever shown in the Kim Muir, but his lack of consistency is enough to be put off him on his return to hurdles. Amour De Nuit defied a big absence to bounce back with a win last time at Plumpton, but the bounce is a bit of a worry. Lord Lamington has been dropped 5lb since his run at Cheltenham last time but it’s a struggle for four-year-olds in these races and he’s a big price for a reason. Hang In There has a lump of weight even with Ben Jones claiming 3lb in the saddle, but he was a Grade 2 winning novice hurdler and could show more in this test than he has recently. Milton Harris is having a fair time of things lately and Richard Johnson rides his Jacamar, who won at Aintree in October. Heavy ground didn’t suit last time but he’s not been done any favours by the handicapper and has something to find. Tea Clipper won at Chepstow on his reappearance in a valuable race but has been raised 7lb for that and has a battle on his hands if he’s to win again. While this is technically a drop in class he does face different types, such as the unexposed On The Wild Side. He won consecutive novice races at Hexham, and although he gets in lightly off a mark of 128 it’s tough to back him here given he has such a mountain to climb on the form book. Flash The Steel pays the price for his consistency with his handicap mark and hasn’t won since Chepstow in October 2019 off a 11lb lower mark. Christopher Wood carries top weight and that’s a mammoth task in itself for this race, let alone the fact he was beaten at Bangor last time out. We can look to this race last year for a clue. Howling Milan was fourth off a mark of 127 in this last year and is now 4lb lower, off a mark of 123. He has cheekpieces on for the first time, hardly surprising given his lacklustre run over fences last time out, and a return to hurdling could well provide him with the spark he needs to stage a revival. This race looks to have been planned for, given how well he ran in it last year, and he’s on a pretty decent mark considering everything. advice: HOWLING MILAN 0.5pts E/W @ 12/1 (William Hill, 4 places) 2:25 – Ladbrokes Intermediate Hurdle (Listed Race) Won last year by future champion hurdle winner Epatante, I think Nicky Henderson could have another very talented mare, who will be far too good for this race. Although, she is not the only one in this field to bring some very useful form and there are several others who could give her something to think about. Milkwood, Thyme Hill, Botox Has and Sebastapool all come here in great form. Milkwood is the general second favourite for N P Mulholland and was last seen contesting the Welsh Champion hurdle, which was a big step up from his reappearance win at Ffos Las in a Class 4 Novice Hurdle. He beat a horse called Ballinsker that day by four lengths but it was a very easy victory. Ballinsiker didn’t run too badly in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham so it’s not the worse form on offer. His run in the Welsh national was a good effort but he found very little when coming off the bridle, which was concerning. Buzz was only 2 lengths in front of him and has since come out and made a mockery off his mark at Ascot. The winner has also boosted the form when winning the Unibet Elite hurdle. That was a very tough race and the field he faces tomorrow is easier. I expect him to finish in the front three but feel like my selection may be a class above. Thyme White is off the same mark as Milkwood for Paul Nicholls. He won on his reappearance at Chepstow, overturning the very well backed Vorashann, who was bitterly disappointing. He cruised into the race and won with ease, getting an 11lb hike in the weights. He did post some good efforts last season but couldn’t make use of a reduced mark in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap at Cheltenham. He’s clearly very talented but this field has some seasoned winners. The second that day does re-oppose and gets slightly more weight on Saturday. The Pink’n gets 6lb instead of 1lb, with Daniel Sansom’s claim, he is one that has gone under the radar and could go very well. He also finished second behind Botox Has, who must carry top weight here. He also must give The Pink’n more weight, which again could increase his chances of overturning the form. Although I was very impressed with Botox Has on his last start, it will have to be a career best to win this off top weight. Despite all these positives for the rest of the field, it’s very hard to look past the favourite. MARIE’S ROCK was favourite for the Mares Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham for a long time last season until she unfortunately sustained an injury that cut her season short. She is unbeaten on all three starts and on both starts over hurdles has exhibited a lightning turn of foot. Horses in behind her have also gone on to run well in subsequent races, Midnights Gift finished 8 lengths behind MARIE’S ROCK and is now a solid 133-rated handicapper. MARIE’S ROCK is rated 141 and actually gets weight from some of the other horses, which, when you look back at her form, looks to be crazy. She is surely far better than a handicapper and is using this to move onto bigger and better things. The only question she must answer is fitness, as obviously, she has been off the track a long time with an injury. If she can show what she did last year, then she should brush these very respectable horses aside with ease. Nicky Henderson loves her and hopefully after tomorrows win, we will too. advice: MARIE’S ROCK 2pts WIN @ 13/8 (William Hill, Betway) 3:00 - Ladbrokes Trophy Chase (Grade 3) (HANDICAp RACE) Formerly and probably more commonly known as the Hennessy Gold Cup, this race has a superb bank of statistics and trends that apply to 75% or more winners of the contest. An absolute key factor here is proven stamina, especially given the demanding nature of the test that the field is likely to face. Only Madison Du Berlais and Many Clouds had not previously recorded a victory over 3m or further prior to coming here. Of this year’s field, the only one with a slight question mark over their stamina is Black Op - despite being a Point winner, he’s not won over further than 2m5f under rules so far in his career. Not only that, but eight of the last twelve winners has a previous win at this track to their name and every single one of them had at least two wins over fences under their belts. That’s bad news for plenty, including Ballyoptic and Vinndication, who haven’t won at this venue, and Aye Right, Black Op and Danny Whizzbang, who only have one chasing victory to their name. With seven of the last ten winners taking part in their second season over fences, they’re a group it’s advisable to keep a keen eye on. These horses tend to improve between their first and second season chasing and are often able to exploit their handicap mark at this time of year if they have done so. This applies to many of those towards the head of the market with the likes of Copperhead, Aye Right and Two For Gold all embarking on their second season over the larger obstacles. This also means that comparatively younger horses have tended to do well here over the years. To narrow it down, six, seven and eight-year-olds have been successful in nine of the last ten renewals. Three-quarters of this year’s field fall into the desired bracket, but some of the bigger names such as Ballyoptic (10), Beware The Bear (10), Regal Encore (12), Black Op (9) and La Bague Au Roi (9), would all become just the fifth horse since 1990 to win the race at an age older than eight. Good recent form is also something that has stood horses in good stead over the years, in fact eight of the last ten winners had achieved a top-three finish on their most recent start. All of the last seven winners have also had a run under their belt and nine of the last twelve ran within 57 days of their previous start - this is something that is only recently becoming more important as before, the likes of State Of Play, Trabolgan, Denman and Bob’s Worth won this on their seasonal debut. A few of the fancied horses fall foul of these trends including The Conditional, who hasn’t yet been seen this season, and Copperhead, who was pulled up on his return. It should be noted, though, that he did run over hurdles there and the last winner of the race, De Rasher Counter, was sixth in a hurdle race before taking this, so that could be a new ‘prep’ trend starting to come to prominence if Copperhead was to take the spoils. Given the high-class nature of this race, it’s no surprise to see that the lowest-rated winner in the last decade was rated 146 (Carruthers, 2011) and, it’s also no surprise that, given this race is a handicap after all, the highest rated winner (barring Denman’s freakish win from 174) was running from a mark of 160. Anything higher than that would take an effort that would go down in the annals of time and so the likes of Ballyoptic and Vinndication look to have plenty to do in that regard. The final factor to warrant some consideration is the strength of the betting market in recent years. Eight of the last ten winners of the Ladbrokes Trophy have come from the first six in the betting and therefore those towards the head of the market should be favoured. There is scope to look for value in the race, especially with the last two winning SPs being 12/1, but it does still seem sensible not to look too far away from the market principals. Shortlist: COPPERHEAD – 8/9 Two For Gold – 8/9 Aye Right - 7/9 Kildisart - 7/9 Conclusion With six, seven or eight-year-olds having won 90% of the last decade’s renewals of this race, it’s no surprise that my shortlist is comprised of four horses in that age group. Interestingly, before Sam Brown was not declared on account of the good ground, he hit all nine of the trends, so connections will be cursing their luck that the weather has been so good in this past week compared to the previous one, where heavy ground was almost everywhere. Still, four places on offer with a 16+ runner field, so a four-runner shortlist should soften the below for the trends. The Reynoldstown at Ascot last season could prove a big guide to this race, with two on the shortlist finishing first and second. Two For Gold was a distant second to winner, Copperhead, but paid the price for trying to make the first move when chasing the leader. He’s a dour stayer who jumps nicely and he made a satisfactory reappearance this season when second in a Listed Handicap Chase behind Huntsman Son over an inadequate 2m4f at Wetherby, only worn down late on after leading for much of the contest. The step up to this trip and a well-run contest will suit this second-season chaser and he hails from the Kim Bailey stable who are going great guns so far in 2020, so this seven-year-old has to be respected off a mark of 148. The winner, COPPERHEAD, exploded onto the scene as a novice chaser for Colin Tizzard, proving at least 30lbs better over fences than hurdles and wrapping up that Grade 2 title in the process and in some style (by 17 lengths!). He found the RSA too much for him in the end, weakening three out after looking a threat for much of the second circuit, but this kind of test, especially if held on softer ground, could suit better and he has a C&D victory to his name last season. That win was a superb weight-carrying performance on soft ground, travelling and jumping nicely before clearing a few lengths away from the field in the closing stages, proving the track and ground holds no fears for him. Yes, he is 18lb higher in the weights here in a much better contest, but the Tizzard yard certainly knows the type required to run well in this (two winners and three placed horses in the last seven years) and if you can forgive his pretty lifeless first run of the season over hurdles, he certainly appeals as the grizzled type that do well in this. The Tizzard yard weren’t firing at the time and have certainly come into some good form now, so there’s every chance COPPERHEAD could go well here from a mark of 152. The remaining two on the shortlist both ran at Wetherby’s Charlie Hall Meeting almost a month ago, with Aye Right running well in the big race itself, finishing a seven-length third to Cyrname and was five lengths behind the re-opposing Vinndication. Because this is a handicap, Aye Right is 7lb better off with that rival than he was at Wetherby, so there’s every chance that where one finishes, the other won’t be far away. The Harriet Graham-trained chaser has form on decent ground, stays well and has proven he can mix it at a very high level, so the only question that remains is whether a mark of 150 in handicap company is enough to anchor him - he was a good second to Nuts Well (subsequent Old Roan Chase winner) on his seasonal reappearance over an insufficient trip at Kelso off 146, so there’s every chance that 150 is still workable. Completing the shortlist is the smart Kildisart, who ran extremely well in the same Grade 2 West Yorkshire Hurdle that Copperhead was pulled up in, finishing third and beating Stayers’ Hurdle champion, Lisnagar Oscar in the process. He ran without the cheekpices on there, but has them back on here for the first time since he was an agonisingly close second to The Conditional in the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham last season. He races off a 4lb higher mark here, but is still 4lb better off with that rival, so with the ground looking to be good or good to soft at worst, things look to be playing well into Kildisart’s hands. His wellbeing was proved at Wetherby and he’s got every chance here. 3:35 - Watch Racing Free Online At Ladbrokes Handicap Chase (For the Jim Joel Memorial Trophy) Shading favouritism for the final race of Newbury’s 2020 Winter Carnival is Moonlighter who carries top weight in the contest for Nick Williams after putting up a career-best effort last time out. Last season he got off the mark over fences at the fourth attempt with success in a novices’ handicap over Saturday’s course and distance on heavy ground, before contesting the Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick. He couldn’t get involved upped in class when finishing fourth, but MOONLIGHTER showed improved form to begin the current campaign with an excellent second in the Grade 2 Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter (good ground). The seven-year-old only went down by a neck that day to Paul Nicholls’ Champion Chase dark horse Greaneteen, which was a big performance even if he was receiving 9lb from the winner. He also jumped to his left during the race, so the return to a left-handed track on Saturday should suit. A repeat of that performance could make MOONLIGHTER hard to beat at Newbury despite carrying top weight, and he also has the potential for further progress making his eighth career start over fences. Ibleo also has Class 1 form to his name as he was runner-up in a Listed handicap at Ascot on his seasonal reappearance. That form looks to be solid with the winner that day, Dan Skelton’s Amoola Gold, going on to finish a narrow second in a competitive handicap back at Ascot last weekend. Trained by Venetia Williams, Ibleo is lightly-raced over the bigger obstacles having only had the four starts to date, winning his first two races and then finishing second on the two most recent occasions. The seven-year-old can give his all again on Saturday but the conditions might not be ideal for him. His best form so far has been on soft ground or worse and he has run below-par in his three career races where good has appeared in the going description. Another unexposed contender is the bottom weight The King Of May who is two from three over fences for Brian Ellison. He was switched to chasing last season and the form of his seasonal reappearance at Carlisle in October 2019 now looks to be strong as he beat the Evan Williams-trained Esprit Du Large, who went on to land the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown. However, The King Of May’s was last seen on the track in January so it might be tough for him to win this weekend on the back of a 307-day absence. Others to note include Zanza who has run well in his three starts at Newbury over hurdles for Philip Hobbs, winning twice and finishing a respectable sixth in the Betfair Hurdle earlier this year. The six-year-old has been sent chasing this season and built on his comeback run to finish second at Warwick last time, but he will need to find more again to get involved on Saturday. Also with Newbury form to his name is The Russian Doyen who won a novices’ handicap over Saturday’s course and distance in January last year for Colin Tizzard. He has not gone on from that though upped to two and half miles, so needs the first-time blinkers and drop back in trip to make a difference. One who is more exposed is the Charlie Longsdon-trained Western Miller, but he defied his odds of 66/1 to return to form at Cheltenham last month. However, he was well-beaten in this race last year off the same mark so it remains to be seen if he is able to back up his Cheltenham effort. advice: MOONLIGHTER 1pt WIN @ 3/1 (William Hill)
  2. 12:45 - The Ladbrokes Daily Odds Boosts Chase (Novices' Limited Handicap Chase) (For the Fulke Walwyn Trophy) This looks to be a competitive edition of the race with the two at the top of the market looking to maintain their 100 per cent record over fences. Eritage made it a winning start over the bigger obstacles at Ludlow last month for Paul Nicholls, although he enjoyed some fortune to do so. Having had wind surgery during the summer, the six-year-old was well-backed ahead of his chase debut and he raced keenly through the race before looking held in second behind the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Goa Lil approaching the final fence. However, the leader fell at the last leaving Eritage to come home as a clear eight and a half length winner. Eritage was having to concede weight to the four-year-old Goa Lil, but the runner-up on the day was Dan Skelton’s Monsieur D’Arque whose record over fences now stands at one win from nine races. A winner of a Class 4 novice over hurdles, Eritage is clearly expected to make up into a better chaser given the way that he was supported for the Ludlow race, so he is open to progress at Newbury but will need to improve now taking on tougher opposition. The other horse in the line-up who arrives having won his only chase start so far is ANEMOI, who will be bidding to enhance Harry Whittington’s fine recent record in the race. The trainer has landed the prize twice in the last five years and ANEMOI looks to hold strong claims of adding to that in the 2020 renewal. He was a useful performer over hurdles in 2018/19 as third-place finishes in a Cheltenham Listed race and Class 2 at Taunton saw him sent off at odds of only 7/1 for the Scottish Champion Hurdle. However, he ran below-par in the Grade 2 handicap at Ayr and then was not seen on the track again until Wetherby last month. Having had wind surgery, the six-year-old made a successful return to action over hurdles as he got the better of Dan Skelton’s Proschema before being sent chasing for his next start. In what looked to be a decent novices’ handicap at Chepstow at the beginning of the month, ANEMOI showed a good attitude to narrowly get the better of Kerry Lee’s Financier, who reopposes on friday. After a slow jump at the second-last fence, ANEMOI battled back strongly to get his head in front close home which has led to there being a 1lb change in the weights between the pair ahead of the Newbury contest. However, Financier had the benefit of three previous races over fences and ANEMOI can confirm the form from Chepstow with the promise of more to come over the bigger obstacles. He can improve on his first chase start and make it a hat-trick of wins this season on friday. All of the runners in the line-up have potential now chasing, such as Editeur Du Gite who put up an improved effort on his third start over fences on his seasonal reappearance. A winner over hurdles in France, he failed to get involved in his two races last year for Gary Moore but was interestingly pitched into the Grade 2 Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase at Kempton on the latter occasion. He did not race again until the end of last month, where he improved to finish runner-up in a novices’ handicap at Ascot. That was over two miles and three furlongs and Editeur Du Gite went from the front until being passed at the second-last by the Anthony Honeyball-trained Sully D’Oc AA. The six-year-old could be able to build on that effort back in trip at Newbury, but he has a bit to find with the front two in the market. advice: ANEMOI 1pt WIN @ 4/1 (General) 2:25 – The Get Your Ladbrokes £1 Free Bet Today Handicap Chase 11 runners go to the post in what looks a very interesting chase over the 2m4f, with a lot of solid form on offer. Having to give weight to all is the Venetia Williams trained Cepage, with the usual suspect of Charlie Deutsch doing the steering. He has been a very good horse for connections thus far and managed to get his head in front in a Grade 3 handicap at Cheltenham over 2m4½f back in January. He wasn’t disgraced in the Ultima Handicap at the Cheltenham Festival last time out either, when finishing seventh. He hasn’t been seen since then though, and despite having some strong form in his locker, he usually finds one or two too good and I can see the same happening again here on slightly quicker ground than he ideally likes. Although Sully D’Oc AA returned a winner for last time out, this race looks a lot deeper, albeit with him being towards the bottom of the handicap in this field. The wind surgery seemed to do the trick as this horse finally returned a winner over fences on his seasonal debut when scoring at Ascot, jumping well all the way round. The 10lb raise could see him struggle in a more competitive race, but he is open to improvement. Defi Sacre gets a huge amount of weight from all his rivals and could still be well-handicapped off this mark. He was a classy improver last year over fences, rattling up a hat-trick over 2m and his reappearance run showed that he could still find a mark of 129 workable. However, given that he failed to score at Aintree at the start of the month, despite being sent off as favourite, and this trip is one he’s not proven over, he could find this race a tough ask with cheekpieces on for the first time. Richard Johnson is back to winning ways once again this season and his partnership with Philip Hobbs is usually one to be feared even though the yard is in some very inconsistent form at the moment. Musical Slave has the second JP McManus colours on today and he showed progression over hurdles - he has now started to tell a similar story over fences too. This seven-year-old managed to break his duck over fences when winning at Exeter on New Year’s Day and followed that up with two decent efforts. However, he is now 4lb higher in the weights this time around and will more than likely want further in time, especially given that this ground isn’t as soft as he’d like ideally. San Benedeto is an interesting horse here as he is a very smart chaser on his day, scoring over course and distance in March 2019 to land the Greatwood Gold Cup (Grade 3) off this same mark of 147. However, the big worry with this horse is that his recent form has been poor in handicap company, including in the Summer Plate in July, but he does drop back to his last winning mark so again, that gives him a chance. He does look interesting but, judging by his last four efforts, he’d be a risky one to chance regardless. The Alan King trained Fidux deserves a mention after finishing ahead of the Nicholls horse in the Summer Plate, eventually finishing second. The seven-year-old has since gone in to score on his latest outing, albeit in weaker company, over 2m5½f, sticking on gamely. This is a much tougher task though and might be out of his depth in these deep waters. Clondaw Castle has some strong market support, after an excellent run in the Old Roan Chase, finishing second on his seasonal debut, finishing ahead of the favourite, OLDGRANGEWOOD. He ended last season in fine form too, picking up a victory at Warwick over today’s trip, and he clearly has potential, especially on the kind of sound surface he’ll encounter here. The eight-year-old is now 2lb higher for his recent second and OLDGRANGEWOOD has the 2lb swing in the weights in his favour here. After taking this race 12 months ago, Dan Skelton’s nine-year-old gets the nod to get back to winning ways after his good fourth last time out. He really seemed to benefit from the wind surgery last season, scoring twice in handicaps including a Grade 3 at Cheltenham. He should come on from that seasonal debut and with conditions in his favour and 4lb less weight on his back than the burden his main danger, Clondaw Castle, carries, it would be no shock to see these two battle it out to the line and the market could well have got this race spot on. advice: OLDGRANGEWOOD 1pt E/W @ 9/2 (William Hill - 4 places) 3:00 - Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle (Grade 2) This looks to be a high-class renewal of the Grade 2 contest and it sees last year’s winner of the race return to action but now with a bit to prove. Paisley Park was one of the stories of the 2018/19 season for Emma Lavelle as he burst onto the scene in the staying hurdling division, capping off an unbeaten five-race campaign with success in the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. He got the better of the Jedd O’Keeffe-trained Sam Spinner by two and three-quarter lengths in the championship event and the manner of his victories throughout the season suggested that he could go on to dominate the division over the next couple of years. Given a break after his Festival success, things went to plan in Paisley Park’s first two runs of the 2019/20 season as he won last year’s renewal of the Long Distance Hurdle before following-up in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham. Those two wins saw him sent off as the odds-on favourite to defend his Stayers’ Hurdle Crown, but the eight-year-old finished seventh in the Grade 1 after suffering from an irregular heartbeat. It can be that the issue is a one-off though and connections have been positive ahead of his comeback this week. If Paisley Park can return at Newbury somewhere near his best form then he will be difficult to beat in the Long Distance Hurdle, but it remains to be seen how his last run has affected him. Taking on Paisley Park at Newbury are two of the new kids on the block in the staying hurdling division, who will be looking to see if they are up to competing at the Cheltenham Festival come March. McFabulous took a bit of time to find his form last season for Paul Nicholls but ended the campaign with impressive wins as he was upped in trip. He got off the mark over hurdles at the third attempt when winning a Market Rasen novice in February and has not looked back since, travelling strongly when landing a Grade 3 novice at Kempton the following month over two miles and five furlongs. For his seasonal reappearance, McFabulous was kept to novice company for the Grade 2 Persian War at Chepstow and again travelled easily through the race before having too much for the rest of his rivals. The six-year-old has now earned a step up to the highest level and has to be respected on his first try at three miles, but on ratings he does have a lot to find with Paisley Park. Also in the line-up is the Philip Hobbs-trained Thyme Hill who was unbeaten in three novice hurdles last season, including Newbury’s Grade 1 Challow Hurdle, ahead of the Cheltenham Festival. He then ran a fine race when finishing an unlucky fourth in the Albert Bartlett so connections have decided to stay over hurdles for the current campaign. However, the trainer’s horses have seemed to be needing their first run back this season and it looks a strong race to be starting off in. There are actually two winners of the Stayers’ Hurdle in Friday’s race and LISNAGAR OSCAR might be underestimated yet again here after his shock success at Cheltenham in March. Sent off at 50/1 for the 2020 edition of the Stayers’ Hurdle, he defied his odds to run out a two-length winner (Tom George’s Summerville Boy back in fifth) with connections saying afterwards that they were surprised to see him return at such a big price. Looking back, he had showed promise when third in the Cleeve Hurdle on his previous run and as a novice he had finished fifth in the Albert Bartlett and third in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree. With some uncertainty about Paisley Park and the pair of McFabulous and Thyme Hill stepping out of novice company, LISNAGAR OSCAR could build on his solid comeback run at Wetherby last month and go well at decent odds in the Long Distance Hurdle. advice: LISNAGAR OSCAR 1pt E/W @ 16/1 (BetVictor) 3:35 – The Play Ladbrokes 1-2-Free On Football Handicap Hurdle. Current favourite for the closing race of day one is Hill Sixteen who won by an impressive forty-six lengths on his stable debut for Nigel Twiston-Davies nine days ago. The seven-year-old was well-backed for his first run since January and he duly landed the odds with a comfortable victory. That performance came in a Ffos Las handicap chase over two miles and three and a half furlongs on heavy ground, so he will be facing a much different test at Newbury on Saturday as he bids to make it back-to-back wins since moving from the Sue Smith yard. Hill Sixteen gets to race off a mark of 123 now switched to hurdles so is 10lb well-in on the ratings, but he is up in trip and class while conditions will be much quicker than they were at Ffos Las. He is a previous winner over hurdles though and was runner-up on his penultimate start over two miles and seven and a half furlongs, but he has not raced over hurdles since March 2019 so has a little bit to prove despite being well-handicapped. Another who has a wide-margin win to their name this season is Neville’s Cross, who made it two from two since being sent handicapping with a twenty-length success at Hereford last month. Trained by Tom Lacey, the five-year-old has enjoyed the step-up in distance this season with wins at Uttoxeter and then Hereford before going up in grade at Cheltenham at the end of October. Raised 12lb for his Hereford victory, he was sent off as favourite for Cheltenham’s Pertemps Hurdle Series Qualifier but could get never really get involved when finishing sixth (the Tom George-trained Ballon Onabudget further back in eighth). It is too soon to be writing off Neville’s Cross as he is still lightly raced and unexposed over three miles, but he will need to resume his improvement on friday to defy his current mark of 130. One who is proven in this grade and should not have any problems with the conditions at Newbury is DELL’ ARCA, who won a Class 2 over friday’s course and distance on good ground at the beginning of the month. He may now be eleven years old but has rolled back the years this season for David Pipe as he previously won at Aintree before following-up in good style last time out. DELL’ ARCA was rated as high as 150 in the past so his current mark of 131 may not be beyond him and he has been developing a good partnership with conditional jockey Fergus Gillard. For DELL’ ARCA’s two wins this season Gillard has been in the saddle and he is good value for his 5lb claim, even if he was able to take off 7lb the last time at Newbury. With Gillard’s claim, DELL’ ARCA only has to carry 10st 7lb on friday and he can continue his resurgence this season and make a bold bid for his hat-trick. Alan King saddles two in the race and they both could have more to offer over three miles. Loverboy is lightly raced having only had the nine career starts to date as a nine-year-old. He ran twice for Dan Skelton back in 2017 but then was not seen again on the track until January this year when he defied his long absence to make a winning start for Alan King at Chepstow. He subsequently did not race until last month where he ran creditably to finish sixth at Wetherby trying three miles for the first time. Loverboy could be able to build on that effort at Newbury carrying bottom weight in the contest, so is an interesting contender even though he is up in class. Stablemate Coeur De Lion is actually having his first try at the trip having raced more times on the Flat during his career. The seven-year-old is rated 94 on the level having won the Ascot Stakes at the royal meeting this summer, so he could be well-treated based on that form. However, so far he has not been as good in his eleven races over hurdles as he has shown on the Flat. advice: DELL’ ARCA 1pt E/W @ 15/2 (Paddy Power, Betfair)
  3. 4:05 – High Sheriff Of Gloucestershire Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Listed Race) The best bumper of the year so far and there are some serious horses in this, including the current favourite Weseekhimhere, who has already won two bumpers for Gordon Elliott over in Ireland. He was impressive in September, winning by nine lengths on soft ground, but the form of his wins is up for debate, with the third from his latter win being beaten miles on hurdling debut (poor jumping a factor there) and the second from his first win beaten almost as far in a Mares’ bumper in October. He could be good and Gordon Elliott often has the best bumper horses, but he’s too short a price for me to be suggesting an investment. There are plenty of other winners running here, including Conceroe and Masteroftheheights, but both of their wins came in pretty poor races and it’s a stretch to think that they’ll be up to winning this. Stage Star cleared right away in a Chepstow bumper on soft ground with the assistance of Lorcan Williams’ 3lb claim, so he should have no issue with any softening of the ground and hails from the in-form Nicholls stable, but again, the form of that win is questionable and to see him at such a short price is surprising to me up in class and without a weight claim from his pilot, Harry Cobden, this time around. One winner I was seriously impressed by, however, is GRANDEUR D’AME, who bolted up in a Newton Abbot contest on heavy ground, defeating a horse of David Pipe’s, Gericault Rouge, who the stable rate highly and was promising in his own right. Back in third was Bucko’s Boy, who had already won one of those fairly weak bumpers I described earlier at Hexham, and he was beaten a good ten lengths despite his superior experience. There is every chance this Oliver Sherwood-trained four-year-old could be a proper horse as a full brother to the stable’s Dominateur, who has been rated as high as 145, and with the experience and enjoyment of deep ground under his belt, there’s no weather here that will phase him. He travelled into that win like a serious animal and he’s got a great chance to prove it here – I think he’s going to be very very good. One debutant to note as a threat is the Nicky Henderson-trained Firestep, who I’ve noticed has held entries in some decent bumpers already through the start of the season, but hasn’t taken to the track just yet. He could be good as Henderson isn’t a huge fan of bumpers (especially those at this venue in March!) but he’s pitching him in at this high level as a starting point. However, he was taken out of a race at Chepstow last week on account of significantly soft ground, so the weather conditions could see him taken out again closer to the time. advice: GRANDEUR D’AME 1pt WIN @ 4/1 (William Hill)
  4. 3:00 - Unibet Greatwood Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) Perhaps the strongest block of trends associated with this race point towards age and whilst no one age group has dominated, those aged between four and six have proved best to follow. The seven-year-old Khyber Kim is the only winner since 1991 to sit outside the desired bracket which doesn’t bode well for the cohort of older horses in this year’s line-up, the seven-year-olds Main Fact, Harambe, Oakley, Strong Glance, Benny’s Bridge and The Shunter, while those aged eight or older – Ballyandy, Tudor City, Hunters Call & Countister - would be making history if they were to win here. In competitive handicaps, fine margins can often make the difference and improving horses can often come out on top. The Greatwood is no different as half of the last ten winners had no more than six starts over hurdles prior to lining up here, yet eleven of the last twelve had at least four starts. This looks to be the ideal ‘sweet-spot’ for those improving hurdlers that tend to take this race and it’s surprising how many have fallen into it. Applying that narrow bracket to this year’s field gives us six horses, namely Edwardstone, Sebastopol, Thyme White, Milkwood, Proschema and Pisgah Pike. Interestingly, the last ten renewals of the race have seen only two horses carry more than 11st 4lb and win the race. This could again reinforce the idea that you need an improving sort for a race like this and one that hasn’t shown his/her hand over hurdles in their career just yet. It could mean the task for the likes of the well-supported Main Fact and the veterans Ballyandy and Tudor City is more difficult than it may appear. However, that is not to say that lower-rated horses win this race, in fact the opposite is true. An official rating of 136 appears to be the benchmark as eight of the last ten winners sat on or above this mark, up to 151 – 2018’s winner, Nietzsche and 2013 winner, Dell’Arca, were rated 126 and 128 respectively – very much lower rated than the general profile of the usual Greatwood winner. In terms of this year’s field, the first 12 on the racecard, bar the 154-rated Ballyandy, qualify here, all the way down to Cormier. Race fitness has often been a positive in this race judging by recent history and eight of the last twelve winners had a run already that season, while ten of the last 12 winners had experience of Cheltenham under their belts, something that is always important at this unique venue. As always, the final factor worthy of consideration is the betting and unlike many races of this kind, big-priced winners are almost commonplace with all the last twelve favourites being beaten and only three winners in that time having come from the first three in the betting – bad news for the likes of Edwardstone, Thyme White, Main Fact and Proschema who are battling for favouritism at the time of writing. In fact, seven of the last ten winners have gone off at double-figure odds, so don’t be frightened of a chunky price! Shortlist: SIR PSYCHO – 6/7 Sebastopol – 6/7 Thyme White – 6/7 Conclusion While none of our contenders match all the trends, three match all but one, so the shortlist is nice and easy to put together here. Given the stable’s form and record in this race (won two of the last nine) it’s not a big surprise to see both Paul Nicholls-trained contenders right at the top of the list. Thyme White is the shortest priced of the pair and seemingly for good reason as the four-year-old was an impressive winner of a Chepstow handicap hurdle on his last start. Nicholls quickly nominated this as his next target and despite an 11lb rise in the weights that could make things a little trickier on softer ground, he should go well. However, personal preference here is for his stablemate, SIR PSYCHO, who was an extremely promising fifth in the 2m3½f Silver Trophy at Chepstow on his seasonal reappearance. This four-year-old cruised to the front like much the best horse in the race turning for home, but found the extended run in too much of a stamina test for him at the Welsh venue, so this drop in trip should suit him nicely, especially if the forecast rain materialises and turns the ground soft. He was a good fifth in the Triumph Hurdle last season after hacking up in the Victor Ludorum so has a high level of form already to his name and if the race is run at a decent clip, there won’t be many coming up the hill as strongly as him. SIR PSYCHO is a big price for a horse of his quality and is a cracking each-way bet with a changeable forecast in the offing. The final horse on the shortlist is the Tom Lacey-trained Sebastopol and he does come with a warning – if the ground turns properly soft, his chance is diminished greatly. He’s best on ground with ‘Good’ in it but he’s a horse who, despite only having had five starts over hurdles, is already experienced in the handicap arena, with two wins from three runs. He’s another strong stayer at two miles, so this big field scenario should play to his strengths, but his stable’s form is a concern, as is the weather.
  5. 2:25 – The Shloer Chase (Grade 2) The Shloer Chase doesn’t usually attract many runners and a field of 6 go to post over the minimum distance for chasers but it looks a cracker on paper. With such great form on offer, it is very easy to make a case for every single horse in this race. Firstly, let’s mention the two who are yet to fire at Cheltenham to date and they are Riders Onthe Storm and the outsider Forest Bihan. The former has really come to life since entering the Twiston-Davies stable, completing a strong hat-trick last season. His most notable win came in the four-runner field of the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase, thrashing the only other finisher by 14 lengths. He ran in the Ryanair Chase but his spin was cut short, falling 4 from home when he seemed to be going well again and we could see further improvement this season. He will still need to find a bit extra to deal with the leading market rivals but it’s not impossible. The latter seemed to really enjoy the step up to 2m4f when he produced a career best to land the Monet’s Garden Old Roan Handicap Chase (Grade 2), having horses such as Kalasnikov and Frodon behind him. He did have weight on his side that day, however, and he steps out of handicap company here at a track that may not suit him as well as Aintree does. He’s easy to ignore going back down to two miles, with some classy rivals seemingly having his measure. 2019 Arkle winner, Duc Des Genievres, has now joined the Paul Nicholls stable after failing to get competitive in Grade 1 company for Willie Mullins since landing the Arkle impressively in 2019. The seven-year-old has yet to fire since, finding superstars Min and Chacun Pour Soi too much to deal with, but a change in yard might spark the revival he needs. After the gelding’s 15-length beating in the Ryanair Chase, he has had since undergone a wind operation and it will be interesting to see what he can find today, back over his preferred 2m trip on softer ground. After running into some tough novices in Graded company, Rouge Vif returned a stunning winner at last month’s Showcase Meeting and returns to Cheltenham again today. That was his first run out of Novice company but he put the field to bed that day with ease, scoring by over seven lengths off a big mark in a handicap, and a repeat of that should put him close. Since undergoing wind surgery, he has looked classy and his rating now backs that up (164). After beating a well-fancied Skelton horse and on his third in the Arkle, he must get plenty of credit in this race too. He will still need to improve on his seasonal debut to get competitive with the top two but does have race fitness on his side. Put The Kettle On makes the trip over from Ireland once again and she seems to love it here at Cheltenham (2-2). After beating Al Dancer in the Arkle Trial from the front, she jumped well throughout and had Rouge Vif eight lengths back that day, as the outsider. Henry De Bromhead’s charge followed that up in great style to post a career-best when shocking everyone at 16-1 in March, adding further form to his CV. Henry has had nothing but positive words to say about this mare but a lot of things suggest that DEFI DU SEUIL, who was well below-par in the Champion Chase last year, has more to offer and I agree. Barry Geraghty rode DEFI DU SEUIL to victory in this race last year but now has the former champion jockey Richard Johnson on his back. After getting his head in front as favourite last year, he is back to defend his crown, but this time, he will arguably have to be even better. After completing a hat-trick of Grade Ones, he has proven time and time again that he is right at the top of the spectrum and he can show that class again today. Philip Hobbs’ seven-year-old was a massive disappointment in the Champion Chase, after being sent off as favourite, but he could well bounce back nicely on his seasonal debut on ground that should suit him. advice: DEFI DU SEUIL 2pts WIN @ 2/1 (Sky Bet, Unibet)
  6. 1:50 – Planteur At Chapel Stud Handicap Chase (Grade 3) A seriously high-class handicap chase in prospect over the extended three miles and three furlongs and the deteriorating ground conditions mixed with a likely truly run race means that we’ll need a horse that not only stays but has the class required to beat other smart stayers. Cloth Cap was a decent third behind Frodon in a similar event here last month, but needs better ground to show his best, so he’ll be of more interest once he’s back on that more solid surface, while it’s a similar story for Crievehill and Brave Eagle, especially at this extreme trip. Big River was a never-nearer fifth in the Ultima when last seen and in theory, he’s got a right chance from a 2lb higher mark as he’ll have no problem with the ground. However, he made his seasonal reappearance in this last year from a 4lb lower mark and was pulled up, so the likelihood is that this is a starting point for him and one that is unlikely to provide his connections with any prize money. With Bryan Carver’s 5lb claim, Captain Drake races off a nice low weight here and with a preference for softer ground and as stiff a stamina test as possible, he might run nicely for Harry Fry. He prepped for this with a nice win over hurdles on ground quicker than ideal at Uttoxeter and being just a seven-year-old, he has improvement under the bonnet. His second in the Midlands National off 138 (4lb lower than the 142 he’s rated now) was a good effort, but this is still a big step up for him and with his jumping still a question mark at times – unseated twice in his last four starts over fences – he might find this too stiff a task. Another who prepped for this with a run over hurdles was RAMSES DE TEILLEE, who was fifth in a Grade 1 in France to open his season and that should put him spot on for this, a first return to fences after finishing a well-beaten fourth in this race last year. He does race here from 149 - a 4lb lower mark than he did that day and any softening of the ground will certainly work in his favour, so when you look at his form, including a close second in the Grand National Trial in 2019 off this mark and a close second in the Welsh National in 2018 from a mark of 144, and consider that he was favourite for this race last year despite giving almost a stone or more to all his rivals, he looks a seriously decent chance here if his jumping holds up. I’m surprised to see him at such a chunky price given he’s had a run this season and conditions are going to play into his hands, but the concern could be that his worst two efforts in the last year have both come at this venue. Still, he’s also won here over that time and it could just be that he’s better early on in the season, so I think that with a 156-rated rival framing the weights, this gives RAMSES DE TEILLEE a cracking chance. Speaking of last year’s renewal, West Approach comes into this 6lb higher in the weights and off the back of a similarly decent performance in the October contest that Cloth Cap was third in. He looked as if he was going to challenge Frodon there coming up the hill, but his old ways came back again and he found very little when he got close to that rival. There’s every chance, off 1lb lower here, that a similar scenario will unfold, with him travelling into the race better than anyone, but finding nothing when push comes to shove. Therefore, with him being just a 3/1 shot, I couldn’t possibly recommend backing him, he’s just not reliable enough. Yala Enki heads the weights from a mark of 156 and even though that’s high and he hasn’t had a run yet this season, unlike many of his rivals, there’s every chance that the in-form Paul Nicholls will have gotten him fit enough to do himself justice. However, he has been beaten from marks in and around this number in the last 12 months and you’d think that this might be a prep run for another crack at the Welsh National, in which he went so close last year from a mark of 155, so a few pounds off might help there. There is also this horse’s record at Cheltenham, which is far below his record on flatter tracks, so despite him being the highest rated here, he’s well down my shortlist. The biggest threat to the selection could actually come from across the Irish Sea in the shape of Discorama, who is as genuine and versatile a horse and you could wish for. He may not have won at Cheltenham yet, but his record is impeccable in terms of placed finishes (Martin Pipe, National Hunt Chase, Ultima). He’s only running off 2lb higher than for the latter placed effort at last season’s Festival, so there’s every chance he can go well again here. He made an excellent seasonal reappearance when a short head second to Milan Native over an insufficient 2m6f and the return to this track and this kind of trip could see him in an even better light. To be honest, he’s absolutely rock solid and it’s hard to pick holes in his chance, but given his history of peaking at The Festival and in the Spring in general, he might not be at as high a level as he could be. That’s clutching at straws though, and the real decision made here was due to price – he’s edging away from being an each-way proposition and it’s a tricky one to tip him to win, despite his consistency, as he’s only actually won twice in his 17-race career so far. advice: RAMSES DE TEILLEE 1pt E/W @ 17/2 (Unibet)
  7. 1:15 – mallardjewellers.com Novices’ Chase. An interesting Novices’ chase over 3m½f that could see many of these lightly raced horses improve. With the news coming through that Robbie Power will now be riding in England for the Colin Tizzard stable full time now, he looks to be in with a big chance with The Big Breakaway. After racking up an impressive double over hurdles, the five-year-old has quickly been switched to chasing, and is tried over the 3m trip. His fourth in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle adds to his locker of form. He is very short in the market despite it being his chasing and seasonal debut, and with some of these having some strong form already on offer over fences it could turn out to be a poor price. He hasn’t been seen since March and given how many of the Tizzards’ horses have needed their first run, I’m happy to try and take him on here, even though he’s getting weight from some of these rivals. Don Penfro is the other one making his chasing debut in the field but judging on his hurdling form, he looks well-held as the outsider of the field. The Mighty Don finally got off the mark at the seventh time of asking but only managed to do so by a neck, beating odds on favourite Enrilo last time out. After falling in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase on boxing day and falling again next time out, this eight-year-old’s jumping can’t be trusted and he is another who will require a career best to win this. Wolf Of Windlesham put in an excellent round of jumping to get off the mark at the first time of asking around Fakenham over 3 miles. He bolted clear that day too, beating evens favourite Young Wolf by 11 lengths, and with improvement likely to come, he could go well at a bigger price. Judging by his hurdling form however, he will struggle with getting close to the two at the top of the market. The Butcher Said, trained by Olly Murphy in the McNeill Family colours, has made an impressive start over the larger obstacles too. Going clear by 12 lengths on his chasing bow over today’s trip, the eight-year-old looked like he would improve from his rating of 139 over hurdles. He didn’t seem to like the drop down to 2m4f, when running into a likely improver out of the Skelton stable, and he appreciated the step up to three miles to score by a nose as odds-on favourite. That isn’t the strongest form on offer by any means, so he’s another who will more than likely struggle faced with his toughest task to date. This leaves us with the Paul Nicholls runner, SOLIDER OF LOVE, who has been so impressive since being switched to the larger obstacles. Scoring on four of his seven attempts since being sent chasing, the wind operation seems to have worked wonders for this seven-year-old. Although he was beaten seven lengths by Galvin in a tricky novices’ chase around here last month, that from looks solid, having rivals rated 143 and 148 behind him, so this looks a good opportunity for Harry Cobden to add another winner to his tally and put this horse’s experience to good use, over a very short-priced newcomer. advice: SOLIDER OF LOVE 1pt WIN @ 10/3 (bet365)
  8. The first ‘big handicap’ of the season and one with a few very strong trends associated with it, starting with a nod to experience. All of the last 12 winners of this race have had at least two runs at this venue and all but one of those have had at least five chase runs. That’s a massive black mark in the column of ante-post favourite, Saint Sonnet, who would not only become the first five-year-old to win the race since Caid Du Berlais in 2014, but has only had three runs over fences in his life so far. Combine that with the abysmal record of favourites over the past decade (0/10) and this well-fancied, unexposed sort comes out as one of the worst value horses you could think of in terms of ticking the trends boxes. His yard, however, is without doubt the best source of winners and placed horses in the past decade. Nicholls has not only saddled two of the last eight winners, but he’s also trained a placed horse in four of the last six years that he hasn’t won the race. Saint Sonnet still has to be respected as a result, as does the stable’s other runner, Brelan D’As, who was an agonisingly close second in the race last year. Two other yards have tasted success more than once in recent history, they are Jonjo O’Neill (2013 & 2016) and Nigel Twiston-Davies (2008, 2010 & 2017). The first named saddles Sky Pirate and the latter has Al Dancer representing his local yard this year. When we consider the age of recent winners it is clear that seven-year-olds come out on top, having been successful in six of the last 12 renewals. No runner aged older than nine has won this since 1975, so the ten-year-old Aso is well up against it on the trends, while the record of five-year-olds is poor, with only one winner since the turn of the millennium. Six-year-olds have won the race four times since 2000, but recently, it’s seven, eight or nine-year-olds who have dominated – 15 of the 20 winners have come from that age band. The next trend is related to official ratings and the desired bracket is between 139 and 148. This accounts for nine of the last twelve winners, with only Al Ferof, Taquin Du Seuil and Splash Of Ginge having defied this stat, the first two higher and the last named lower. In terms of this year’s field it’s a negative for the top seven horses in racecard order and the bottom three – interestingly, only seven horses fall into this bracket this year: Spiritofthegames, Saint Sonnet, Domaine De L’Isle, Brelan D’As, Kauto Riko, Fidux and Pinson Du Rheu. Even though the weights can depend on the quality of those entered, it can often play a big part in the outcome of competitive races such as this. Since 2000 only Our Vic, Al Ferof and Taquin Du Seuil have carried more than 11st 3lb to victory, so combined with the likely soft ground, this suggests that all the horses above Spiritofthegames could have that count against them. The final factor worthy of mention is the betting and even though favourites aren’t the ones to be with historically, this is not a race in which it is worth taking a punt on one at a really big price. In fact, eight of the last ten winners were sent off at an SP of 14/1 or less with Splash Of Ginge (25/1) the biggest priced winner in the last decade. The likes of Simply the Betts, Mister Fisher, Siruh Du Lac, Al Dancer, Slate House and Spiritofthegames are currently available at odds between five and ten to one. Shortlist: BRELAN D’AS – 8/8 Sky Pirate – 7/8 Al Dancer – 6/8 Conclusion Taking all things into account, only one of the contenders match all eight of the key trends and it’s no surprise that he’s trained by Paul Nicholls, who has a sensational record in this. However, what is the surprise is that it’s not his 4/1 favourite, Saint Sonnet, but his 14/1 chance, BRELAN D’AS. He was an agonisingly close second in the race last year from a 5lb lower mark but even though he’s a bit higher in the weights this year, he’ll actually carry 1lb less in physical weight. This 2m4f trip and the likely soft ground combine to form his ideal conditions and his best efforts have come at this track in big handicaps previously, so there’s no reason why he wouldn’t put in another big run here. He was still going well off this mark in the Caspian Caviar when a bad error three out ended his challenge, so given some solid jumping and the brilliant form of his stable, he could go close. Sky Pirate misses out on the full house of trends by just one, spookily reminiscent of his racing career, where second place, more often than not, is the order of the day. He often travels sweetly into his races, looking all over the winner, only to find absolutely nothing when push comes to shove – again the case on his latest outing when second at Wetherby behind the well-handicapped Cool Mix – so don’t be surprised to see his jockey motionless turning for home, before getting very animated for a short time with little response from the horse. However, even though we can bash the horse, he’s usually a good jumper, is very consistent and with just 10st 2lb on his back, could certainly place. With six contenders level on six out of eight trends boxes ticked, we have to make a choice on who is the best of those to complete our shortlist and it’s a close race between Spiritofthegames, who is one of the most consistent handicappers at this level that you will ever see, and Al Dancer, who spent most of his novice season over fences running crackers at Graded level and embarks on his second season chasing with a first run in a handicap over the larger obstacles. While Spiritofthegames is a proven commodity in races like this and often goes well fresh, he was pulled up in this last year, so I’ll go with the potential of Al Dancer, who beat a good horse in Master Tommytucker at newton Abbot over 2m5f, while giving 6lb to that rival, who won in serious style at Huntingdon on Tuesday. On that evidence, a mark of 154 given to Al Dancer could well be lenient and if Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge can avoid jumping errors, his class should take him a long way with race fitness assured.
  9. 3:55 ?- Karndean Designflooring Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race. The final race of the day is the traditional National Hunt Flat Race. One horse who immediately takes the eye is COLOURS OF MY LIFE for Alan King. At 20/1 he seems ridiculously big looking at his last run and his trainers record in the race. Alan King has won it twice in recent years and in 2018 won it with Glancing Queen for the exact same owners as COLOURS OF MY LIFE. His debut won saw him finish 5th but looking back he is much better than that. He looked to have the race sown up when travelling into first, about a furlong a half out but once he hit the front he found very little and will no doubt have learnt a lot from that and will be much fitter on this outing. The form of his first run is working out well with the winner taking a Mares Novice Hurdle, which is impressive on her second start. Related to some very good horses I think he is far too big a price and expect him to get a place. The main fancy is a Dan Skelton runner, Elle Est Belle. Winner of her last start she beat a small field by a convincing distance. Although she was impressive, we don’t know what she beat, whereas with some of the others in this field the form is easier to read. She could be anything and the Skelton yard do very well with flat horses but at around 2/1 she is very short in quite a competitive field. Lady Jane P and Jersey Lady also won their first starts but by comparatively lower distances. Crucially, it is hard to tell how much they will have come on for that run but the horse in behind Jersey Lady has come out and won since. Oliver Sherwood has been in fantastic form so she could very well run very well again. Uncanaver got off the mark at the second attempt when winning at Fontwell by a commanding 20 lengths. A J Honeyball has been in flying form and everything he trains at the minute seems to win or go very close. In the last 5 seasons he has had an impressive strike rate in bumpers, winning them at an emphatic 32% strike rate. He again has already got very short in the market and his win at Fontwell was over a smaller distance, when he got things his own way. While he has leading claims, I prefer to look for things with more of an each way chance because picking an outright winner can often be very difficult. Ishkara Lady won by a ½ length at Uttoxeter after just under 700 days off the track. It was a brilliant training performance but since the start of the season Harry Fry’s form has slightly tailed off, so I would wait until they pick back up again before backing his runners with much confidence. advice: COLOURS OF MY LIFE 0.5pts e/w @ 20/1 (bet365)
  10. 2:50 Paddy Power Games Handicap Hurdle (Listed Race) Sometimes in these big handicaps it can pay to look at the trends. One of the most striking ones in this race is the success of horses who have carried less than 11 Stone. In the last 10 years only one horse has won this race when carrying more than that weight. That horse was First Assignment for Ian Williams. He bolted up that day and was clearly much better than his handicap mark suggested, so it may very well pay to look at horses lower in the handicap who are also quite unexposed. It seems only right to start with one of the three horses who carry more than 11 Stone. The first of these is the red-hot favourite, Tea Clipper. Trained by Tom Lacey he fits the profile of a fast-improving handicapper who could very well be miles ahead of his current mark. He went up 7lb for a 2-length win at Chepstow on his latest start, putting to a bed a field off mid 130-rated handicappers. He was clearly the best that day but would have to take another massive step forward to win this. I’m not sure he will be quite good enough to win this despite only carrying 11st 2lb, furthermore Tom Lacey has been in very poor form. He’s only had 1 winner in 23 attempts over fences and hurdles and because of this there could be one to take him on with lower down the weights. Paul Nolan sends over the Irish raider, Mrs Milner and she’s one of the more interesting runners as she carries a very low racing weight and has taken the journey over from Ireland. Paul Nolan, like Tom Lacey has struggled to get going this season however he has had some near misses. She does have some solid form and is only a Five-year-old, Robbie Power gets the leg up which is a positive sign. She would have to improve significantly to take this renewal, after being raised 8lb by the British handicapper compared to her Irish mark. She could run into a place but there are too many question marks by her name to make her the selection. Weather Front comes here for Iain Jardine and goes up to 3 miles for the first time. He looked to get badly outpaced last time out at Cheltenham and a step up in trip could very well suit. Despite finishing down the field he did not get dropped any weight, which would be a worry. He’s more of a watch and see if he gets the 3 miles and then plot him for another race when his mark is lower. On The Blind Side is having his first run of the season after a mixed season over fences. Chances are this is more of a prep run for another crack at fences as his mark is quite high. He is second top weight but is on the same mark as his last hurdle success; this came a long time ago but any sort of return to this form could see him go very close. Golan Fortune won this race last year when only 2lb lower than his mark tomorrow. He is a very consistent performer, getting on very well with Mr S Lee, the jockey who rode him to victory last year. He is not without a chance and gets a first-time visor after what was a good fourth behind Unowwhatimeanharry at Aintree last time. Goodmanpat looks to be quite well handicapped and carries a nice low weight. His return run was somewhat lacking, but he has shown to improve for a run which I’m sure he will do. He is a very appealing e/w price, but his form round Cheltenham is very poor. He has yet to show his best on an undulating track and I’m worried 3 miles round here could be to steep for him. My pick comes from the in-form Kim Bailey yard. DANDY DAN drops back to hurdles after racing over fences for the last few years. It’s a striking move and with the yard in such good form it is hard to ignore. He falls just under the 11 Stone trend and posted a good effort on his seasonal reappearance. He is rated 11lb higher than his last run over hurdles in 2018, but this wouldn’t worry me too much as he was racing over a much shorter distance which proved to not be his optimum. I fancy his chances to go very close against the favourite and hopefully keep the good form going for the Bailey yard. advice: DANDY DAN 1pt e/w @ 9/1 (Betfair, Paddy Power - 4 places
  11. 2:15 – Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3) The first ‘big handicap’ of the season and one with a few very strong trends associated with it, starting with a nod to experience. All of the last 12 winners of this race have had at least two runs at this venue and all but one of those have had at least five chase runs. That’s a massive black mark in the column of ante-post favourite, Saint Sonnet, who would not only become the first five-year-old to win the race since Caid Du Berlais in 2014, but has only had three runs over fences in his life so far. Combine that with the abysmal record of favourites over the past decade (0/10) and this well-fancied, unexposed sort comes out as one of the worst value horses you could think of in terms of ticking the trends boxes. His yard, however, is without doubt the best source of winners and placed horses in the past decade. Nicholls has not only saddled two of the last eight winners, but he’s also trained a placed horse in four of the last six years that he hasn’t won the race. Saint Sonnet still has to be respected as a result, as does the stable’s other runner, Brelan D’As, who was an agonisingly close second in the race last year. Two other yards have tasted success more than once in recent history, they are Jonjo O’Neill (2013 & 2016) and Nigel Twiston-Davies (2008, 2010 & 2017). The first named saddles Sky Pirate and the latter has Al Dancer representing his local yard this year. When we consider the age of recent winners it is clear that seven-year-olds come out on top, having been successful in six of the last 12 renewals. No runner aged older than nine has won this since 1975, so the ten-year-old Aso is well up against it on the trends, while the record of five-year-olds is poor, with only one winner since the turn of the millennium. Six-year-olds have won the race four times since 2000, but recently, it’s seven, eight or nine-year-olds who have dominated – 15 of the 20 winners have come from that age band. The next trend is related to official ratings and the desired bracket is between 139 and 148. This accounts for nine of the last twelve winners, with only Al Ferof, Taquin Du Seuil and Splash Of Ginge having defied this stat, the first two higher and the last named lower. In terms of this year’s field it’s a negative for the top seven horses in racecard order and the bottom three – interestingly, only seven horses fall into this bracket this year: Spiritofthegames, Saint Sonnet, Domaine De L’Isle, Brelan D’As, Kauto Riko, Fidux and Pinson Du Rheu. Even though the weights can depend on the quality of those entered, it can often play a big part in the outcome of competitive races such as this. Since 2000 only Our Vic, Al Ferof and Taquin Du Seuil have carried more than 11st 3lb to victory, so combined with the likely soft ground, this suggests that all the horses above Spiritofthegames could have that count against them. The final factor worthy of mention is the betting and even though favourites aren’t the ones to be with historically, this is not a race in which it is worth taking a punt on one at a really big price. In fact, eight of the last ten winners were sent off at an SP of 14/1 or less with Splash Of Ginge (25/1) the biggest priced winner in the last decade. The likes of Simply the Betts, Mister Fisher, Siruh Du Lac, Al Dancer, Slate House and Spiritofthegames are currently available at odds between five and ten to one. Shortlist: BRELAN D’AS – 8/8 Sky Pirate – 7/8 Al Dancer – 6/8 Conclusion Taking all things into account, only one of the contenders match all eight of the key trends and it’s no surprise that he’s trained by Paul Nicholls, who has a sensational record in this. However, what is the surprise is that it’s not his 4/1 favourite, Saint Sonnet, but his 14/1 chance, BRELAN D’AS. He was an agonisingly close second in the race last year from a 5lb lower mark but even though he’s a bit higher in the weights this year, he’ll actually carry 1lb less in physical weight. This 2m4f trip and the likely soft ground combine to form his ideal conditions and his best efforts have come at this track in big handicaps previously, so there’s no reason why he wouldn’t put in another big run here. He was still going well off this mark in the Caspian Caviar when a bad error three out ended his challenge, so given some solid jumping and the brilliant form of his stable, he could go close. Sky Pirate misses out on the full house of trends by just one, spookily reminiscent of his racing career, where second place, more often than not, is the order of the day. He often travels sweetly into his races, looking all over the winner, only to find absolutely nothing when push comes to shove – again the case on his latest outing when second at Wetherby behind the well-handicapped Cool Mix – so don’t be surprised to see his jockey motionless turning for home, before getting very animated for a short time with little response from the horse. However, even though we can bash the horse, he’s usually a good jumper, is very consistent and with just 10st 2lb on his back, could certainly place. With six contenders level on six out of eight trends boxes ticked, we have to make a choice on who is the best of those to complete our shortlist and it’s a close race between Spiritofthegames, who is one of the most consistent handicappers at this level that you will ever see, and Al Dancer, who spent most of his novice season over fences running crackers at Graded level and embarks on his second season chasing with a first run in a handicap over the larger obstacles. While Spiritofthegames is a proven commodity in races like this and often goes well fresh, he was pulled up in this last year, so I’ll go with the potential of Al Dancer, who beat a good horse in Master Tommytucker at newton Abbot over 2m5f, while giving 6lb to that rival, who won in serious style at Huntingdon on Tuesday. On that evidence, a mark of 154 given to Al Dancer could well be lenient and if Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge can avoid jumping errors, his class should take him a long way with race fitness assured.
  12. 1:40 - From The Horse’s Mouth Podcast Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) One of the most exciting races of the whole weekend takes place over two miles and involves some of the best up and coming Novice Chasers. A field of 6 go to post and there is a fantastic depth of talent from some of the top yards. Put The Kettle On won this race last year and went on to win the ultimate prize when clinching the Arkle at Cheltenham back in March. It seems only fitting that we therefore start with the Henry De Bromhead trained runner in this race, ZARKAREVA. After moving from A Boisbrunet in the summer of last year, when winning her only start in France; Henry De Bromhead most likely expected more than he got during her first campaign over hurdles. A disappointing first season saw her beaten a long way on all three starts and then fall on her final start over fences. This season however saw a revival in her fortunes. The application of a tongue strap has seen a dramatic change in fortunes, her latest win was by far her most impressive after she came from last to first, beating A Wave Of The Sea and Polished Steel. The latter is a solid yard stick rated 133, making this performance even more impressive. She took her fences brilliantly and he fact Henry De Bromhead has sent her over is a massive eye catcher. There are a few negatives by her name however as she is only four and has only gone right-handed in Ireland. But ZARKAREVA is a very young horse so this could be another learning curve however I would not be surprised to see her go very well. Quel Destin most recent victory was on the flat at Bath, taking advantage of a 68-handicap mark. It was a good run, and he will be fit for this attempt over fences. He has enjoyed a fine time over hurdles achieving a mark of 156. Unlike most of his other rivals he has yet to have a go over fences and therefore it is hard to gauge how good he will be. However, if anyone can get a horse jumping well, it’s the master trainer Paul Nicholls and we will learn a lot from this outing. He’s only five and could still be improving but you would be a brave man to take the 9/2 available when we haven’t seen him jump a fence yet. Next up are the two likely pace angles in the race. Gumball and Eldorado Allen are both front runners and have both opened their accounts over fences. The Phillip Hobbs trained Gumball was beaten by the market leader Fusil Raffles on his first start after running far too freely. He just didn’t find much after leading most of the race but that run was put behind him when winning on his next start at Uttoxeter. He beat the very well backed King Roland, but he looked like he needed the run, and I don’t think ran up to his true form. He’s the outsider of the field and while you couldn’t discount him entirely, I just don’t think he will quite have the class to compete here. Eldorado Allen put up a very encouraging first effort when beating Stormy Island and ploughed through the last so is certainly better than the winning distance suggests. The Tizzard team had been in poor form, yet Eldorado Allen won first time up, when most looked to have needed the run. He could be open to even more improvement but wouldn’t want the ground to dry up too much. The favourite Fusil Raffles is no doubt a worthy one. He carries a 3lb penalty but he couldn’t have been any more impressive. He has some quality hurdle form and jumped supremely well on what was only his seventh start, beating some interesting novices. He won very well on his last start at Cheltenham which gives him that all important tick next to his name that he handles the unique course. My only major concern would be the quality of opponent he beat, especially on his last start, and at around even money he looks to be a very short price. advice: ZARKAREVA 0.5pts e/w @ 10/1 (Betfair, Paddy Power)
  13. 1:05 – South West Syndicate Handicap Chase. A Class 3 3m1f handicap chase that looks wide-open with horses rating from as low as 111 and as high as 141. Bermeo arrives right down the bottom of the handicap off a measly mark of 111 and after scoring impressively over course and distance last time out, you can see why he is strong in the market. He is 7lb higher for that win however and faces much tougher rivals here but Angus Cheleda does take 7lb off his back. Other runners who get a fair bit of weight from the rest of the field include What A Moment and Young Turk, but both have been poor recently and will need to find a little bit more. Richard Patrick is back in the yellow and purple silks to take charge of Storm Control for Kerry Lee. Despite not scoring in almost a year now, he has fallen to a workable mark of 131, 2lb lower than his latest effort at Wetherby, he could be interesting taking a massive step up in trip. The Venetia Williams horse Realm Keeper is another who could be interesting stepping up in trip after undergoing wind surgery in February. He makes his first run back since January, after being poor over hurdles in France (0-8), he has been switched back to chasing, where he looked most comfortable. Interesting after a long lay-off but easy to look elsewhere in thus field with only French form to go on. Colin Tizzard has started to find his form again with a double at Exeter on Wednesday, and his runners are always worth a note at this meeting. Although his horse finished 31 lengths behind the eventual winner in the Grade 2 National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, Lamanver Pippin ended up finishing third, and looked like a real stayer over the 3m6f trip that day. He could be really interesting, but may need the run on his seasonal debut as so many from the Tizzard yard have done. Fergal O’Brien arrives with two runners in the race including course and distance winner Petite Power. He was very poor on his seasonal debut, however, so will need to bounce back to last season’s form. His other chance is the lightly raced Ocean Cove who is yet to score over larger obstacles and hasn’t looked like winning a race so far. He is 3lb lower today again, but he looks out of his depth. Others making their seasonal debut include Equus Secretus, Arthur’s Gift and Fingerontheswitch. The former gets has gone up 5lb this season after David Bass rode the eight-year-old to victory in a Class 4 chase at Huntingdon, just about justifying even money, only winning by a head. Claimer Nick Phillips gets on-board today with his 7lb claim, but the horse will need to be at his very best to follow up. Arthur’s Gift has recorded only one win over fences, but when tried around the 3m trip, he seems to do his best work. The nine-year-old seemed to struggle a bit over an extreme distance in the Edinburgh National towards the end of last season. The return to 3m½f should suit but he seems to love the soft/heavy ground, so might be worth a market check if the heavens open. Millie Wonnacott seemed to get a very good tune out of Fingerontheswitch last season but is now replaced by Miss Victoria Malzard, hoping to carry on the consistency, with her 7lb claim. The ten-year-old’s previous run ended with him being pulled up after clouting the 13th fence in the Kim Muir, despite travelling strongly, but he was well behind the second in the race KILFILUM CROSS, and that rival must be in with a shout. Despite being top weight on a mark of 141, a chance is taken on KILFILUM CROSS. Don’t let the fact that this horse has only one victory since being sent chasing put you off, as he still has the best form on offer in the field. His second in the Kim Muir has taken plenty of boosts with the winner coming second in Grade 3 company over in Ireland after being very well supported that day, behind a 160-rated horse. He’s coming into this race 1lb lower than his seasonal debut fourth at Fakenham over three miles, and that should set him up nicely for this race. With race fitness on his side, he can get his head in front once again here. advice: KILFILUM CROSS - 1pt E/W @ 5/1 (Sky Bet - 4 places)
  14. 12:30 - JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle. This race has thrown up some serious triumph hurdle contenders in recent years and it looks like this year’s renewal will be no different. A whole host of trainers had won this race over the years, with Allmankind taking home the spoils for Dan and Harry Skelton by a commanding 2 ½ lengths. Paul Nicholls also has won this race in recent years after not having a winner in the race since 2012. Hot favourite Hell Red is owned by the same owners as 2018 winner Quel Destin and has leading claims. He fairly bolted up on his first start at Chepstow, destroying a field of 8 by an easy 12 lengths. He made all that day and could very well be ridden in a similar fashion here. He has a lot in his favour after that impressive win however this field will be a lot more competitive than that at Cheltenham. He is not the only one to win so impressively and with a field off 8 going to post on Saturday, there is some better each way value out there. Third to Hell Red was Billy The Squid. The latter was a distant third and is much more exposed than a lot of these runners. He has had six starts over hurdles and is the lowest rated in the field. It would take something of a miracle for him to feature in the finish here and he will be looking for something in an easier field in the future. He has also been convincingly beaten by Balko Saint in an earlier race. Balko Saint was beaten at a short price on his last start but is not without a small chance here. Last seen at Fontwell he was second too See The Eagle Fly who was having his first start over hurdles. They drew a mile clear of everything else and although he was beaten, the winner could have improved for going over hurdles. He has not come out again, so it is hard to gauge that form. He will want a quick surface, but he is not guaranteed such conditions and could very well be a wait and play on the day pick. There would have to be significant improvement for him to win though. Looking back toward the top of the market, there are two horses who have opposed each other already. Duffle Coat took home the spoils last time he and Cabot Cliffs met by an impressive 8 lengths. Duffle Coat took his hurdles very well and made it a hattrick of victories when taking the Listed race at Wetherby. Dropped out the back, he came with a sweeping run down the home straight. He was impressive but my eye was drawn to Cabot Cliffs who ran very valiantly in defeat. He won his first start over hurdles at Uttoxeter beating into second Magna Moralia who was only ¾ of a length behind Cornerstone Lad at Redcar. Cornerstone Lad is a 159-rated hurdler and if Cabot Cliffs can improve to anywhere near that level it may be enough to take this. There is a huge price difference between him and Duffle Coat, and I think they will be much closer this time. It was his first run this season and hopefully there will be a good pace for him to get in behind and come with a winning effort. Probably the most interesting runner in the field is the David Pipe trained Adagio. A winner on the flat in France he was sent to Pipe to try his luck over hurdles and he did not disappoint. It was a messy start to the race but Adagio jumped with a fair amount of ability on his first start over the smaller obstacles. He beat the 78 rated flat horse Duke Of Condicote by a 7½ length margin and looked good for every yard of that. He falls into the could be anything category and although I did like the performance, he would have to be something pretty special to take this. I would watch him with great intrigue, as he will be winning more races this season. advice: CABOT CLIFFS 0.5pts E/W @ 12/1 (General)
  15. 4:05 – Valda Energy Novices’ Handicap Hurdle. This is an interesting novices’ handicap hurdle and one with a plethora of possible winners, but looking at the history of this race in recent years, it seems we’re looking for an improving four or five-year-old with the potential to rate much higher. Edgardo Sol, Ifandbutwhynot, Quick Jack, Chesterfield, A Hare Breath and Magic Dancer are all on this race’s roll of honour, so whichever horse wins this is likely to go on to better things. The rating band to focus on is between 113 and 123 as eight of the last ten winners have been rated within that and again, eight of the last ten have been four or five, so that quickly chops down the shortlist to just five contenders: Panic Attack, Art Approval, Takeit Easy, Chasamax and Princess T. All have had at least one run so far this season, so race fitness won’t be an issue, but the likely softening of the ground might cause problems for Princess T, who steps up significantly in class here after an 8lb hike in the weights for her last win, so she’s passed over on this occasion. The most popular of those here is likely to be PANIC ATTACK, who seems to enjoy softer ground and already has experience of Cheltenham when tailed off in the Champion Bumper last year, and you can certainly see why. She was soundly beaten by the smart Vegas Blue at Huntingdon on her good ground hurdling debut at the beginning of October but made good on the promise of that run when comfortably taking a Uttoxeter maiden hurdle over the minimum trip two weeks ago. She’s been a much-hyped mare after her runaway Listed bumper win at Market Rasen when trained by Willie Mullins, so she’s got a long way to go to match the talk and that initial impression, but luckily for her, she does seem to have the required talent to be better than this mark of 119, which could turn out to be pretty lenient if the ground turns soft - I’m sure connections were surprised to see her given such a low mark for sure. She’s a big, rangy mare who will probably want further than this in time, something her Uttoxeter win showed as she struggled to burn her challengers off until the final furlong or two, even though the overall time of the race was good, but this stiff two-mile trip and the softening ground should play right into PANIC ATTACK’s hands as long as the race doesn’t turn into a sprint. However, all four of the shortlisted horses are of a similar mould – all look as if two miles is their bare minimum, but that’s always a good thing at Cheltenham, where you absolutely need to stay well and finish your race off well – and they should ensure that this is not run at a crawl. Fergal O’Brien and Paddy Brennan won this last year with the ill-fated Red Hot Chilly and they’re back again this year with Art Approval, who has only had two runs over hurdles in this country and, just a four-year-old, surely has loads of improvement under his bonnet. He’s one who looks as if two and a half miles would suit him better, but any softening of the ground should help him here and if he can stop himself getting too far back, he’ll be staying on well up the hill. His recent second place behind Faivoir has been boosted after that rival was a solid fourth in a Sandown Park handicap hurdle from a mark of 128, so his mark of 118 looks very fair and he can go well. Chasamax will no doubt be up there when it comes to the market, being from the powerful Nicky Henderson yard, and his latest run was also a promising effort, second behind the extremely well-handicapped Robinshill over hurdles at Ludlow. He may not want the ground to soften much from what it is now, but his second to the now 141-rated Tea Clipper on his hurdling debut at Kempton a year ago makes his mark of 115 look very lenient indeed and even though he may be best over further in the future, this kind of test looks ideal at this point. He’s entitled to have come on for that Ludlow run and as long as the ground doesn’t get too testing, he’ll be there or thereabouts. Finally, Takeit Easy may be overlooked a little because of his yard, but the Pam Sly-trained five-year-old won very snugly indeed at Huntingdon last time out – he could be very much on the upgrade and well capable of defying this 8lb rise in a better race. The whip was only drawn after the final hurdle on his last run and he drifted left under pressure, so while he’s clearly still learning, there was also rather obviously more in the tank for Kielan Woods to call on if needed. Again, this stiffer test of two miles should suit and while he’s never raced on anything more testing than good to soft ground and the race he won was a modest affair, he could run very well at a price that looks a little too big. PANIC ATTACK 1pt E/W @ 5/1 (bet365 - 1/4 odds, 4 places)
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