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Darran

Hunter Chase - Cheltenham Foxhunter Friday 4.10 and 5.10 Fakenham

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Hopefully people have enjoyed my Road To The Cheltenham Foxhunter thread and it has helped keep everyone up to date with a race that always gets overlooked by the mainstream (and less mainstream) press despite the fact quite a lot of people actually are interested especially when you have well known horses like Minella Rocco and Don Poli involved. If you haven't seen and want to see my thoughts over the last 3 or so months then that thread is here https://forum.punterslounge.com/topic/171460-road-to-the-cheltenham-foxhunters/
 
This year's preview clocks in at just under 4000 words and apparently will take just under 15 minutes to read. I can't guarantee I will find the winner, but hopefully it will help guide you to what you want to back in the race. I have yet to see a more in depth preview of the race so without further or do here are my thoughts on the 31 horses remaining in this year's Cheltenham Foxhunter.
 
Alcala - Rather unusually looks set to be Paul Nicholls' only runner in this race this year. Classy horse as his peak mark of 152 suggests and he won the Summer Plate at Market Rasen in 2017 off 142. He looked set to win on his first start since July 2018 when falling 2 out at Ludlow. He then made amends when winning the Walrus at Haydock getting the better of Wishing And Hoping despite making a bad error 2 out. After that he had to go to Fontwell to qualify for this and I don't think Angus Cheleda was overly hard on him at all given he knew he only had to finish 2nd to qualify. His trainer spoke of him having two hard races, but I find it hard to believe he had much of a race last time out. My concern about his chance is his stamina. At Ludlow they went no pace so it turned into a sprint, Haydock was over 2m6f and again they went a steady enough gallop as they did over 3m2f at Fontwell. The race he won over 3m2f in 2017 was a match. If he stays he is a player, but it is enough to put me off.
 
Arctic Skipper - Won his first two points this season, but was a well beaten 8th at Down Royal behind Dylrow on Boxing Day. He won a 3 runner point last month, but a week later pulled up and it is hard to see him being good enough.
 
Billaway - Willie Mullins has been talking his chances up in recent weeks and I can see why given he seems to be progressive and visually he ran out an impressive winner at Naas in January. That was his 2nd run of the season having run a nice race on his return to be 2nd at Down Royal on Boxing Day just going down a length to Dylrow. That Naas race was run at an absolute crawl though and it turned into a sprint which clearly suited him perfectly. To me that makes the form a bit suspect and I can see the 2nd reversing form with him for reasons I will state later. I certainly think he is one of the possible winners though given his profile offers more than most here, but I certainly don't think his price offers any value.
 
Bishops Road - Thrashed a very good horse in Risk A Fine at the hunter chase meeting here in May, but the 2nd didn't handle the track or the ground that day so I wouldn't take it at face value. Bizarrely he then ran in a point 3 days later when he fell. I now wonder if they were trying to qualify him for this and get it out of the way. Instead they had to do that this season and he did so when finishing 2nd in the first hunter chase of the season at Taunton. That was behind Wishing And Hoping and he was 2nd on his seasonal return in a point back in November. For me he has a bit too find although the trip shouldn't be a concern given he used to run over further.
 
Caid du Berlais - The first of a trio of runners for Rose Loxton and a horse I have already put up as a bet last month. As long as the ground continues to dry out I think he has a massive chance. He ran really well on soft ground when beaten less than 4L when 5th to Pacha Du Polder in 2018. He then went onto land the Punchestown Champion Hunters Chase by 21L. Last year he had a rushed prep as he picked up a minor injury and he only made his reappearance 12 days before the race. He then ran no sort of race and he was never travelling before pulling up. He then went back to Punchestown and won by an even bigger margin, 28L, than last year. This year he has had a much smoother prep as he made his seasonal return at Buckfastleigh in January and he beat Marcle Ridge by 5L which is really solid form. His trainer has mentioned she is not sure if he gets up the hill and that was the case in 2018, but if we have quicker ground on Friday I think he will. He is also 2 years older now which should help. His two Punchestown wins are two of the best pieces of form in the race and he has to go on any shortlist.
 
Chosen Dream - Landed the Stratford Foxhunter in 2018, but was flattered by that as the ground was over watered which meant the fancied horses disappointed. He pulled up in this last year and although I am told he is really well on form it is hard to make much of a case for him
 
Don Bersy - Won a couple of points last season, but shown better form this term for me as he beat Bishops Road in November, was 2nd to The Dellercheckout and then won by 20 at Thorpe Lodge. He then refused to race last month which is something he did in his last two starts under Rules. That has to be a big concern if you are wanting to back him, but his form doesn't look good enough anyway. His previous Rules form was all over 2m as well.
 
Don Poli - Rare that a point to point makes the front page of the Racing Post, but he did when winning at Alnwick back in December. I think it was a good idea to send the horse to Nick Pearce to get him qualified nice and early in a couple of points. He is already a duel Festival winner having won the Martin Pipe in 2014 and then the RSA Chase the following year. In 2016 he was 3rd in the Gold Cup and he was the Lexus winner that season as well. So he clearly has plenty of back class, but the problem is he had shown any form under Rules since February 2017. He appreciated the drop in class when winning those points, but he had to be niggled in both races to keep him interested and he was made to work quite hard to win the 2nd of them. Winning a couple of small field, weak points is one thing, winning a Foxhunter is a totally different ball game though. No doubt Nick had left a bit to work on, but I wasn't impressed with what I saw at Alnwick and I think in a big field in a race that is likely to be strongly run that he will just drop himself out and not fancy it. What I will say though is if you do want to back him because he hasn't been seen since January he has been forgotten about and you are probably getting a bigger price than if he had run recently or in a hunter chase.
 
Dunhallow Tornado - Ollie Pimlott has had a cracking start to his training career and this is a horse I really like. He looked impressive in two hunter chase wins at Catterick and Kelso 2 years ago and then found the ground too quick at Cheltenham's hunter chase night. Unfortunately he had to miss last season through injury and he returned last month  at Brocklesby when getting up close home to score. That was a pleasing come back run and if it did happen to be soft/heavy on Friday I would want to be backing him. The problem is the forecast is suggesting it isn't going to be that testing and as much as he will handle it my thinking is it brings more horses into play the quicker it gets. Connections will probably be wishing this race had been on Tuesday when it was very testing and although I think he can out run his price, the drying ground is enough to stop me backing him.
 
Dylrow - Looks an improved horse this season having beaten Mighty Stowaway on his first point start in November. He then beat Billaway at Down Royal on Boxing Day. He was then only 5th at Naas behind him the following month. That race turned into a sprint as mentioned so I do think the form is suspect, but given he was winning over 2m a year ago you would have thought that would have suited him. There is a case to say that he shouldn't really be 50/1 based on the Down Royal effort, but he wouldn't be for me.
 
Hazel Hill - Last year's impressive winner and currently favourite to retain his crown as Salsify, On The Fringe and Pacha Du Polder have done in recent years. There is no doubt he was the best hunter chaser around last season although there has to be a question mark about what sort of form he is currently in. After the Foxhunter win he came back for hunter chase night and just got the better of a great battle with Caryto Des Brosses. He was set to follow the same path to Cheltenham as he did last season, but Chaddesley Corbett was called off and that meant Warwick came too soon after his win at Sheriff Hutton. That told us little new, but it is the defeat to Minella Rocco at Wetherby which is the issue. He jumped badly to his right there something which he didn't do in this race year, but he did do here in May. My feeling is a small field might be to blame for that and with more horses around him he will jump straighter. I don't think he wants to make the running and that didn't help matters at Wetherby. The trainer said afterwards he was a bit sore so that was one excuse and I also think Derek O'Connor out rode Alex Edwards as well. I will talk more about that later, but I do think at the very least he will reverse form. The problem is he is hard to want to back at the current price because of his run last time and although I do think we will see a different horse here I would want a drift before backing him. The trainer is confident of a big showing and he could be a horse to get onside on the day because I think he will drift and then the doubt about what sort of form he is in will be factored into the price. If he is in the same form as last year then he clearly has a massive chance.
 
It Came To Pass - Beat Billaway in a hunter chase at Cork last April and then probably would have finished a distant 2nd to Caid Du Berlais at Punchestown, but he unseated at 2 out. 10 days later he did then beat On The Fringe at Killarney. He won a hunter chase at Cork in Novemeber which was basically his seasonal debut as he unseated at the first the week before. Was a 24L 7th to Dylrow and Down Royal and was pulled up last time out. On balance his form suggests he has a fair bit to find.
 
Law Of Gold - Was progressive last season and it ended in winning the John Corbet at Stratford in May. I didn't think it was the strongest renewal of the race especially as some fancied horses disappointed. Having said that Pink Eyed Pedro was 3rd and he has done well in handicaps since. He has had just the one start so far this season at Horseheath when running out an easy winner. That wasn't a strong race, but he could do no more win than as he did. The problem is I think he needs good ground and any soft in it is not going to help him. This is by far the best race he has ever been in as well and at 7 it could just be it comes at least a year too soon for him.
 
Marcle Ridge - Won a very weak race here on hunter chase night and then was 2nd at Warwick. At the time it didn't look a great effort, but given Killaro Boy nearly won a huge prize at Uttoxeter in the summer then he did well finish within 9L of him. As mentioned above he was 2nd to Caid Du Berlais on his only run of the season so far. That was a solid effort, but also his form suggests he has to find a bit to hit the frame here.
 
Minella Rocco - I suspect plenty of non hunter chase experts will be all over him on Friday and we will see plenty of at at his best he is the best horse in the race. I have already seen two TV presenters put him up as one of their best bets of the meeting which is crazy given they know little about hunter chases and you can be certain that neither will know anything about a horse like Law Of Gold for example. Maybe he will win, but all I keep hearing about his chances is that he was 2nd in a Gold Cup and he has won at the Festival before. The problem is that was 3 and 4 years ago now and since then he has basically been pretty poor and he was even struggling to complete. His two hunter chase wins this season were only his 2nd and 3rd wins over fences and I think he was fortunate to win those. At Warwick he benefited from Maxwell getting cramp on Bob And Co and then looked like getting beat by a horse could Kashmir Peak who has been beaten in a weak hunter chase and a weak point since. Derek O'Connor came over for the ride at Wetherby and he gave him a very clever ride to win the race and the chances are Hazel Hill ran below form. Derek kept him wide on the better ground and left it late to pounce. Reading between the lines of what Derek has written in his column in the Racing Post I don't think he fancies his chances at all and it was no surprise to me that he has said he will be riding Staker Wallace on the preview circuit. If the ground dried out a lot then I can see he will change to Minella Rocco as Staker Wallace needs cut in the ground. In my view he will get back into a bigger field at a strong pace and decide he doesn't fancy it again. I'd be tempted to place lay him on the day if he's a short enough price. Horses of his sort of profile rarely win the race nowadays and it will be a case of non hunter chase experts 1 hunter chase experts 0 if he does go and win (as was the case when Pacha Du Polder first won the race).
 
Update: Since writing the above Derek O'Connor has surprised everyone by going with Minella Rocco over Staker Wallace. For me this could mean 3 things. 1 he things the ground is going to dry out too much for Staker Wallace and/or Minella Rocco has been working the house down at Jonjo's and he has had to go with him and/or he things the Irish horses aren't as good as the British. Now Derek has chosen him I am not as negative on his chances as I was before, although I still personally can't back him.
 
Mr Mercurial - Been such a consistent hunter chaser over the years and his Scottish Foxhunter win was his 9th hunter chase success. I don't think he stays this far round a track like Cheltenham and he was 12th in this back in 2016 and was the same position at Aintree last year. Will run his race, but will be surprised if he is good enough to get close.
 
Rewritetherules - Sprung onto the hunter chase scene in May last year when winning at Down Royal and Tipperary in the space of 3 days. His next run was in a handicap where he was only 6th off 116. This season he beat a useful enough field first up and then struggled to win a weak race last month. On the face of it that was a very poor effort, but the trainer said he had a stone bruise the week before and the owners were keen to run as it was their local meeting. His jockey said he got there too soon and he idled as well. So we should be expecting more here and he is progressive, but he is only 6 and you have to be very good to win this race as young as that. I am happy to pass him over.
 
Sausalito Sunrise - Beat Ravished at Hexham last April in a hunter chase when with his former connections, but then was very disappointing at Worcester. Won the Lord Ashton Of Hyde's Cup at Cocklebarrow over 3m6f on his only start for his new connections. That was a decent enough effort, but nowhere near the level for this.
 
Shantou Flyer - Ran a huge race to be 2nd in the race last year especially as he had to run twice in 10 days to qualify for the race after being 5th at Warwick behind Hazel Hill on his first hunter chase start. He narrowed that gap to 4L in this contest. He is now at former Paul Nicholls worker Rose Loxton's yard and he made a winning return at Larkhill in a race which has actually worked out very well. Given he was below par on his seasonal return last season I fully expect him to carry on improving and he was totally dominate at Fakenham where he had Tully Touch 25L back in 3rd and giving him 11lbs whereas Law Of Gold only beat him 12L off level weights. It was good to see Maxwell choosing to run him over Bob And Co as I think that is the right decision. The owner/rider has even said he feels a better horse this time around. He is only 10 as well and I think he has a massive chance.
 
Southfield Theatre - Gave Lily Bradstock a lovely spin round in the race last year when 9th although that was 48L behind Hazel Hill. Did well to win the 4m race on hunter chase night here and has won two of his three points this season. On the other he was beaten by Virak which was still a decent effort. Hard to see how he can really improve on last year's 9th though.
 
Staker Wallace - Has been a hard horse to keep sound as since making his debut in November 2015 he has only run 6 times. In 2017 on just his 4th start and after wining a maiden point he ran a really credible 3rd to Foxrock at Leopardstown. He then had 3 years off before running a huge race to finish an 8L 2nd at Naas. Given the lay off you can upgrade the performance and he followed that up with beating a solid yardstick in a point to make sure he qualified for this. Derek has been talking him up on the preview circuit and it is clear he holds him in high regard. At this stage to me he is the main Irish hope in the race. He does need soft ground so he wouldn't want to dry out and if it did I can see Derek not riding or him even not running in the race. If Derek's name is next to his on Wednesday morning then I think he will end up going off favourite for the race. I have already put him up for this ante-post.
 
Update: As mentioned above Minella Rocco is Derek's ride although Jamie Codd has been booked so there is still a top jockey booked, but I am surprised Derek has changed his mind.
 
Stella Notion - Was a useful handicapper for Henry De Bromhead in Ireland and managed to win at Kelso off 137 in May 2018 for Tom George. He then went to Tom Frost's where he won two points at Larkhil before being beaten 38L by Monsieur Gibraltar at Southwell. According to the Racing Post he is now on his 3rd trainer since then having run once for Emma Clark when he was pulled up behind Hazel Hill at Sheriff Hutton in January. Now Philip Kirby trains him and I have been told that James King takes the ride which is a good jockey booking. Wouldn't be an obvious one to back, but the trainer might bring about some improvement.
 
Top Wood - I can see Top Wood being popular e/w given his superb record in the race. He was just denied by Pacha Du Polder and Harriett Tucker two years ago and then he was 3rd to Hazel Hill last year. After that he then went and won at Aintree when he wanted it more than Burning Ambition in 2nd. He ran really well on his seasonal return when 2nd in a handicap at Ascot off 139 and he was over 15L in front of Minella Rocco. Wasn't quite as good at Haydock next time, but the ground was very testing that day. I couldn't really put anyone off wanting to back him e/w, but he is now 13 and surely he has had his best chance of actually winning the race.
 
Kalabaloo - The only mare in the race and she was an impressive winner of the mares race on hunter chase night. Was then sent off a short price favourite for the John Corbet Cup at Stratford and was a well beaten 4th behind Law Of Gold. Has won a couple of Ladies Opens at Alnwick this season but the fact she was 1/2 and 2/5 tells you all about the quality of the opposition. My feeling is she is unlikely to be good enough, but I do think she is better than she showed at Stratford and can run a nice race.
 
Summary - With no more rain forecast it looks like the ground is only going to get drier come race time and I would say we will be looking at good to soft all round. Ideally Staker Wallace would want it softer, but it should be OK still and even though Derek has decided not to ride, Jamie Codd has an incredible strike rate at the Festival so he is a great jockey to have still. I have to say though he is the right sort of price so I am not sure there is much value left in the price. I have no idea who will be favourite now. I would imagine Minella Rocco will be popular among the non hunter chase/pointing followers and I see Paul Kealy has tipped him up in The Weekender. Even though Derek is on him I would still be a bit surprised if he did go and win, but as I mention above I am not so strongly against him as I was. Billaway has been spoken highly by his trainer so he could be popular in the market although given how much speed he showed last time I just wonder if he wants a stamina test and I think Staker Wallace can reverse the form. Hazel Hill is touching 6/1 now and I wonder if he might drift a bit more. I might add a small cover bet on Friday if he does drift a bit more because his trainer remains confident and given he has swerved the race with Wishing And Hoping he clearly thinks he still has a massive chance despite the loss last time. That is clearly a concern, but as mentioned above there is reason to believe that he could easily bounce back here.
 
Caid Du Berlais is the other horse I put up and he is back out to 14/1 in a couple of places now. I am topping up to make it a full point on him now especially with the extra place available. The ground should have dried up for him and I fully expect him to run more like his 2018 showing than his 2019 one. With his class I find it pretty hard to see him out of the first 5 at the very least and hopefully he can finish strongly up the hill. 
 
The main bet I am going to have though is Shantou Flyer to give David Maxwell his first win in the race. I think he has chosen the right horse over Bob And Co and he ran a really good race to finish 2nd in the race last year. He won a point which has worked out very well on his seasonal reappearance and then bolted up at Fakenham after which Maxwell said he was better than last season. If he is right then that clearly makes him a leading candidate and I think he is a big price at 9/1.
 
Top Wood will have his fans, but I think at 13 his best chance of actually winning has gone. I know a few shrewd pointing followers are keen on Law Of Gold at a big price and I can see why up to a point as he's a progressive horse in a field where not many seem to have much of a chance. At 7 though I wonder if it is a year to early and I think he has at least 20lbs to find on form for all that he is progressive. Something usually at least places at a price, but to be honest I can't really pick one which might do so I am going to focus on the top end of the market and the proven class of Caid Du Berlais and Shantou Flyer plus the possible new star Staker Wallace.  
 
Caid Du Berlais 1pt e/w (or 0.25pts e/w if already on) @ 12/1 with Bet365 @12/1 (14s available to 3 places with Betfair)
Shantou Flyer 1.5pts e/w @ 9/1 with Bet365
 
Already advised
Caid Du Berlais 0.75pts e/w @ 14/1
Staker Wallace 0.75pts e/w @ 14/1
 
 

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4 minutes ago, yossa6133 said:

I couldn't fancy Maxwell to win a battle up the hill to be honest. The ground looks to have come right for Hazel Hill and I'll probably have a bit on him again seeing as the price has drifted a bit.

I refer you to the 2018 running of this race where a crap jockey with a dislocated shoulder managed to win the race in a battle.

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An hour after the Foxhunter we have a hunter chase at Fakenham where we have two horses at the head of the betting are making their hunter chase debuts for pro trainers. Ozzy Thomas is trained by Henry Oliver who went close to having a Cheltenham winner in the Kim Muir on Thursday. His brother is taking the ride which is interesting because he hasn't ridden in a race since 2011. From 2005 until 2011 he had 280 rides in points for 27 wins and had 15 rides in hunter chases without success. The horse had been entered for the Grand Military Gold Cup at Sandown last week, but with that race abandoned he is lining up here instead. He had two good hurdle runs at Cheltenham in November and Wetherby on Boxing Day when finishing 2nd twice and that for me the best recent form in the race.

The Tourard Man is 14 now and is being ridden by Max Browne who is an amateur who works at Alan King's yard and I suspect he is running in hunter chases to give him experience as it isn't a sphere the trainer dabbles in all that often. He hasn't been seen since July 2018 and had finished 2nd off 143 in a good race at Cartmel on his penultimate start. He was placed in two Pertemps Hurdle Finals as well in 2015 and 2017. On back class he is the best horse in the race, but you can only guess at how much ability he has at 14 after 614 days off the track.

If Shantou Flyer does win at Cheltenham it will be a bit of a form boost for Full Irish who was pulled up at the last behind him here last month. Either side of that he has run in points. First of all he looked as if he would come on for the run when 3rd at Ampton and then 8 days after Fakenham he ran out a nice winner at Charing. He jumped well and always looked the winner. It wasn't the strongest race in the world, but it was a step up on the run here and he does have the best rider in the race on top.

If Buck Dancing was coming here on the back of the Alnwick win then I would be putting him up, but he has run really badly at Taunton and Musselburgh since then. They had wanted to run him at Cheltenham, but he got balloted out so comes here instead. 10/1 might look a big price if he does return to form, but I could forgive one bad run, but two is much harder to do.

Ozzy Thomas might well win, but it is hard to think he is value at the current price. Who knows what The Tourard Man is going to be capable off, but I am always happy to oppose a 14yo coming off the back of such a long lay off. Even at 10/1 I find it hard to want to back Buck Dancing on the back of his last two runs, so I will take a chance on Full Irish. He was pretty useful himself under Rules before and the run here was clearly a blip based on what he did at Charing 8 days later. At 9/2 he looks the best bet in the race.

Full Irish 1pt @ 9/2 with Bet365

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Time to have a look back at the Foxhunter although going forward it is hard to think it is going to have much baring on anything this year unless somehow Ireland can continue. Speaking of which the Irish runners bounced back after their poor showing last year although we did see a surprise winner in It Came To Pass, but given the next 4 home were the front 4 in the betting the form is rock solid. Thanks to Marcle Ridge setting a strong pace and the fact the Gold Cup was slowly run there was only 5 seconds difference between the two races whereas usually it is double that. It Came To Pass had fallen at 3 out in 2016, when still in contention, when On The Fringe won the race for the 2nd time on what was just his 5th start. Prior to that he had finished a really good 2nd in the big hunter chase they used to have at Leopardstown and he only went off 9/1 for the Foxhunter that year. It went downhill after that before leaving Jim Culloty's to Eugene O'Sullivan. As I said in the preview he actually beat Billaway last April at Cork over 2m4f on just his 2nd yard for O'Sullivan and would have finished 2nd to Caid Du Berlais at Punchestown if he hadn't unseated. On all that you could have given him a chance and you start to wonder how any bookie offered 300/1 (as he was during the day with at least Bet365) let alone the 66/1 SP. The problem was his two dire runs the last twice especially the PU in a point in January. Although after the race Maxine said at Down Royal he wasn't right and in the point the ground was too testing and sucked off two of his shoes. Obviously it would have been nice to have known that beforehand, but at least there was reasons for the horse to have won the race and more proof it wasn't a total fluke. He was always travelling well and Maxine gave him a cracking ride bringing him into the race at just the right time. If Punchestown does happen then obviously he would have a leading chance especially with no Caid Du Berlais. There is also no reason why he won't be a big player in this next year.

Billaway was looking to give his trainer a five-timer on the card and ran every bit as well as they thought he would and he is surely going to be back for more given he is only 8. His jumping wasn't always the best which didn't help, but otherwise I was always happy with the way Shantou Flyer was going and I thought Dave gave him a cracking ride and he was basically in a similar short of position as last year. He landed the e/w money, but he was beaten by two better horses on the day and this must have been his chance over for winning this race now. Annoyingly I would have rather he finished 4th and Staker Wallace 3rd given we were on ante-post so only got the 3 places. Still we got 14/1 (or 10s if you wanted NRMB) and he returned 15/2 so that is why I took ante-post odds. He ran well and basically him and Minella Rocco followed each other during the race which was similar to last year when Codd and O'Connor also followed each other from the back to somewhere near the front. He's 9 and has little racing and he surely still has more to come if he can stay sound. The class horse in the race (Paul Kealy's preview in the Racing Post still makes me laugh a week on although he wasn't the only culprit) Minella Rocco did run better than I thought in 5th, but he also proved he is nowhere near the level he was despite people who don't have a clue about hunter chases trying to say differently. Derek still choose wrong though.

Apart from the winner I thought the other superb run in the race was from Marcle Ridge who ended up finishing just 1L behind Minella Rocco despite setting a strong tempo out in front. Perhaps his jockey will be thinking he should have kept some in reserve, but for him to not drop out of the back of the TV after setting the pace was some effort and a huge step up on what he had done to date. He really enjoyed himself out in front and at only 8 he should have plenty to offer next season. I said in the preview Law Of Gold was fancied by some shrewd pointing experts, but even so it is staggering he was only sent off at at 12/1. He did make headway and looked like he might get involved at one stage, but that run petered out pretty quickly and he was a well beaten 7th in the end. He is only 7 though and if he can continue his progression then he could easily be a player in this in years to come. Kalabaloo ran well enough in 8th whereas Alacla in 9th was never a player. I was surprised to see Don Poli finish 11th in the end because at one stage he dropped himself out the back and I thought he would be pulled up. He might end up pointing again next season as he clearly isn't anywhere near good enough for the good hunter chases. 

Top Wood was prominent for most of the way, but he faded very tamely and sadly he won't even get chance to retain his Aintree crown and it might well be retirement for him. Caid Du Berlais was up there early and lasted a bit longer than last year, but then just dropped back and back and back until he was tailed off and pulled up. It's strange as he has won at Cheltenham but he seems to hate the place now. I'd have wanted to back him at Punchestown though, but he surely won't get the chance.

So a really good performance from the winner and the form looks solid and I would imagine plenty of these will be back for more next year.

Just a brief word on the Fakenham race which gave us a nice winner in Full Irish who was smashed off the boards all day. It turned into a sprint though so the form is likely to be dodgy, but Jack gave him a cracking ride. It was good to see a bit more from Buck Dancing, but the favourite was given a ride like the jockey hadn't ridden in a race for 9 years! Maybe they wanted to get the handicap mark down, but it was a poor ride on the face of it.

It would be nice to think the next jumps meeting will be Cheltenham's hunter chase night, but I wouldn't be betting on that happening although it would be a bet I would love to lose. Pointing has already been called off for the season and we might well have seen our last hunter chase as well.

If Downpatrick goes ahead on Sunday then I will be back with a preview for their hunter chase and of course I will continue to look at the Australian action as and when I fancy something.

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