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Racing chat -friday 13th november


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Decided to leave the race alone. Fanion D’ Estruval came out on top when I went through the card, but that took into account some of his french runs and they just ain’t reliable, although he’s scored two good RPRs in his only uk runs. 5 year olds have a bad record in this also. Can see one of the outsiders winning this. Not much else interests me tomorrow so I’ll wait until Saturday. 

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1:15 - Markel Insurance Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle 


Kicking off the exciting Cheltenham Open Meeting is a Class 3 handicap hurdle with a full 18-runner field, run over 2m5f and for horses rated 0-125 - it certianly looks tricky on paper. 

 

Where to start in such a big field? Right as the top of the market is Steal A March, from the mighty Henderson stable and he has only had the 3 runs over hurdles so far, including one win last season. His seasonal debut wasn’t terrible , so he could be dangerous off the same mark off 115, with Jack Tudor in the saddle this time round, perhaps one of the best pilots for this type of event. Another big stable represented in the race is the Fergal O’Brien yard and he sends Lungarno Palace. This nine-year-old continues to slide down the weights after not recording a victory since 2018, but he has failed to produce anything of note over the larger obstacles and still looks well-held over hurdles too judging by his last run here at HQ. 

Rex Dingle has been a jockey in-form for the Honeyball stable recently but today has the chance on-board The Eaglehaslanded for Jeremy Scott. He has only had the one run since switching from the Nicholls stable and that was over his preferred 3m trip, in a much tougher race than this. He is not sure to appreciate the step down to 2m5f and isn’t in the best of form so it’s probably best to look elsewhere. Others right at the top of the weights in the field include Morraman, who seemed to keep hitting the crossbar last season, and Playa Blanca. The latter makes more appeal on his recent form, winning 4 out of his last 5 attempts over hurdles - he will be a key player once again, if handling the step up to 2m5f. 

Hawthorne Cottage ended last season with a double, winning at both Doncaster and Plumpton, and he will need to find that sort of form again to get competitive here, after a poor seasonal debut. Castle Robin ended last season with some solid form too, backing that up this season with a Novice win and he could go well again from a mark of 119, which certainly looks fair. Tel’Art had Rakhine State six lengths back when they last met and despite being off the same mark now, the former makes more appeal with some consistent runs under his belt and the handy 6lb claim of Luca Morgan to aid. 

After winning this race last year, David Pipe’s bids to make it two wins on the bounce. Induno is very lightly raced and scored at the first time of asking over hurdles, before a disappointing run when he was last seen in December 2019, being sent off at odds on. He didn’t seem to stay the 2m4f that day, so without race fitness, it’s a leap of faith to trust him too much going up to 2m5f, even though he market suggests that last run was an aberration. Magic Dancer has only the 3 wins in 26 attempts over hurdles but has placed in more than half of his efforts, so the eight-year-old must be considered. He’s now 1lb lower than his last winning mark but is yet to score since having his wind operation back in 2018 and the step up in trip is again a worry. Neil Mulholland teams up with Harry Reed and with a handy 3lb taken off his back, Tango Boy is another to note. After hitting the frame twice towards the end of last season, he deserves some respect off a mark of 115. He does try this trip for the first time today, so there’s a question to be answered there. 


Right down the bottom of the handicap is Presenting Yates who is yet to make an impact over hurdles (0-4) - despite receiving weight all round, he should struggle again but HEAVEY is another who has a chance to make the most of a low weight. Despite a modest effort last time out over fences, he looked a very progressive hurdler previously, and after only being outside of the money once over the smaller obstacles, he has got to be considered once again. He was travelling the best in the field when he made a mistake at Fontwell (falling 2 from home) in September and looked like he was going to win easily that day over 3m2f. The six-year-old was then only denied by a neck over three miles and looked unlucky once again to not get his head in front, after edging right on the run in. The drop back down to 2m5f and the 4lb rise in the weights for that effort should be no issue on this stiff track and he looks a great E/W shout at a big price, especially if stamina becomes important as the weather changes. 

 


HEAVEY 0.5pts E/W @ 14/1 (William Hill - 6 Places)

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1:50 – Mucking Brilliant Paddy Power Handicap Chase 

Only nine line up here for this valuable handicap chase, but it’s certainly a case of quality over quantity with six of the field rated over 140. It’s difficult to envisage the bottom two, Azzuri and Full Glass, playing a hand here due to some pretty poor recent form for the former and the latter having his first run for Aytach Sadik after coming back over from France. Both have cases in terms of being well-handicapped in theory, but this looks a very hard assignment for a sudden return to form.

Born Survivor is another who could well be nicely handicapped, but again hasn’t been in winning form since April 2019 and his most recent run at Wetherby wasn’t particularly encouraging. However, this drop back in trip is an interesting move for a horse who hasn’t raced over two miles since 2018. His last four races, he hasn’t seen it out over two and a half, so I wonder if this stiff two miles with an uphill finish might see him in a better light, especially given that this Class 2 contest is theoretically a drop in class for the nine-year-old. He does prefer good ground though, so if the forecast rain turns the ground soft, he might find a couple with too much boot for him.

The race won here in October by the wildly impressive Rouge Vif could be an excellent pointer to this as Beat The Judge, On The Slopes and Ballywood were all in opposition that day and finished third, fifth and sixth respectively. Solely on the numbers, Ballywood is slightly better off with both of his rivals and is now down to his lowest mark since his last win, just 2lb higher than when winning at Ludlow off top weight in March 2019, but he won’t want any rain to fall and if good isn’t in the going description, he could struggle against some high-class and in-form rivals.

Beat The Judge was the highest finisher in that race, staying on strongly from the rear of the field after being outpaced on the quick ground before the field turned for home. The five-year-old has been improving nicely for trainer Gary Moore and is a horse the yard clearly like. He was a decent eighth on soft ground in the County Hurdle last season from a mark of 138 and given how he’s taken to fences like a duck to water, his mark of 142 should be no barrier to another big run. There’s no Rouge Vif in this, so you would think he’s got a really good chance of making an impact in this, but he’s another who has been taken out of races on account of soft ground before, so watch the weather – if the ground is good to soft, he’ll have a big chance .

However, the final horse in that trio, ON THE SLOPES, will certainly not mind any rain that falls and already has a good handicap third to his name here on soft ground behind Simply The Betts and Imperial Aura back in January. That race has worked out ridiculously well and he won twice at the end of last season in facile fashion before running extremely well again at this venue on his seasonal reappearance from a career-high mark of 143. He’s generously been dropped a pound for that run and given that race was run on quicker ground than he’d ideally want and, in hindsight, chasing Rouge Vif on the front end was a seriously unenviable task, this softer ground will suit him perfectly and he’s entitled to have come on again fitness-wise for that. Richard Johnson has been booked in the saddle by Chris Gordon here and there’s no better jockey to ride a horse who enjoys being right up with the pace, so everything possible is trending in the right direction for ON THE SLOPES. No matter which way I look at this race, it’s incredibly hard to keep this horse out of the frame and he seems an incredibly solid proposition here.


Of course, the top two in racecard order certainly pose a big threat to the selection as both are classy sorts who are probably deserving of their 150+ marks. Paul Nicholls’ yard is flying at the moment and Magic Saint is a classy chaser who could certainly play a hand after running a decent race on his reappearance in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree three weeks ago. He’s been dropped 2lb for finishing a nine-length sixth in that race and combined with jockey Bryan Carver’s 5lb claim, he effectively can run from a mark of 147 here. That’s the same mark from which he won at Newbury last year, beating the 2018 winner of this race, Bun Doran, by a head over the two-mile trip. The drop back to two miles could be a good move for a horse who has seemed one-paced on soft ground over two and a half, but his chance here relies on there being a strong pace and with only nine in the field and precious few ‘front runners’, he may not get that. Also, his record of RPRs in this country dips significantly when he runs at Cheltenham – elsewhere, it reads 152, 152, 156, 150 since 2019, but here at National Hunt HQ, it reads 145, 140, 141, so he’s got his effectiveness at this track to prove as well.


The selection’s biggest problem, though, could come in the shape of the Venetia Williams-trained Fanion D’Estruval, who was a striking winner of a novice handicap chase on his first start after coming over from France, making a mockery of a mark of 137. That Newbury win has been franked by not only the runner up, Sully D’Oc AA, who was a good winner of an Ascot handicap chase two weeks ago from a mark of 125, but also by the third, Southfield Stone, who is now rated 146 over fences and won a novice chase over two and a half miles here at Cheltenham at the end of October. Fanion D’Estruval’s next start wasn’t so impressive, though, as he finished fifth in the Grade 2 Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase, but the sharper track may have contributed to that as he stayed all the way to the line and just found a few too speedy for him. This track should suit him, as will any rain that falls, so the only question is whether this mark of 150 is harsh or not. Given his proximity to the likes of Al Dancer (154), Grand Sancy (149) and Rouge Vif (bolted up from 156 in the aforementioned Cheltenham handicap and now rated 164), you’d be minded to think that it’s fair and may even be workable. He does have to prove his race fitness here though while conceding plenty of weight, so those factors could be enough to swing the scales in ON THE SLOPES’ favour, even if I fully expect Fanion D’Estruval to run well here.

 


ON THE SLOPES 1pt E/W @ 4/1 (888Sport)

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3:35 – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) 

This looks to be an intriguing Novice contest on paper, but the market suggests that only two horses are in with a chance over the 2m5f trip. 

With a rating of 103 on the flat, you would have expected to see a bit more out of The Grand Visir over hurdles so far. The six-year-old has been poor in all three of his starts over obstacles so far, and despite being well supported in two of them, he is yet to produce anything of real note. Even though he’s surely better than his official mark of 115, he’s probably best watched for the time being, but expect improvement in the future in handicaps. 


Paddy Brennan does the steering for Fergal O’Brien once again as they team up with Polish. He has now had six attempts over hurdles and has only registered the one win in a Class 4 Maiden hurdle race at Ludlow. Since stepping up to Class 3 and Class 2 company, he has found life tough but is one of only two horses to be proven over today’s trip. He will need to find a lot more to get competitive with the two market leaders, even though he has been running into some real improvers recently.


The two outsiders of the field include Ballymillsy and Petraster. The former made a promising bumper debut, when sent off at huge price, and then was quickly switched straight to hurdling by Nigel. The four-year-old went on to produce a solid third on his hurdling debut, but a big step forward will be required to get on terms with these horses. The latter made a very encouraging start to his hurdling career last season, bolting up on debut at Huntingdon, and then went on to complete a hat-trick, with two wins at Perth. The five-year-old made a joke of his opening mark off 122, thrashing the field by 21 lengths, an impressive performance despite it not being a strong field. However, now rated 131, he looked out of his depth in his last attempt in Grade 2 company and we could well see a repeat of that again today. 

The partnership of Dan and Harry Skelton are always worth a market check and Wild Romance deserves respect coming into this. After finishing second in a point-to-point, this mare found herself sent to the Skelton stable and scored at the first time of asking on her hurdling debut. Albeit only being by ½ length, she should improve drastically now, having the experience in her locker. The big worry would be that the third from her winning debut was extremely poor in a Listed race recently, so we aren’t sure how strong that win is and even though she gets plenty of weight from her rivals, that may not be enough.

Looking to go off as favourite is Kim Bailey’s Does He Know, as he bids to complete the hat-trick. The five-year-old has looked classy so far this season, after not racing for almost a year. He looks very progressive so far, completing a quick-fire double and after scoring impressively over course and distance in October, he is an obvious danger. However, he carries a penalty here and any softening of the ground provides a question mark - he’s a very short price on what he’s achieved so far. 


 

Nicky Henderson’s GRAND MOGUL has been given an opening mark of 130 after an impressive win last time out, so it’s interesting to see him thrust into this company rather than going handicapping. Henderson was provided with a new recruit after this horse won for Gordon Elliott at Thurles, but he ran two poor races last season, being pulled up in a Class 3 Novice and coming last in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle in January 2020, albeit these were some tough races. However, a summer break this year has done him the world of good and despite it not being the deepest of races, GRAND MOGUL had an excellent seasonal debut, being eased down and still scoring by seven lengths. He jumped very well when winning last month and with no worries about trip or ground, plus improvement likely to come, this looks a great opportunity for him to go in again and become another strong novice hurdler from the Henderson stable. 

 


GRAND MOGUL 1pt WIN @ 3/1 (bet365, William Hill, BetVictor)

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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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I noticed Magic Saints RPRs dipped significantly at Cheltenham which put me off. I like Fanion D’ Estruval who’s got good form in the book and also scored two high RPRs on his only uk runs. Age is a concern though, and the same with Beat The Judge as 5 year olds don’t do well in this. I’m not taken with On The Slopes. Can see why he’s popular but I think it will find one or two too good. Very tricky race. 

Edited by Villa Chris
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Started writing out the first two and then my computer shut down unexpectedly and didn't have time to rewrite those ones I'm afraid!

All prices Bet365:

 

11.45 Newcastle - 1pt e/w Onlyfoolsownhorses @ 10/1

12.18 Newcastle - 1pt e/w Dubh Des Champs @ 9/1

 

1.15 Cheltenham - 1pt e/w Castle Robin @ 9/1

I do suspect the favourite is well handicapped but is a short price in a competitive race and I think Castle Robin is a rock solid alternative. Likely to race off handy and has been running consistently well in novice races with its mark not looking restrictive. He'll see this trip out around here strongly and off a fair mark could be tough to peg back.

1.50 Cheltenham - 2pts win Fanion D'Estruval @ 9/2

By no means the finished article and can throw in some mistakes but has a big engine and there's still scope off this mark. Was an impressive handicap winner last season (runner up has won well since) and shaped very well in a novice at Kempton when last seen despite the race not being run to suit and him making jumping errors. If he can iron those out today I think he'll take a lot of beating.

2.50 Southwell - 1pt e/w Ballymilan @ 9/1

Definitely has a win in her off this sort of mark having shaped well in novice races despite lacking a bit of tactical speed at times. Tends to finish off quite well having hit a flat spot and it was a similar story at Hexham on handicap debut last time. If she's held up off the pace it could be the same story again here unless they a good gallop but I'm hoping they make more use of her today, try and lessen the blow of any flat spot and keep her towards the head of affairs throughout. If that happens, she has a big chance.

3.35 Cheltenham - 1pt e/w Wild Romance @ 9/1

I backed Does He Know when winning here last time and was impressed but at the prices I think Wild Romance is very interesting getting weight as she did well to win a decent novice hurdle over 2m3f last time, staying on well to lead late in the day and doing much the best of those held up. Bred to stay so plenty more to come now getting a stiffer test and I think she'll be a big player today.

4.05 Cheltenham - 1pt e/w Chasamax @ 11/1

Favourite is well handicapped clearly but beat a poor field last time out and can be taken on in a competitive heat. Chasamax clearly needs a sound surface so you can ignore a couple of lesser efforts on soft and went well on handicap debut last time when a staying on second. This more galloping track will suit and whilst I'm not sure he's thrown in, has some good form on a sound surface including when 2nd to Tea Clipper on hurdling debut and this sort of test ought to suit so appeals at an each-way price.

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150 Cheltenham - BEAT THE JUDGE 11/2 sky bet £ back if 2nd or 3rd.   3rd , cash back .

Prefers a faster surface 2 wins on good & 1 on good to soft from 13 career starts with 5 placed efforts .

Was 3rd at course 21 days ago over 16f doing best work at the business end , is a distance winner good chance for Team Moore if handles the hill.

Edited by calva decoy
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7 hours ago, Bathtime For Rupert said:

Started writing out the first two and then my computer shut down unexpectedly and didn't have time to rewrite those ones I'm afraid!

All prices Bet365:

 

11.45 Newcastle - 1pt e/w Onlyfoolsownhorses @ 10/1

12.18 Newcastle - 1pt e/w Dubh Des Champs @ 9/1

 

1.15 Cheltenham - 1pt e/w Castle Robin @ 9/1

I do suspect the favourite is well handicapped but is a short price in a competitive race and I think Castle Robin is a rock solid alternative. Likely to race off handy and has been running consistently well in novice races with its mark not looking restrictive. He'll see this trip out around here strongly and off a fair mark could be tough to peg back.

1.50 Cheltenham - 2pts win Fanion D'Estruval @ 9/2

By no means the finished article and can throw in some mistakes but has a big engine and there's still scope off this mark. Was an impressive handicap winner last season (runner up has won well since) and shaped very well in a novice at Kempton when last seen despite the race not being run to suit and him making jumping errors. If he can iron those out today I think he'll take a lot of beating.

2.50 Southwell - 1pt e/w Ballymilan @ 9/1

Definitely has a win in her off this sort of mark having shaped well in novice races despite lacking a bit of tactical speed at times. Tends to finish off quite well having hit a flat spot and it was a similar story at Hexham on handicap debut last time. If she's held up off the pace it could be the same story again here unless they a good gallop but I'm hoping they make more use of her today, try and lessen the blow of any flat spot and keep her towards the head of affairs throughout. If that happens, she has a big chance.

3.35 Cheltenham - 1pt e/w Wild Romance @ 9/1

I backed Does He Know when winning here last time and was impressed but at the prices I think Wild Romance is very interesting getting weight as she did well to win a decent novice hurdle over 2m3f last time, staying on well to lead late in the day and doing much the best of those held up. Bred to stay so plenty more to come now getting a stiffer test and I think she'll be a big player today.

4.05 Cheltenham - 1pt e/w Chasamax @ 11/1

Favourite is well handicapped clearly but beat a poor field last time out and can be taken on in a competitive heat. Chasamax clearly needs a sound surface so you can ignore a couple of lesser efforts on soft and went well on handicap debut last time when a staying on second. This more galloping track will suit and whilst I'm not sure he's thrown in, has some good form on a sound surface including when 2nd to Tea Clipper on hurdling debut and this sort of test ought to suit so appeals at an each-way price.

Unplaced

3rd at 14/1

1st @ 9/1

2nd @ 5/1

Unplaced

2nd @ 10/1

3rd @ 14/1

 

Bit frustrating but certainly can't complain. 

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