Saturday, 16 November 2019

November Meeting: 17th December 2019 - Defi Du Seuil to Meet the Cheltenham Chase Threshold

Having been saved after Friday’s abandonment, the Cross Country Chase is shoehorned into Sunday’s card while we should also get clues for the Arkle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Champion Hurdle among other things.

A horse who has done well for us before may be the one in the feature Greatwood Hurdle, while one who is already a Cheltenham Festival winner can prove his class once again en route to the big one in March in the Cheltenham Chase at 2.25.

12.45 (2m5f Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle) – COLDITZ CASTLE

A tough race to call, especially given that many of the main contenders are unproven on ground quite this deep.  In the shape of Colditz Castle however of the Alan King yard, we at least have a fancied runner who has run one of his best races on soft ground and who comes into this weekend in good form having run third at Worcester.

There’s plenty of value to be had should you manage to point to the right one, with place challenges possibly incoming from Demon Fou, Don’t Shout and Trendsetter.

1.15 (3m6f Cross Country Handicap Chase) – KINGSWELL THEATRE

Given that this race has been rescheduled from Friday’s abandoned card and that original selection Kingswell Theatre should handle conditions just fine, we are prepared to stick with the 10-year-old of Michael Scudamore’s.

Coming into this on the back of his fifth in the Durham National at Sedgefield, our horse can resume the progression he’d been showing up to April and he could take this race at a nice price ahead of likely outsiders Tea For Two and Rolling Dylan.

1.50 (Arkle Trophy Trial Novices’ Chase – 2m – Grade 2) – AL DANCER

How much the heavy ground here and the small field, liable to lead to a tactical race, will affect the Arkle betting long-term after this result is open to question but for us it’s all about finding the winner on the day.

Put The Kettle On is probably overpriced in all honesty, while Getaway Trump is currently rated 4lbs higher than Al Dancer and yet carries 3lbs less but that could all be about to change.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ 6-year-old gelding won well around here during the Showcase Meeting and on a line through his hurdle form we could suggest that there is plenty more to come from him yet.  Assuming the ground isn’t too much of a worry, he’d rate a fair bet to get home ahead of his main challenger and put himself on course for the big one in March.

2.25 (Cheltenham Chase – 2m – Grade 2) – DEFI DU SEUIL

The betting would appear to have this spot on in our opinion, only Simply Ned not looking likely to get involved on paper.

The other three are all very close with Saint Calvados taking in this race instead of the big handicap on Saturday, a horse who comes into the event on the back of a course and distance win on heavy ground last month.

Paul Nicholls’ highly thought of Politologue appears to be at a very similar level and, while his form was arguably just a little hit and miss last term, he comes into this season having had wind surgery which may or may not help him along.

The one with perhaps a little more potential however is Philip Hobbs’ JLT Novices’ Chase winner Defi Du Seuil.  His class is already evident and it could be argued that he was even more impressive when one race less experienced in the Scilly Isles Novices’ at Sandown when the ground was very soft, a good pointer towards a big run here.

3.00 (Greatwood Handicap Hurdle – 2m½f – Grade 3) – BENNY’S BRIDGE

Having landed a heavy gamble last time after being tipped up at a much bigger price on our blog, Fergal O’Brien’s Benny’s Bridge can follow-up here as he continues to climb the ranks in search of a place in the Champion Hurdle field at the Festival.

Not proven on the ground but crucially with a love of his local course, he showed in the style of his victory in October that he can get home which will count for plenty with the going gets tough in this race.

The other solid one in the conditions is Paul Nicholls’ Quel Destin who is definitely going places, and while ultimately he may prove to be the better horse, he is just a 4-year-old and at these weights may struggle at the business end to cope with the selection.

3.30 (Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle – 2m½f – Grade 2) – PACIFY

It’s not very often we see a runner having won five races and being unbeaten over hurdles and yet not hitting the top of the market, but that could be the case with Pacify.

True, he has done all his good work thus far over timber on good ground and this is quite a different scenario, but having run very well on soft on the flat you can’t help thinking that if he’s been trained by a Henderson or a Nicholls rather than by Jamie Snowden the bookies wouldn’t be taking such a chance on him.

He is the call here, followed by likely favourite Ecco for Paul Nicholls and the fair value Hang In There of Emma Lavelle’s operation.

4.00 (2m½f Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race – Listed) – TIME FLIES BY

Very little to go on, as expected in such a race, and so the real advice as always is to watch the betting carefully in the ten minutes immediately preceding post time as a major shortening in price of a candidate can really mean something.

With what evidence we do possess however, JP McManus and Nicky Henderson’s Time Flies By is a likely type and has already run to a good level on debut.  What’s more, Barry Geraghty’s mount did so over this course and distance and on heavy ground meaning there are no worries on paper about him being able to put his best foot forward, and all that remains is to hope there isn’t a superstar lurking in the ranks.

Friday, 15 November 2019

November Meeting: 16th December 2019 - River and Lake Appropriate Selections at a Wet Cheltenham

It’s BetVictor Gold Cup day at Cheltenham, something that gives us tangible pointers towards both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Betfair Chase in March.

After waterlogging on Thursday, the ground is no better than heavy and so this is a slog today, and while Friday’s abandonment was such a disappointment two of the races have been saved and added onto the weekend card so all is not lost.

One of those races is our first event today:

12.05 (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – 2m5f – Grade 2) – THYME HILL

After tipping him up for the original running of this race on Friday and having no reason to believe he won’t handle the heavy ground, we stick with our original choice in the shape of Philip Hobbs’ Thyme Hill who can be backed at around 7/4 or bigger.

Third in the Champion Bumper at the festival and a Grade 2 winner straight up at Chepstow over hurdles, he has obvious class and we retain the thought that there is little evidence to suggest his form should suddenly regress.  Both Dancing On My Own and Some Day Soon can improve and therefore challenge for places.

12.40 (Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle – 2m½f – Grade 2) – MICK PASTOR

While it goes without saying that he has a host of runners each possessing a ton of potential to contend with, allied with his extra weight, Mick Pastor is definitely the solid option on all known evidence and gets the nod for the Triumph Hurdle Trial.

His easy hurdle win in France was achieved on heavy ground so in theory there are no worries on that score, so in the hope (and no little expectation) that Paul Nicholls can draw plenty more out of him he is the logical choice to score in this for top owner JP McManus.

Allmankind, a winner just 8 days ago at Warwick but uncertain on the ground, and Botox Has who won first time up for Gary Moore, also have potential.

1.15 (3m½f Novices’ Chase) – WHOLESTONE

While it was achieved over 2½ miles and against only one rival, Wholestone’s win on heavy ground at Perth was a pointer to the fact that he a) goes on this ground, and b) has plenty of potential over fences.

In fact, it has helped us think that if anything the ground wasn’t soft enough for him when he was beaten during the Showcase meeting here by Mulcahys Hill, who we tipped up, but he did go off favourite that day giving away weight and was only just denied.

David Pipe’s Poker Play won last time at Ffos Las and has more to come on this going, while Minella Warrior is in receipt of weight but was beaten fair and square behind the selection last month on this track.

1.50 (3m3½f Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – BIG RIVER

Ramses De Teillee is favoured here after a better than previous comeback run over hurdles, but whether he’s truly improved that much over fences remains to be seen.

Similarly, Potters Legend had a spin over hurdles recently after a long layoff and could go well here if proving fit enough now, while West Approach is a solid alternative to the selection following his second at the Showcase meeting last month.

Big River however loved the heavy going at Kelso last year, has since run fourth at the Festival and fifth in the Scottish Grand National and has been sent here by Lucinda Russell after wind surgery very much in the hope of a huge run, which we think is on.

2.25 (BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase – 2m4f – Grade 3) – SPRINGTOWN LAKE

It should go without saying that the feature race on the card is a competitive one, but we can take a chance on the well-priced Springtown Lake who should be much more comfortable over this heavy ground 2½ miles than he was when fancied to go well in the Sodexho Gold Cup at Ascot, where he was 7th.

Exciting young chaser Slate House as yet could be anything over fenced while Brelan D’As has been rerouted to this race having been expected go run a big one over two miles on Friday before the card was abandoned.  The selection is a good percentage call in the circumstances though and should be available at double-figure odds.

3.00 (Big Bucks Handicap Hurdle – 3m – Listed Race) – THE BUTCHER SAID

While Tobefair is rock solid having won over this very course and distance on heavy ground last month, he has gone up in the weights and in class and could be vulnerable to one who has not shown all of his potential yet.

In that category is The Butcher Said; out of the first two only once in 8 hurdle races, not many miles on the clock and a clear liking for heavy ground and this track based on his second to Ramses De Teillee last time out.

We should see much more from him now in handicap company and he can score ahead of Tobefair and Smackwater Jack.

3.30 (2m5f Handicap Hurdle) – REMASTERED

Both Jatiluwih and Legends Gold are high up in the market for this race and both are two from two this season, but there is plenty of potential in Remastered yet as long as he can be controlled on the day by Tom Scudamore.

Having recorded a debut hurdles win on heavy ground this time last year it appears that’s what brings the best out of him, and while he was poor last time he was simply far too free so with the tongue tie now added and the freshness taken out of him we should see a much better performance.

4.00 (2m½f Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race – Listed Race) – MIDNIGHT CALLISTO

The closer is a hard race to read of course, but in the shape of Midnight Callisto there is at least one horse who is rife with potential and who has shown a liking for soft ground.  He gets a tentative vote ahead of Pink Sheets and Legends Ryde.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

November Meeting: 15th December 2019 - Brelan D’As Holds All the Aces

Please Note: The first day of the November Meeting has been cancelled due to rain. Two of the races have been rescheduled to other days in the meeting.

Cheltenham’s November meeting is a brilliant precursor to the Festival in March, several of this weekend’s horses undoubtedly ending up back at Prestbury Park in four months’ time to contest the biggest races of the National Hunt season.

The meeting kicks off on Friday with this intriguing six-race card, one in which we could grab some great value in the markets with a number of favourites seemingly vulnerable.

12.40 (3m1f Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase) – PLANTAGANET

A competitive handicap, one with the spectres of amateur riders and now soft going to contend with from a handicapping point of view, but at the weights we should be able to trust Gina Andrews’ mount Plantaganet to run well for trainer Seamus Mullins.

A consistent sort; the 7-year-old is good around here and appears to be getting better meaning he should be a few pounds ahead of the assessor.  At an equally good value price Petite Power can run well for Fergal O’Brien, while Diplomate Sivola and What A Moment also appear to have been underestimated somewhat by odds compilers.

1.15 (2m½f Novices’ Handicap Hurdle) – ASHUTOR

Naturally these are mostly inexperienced hurdlers and as such we don’t have as much to go on as we’d like, but in being willing to take a slight leap of faith, should prices seem reasonable, a chance can be taken on Paul Nicholls’ Ashutor.

The 5-year-old’s form when running second in February at Fontwell, allowing for natural improvement, would make him competitive in this race anyway and so considering he’s had some time off and wind surgery to help his breathing we may well see a new horse here.

Going back to this extended two-mile trip should help him too, so at small stakes we can take a chance on Harry Cobden’s mount to get the better of likely favourite Gunnery, a horse of some promise for Nicky Henderson’s yard, and Mack The Man who’s in great form but has to burden top weight in a race full of horses who may just improve past him.

1.50 (2m Handicap Chase) – BRELAN D’AS

When early odds were first published on Thursday, this entire field was priced up at between 11/2 and 18/1 so of course this is a tight, competitive handicap chase.

Doitforthevillage is bound to be popular but it has to be said he’s not getting any younger, while the similarly aged Vengeur De Guye cannot be discounted after his easy win at Kelso in October for which he has been raised 8lbs.

The percentage call here is Brelan D’As.  JP McManus doesn’t buy many bad ones and Paul Nicholls doesn’t train many either, and with Barry Geraghty on board we have a full house in terms of the quality of the human element involved.

Form wise, Brelan D’As unseated round here last time but had been well fancied, he was on the improve up to and including his third in the Grand Annual at the Festival in March and at eight years old can get better yet.

2.25 (2m4f Novices’ Chase) – BIRCHDALE

This is a field that has cut up with only four of them taking part, but with the possible exception of Poker Play who looks to be a notch below his rivals, they all have a chance and so tactics allowing we should see a fair and high quality race all the same.

Fergal O’Brien has been having a great time of things and we recommended some of his horses to good effect on the blog last month and now his recent winner Jarveys Plate goes again.  He beat Reserve Tank easily last time out, a horse who has gone on to win a Grade 2 since, but while his quality is not in doubt, he has a fairly big weight to carry.

Nicky Henderson’s 5-year-old Angels Breath is back from a break and his yard are looking for him to have a big season over fences, though this is his larger obstacle debut and we cannot accurately say to what level we believe he will run, particularly first time up.

Despite his restrictive price then and the fact that he also makes his chase debut, the suggested bet is another of JP McManus and Barry Geraghty’s runners in the shape of the Nicky Henderson trained Birchdale.

On just his second hurdle start this horse reached a very good level when destroying his field in the Grade 2 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle on Trials Day at Cheltenham in January, but was pulled-up at the Festival.  He’s back and raring to go now, able we think to show his class.

3.00 (3m6f Cross Country Handicap Chase) – KINGSWELL THEATRE

A terrific race for the public but a nightmare for punters you could argue, we have to take a chance on certain runners being reinvigorated but at the odds we are more than happy to take a swing with Michael Scudamore’s 10-year-old Kingswell Theatre.

Having been still going the right way right up to April, the King’s Theatre gelding received a wind op a short while ago and returned with a more than reasonable fifth in the Durham National.  He’ll be fitter and better today, so gets the nod ahead of Tea For Two and Rolling Dylan.

3.35 (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – 2m5f – Grade 2) – THYME HILL

Formerly known as the Hyde Novices’ Hurdle, this race is a great stepping-stone towards March and one horse that it is easy to envisage going on and doing well in four months’ time is Philip Hobbs’ Thyme Hill who should be backed in this, as long as a price of around 2/1 holds.

Having finished third in the Champion Bumper and starting his hurdling career with a comfortable Grade 2 win at Chepstow, his class is there for us all to see and there is no obvious reason why his form should take a downward turn in this contest.

Both Dancing On My Own and Some Day Soon can both improve and can challenge for places too.

Friday, 25 October 2019

Showcase Meeting: Saturday 26th October 2019 - Moore Team To Knock Them Out in Feature

Day two of Cheltenham’s Showcase Meeting looks like being one to remember, if not for outright quality then for those to keep on side with one eye on the near future.

Plenty in these seven fields are going the right way and many will be aimed ultimately at the festival in March, so it’s notebooks at the ready for sure.  Betting wise there is some good value out there on Saturday, with these being our choices: 

2.00 (3m1f Handicap Chase) – ROCKY’S TREASURE

We have some good old handicappers and some very familiar names on show for the opener, a staying handicap chase with £37,000 put up for the winner.

While full respect remains given to experienced types such as Rock The Kasbah, a big winner at last year’s November meeting, and The Young Master who won at the same meet, they may be usurped by one with a little more to give in the shape of Rocky’s Treasure.

Kim Bailey’s 8yo has a record of 4 wins, 2 seconds and a third in just eight chase races and now that he’s fresh from a break, we should see another lively performance likely better than his rating of 147 making him well-in.

2.35 (2m½f 4yo Hurdle) – TORPILLO

While it’s always difficult to assess these inexperienced 4yo’s, there are a few against the field with form enough to make very strong cases.

Soviet Pimpernel is two from two since September after a break, though even in receipt of weight he should struggle to get to Paul Nicholls’ Quel Destin.  The Ditcheat gelding had a very busy time between April 2018 and March 2019 so again we can expect more now he’s fresh, but a lot of improvement will need to be forthcoming for even him to beat the selection.

Torpillo is one who took a fair step forward from last season’s form when he landed a Chepstow handicap hurdle and, if anything, he should probably improve again for the greater test of going round here on rain-softened ground for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.

3.10 (2m Handicap Chase) – KNOCKNANUSS

A good, competitive handicap chase over the minimum distance and one in which several horses are hard for us to separate.

At varying prices Mcgroarty (Dr Richard Newland), Brelan D’As (Paul Nicholls) and Marracudja (Dan Skelton) will all offer fair value and should give backers a run for their money, but the one with so much potential after his 203 days off his Gary Moore’s Knocknanuss.

Having improved very satisfactorily between the autumns of 2017 and 2018, he floundered rather at the end of last season having been as short as 11/2 for the Irish Arkle when falling.  With that experience hopefully now out of his head, he appears to be very well handicapped indeed off a mark of 144 and could take some stopping.

3.45 (3m Handicap Hurdle) – THECLOCKISTICKING

A three-mile handicap hurdle that will take some getting, this is a tight heat and one we couldn’t offer a selection on with any great deal of confidence.

That said, despite not exactly looking clear of the field, the one who just could be better than what we’ve see thus far is Stuart Edmunds’ Theclockisticking, first time out after a wind operation.

He had been chasing before his op, but returning him to hurdles could be a smart move and he is tentatively taken to score ahead of Sunset Showdown, Captain Tommy and Neverbeen To Paris.

4.20 (3m Novices’ Hurdle) – RAMSES DE TEILLEE

Unsurprisingly in a race featuring some runners offering little do go on in the way of form, The Butcher Said looks sure to go off favourite having won each of his last four races, indeed he’s won four and finished second once since a receiving a wind operation and moving to Olly Murphy’s yard.

His out and out ability though arguably just doesn’t match up to David Pipe’s Ramses De Teille who reverts to novice hurdling now after going chasing and reaching a rating of 153.

A wind op of his own, as well as having that chasing experience, has been done since the last time he stepped over a hurdle and it’s safe to say he’s way better now than he was two years ago.  Some Chaos could be the one to complete the first three.

4.55 (2m4f Novices’ Chase) – SECRET INVESTOR

As expected this is a race full of contenders whose limits we as yet don’t know, but in the case of Secret Investor we reckon we’ve found one that has the most potential right at this part of the season, despite giving away weight to most.

Paul Nicholls’ 7yo is ready to pick up where he left off last season, the son of Kayf Tara having bagged form figures of 22411 in his first season as a chaser.  All his best work was done on good ground last term, but he’s run well on softer ground over hurdles before and this test should be to his liking.

The main challengers appear to be Ian Williams’ First Assignment and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Topofthecotswolds who each have solid place chances at very pair prices at the time of writing.

5.30 (2m½f National Hunt Flat Race) – BARBADOS BUCK’S

Very few in this line-up have done much in public so it goes without saying that any selection here has to be a tentative one, as such we recommend going in with small stakes.

The betting should be very telling in this contest, so watch out for big money coming for something late in the day, but without the benefit seeing that play out the choice is Paul Nicholls’ Barbados Buck’s.

An expensive pointing recruit, the 4yo was second when last seen out and should be fit enough to do himself justice on his British bumper debut.

A significant reduction in the odds for the likes of Butte Montana, The Newest One or Time Flies By would be interesting to say the least.

Showcase Meeting: Friday 25th October 2019 - Fergal O’Brien the Man to Follow as Cheltenham Gets Underway

The long wait for a return to jumping action at Cheltenham comes to an end this week as the Showcase Meeting gets underway.

Saturday features a little more quality of course and we’ll have information on all seven races on that card soon, but Friday’s meeting is a great way to kick off for the year and there could be a few juicy bets to be had too.

2.00 (2m5f Novices’ Hurdle) – CHAMPAGNE WELL

The ever-popular Fergal O’Brien could be on for a very good day here, and we are sweet on his 6yo gelding Champagne Well in the first.

Progressing nicely in five hurdle runs, Paddy Brennan’s mount hasn’t yet won over obstacles but there’s no doubt his time is coming and despite having run in behind thus far, his form here looks good enough to see him heavily involved.

Irish raiders Doctor Duffy and Braid Blue will no doubt prove to be popular in the ring, but both may have some way to go to catch the selection in these conditions.

2.35 (2m Novices’ Chase) – GETAWAY TRUMP

All things considered this is a virtual match race between Al Dancer and Getaway Trump, the latter being favoured now that they go chasing.

With just 4lbs between them on official ratings there’s not much to separate these two from their hurdling careers, Al Dancer’s position of being favoured in the market probably emanating from the fact he has run less and is seen as having more to come, allied with the fact that he comfortably beat the selection home in the Betfair Hurdle having carried 1lb more.

In fact, Getaway Trump has gone on to improve plenty since that event, takes his racing really well and will probably relish the challenge of this course a little more than Al Dancer and so at a likely better price, he gets the call.

3.10 (2m5f Handicap Hurdle) – LIOSDUIN BHEARNA

A very tricky handicap to start our season off for sure, one in which the likes of The Big Galloper and Smarty Wild are bound to be popular, however that man Fergal O’Brien has an interesting runner once again in the shape of this Liosduin Bhearna.

With a record of 2211 in his four hurdle races to date, this 6yo has proven to be consistent but more importantly, he’s going the right way.

After holding on gamely at Ayr in February on his handicap debut he took his form to a new level when following up at Chepstow, an easy nine-length win that saw him go up significantly in the handicap.  He can defy that rise now he’s had a break though and carry on his ascent of the rankings.

3.45 (3m½f Novices’ Chase) – MULCAHYS HILL

Once again these early novice chasers are difficult to assess, but we could be on for a right good bit of value in this race to smallish stakes with Warren Greatrex’s Mulcahys Hill.

The principles, especially Dinons and Boyhood, are priced-up all wrong in our opinion although likely favourite Wholestone is liable to be the big danger.

Mulcahys Hill, it mustn’t be forgotten, was second in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle in 2017 and went off favourite for a Grade 2 here on trials day in 2018, form which if he can get back to a similar level over fences and after a break marks him out as a cut above.

4.20 (2m½f Maiden Hurdle) – GETARIVER

A fairly interesting maiden hurdle, one in which a couple of French recruits will command a lot of attention and a fair bit of the money changing hands in the ring.

Those two though, namely Fred for Nicky Henderson and Cap Du Mathan for Paul Nicholls, are likely to have to step up significantly from what they achieved over the Channel and that leaves the door open for something else.

Master Debonair, after five good bumper runs and a wind operation, should make a successful transition to hurdling but one with experience, a good level of form, the benefit of a wind op and receiving weight is Dan Skelton’s mare Getariver.

Her experience comes from age of course, not in terms of mileage on the track, but what she did in a bumper at Newbury alone gives her an outstanding chance here and she’s priced generously.

4.55 (3m1f Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase) – GARRANE

Another competitive handicap, one in which we may be going 5/1 the field, and while it is a tough one to call for obvious reasons it seems this 7yo Garrane has as good a chance as any for trainer Jeremy Scott and jockey Martin McIntyre at a fair price.

While many will prefer to back one of the seven or so runners here who have had a recent turn, coming off a break is no bad thing for the selection and in fact it would appear he really needed it after six chase starts last season.

It can be expected now fresh that’s he’s improved a fair bit since making his fourth chase start in January, though he remains on the same handicap mark and he appears to stay this distance and beyond very well.

5.30 (2m½f Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle) – BENNY’S BRIDGE

There’s one last chance for Fergal O’Brien to land us another win here in the shape of the underestimated and potentially overpriced Benny’s Bridge.

This horse is another who, having had seven hurdle races between October and April, probably just finished last season a little flat and so he’s best judged on the middle part of his campaign.

After winning a handicap hurdle over near enough this course and distance in January he was rated 134 and considered a leading light for the Imperial Cup where he went off at 8/1.  Not only has he not risen further, but in fact he races here off a mark of 127 and so is of obvious appeal at the weights.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Friday 3rd May: Hay to Mount Challenge As Cheltenham Season Closes

After another successful Festival and many other seasonal highlights, jump racing’s HQ closes its doors to racing for a while this weekend with the season-ending Race Night featuring Hunter Chase Racing at Cheltenham its final meeting and the competitive seven-race card has thrown up some fine betting opportunities.

Look out for one or two going off at potentially nice prices in the 5.40 and 6.15, but we start with what punters will be hoping is a banker bet to get the ball rolling in the opening two-miler.

5.05 (2m½f Open Hunters’ Chase) – GUSTAVE MAHLER

It would be a surprise if the opening race were not won by Gustave Mahler, thought the price offered about Alastair Ralph’s entrant may well prove very prohibitive.

Even on their very best form under rules, none of today’s rivals should really hold a candle to the nine-year-old so given that so many have not performed that well for so long this more recent runner-up at Ludlow and Southwell should have enough about him to out-jump and outgun this lot.

Saffron Wells looks like the only real danger, so it is hoped that the 11-year-old eventually goes off at a price that makes him backable for a place on the Tote or as a fair each-way prospect.

5.40 (3m2f Intermediate Point-To-Point Championship Final Hunters’ Chase) – COCO LIVE

There could be some great value to be had in race 2 in the shape of Coco Live, forecast to go off at odds as big as 10/1 when the entries were revealed on Thursday morning.

Despite being beaten in a maiden chase under rules at Taunton recently, it’s the seven-year-old’s point-to-point form from Badbury Rings that really stands out in the context of this race as well as his defeat of today’s likely favourite Ballycahane at Larkhill and so, with some improvement likely, Harriet Waight’s runner has an outstanding chance of success.

Fellow 7yo Chapelier is on a great winning run and can give our horse most to do, while Captain McGinley should be capable of running into the places too and should be watched in the betting.

6.15 (3m1½f Open Hunters’ Chase) – ORDER IN COURT

An open race this time, with Order In Court, Miracle Ridge and Alfstar all very likely to throw in challenges at some point in the race.

We’re hoping here that youth can win the day as the six-year-old Order In Court, in very good form this spring, can improve a little more than the others and may have too much at the business end of the race given that he is a good stayer.

6.50 (3m2½f Mixed Open Gold Cup Hunters’ Chase) – HAZEL HILL

Philip Rowley’s Hazel Hill won the Foxhunters Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in fine style back in March and is the clear pick of the bunch if turning up in anything like the same form this time around.

The admirable eleven-year-old has also won under rules at Leicester, Towcester and Warwick in the past and there’s no conceivable reason why he should suddenly take a dip in form low enough to compromise his position as the likely winner of this race.

At the weights, the main danger could come from Catterick second and Hornby Castle point-to-point winner Path To Freedom who still has more to offer and at the likely prices is the value option against the favourite, though Virak should also go well and could provide some value.

7.20 (3m1½f Mares’ Open Hunters’ Chase) – THEATRE TERRITORY

Although she has arguably taken a number of backwards steps over the last few months, Theatre Territory is way better than this opposition so after a potentially confidence boosting win in a novices’ hunters’ chase at Exeter just over a fortnight ago, Warren Greatrex’s mare should have enough in the bag to see this lot off.

In looking for something to back against her, perhaps with an eye on the each-way and place markets to offer us some value for money, we could do worse than keep a close eye on Tb Broke Her who remains consistent in point-to-point races and could make her mark in this for trainer Sam Jukes.  The top one Martha’s Benefit should also go well.

7.50 (4m½f Open Hunters’ Chase) – HAYMOUNT

Despite the presence of a couple of big challengers from top yards in the shape of Mendip Express (Philip Hobbs) and Wonderful Charm (Paul Nicholls) with the latter the better fancied of the two, this race could fall to husband and wife duo Tom Ellis and Gina Andrews and what a win it would be for the pair.

Their Haymount, trained by Ellis and ridden by Andrews, is perhaps not at his peak right now having pulled-up last time out under rules when behind Hazel Hill at the Festival, but he has since won nicely in a point-to-point at Kingston Blount and in getting 6lbs from the two aforementioned horses he may have a little in hand when it counts.

As well as Mendip Express and Wonderful Charm, a big challenge could come from former Paul Nicholls runner Southfield Theatre who is right back to form after an easy win in the point-to-point sphere recently.

8.20 (2m4½f Open Hunters’ Chase) – RISK A FINE

This looks like a very good opportunity for Gareth Moore to grab a winner with recent Warwick and Stratford scorer Risk A Fine in the lucky last, a ten-year-old who having changed hands a couple of times now seems to be improving and in fact is potentially better now than he ever was when in training with Philip Hobbs.

Hobbs himself has a challenger here in the shape of Village Vic although David Maxwell may well have his work cut out to get the best out of him this time, while a bigger challenge to our horse could come from Petrou who has been in fine form in point-to-points of late.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

April Meeting Day Two: Take the Bookies to Tazka at Jumps HQ

It’s ladies day at Cheltenham for day two of the April meeting, well not in terms of those watching at the track but for those performing on it as the fillies and mares fill every race on the card.

The highlights are the Grade 3 Juvenile Handicap Hurdle where we may see some future stars of the game and the final of the Mares’ Novices’ Handicap Chase Series Final, a Listed event.

2.05 (Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – Listed Race) – INDEFATIGABLE

Let’s hope this one lives up to her name if the finish turns into a real battle going up the hill, but that may not be necessary as a close look at her form seems to put her right up there with likely favourite Posh Trish and given that she gets a 5lb weight concession here, she seems to have plenty in her favour today.

Paul Webber’s mare was beaten 2 lengths by Posh Trish earlier in the season when again in receipt of the same weight, but she has improved since and it is very fair to say her rival doesn’t perform quite as well when the ground is not rain-softened.  Kim Bailey’s Diamond Gait could prove to be best of the rest.

2.40 (Mares’ Novices’ Handicap Chase Series Final – Listed Race) – LITTLE MISS POET

With the ground nice and dry it could pay to side with a mare who is quickest, weight adjusted that is, between her fences and in Little Miss Poet we may have found the perfect one.

Her speed figures are more impressive than those of her main rivals Kupatana and Desirable Court and that could be the difference on the day all being well.

She perhaps needs to prove now she can do it on an undulating track of course, but her form stands up well and having had a break being off the track for two months she comes here fresh enough and ready to do herself justice for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson.

3.15 (Mares’ Handicap Hurdle – Listed Race) – INESSA

There are plenty of mares in with chances here; many with good enough form and some who seem to prefer this faster going but when it’s hard to pick one out it often pays to go with the one seemingly improving the most and so Dr Richard Newland’s Inessa gets the vote.

Despite being a beaten odds-on favourite last time out she has generally been on an upward curve and it seems this extra yardage is set to get further improvement out of her.  She put in at least one performance in Germany in the past that would have seen her rated close to 90 on the flat and so with that in mind she looks potentially well handicapped.

Dan Skelton’s Late Night Lily and the Queen’s Sunshade, trained by Nicky Henderson, are probably next on the list.

3.50 (Class 3 Mares’ Handicap Chase) – SHENEEDEDTHERUN

This lowly weighted 9yo mare has only been with trainer Ben Pauling since February but she quickly put in a good performance for him at Warwick when beaten into second place that month.

True, she wasn’t so good last time out at the same venue but that was over a more extreme distance and on soft ground so it is very much expected that she can return to form today and if anything take another step forward for her current handler.

Topweight Molly Childers is solid enough as you’d expect while Charlie Longsdon’s Aunty Ann comes into the reckoning as well with those two mares making up the shortlist.

4.25 (Fillies’ Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – TAZKA

Gary Moore’s filly has perhaps had more chances on the course than many of her rivals, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t kept on improving as expected for a four-year-old and she could take another significant step forward in this race to become a Grade 3 winner.

Although beaten into third last time out, her latest run was definitely her best in a £40,000 handicap and considering that the neither the trip nor the ground were in her favour, we can certainly upgrade that performance and that’s something that gives her an outstanding chance at these weights.

Down at the bottom end of the handicap, Kerry Lee’s Pilgrim Soul is no forlorn hope while at the top the Paul Nicholls-trained Miranda holds plenty of appeal as well.

4.55 (Class 2 Mares’ Handicap Chase) – ALIZEE DE JANEIRO

It’s easy to see why many will be taken with the topweight for this race, Happy Diva, but it’s possible she’s got more than enough on her plate in such a competitive race carrying 11st12lbs and so attentions turn elsewhere.

While Whatduhavtoget makes some appeal for Dan Skelton having won two and finished second once in just four chase starts, there is plenty more to like about Alizee De Janeiro down at the bottom end of the handicap and Lucinda Russell’s raider is fancied to make it six wins out of 8.

This is more competitive than she’s been used to but she just keeps improving and if anything wants a stiffer challenge, something this opposition and this course together will be glad to serve up to her.

5.30 (Class 2 Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race) – MYSTIC DREAMER

These bumper races are notoriously hard to solve in advance of the market opening up of course, so take notice of any serious cash coming for a horse close to post time, but based on the knowledge we have Nick Gifford’s Mystic Dreamer could well be the one after her good debut second at Ascot back in February.

The soft ground wasn’t to her liking next time and she can return to form here under jockey Leighton Aspell and perhaps be good enough to get the better of Yeavering Belle and Early Morning Rain.