Friday, 24 January 2020

Cheltenham Trials Day: 25th Janury 2020 - If The Cap Fits, Back It

It’s trials day at Cheltenham with up to 62 runners looking to put their names forward for a place in their desired race at the festival in March.

Paisley Park and Bristol De Mai are probably the ones many people are turning up to see, but we have some fine value bets against them to get stuck into.

12.40 (Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle – Grade 2) – MONTE CRISTO

This isn’t the strongest Triumph Hurdle trial we could have wished for, but in fact given that that’s the case it’s perhaps surprising that Nicky Henderson’s French recruit Monte Cristo isn’t odds-on overnight given that his Gallic form already looks too good for this opposition and his trainer tends to improve them from there quite a lot.

Henderson has won four of the last 7 renewals of this race and there’s no reason, on all known evidence, to think he won’t win it again at the possible main expense of Rowland Ward and Gerolamo Cardano who may make up the places.

1.15 (Class 2 Novices’ Handicap Chase) – IMPERIAL AURA

While Champagne Court will be popular after two wins, especially being tongue-tied for the first time, he’s never put his best foot forward around here before and so the track may well hamper him again.

Harry Whittingdon’s Simply The Betts handled the hill brilliantly at Newcastle and so should see things out right to the line today, though at the weights that doesn’t make him a better proposition than Imperial Aura for us and so it’s Kim Bailey’s gelding who gets the nod.

Having also won at Newcastle this time over hurdles, this horse began his chasing career with a virtual gimme before chasing home the talented Pym here in December.  That last run was over three miles and it really stretched him, so over this 2m4½f distance he should continue his improvement and be good enough to score.

1.50 (Cheltenham Trophy Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – LALOR

This is a frightfully tight race to call with a number holding chances, but it’s former Arkle favourite Lalor who catches the eye the most for us.

Kayley Woollacott’s gelding was a real rising star this time last season but fell in the Arkle when apparently holding a fair chance on form.  After some under-par runs the 8-year-old was upped to this 2m4½f trip on New Year’s Day and almost came home best of all in the Paddy Power, finishing third in a blanket finish.

That’s the best form on offer we feel and given that he can improve at the distance, he should have an advantage over some familiar faces over this track and trip such as Warthog, Highway One O One and Spiritofthegames who all have strong place claims.

2.25 (Cotswold Chase – Grade 2) – SANTINI

A nice race in its own right of course as a Grade 2 with £56,000 going to the winner, but the point about this event is that it is a genuine Gold Cup trial with several trainers entering horses they believe could be the real deal.

One of those trainers is Emma Lavelle who is adamant that her Ladbrokes Trophy winner De Rasher Counter can be a Gold Cup horse but to be honest as good as he undoubtedly is, he’ll need to take a couple of huge strides forward to enter calculations there.

Some improvement may put him near enough on a par with what can reasonably expected of Bristol De Mai, the Haydock specialist who is never quite the same around here.  His best Cheltenham effort was of course last season’s Gold Cup third but that was still below his very best and he now has to give a couple of pounds away to Santini.

Back from a wind op, Santini comes here fresh having won easily back in November, his only appearance since a very strong second in the RSA Chase at last year’s Festival with feeling being that if the Cotswold is indeed to produce one horse to put it up to the current Gold Cup favourites, it’s likely to be this one.

3.00 (Classic Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – HOUSE ISLAND

Far be it from us to simply put forward the horse with the highest rating or even the best past form, but it does rather seem as though Paul Webber’s horse has been way underestimated by the bookmakers and he is simply too big a price overnight to ignore.

Likely favourite King Roland is rated 133 after two very easy hurdle wins but he’s had no real opposition up against him and we don’t know how good he truly is.  Protektorat (139) gives weight away all round and is more exposed, while our horse has achieved his mark of 143 from only three starts, improving in bundles each time.

Should he improve again, and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t, he could make anything over 5/1 look a little silly.

3.35 (Cleeve Hurdle – Grade 2) – IF THE CAP FITS

This is a proper trial for the Stayers’ Hurdle and it’s a race that revolves around last year’s winner of both events, Paisley Park.

There’s no doubt that, on current evidence at least, Paisley Park is the best in his division but he’s missed a race and has had a very different preparation to last year so you’d be brave if you said you were taking odds-on about him today.

In the case of If The Cap Fits we have a horse who has won a Grade 1 over three miles at Aintree and the 2½-mile Coral Hurdle (Grade 2) on soft ground, now he simply has to put it all together by winning a three-mile race around Cheltenham and we’re backing him to do so and shake-up the Stayers’ Hurdle market.

Our old pal Summerville Boy also runs here but should be no better than third if the big two are on their game.

4.10 (Class 2 Handicap Hurdle) – EN MEME TEMPS

A chance is taken in the last race on Philip Kirby’s runner En Meme Temps, whose form from Carlisle may have been underestimated and who at around 10/1 would be far too big a price.  He may get the better of benchmark Sofia’s Rock.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Cheltenham New Years Day 2020: Singlefarm to Provide Our Payment

There’s no better way to start 2020 for jumps fans than with a Cheltenham card and so it’s great to begin as we mean to go on.  We have some great value selections for the first meeting of the year, beginning in the Ballymore Novices’ event.

12.15 (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – 2m4½f – Listed Race) – WELSH SAINT

A good event to kick off our seven-race card and it’s one in which we trust crack trainer Nicky Henderson to have prepared his Welsh Saint well enough to handle the rigours of Cheltenham.

While Nico de Boinville’s mount is unproven in such company and around such a tough course, we feel this horse is the one with the most potential having won his maiden hurdle at Warwick ever so easily and at the likely odds, he could also represent some value.

Top weighted Redford Road is the most solid contender in the line-up and rates next best for us, just ahead of Imperial Alcazar.

12.50 (3m2½f Handicap Chase) – SINGLEFARMPAYMENT

There are some good old Cheltenham types in this line-up, one of which is Tom George’s ten-year-old Singlefarmpayment and while we don’t expect him to reach his career highs in terms of ability on the day, the level he can get to off his current mark could see him win this.

With a record most encouraging around this track, Singlefarmpayment is sure to give us a run for our money and based on his improvement from race one to race two this season, a fourth placed finish in the BetVictor Handicap Chase in December, we think he can take another small step forward which off a mark of 140 could be enough.

Both Doing Fine and Singlefarmpayment’s old rival Cogry remain of interest and should give a great account of themselves, but at both these weights and the likely odds we stick with Jonathan Burke’s mount.

1.25 (Dipper Novices’ Chase – 2m4½f – Grade 2) – CHAMP

Even at probable long odds-on, it’s very hard to oppose Cheltenham Festival ante post favourite Champ in this race but every horse can have an off day, so we don’t recommend having too much on him.

Should you need an alternative, one in the ‘without the favourite’ market or for the Placepot for example, you could do worse than back Deyrann De Carjac who rates as our second-best, but is third in the market overnight at around the 6/1 mark.

2.00 (Paddy Power Handicap Chase – 2m4½f – Grade 3) – EX PATRIOT

After an excellent effort at Newbury in defeat when losing a shoe, it’s very much expected that solid top weight and Grade One winner Kalashnikov will put up another bold show in this race but as the likely favourite he won’t offering a great deal in the way of betting value to do so.

Money may come for former Arkle Trophy favourite Lalor and that would be interesting, but the best value in the race lies with Irish raider Ex Patriot of the little known Ellmarie Holden yard.

His form so far, while going under the radar perhaps on this side of the Irish Sea, is good enough to get him involved at a big price and should he improve further which we expect, then in fact he could prove to be a very well handicapped sort indeed.

2.35 (3m Handicap Hurdle) – SKANDIBURG

Both Rapper and Goodbye Dancer are solid propositions here in what is a highly competitive three-mile hurdle race, the two being by our reckoning very close at these weights with former top-class staying chaser Might Bite meaning quite a battle for place money could be on the cards.

Even in taking into account that as an Aintree winner Skandiburg may not be quite as good around this track, Olly Murphy’s six-year-old still comes out on top for us so given that he could even improve today he definitely rates as the most likely winner and the best value in the line-up at around 6/1 overnight.

3.10 (Relkeel Hurdle – 2m4½f – Grade 2) – SUMMERVILLE BOY

Another fascinating race, one in which Nicky Henderson tries again to make hay over hurdles with a horse proven over fences, this time in the shape of Janika.  It remains to be seen how good he is over the smaller obstacles these days though and as favourite, we don’t like his price much either.

William Henry is solid though he gives weight away, while Emitom is probably the one with the most ticks in the most boxes and would be the one we’d recommend for a place.  A chance is taken at a nice price however on Summerville Boy who returns to hurdles having fallen on his second chase start and he’s one that could just outclass them in this sphere.

3.50 (1m6f Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race – Listed Race) – GRAND ROI

It’s always hoped that the lucky last can either supplement our winnings or get us out of trouble, but with not a lot to go on there are a fair few leaps of faith we need to take in order to pick out the right one in the closing bumper race.

It does look though that, on all known evidence at least, we can pick out two against the field with first of all Belle De Manech of Anthony Honeyball’s yard holding a winning chance in receipt of weight following her simple enough win at Warwick in November.

She has a tongue-tie for the first time and is expected to improve, though that may still not get her to the level of Grand Roi of Nicky Henderson’s yard and he gets the nod.

A very, very easy Wincanton winner, we have no idea yet where the bottom of this horse is and as such, he brings the most potential into this event.


Friday, 13 December 2019

International Meeting: 14th December 2019 - Time of the Lord in International Hurdle

A few favourites went in early on day one of the meeting and it’s hoped punters have another good day today at Cheltenham, the feature races this time being the Grade 2 International Hurdle and the Grade 3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase.

12.10 (Triumph Hurdle Trial Juvenile Hurdle – 2m1f) – BOTOX HAS

Whether or not he will ultimately prove good enough to challenge for the Triumph Hurdle itself remains open to some doubt, but on this occasion Gary Moore’s Botox Has appears to have a very fair shout in this trial race.

Receiving 3lbs from two-time winner Langer Dan this time, Joshua Moore’s mount won at Fontwell on his British debut before running well in second in a Grade 2 Triumph Hurdle trial here recently and he should have enough ability to see off most of this field comfortably enough, with the possible exception of Irish raider Tremwedge who remains of interest in this sort of grade.

12.45 (2m 4½f Novices’ Chase) – MISTER FISHER

All things being equal, this race could come down to likely market leaders Mister Fisher and Good Boy Bobby, with the former being favoured this time.

Nicky Henderson’s 5-year-old has had just the one chase start, finishing runner-up to Torpillo over two miles at Warwick which is good form, and it’s thought he should progress rather well now going up in trip and that’s something which gives him the edge at these weights.

Good Boy Bobby, carrying a penalty for his Wetherby win, shouldn’t be far away while Beakstown is probably best of the rest.

1.20 (2m½f Handicap Chase) – BALLYWOOD

This is a very tight one to call between two outstanding challengers, and while it’s expected that there will be a bigger weight of money behind Destrier, who ran a cracker to finish third in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter last time out, we are happy to take a chance on Ballywood of Alan King’s yard.

Himself third at Ascot last time, while Ballywood was beaten a long way in the end the bare result doesn’t tell the full story and so we think the performance can be upgraded somewhat.  As a 5-year-old it could also be argued that he has more improvement to come that Destrier, giving him the edge, while old-timer Croco Bay could once again make himself competitive and is taken to sneak into a place.

1.55 (Caspian Caviar Gold Cup – Grade 3) – NOT THAT FUISSE

It goes without saying that our feature race, a £130,000 handicap, is hugely competitive but that usually means it’s best to look for one who could be very well-handicapped and we have that in the shape of Dan Skelton’s Not That Fuisse.

The 6-year-old did well here earlier in the season over two miles but it’s felt he’ll be better off over this sort of distance and it’s hoped, as is so often the case, that even more of an effort will be coaxed out of him now that he’s in a handicap and not a slowly-run novice event.

Only a young chaser, this being his fourth run and second around Cheltenham, he has a ton of potential and based on his close form with Al Dancer, his official rating of 131 may well have underestimated his abilities and so he is taken to land this ahead of Knocknanuss and Good Man Pat.

2.30 (Bristol Novices’ Hurdle – 3m – Grade 2) – CHAMPAGNE WELL

Once again things look close in this high-level Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle trial for the Festival in March, but while we like the chances of Igor in big races to come, he is not certain by all accounts to thrive over the full three miles and so on this occasion the percentage call is Fergal O’Brien’s Champagne Well.

Having landed a huge gamble here in October, the locally-trained horse came back to finish second to Thyme Hill last month in an improved showing and it’s felt that he has not finished progressing yet.  This extra three furlongs could unlock yet more and so he gets the shout at reasonable odds, with Mossy Fen and Valtor perhaps getting into things too.

3.05 (International Hurdle – 2m1f – Grade 2) – CALL ME LORD

Nicky Henderson has an extremely strong hand here and while his unbeaten dual Grade 1 winner Pentland Hills is very much the better fancied among the public and bookmakers going into the weekend, his more experienced Call Me Lord could just be the shrewd call.

Getting 3lbs from his younger stablemate, Call Me Lord as well as being largely consistent probably already boasts the best form in this field given that it has been achieved not just in juvenile company, while he also appears to be getting quicker as he gets older.

Having won over 2m5½f before, he came right back to this sort of trip for the Imperial Cup last season in which he was third, before returning in Ascot’s Grade 2 Coral Hurdle where he was runner-up.

His form is solid and reliable and he can be backed at nice prices to tough this out ahead of his teammate Pentland Hills, and perhaps the returning Ch’tibello who remains of interest.

3.40 (2m4½f Mares’ Handicap Hurdle) – DAME DE COMPAGNIE

This is a very competitive race on paper to finish off the card, but it’s one in which Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty could team up to win once again for JP McManus with this 6-year-old mare Dame De Compagnie who is on the comeback trail.

Having had some significant time off the track, she returned last time with a thoroughly decent fifth in the Greatwood Hurdle last month and she can kick on from that now to record a first victory in 20 months since scoring in a Listed race around this track in April 2018.

In behind the competition is numerous with JP’s other horse in the race, 4-year-old Vision Du Puy likely to go well, along with another Nicky Henderson mare in Lust For Glory.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

International Meeting: 13th December 2019 - West the Right Approach in Day 1 Feature Race

The International meeting gets underway on Friday and, while Saturday’s card is the one most people are looking forward to, todays has on it the £60,000 Grade 3 BetVictor Handicap Chase, a race that may have implications for bigger upcoming events.

12.10 (2m1f Novices’ Hurdle) – GLORY AND FORTUNE

5-year-old Chantry House should be very popular here, representing crack connections JP McManus, Nicky Henderson and jockey Barry Geraghty.  He in fact should be the market leader and he shows up pretty highly on our ratings too, though he is vulnerable we feel to one with a little more racing experience.

That contender is Glory And Fortune who, while only a 4-year-old, has run in two hurdle races already, acquitting himself well including at Haydock last time out in a Listed race when he was hampered in his run en route to finishing third.  He should improve and will be good value to land the opener.

12.45 (3m1½f Novices’ Chase) – PYM

Stoney Mountain is interesting now going chasing while Imperial Aura should go on after winning last time, however in fighting for place money they may have their work cut out to get past Rockpoint who is consistent rather than brilliant, but has run well around here twice now and is clearly improving steadily.

The one to be on though seems likely to be Nicky Henderson’s Pym, the 6-year-old who has already left his hurdle form well behind after just two chase starts, reaching a mark of 149.  He won very well at Ascot last time with the major point about him being that he can jump brilliantly, meaning he’s able to take lengths out of his opposition and keep much needed energy for the hill.

1.20 (2m1f Handicap Hurdle) – BARNTOWN

With 14 runners this at first glance looks like a highly competitive handicap hurdle, but there are three that for various reasons appear as though they may be a little way ahead of the handicapper and as such should be the ones to concentrate on.

Ecu De La Noverie, Philip Hobbs’ runner who is a good deal better now than when he last ran over hurdles and Oakley, our next best and also trained by Hobbs, is very much going the right way and seems to handle this track quite well but they may both have it all to do to get beyond Barntown.

Right at the bottom of the weights, Tim Vaughan’s runner doesn’t have a lot to carry and yet is used to an undulation and some heavy ground, so should see things out well here.  Given natural improvement from his latest Lingfield success, he could be a horse heading into the 120’s making his official mark of 112 for this race look very lenient indeed.

1.55 (2m4½f Mares’ Handicap Chase) – CHEQUERED VIEW

None of the six mares involved here can be considered to be out of form as such, and so this is a pretty open race on the face of it.

At nice prices the likes of Skewiff and Parlour Maid can get involved in the finish, but the solid one of the bunch appears to be last-time-out winner Chequered View and she gets the nod.

Her win at Fakenham was achieved on good ground and over three miles, but her stamina could come in handy at the death here and arguably her most impressive performance to take came over this trip on soft ground at Worcester in the early autumn, meaning there’s not much not to like about her profile.

2.30 (BetVictor Handicap Chase – 3m2f – Grade 3) – WEST APPROACH

It’s tight at the top in this important race, but while several are in contention on paper there are doubts lingering over them.  Whether it be taking a punt on some coming back to form or chancing whether or not they’ll handle Cheltenham, runners such as Singlefarmpayment, Dandy Dan and Cogry are all viable options but all have question marks.

West Approach on the other hand, the likely market leader for trainer Colin Tizzard, does handle Cheltenham just fine and is going the right way.

Having won well here over a slightly longer trip in November, he was sent off favourite for the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury no less but crashed out at the seventh.  If you’re in the frame of mind to say he was the rightful favourite that day, which we are, then we have to believe he can put in the sort of performance that would make him well handicapped today off a mark of 150 and with no concerns regarding the track, the trip or underfoot conditions, he is the percentage call.

3.05 (3m6f Cross Country Handicap Chase) – NEVERUSHACON

There are some good old favourites lining up here including Yanworth, Josies Orders and Kingswell Theatre who we think could go very close at the weights, but interesting too in this sphere are Chic Name and Jessie Harrington’s Neverushacon who rates as just about the selection.

The 8-year-old was behind Yanworth last time in Ireland but should enjoy it here while he also looks capable of coming on plenty from that run at Punchestown.  Should he indeed improve in this contest, then off 11st4lbs he is weighted to win we feel and at around 10/1 would represent great value too.

3.40 (3m Handicap Hurdle) – GOODBYE DANCER

The lucky last is a very, very wide-open race and so a leap of faith will be required to a degree.  At the likely prices though, it could be worth taking a chance on Fergal O’Brien’s Goodbye Dancer.

The local trainer has a great record here and has only just recruited this horse from Nigel Twiston-Davies’ yard, a move that it is hoped will trigger some reinvigoration and improvement in his form.

Having already shown a liking for Cheltenham, he may well make light of his current mark now he’s had a change of scenery and could get the better of the likes of Ask Ben, Falco Blitz and No Getaway.

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.