Saturday, 13 November 2021

November Meeting Day Three: Sunday 14th November 2021 - Champion Chaser Back for More

It’s been a brilliant November meeting already, but isn’t over yet! The Champion Chaser and former Arkle heroine, Put The Kettle On, returns to the scene of her most famous successes while the Greatwood Hurdle gives us an early look at some potential Champion Hurdlers for four months’ time.

1.10 (Novices’ Chase – Class 2) – DOES HE KNOW

Despite the makeup of the Old Course at Cheltenham, this race should be all about stamina as this inexperienced field of chasers tackles three miles while their trainers perhaps dream of future Gold Cup glory.

Oscar Elite comes back from a big break and stayed well enough over hurdles, winning over three miles on heavy ground, while Threeunderthrufive has had chasing experience already and has won over this distance on good ground.

The one that just looks a class above them perhaps is Kim Bailey’s Does He Know. 2-2 over fences, the six-year-old is a course and distance winner now and can still get much better yet.

Ground conditions are fine for him, he jumps these fences well and his handicap mark of 147 does not look anything like beyond him.

1.45 (Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – EMPIRE DE MAULDE

We see champion jockey-elect Brian Hughes at Cheltenham all too seldom, especially with winning chances, but he has a good one in the second race here and in top company too.

This is a good stayers’ race over nearly 3½ miles, one that is perfect for Hughes’ mount Empire De Maulde, trained in Scotland by James Ewart.

First or second in eight of his 13 chases to date, Empire De Maulde has won at Aintree and Kelso over longer trips, yet showed decent speed to run second at Kelso over 2m1f in September and that experience can stand him in good stead here.

He’ll have enough tactical speed to stay in a good position in this race, has the proven stamina to see it out and on the evidence of his latest win should still be a good few pounds ahead of the handicapper.

Yala Enki is not getting any younger and yet is the main danger in terms of the betting, and while he’ll have to be watched for the top Cheltenham pairing of Paul Nicholls and Bryony Frost, he may just be outgunned this time.

2.20 (Cheltenham Chase – Grade 2) – PUT THE KETTLE ON

There are just the four runners for this Grade 2 contest, but what a quartet it is. We’re in for a real treat here indeed.

The outsider of the bunch is Rouge Vif, rated 159 and a Grade 2 winner in the past, Politologue (167) is a former Champion Chase winner, while Put The Kettle On (159) and Nube Negra (165) were first and second in the Champion Chase last season.

The quality is all there, and at the weights it may play to stick with the mare Put The Kettle On. Henry De Bromhead’s seven-year-old loves it here, winning the Arkle a year before her big victory here in March.

There may not be much between her and Nube Negra all things considered, but it would be no surprise to see them finish in a familiar order, while even at ten there is life left in Politologue yet who cannot be discounted.

2.55 (Greatwood Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – NO ORDINARY JOE

A cracking race; competitive, high-class and full of speed. Whether or not we see a potential Champion Hurdle winner, we will see a brilliant betting event in its own right and it’s JP McManus who may hold the key once again in this division.

Having had the likes of Epatante and Buveur D’Air in recent times, both Champion Hurdle winners, he knows a good one so it would be interesting to hear his thoughts on No Ordinary Joe.

No Ordinary Joe is trained by Nicky Henderson, as were the aforementioned pair of champions, and while he is coming from a lower base, he could yet be something very good in this sphere.

After a decent fourth on his hurdling bow, he’s won two egg and spoon races very easily in preparation for what’s to come this season and that has perhaps looked after his handicap mark somewhat, a mark that appears not to represent his true ability which presents us with a betting opportunity.

He gets the call here, though challengers should be many including Tritonic, Cormier and JP’s other runner Camprond among others. West Cork is also worth watching after nearly two years off the track.

3.30 (Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – I LIKE TO MOVE IT

Unfortunately, we have another four-runner event here and that’s a great shame. Given the level of this race (Grade 2) and the fact that, as the name suggests, it is a recognised trial for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in March, we could have expected plenty more runners.

That said, this is a winter game so the good ground may have accounted for a few potential candidates, while at £28,000 to the winner we can’t call the event particularly rich either which is something that needs to be addressed.

What we’d like to see in that case is an authoritative winner, one that can throw their hat into the ring for March and the most likely horse to do it is I Like To Move It for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.

His two hurdle successes so far have been achieved without much fuss and he accounted for Tritonic last time who was a strong fancy for the Triumph Hurdle last year and is in with a shout on this card in the Greatwood Hurdle. Olly Murphy’s Washington is next on the list.

4.00 (Open National Hunt Flat Race – Listed Race) – TIMEFORATUNE

We finish with another bumper race, and another good one at that with this event more than likely to live up to its Listed status.

Aucunrisque is a strong contender, as is Flying Sara on what we know so far, while having had only one run there could be lots to come from Nicky Martin’s Leading Choice and that one should be watched in the betting throughout Sunday.

The boring but safe choice however is Timeforatune. The likely market leader, Paul Nicholls’ five-year-old is two from two now and has so far reached a level just above that of those in opposition here.

 

Friday, 12 November 2021

November Meeting Day Two: Saturday 13th November 2021 - Hobbs Star to Grab Paddy Power Glory

Day two of the November meeting is a cracker. The highlight of Saturday afternoon is the Paddy Power Gold Cup, while some exciting young chasers and juvenile hurdlers are also in action as their trainers have an eye on the Festival in March.

12.30 (Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle – Grade 2) – MAGISTRATO

Known as the Prestbury Juvenile Hurdle, this race is a natural step for these three-year-olds en route to the Triumph Hurdle in March.

Naturally with these types there isn’t a great deal of form to go on, but the form we have seen points very much to Magistrato being the best of this particular bunch.

He won ever so easily at Chepstow on his British debut for Paul Nicholls and he reached a similar level when winning in France. He handled good racing ground last time so shouldn’t be finding things too quick here either.

At a nice price his main rival may be Caramelised of the Alan King yard. He’d be shorter in the betting had it not been for his loss last time out, which doesn’t take anything away from his overall ability.

1.05 (Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase – Class 3) – STRICTLYADANCER

While Mindsmadeup and Another Venture also appear to have chances, it looks tight to us between Strictlyadancer, Minella Encore and Opposites Attract for the win with the first named just preferred.

Christian Williams’ seven-year-old gelding won very nicely over this course and distance last month, doing so in the style of a horse who could go on to achieve plenty more than the 5lb rise he’s been handed in the ratings.

He is a solid player here, as is Minella Encore who also won last time out for Dr Richard Newland while Opposites Attract has been off the track since April but has a generally progressive profile.

1.40 (November Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – THIRD TIME LUCKI

A small but select field for this high-quality novices’ chase, one in which the favourite genuinely stands out. That favourite is Third Time Lucki, a winner on his chase debut for Dan Skelton.

The six-year-old was a good hurdler too, he ran sixth in the County Hurdle back in March, but the bigger obstacles look as though they suit his style perfectly.

Sent off favourite around here last month, he dispatched his four rivals with the minimum of fuss under Harry Skelton, ultimately winning by 8½ lengths but that margin could have been much wider.

Mick Pastor has been kept busy by Paul Nicholls and could prove to be the main danger if remaining in good form, while Captain Tom Cat beat Mick Pastor last time but at these weights will need to improve a wee bit now.

2.15 (Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – ZANZA

Another good renewal of this usually enthralling 2½-mile handicap chase.

Fascinating candidates include the 1-2-3 from last year, Coole Cody, Spiritofthegames and Al Dancer, along with one-time Arkle hope Lalor who now tops the market having been moved to Paul Nicholls’ yard.

There’s been some strong money for Protektorat this week for the Skelton team, which is no surprise, while Brian Ellison’s Nietzsche and Philip Hobbs’ Dostal Phil are also not out of this.

It’s Hobbs’ other hope that gets the nod however – Zanza. After a good start to chasing, he had bad luck in running three times in a row. He did run on nicely for third in the Haldon Gold Cup last time out however so he’s fit, in form and capable of much more than his handicap mark.

2.50 (Handicap Hurdle – Listed Race) – PROSCHEMA

Sporting John is very interesting here going back over hurdles, while Dragon Bones and Ballymillsy are no forlorn hopes.

Right from his Flat racing days however, it’s always been felt that there is some real talent in Proschema and he can land this on just his second try over three miles.

He was second to Indefatigable, fine form indeed, and that was in Grade 2 company. Paul Webber is now looking at Grade 1 races for his mare, and it’s easy to envisage the Skelton team doing the same with this chap in good time making this a good opportunity at Listed level.

3.25 (Intermediate Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – UNEXPECTED PARTY

This is a competitive looking handicap hurdle over 2 miles, 5 furlongs and it’s one in which it could prove to be fruitful to side with Dan and Harry Skelton once again.

Their Unexpected Party, challenging Mackelduff for favouritism going into the weekend, won very easily over this trip up at Wetherby and looks the type to really move on and up from here.

In his short career so far he has already shown a liking for good and good to soft ground, so there should be no worries about underfoot conditions, while even having moved from 109 to 120 in the handicap means little given the form he’s shown – he’s better than that.

Benson could yet prove to be the one to give him most to do. A Listed handicap hurdle winner last winter, his form is solid but was achieved on heavier ground. Gowel Road was the other horse taken into consideration.

3.55 (Mares’ Open National Hunt Flat Race – Listed Race) – BONTTAY

We’re backing Fergal O’Brien and Paddy Brennan once again in the last, as their Bonttay looks the most likely winner of the mares’ bumper.

The four-year-old got her career underway with a win at Market Rasen in the summer, before scoring again around here last month at a huge 22/1.

She clearly has plenty of ability and no doubt a lot of improvement to come from where she is now, so gets the nod to land the closer.

In behind we liked the look of both Leading Theatre and Where’s Maud Gone who can both go well also.

November Meeting Day One: Friday 12th November 2021 - Nicholls to Land First Ballymore

We kick off three days of terrific action at the November Meeting on Friday, as the Grade 2 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle highlights a good-quality card.

Bigger races are still to come over the weekend, including the Paddy Power Gold Cup and the Greatwood Hurdle, but for now we have a selection in all six of Friday’s races.

1.10 (Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – NEON MOON

We kick off with what looks like an incredibly tight, competitive handicap hurdle for the conditional jockeys. 20 runners go to post for this event over 2m5f, but a few of them do stand out against the field.

Captain Blackpearl may yet improve for Dr Richard Newland having had a breathing operation, while there is little to choose between Art Approval (Fergal O’Brien), Skatman (Paul Nicholls) and An Tailliur (Jonjo O’Neill). Looking arguably the best value however is Neon Moon for the David Pipe team.

Only a five-year-old and with plenty of improvement to come, he opened up at more than double the price of market leader Skatman but has all the right attributes to be able to land this race.

Having had a win op of his own, Neon Moon improved greatly on his second hurdle start back in March and his handicap mark now looks lenient.

1.45 (Handicap Chase – Class 2) – KAP AUTEUIL

It’ll be all about speed if the rain stays away for this two-mile handicap chase around the Old Course.

Paul Nicholls has another favourite here in Magic Saint, but one could argue that he has an ever so slightly regressive profile and so while he can still put in a big run, backing him off topweight is not advised.

Sam Thomas’ Stolen Silver perhaps has a better shout having beaten two rivals very easily four weeks ago. He and Aintree’s Red Rum Handicap Chase winner Editeur Du Gite have sold chances, but they may both be vulnerable against Kap Auteuil, now on a five-timer.

Toby Lawes’ runner has been winning, mostly easily, and going up in the handicap appropriately but there’s a strong suspicion that he’s not done yet and his speed between the fences could make the difference here. Hatcher is also worth considering.

2.20 (Novices’ Chase – Class 2) – GIN ON LIME

A deeply disappoint field of two will take part in this race. After only three were initially declared, Fancy Foundations has come out to leave chase debutant My Drogo to face the mare Gin On Lime only.

That said, it’s disappointing in quantity only with both of these young chasers likely to go on and reach a very good level this season.

Gin On Lime is favoured as the outsider of the pair, purely on the grounds of value. So often in such races the long odds-on favourite cannot perform to expectation, usually because of a lack of pace.

If My Drogo happens to front-run things may be different, but as he’s used to stalking it may well be that Gin On Lime can do her own thing up front and could just kick away from a slow pace. At least, that’s the thinking.

2.55 (Cross Country Handicap Chase – Class 2) – BACK ON THE LASH

Rachael Blackmore and Henry De Bromhead may well win the dual for us in the previous race, but we’re going against their likely market leader around the cross-country course.

Balko Des Flos is indeed a top challenger, as is Talkischeap despite some recent pull-ups, but the one we like best of all is the latter’s stable companion Back On The Lash, a horse the name of which will resonate with many a post-lockdown visitor to the track.

Back On The Lash has time on his side as a seven-year-old and seems to really want a trip. If that turns out to be true, then over this three-and-a-quarter miles he can reach new heights now under jockey Sean Bowen.

He’s not badly priced either and so is given the nod, although others including Alpha Des Obeaux, Freewheelin Dylan and Plan Of Attack can also have a major say in the contest.

3.30 (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – GELINO BELLO

Other than My Drogo, two horses in this Grade 2 contest will already be in some notebooks with the upcoming Cheltenham Festival in mind and so we watch with great interest to see how Gelino Bello and Off Your Rocco get on around here.

The latter has to carry a 5lb penalty for Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell, but comes into this race in great form after wins at Listowel and Limerick.

Gelino Bello, representing Paul Nicholls who has not managed to win a race known as the Hyde Novices’ Hurdle since its inception in 1996, can get the job done though and is favoured.

He was mightily impressive at Aintree last month on his first outing over hurdles, and while there isn’t much yet to back up the form of the race, it seems to be more than reliable and he put that race to bed with the minimum of fuss.

Blazing Khal and Current Mood are probably best of the rest, but they’ll have to suddenly improve plenty to mix it with the big two you’d feel.

4.00 (Novices’ Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – CITY DERBY

At around 7/1 the field on the first show this race has looked very tricky to solve, but there are variables to take into consideration that may just give us a heads-up.

As we’ve mentioned plenty of times before, Fergal O’Brien does very well here and the O’Brien-McPherson Racing team are beginning to scale new heights.

It could be prevalent then that they have a solid third-favourite here in the shape of Samba Dancer. A winner of all three of his most recent runs, he comes into the race in sparkling form and has impressive numbers to back him up in terms of speed etc.

Ahead of him in the pecking order however appears to be City Derby, the choice of Paddy Brennan, who might just prove to be a step ahead of the handicapper.

Friday, 22 October 2021

Showcase Meeting Day Two: Saturday 23rd April 2021 - Before Midnight to Get Home Just in Time

Some early markers could be put down on day two of The Showcase for next year’s Cheltenham Festival, several of today’s runners seemingly possessing plenty of improvement for the season ahead.

Once again, we have a selection in all seven races on the card beginning with the extended two-mile opening affair.

1.45 (Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – SAMARRIVE

Not many National Hunt yards will prepare their runners for a seasonal opener after a long break as well as that of Paul Nicholls’, his Samarrive looking capable of landing this race under Lorcan Williams.

The four-year-old has plenty of learning to do, but on this genuine surface he shouldn’t struggle too much even under 11st11lbs, while his wins at Angers in France and at Kempton in April showed that he has tons of talent.

He landed the odds comfortably by 13 lengths last time and there is no telling where his ceiling is. Fergal O’Brien’s Samba Dancer is a solid second choice, while Ingleby Hollow for Rebecca Menzies and Gordon Elliott’s overpriced Uncle Henry may also go well.

2.20 (Handicap Chase – Class 2) – COOL MIX

Cool Mix is a tentative choice in this 3m1f handicap chase for Iain Jardine, though all being well the lightly-weighted nine-year-old can make the 520-mile roundtrip worthwhile for the yard.

Connor O’Farrell takes the ride as usual on the grey, the pair last season having won at Wetherby over 2m3½f before being placed in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle over three miles and running fifth in the Scottish Grand National. He’s an improving stayer overall and looks too big a price at double-figure odds.

There is plenty of opposition however. Jersey Bean (Oliver Sherwood), Just Your Type (Charlie Longsdon), Domaine De L’Isle (Sean Curran), Shoal Bay (Colin Tizzard) and potential market leaders Storm Control (Kerry Lee) and Cloth Cap (Jonjo O’Neill) all have chances, so stakes should be kept to a minimum.

2.55 (Class 2 Hurdle) – STEPNEY CAUSEWAY

Unfortunately, this extended two-mile hurdle has cut up badly with just four left in at the final declaration stage. The small field however accentuates the need for a turn of foot, something that drew us to Stepney Causeway earlier in the week and he is backed to score for Dan and Harry Skelton.

Most of the money in the ring should go the way of Adonis winner and Triumph Hurdle fifth Tritonic, perhaps amazingly handing us a backable price on the selection.

Despite the favourite’s Festival appearance, it could be said that Stepney Causeway has more experience now having had five hurdle starts to Tritonic’s three. They are both four-year-olds however, meaning our boy potentially has as much improvement in him as his rival.

He’s already reached a similar level to the market leader too, but gets a more than handy weight pull of 8lbs. I Like To Move It is the other serious contender but needs to take a step forward.

3.30 (Handicap Chase – Class 2) – BEFORE MIDNIGHT

Sky Pirate has been the one for money this week in this two-mile race, Jonjo O’Neill’s runner having landed the Grand Annual at the Festival back in March.

He may not be at his absolute sharpest on his seasonal bow however, something that off topweight he’ll need to be and so there is arguably value elsewhere.

Chiefly that value comes in the form of Sam Thomas’ Before Midnight. The eight-year-old gelding has shown a real liking for good ground, has the pace needed for the Old Course, and up to his season closer in April had shown a pattern in seven chase starts of almost constant improvement.

Leapaway is next on our list, ahead of the aforementioned Sky Pirate and the JP McManus runner Belargus.

4.05 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – PANIC ATTACK

This three-mile event is an important qualifier for the Pertemps Series, the 15-runner field being indicative of that.

Plenty are in with chances then but balancing up general form, fitness, speed between the hurdles, the potential for further improvement and value at the prices, most of our boxes were ticked by David Pipe’s Panic Attack.

After winning at Uttoxeter and Newbury, Panic Attack finished last season off with a fine second at Aintree and at five years old she surely has plenty more to offer up after her break. That effort was her first after a breathing operation and more is expected this year.

Tullybeg and Born Patriot are two Irish-trained horses bound to attract cash in the ring, while Nicky Henderson’s Haul Away comes into the race on a hat-trick and naturally cannot be ignored.

4.40 (Novices’ Chase – Class 2) – DOES HE KNOW

There are just the five runners for the three-mile novice chase, Kim Bailey’s Does He Know not being the biggest price in the world but looking the most solid of the quintet.

After an eight-race hurdling career that featured three wins and two seconds, Does He Know began chasing in fine style earlier this month with a simple five-and-a-half-length win at Chepstow over a trip just short of three miles.

He beat an odds-on shot of Paul Nicholls’ that day, a horse who’d finished hurdling with a record of four wins from 5 runs.

He didn’t have to get into top gear that day to score either, so with that in mind and seeing the sort of speed figures he clocked in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival it would seem there is a pretty big step forward to come. Roi De Dubai was next on the list.

5.15 (Open National Hunt Flat Race – Class 2) – OCEAN OF MERCY

Watch the betting throughout Saturday as there is always more knowledge held by trainers than punters in early-season bumpers, but on what we know so far Ocean Of Mercy looks the most solid option here.

Trained in County Kilkenny by Paul Hennessy, Ocean Of Mercy was only just held on his bumper debut at Navan in September at odds of 40/1. Shuil Donn may be another strong contender.

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Showcase Meeting Day One: Friday 22nd April 2021 - The Showcase Welcomes In New Cheltenham Season

Cheltenham is back! The Showcase meeting kicks our season off on Friday and Saturday, both days promising a ton of fantastic jumping action and we have a selection here for every race on day one.

1.55 (Novices’ Hurdle – Class 2) – OFF YOUR ROCCO

The first race of the new season may well go to the returning, controversial Gordon Elliott courtesy of his Off Your Rocco.

His recent form in winning twice in a row puts him in poll position here, and that’s without the prospect of much improvement to come although he may yet take another step forward in these dryer conditions.

Early tissue prices don’t have him up at huge odds it must be said, but they do list him as second favourite only behind Philip Hobbs and JP McManus’s Camprond so we may yet get a backable price to aim at in the opening race. Jack Kennedy takes the ride.

Camprond, the mount of Aidan Coleman, is indeed our second choice with the likes of Mars Harper (Elliott) and All Clenched Up (Fergal O’Brien) appearing as though they have work to do.

2.30 (Novices’ Chase – Class 2) – FIDELIO VALLIS

After Harry Skelton’s championship-winning season in the saddle last time it’s perhaps no surprise that he and trainer brother Dan have the favourite in the shape of Third Time Lucki. They may be vulnerable, however.

Paul Nicholls is odds-on to become champion trainer this season, and his Fidelio Vallis has an outstanding chance of adding to his already growing tally.

Despite staying further and proving himself up for a fight, the six-year-old has clocked some consistently good speed figures which will help around the Old Course over this two-mile trip.

Although he’s young and has more to come, he also boasts experience having had six goes over fences, winning four times already and he could be decent value to score here ahead of Any News for Neil Mulholland.

3.05 (Novices’ Hurdle – Class 2) – SIRUH DU LAC

After being predicted in some quarters to head the betting, we were very surprised to see early prices of 7/1 offered up on Wednesday for David Pipe’s Siruh Du Lac who gets the vote.

He hasn’t run since last year’s November meeting, but he’s ready to go now and we shouldn’t forget that he was sent off at just 12/1 for the Paddy Power Gold Cup.

Now back over hurdles for the first time since 2017, he can make his experience count at a time when winning this would be simply thought of as good prep for the rest of the season and at the odds, we can afford to take a small chance.

Almazhar Garde is also too big a price, while closer to the head of the market Dragon Bones looks the most solid for each-way and Placepot punters.

3.40 (Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase – Class 3) – DANNY KIRWAN

On his return to the track after a 207-day hiatus and a breathing operation, there is plenty to like about the chances of Danny Kirwan.

Another for the Paul Nicholls/Harry Cobden combo, Danny Kirwan reached a career high when winning nicely at Wincanton back in March and he’s often gone well after a break in the past.

Annual Invictus is a young horse with better to come, while Back On The Lash and likely favourite Faivoir, again for the Skeltons, all look closely matched at these handicap weights.

4.15 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – ART APPROVAL

We found this to be a terribly close and competitive affair when assessing the event, a 2½-mile handicap hurdle, and the betting has also reflected this. It’s awfully close on our book between Art Approval and Sometimes Always, the former just getting the vote.

Sometimes Always was on a roll around this time last year for Ian Williams and now he’s had a break there may be more to come, however Art Approval is very much getting better all the time and is trained by a handler we cannot ignore at this meeting.

Local trainer Fergal O’Brien knows exactly how to get winners here, particularly at this meeting, and there’s no doubt his five-year-old will have been prepped to perfection.

Captain Morgs, Guard Your Dreams and Found On all made the shortlist too.

4.50 (Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase – Class 3) – MARQUIS OF CARABAS

If we’re right (and lucky), Fergal O’Brien may be on for a quickfire double towards the end of the card.

His Marquis Of Carabas is a bit of a labour of love having been off the track exactly two-and-a-half years, but we know for sure this has been plotted by the yard and the now eleven-year-old should come out flying.

He was rated 127 and getting better when last seen on course, but begins the new chapter of his chasing life off just 119 in the handicap and has the assistance of top amateur Derek O’Connor in the saddle.

Bermeo is solid over this sort of trip (3m1f), although the younger Debden Bank, on a four-timer now, may well improve past him.

5.25 (Maiden Hurdle – Class 3) – JOHN LOCKE

As always in bumpers and maiden hurdles our advice is to check the betting in the final ten minutes before the race, as any stable-led plots will become apparent then.

On what we know so far however, John Locke may be the one to side with in the lucky last. In narrowing the field down to three preferred runners, it was Dan and Harry Skelton’s horse who showed up best.

Also on the list was Top Bandit for Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell, though in finishing third on his hurdling debut at 6/4 he may well have just disappointed a few people at Limerick and will need to improve now.

He doesn’t set a daunting standard for newcomer Cardano to aim at, a horse who reached a high of 100 on the Flat as recently as May and who remained in good form in that sphere right up to September.

John Locke however was fourth to both Tritonic and Monmiral (Grade 1) earlier in the year and should be too good here.

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Friday 30th April 2021: Be On Garde in Cheltenham Season Finale

It’s Cheltenham’s season-closing Race Night on Friday evening, a fascinating card featuring seven races for hunter chasers only.

There are some pretty good value bets to be had on what should be an entertaining night of racing, beginning with the two-miler.

5.00 (2m½f Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 5) – ENVOYE SPECIAL

The opening race looks ideal for seven-year-old Envoye Special, last seen under rules when finishing a decent if distant second to Adrien Du Pont at Kempton Park.

That was over two-and-a-half miles, seemingly his favourite trip, but given the nature of Cheltenham and the New Course in particular he should have enough time to reach his full racing speed when it truly counts under James King.

Jack Andrews’ mount Fumet D’oudairies is next best by our reckoning having put in a good round when scoring at Leicester back in March. The ground was much slower that day and he’s been beaten in a point-to-point at Dingley since then, though at just six there is clear improvement still to come. Sam Cavallaro is likely to prove to be best of the rest.

5.35 (3m2f Point-to-Point Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – HOTEL DU NORD

Top point-to-point trainer Will Biddick saddles two in here with a chance, the handler looking to supplement his brilliant Cheltenham Festival win with Porlock Bay last month.

His Definite Dilemma, and especially Hotel Du Nord, have outstanding chances with the mount of Charlie Sprake getting the vote this time.

Based on what the eight-year-old has achieved in point-to-points, rules chases and also over hurdles, he looks like the classiest runner in the field here and will have no doubt been prepared perfectly.

Stablemate Definite Dilemma is indeed next best, while Alan Gill’s Getting Closer may also be worth a second look in the betting.

6.10 (3m1½f Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – WICK GREEN

There should be plenty of attention here on duo I’m Wiser Now and Trio For Rio given what they have achieved under rules, however Wick Green could now improve past them both in this sphere.

The eight-year-old ran in his first “proper” chase at Exeter earlier in the month, putting up an impressive performance to score by 2¼ lengths on fast ground. He should handle this OK and is bound to put up even better numbers in this bigger field on a tougher track.

6.45 (3m2½f Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – GARDE VILLE

Chasing a fourth win in a row and reappearing after just nine days off the track is Patricia Rigby’s Garde Ville, and it may be that the smart money will head this way.

Immy Robinson takes the ride on a horse who at 11 seems to be in the form of his life, and while even his brilliantly consistent best wouldn’t be enough to beat a fully on-form Sugar Baron here, that rival has not shown his true form for some time and so the value lies with our selection.

Sugar Baron must till be considered of course, along with Just Cause and Summer Sounds, however Garde Ville’s simple win at Ludlow in a four-runner race seemed to indicate a horse who has a little more to give now which could be enough to prove successful in this arena.

7.15 (3m1½f Mares Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – HIGHWAY JEWEL

There does seem to be a genuine pecking order here in the mares’ event, meaning unfortunately the most likely winner is also likely to be much the shortest price of the bunch.

That mare is Highway Jewel, Bradley Gibbs’ seven-year-old. Having won four point-to-points in a row, Highway Jewel was sent off at 20/1 in that sphere at Chaddesley Corbett against good old Hazel Hill and ended up making all to win un-hassled by some 25 lengths.

After, the mare went to Warwick for her first chase run under rules and ran a fine second. That’s top form in these ranks, and she on that basis looks too good for this field.

Miss Seagreen is the one who looks sure to be priced-up second and will attract her share of wagers, while for the tricast African Belle can be said to have some sort of form chance as well.

7.45 (4m½f Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 4) – CAPTAIN CATTISTOCK

In all Cheltenham meetings other than the Festival in March, Fergal O’Brien can be relied upon to provide a winner or two.

In among the various point specialists here, O’Brien has Captain Cattistock who even based solely on the numbers has an outstanding chance in the race.

Of the four biggest contenders by our reckoning, Captain Cattistock is at least 11lbs well-in at the weights. To add to that, he is only eight years old and can yet improve much further.

Looking at his form a little deeper only adds to the confidence. While he hasn’t been at his very best of late, it’s entirely possible that he hasn’t been enjoying the ground and so now he gets to race at “home” and has four full miles to sort himself out, we can see him pull away.

The other three on our shortlist were Ennistown, Kilkishen and Know The Score who in particular can go well at what should be a fairly juicy price.

8.15 (2m4½f Open Hunters’ Chase – Class 5) – BARNEY DWAN

We have a real mixed bag in the lucky last, and while there are many ifs, buts and maybes in the field not least connected to Risk A Fine who has been off for 700 days, we can at least play relatively safe with one contender.

That contender is Sally Randell’s eleven-year-old Barney Dwan who is rarely unplaced when hitting the track. An easy win and two good runner-up efforts on the point-to-point scene last year read well, and given that he goes well fresh there should be no worries about him running right up to form.

Lawney Hill runs Clondaw Westie off top weight who also has a chance, while Marcle Ridge remains of interest given that there is potential improvement to be found.

The aforementioned Risk A Fine was rated 135 when with Alan King and even higher when with Gareth Moore, but it remains to be seen how much of that ability remains now he has changed hands once more to Francesca Nimmo.

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

April Meeting Day Two: Thursday 15th April 2021 - Progressive to Advance to Grade 3 Win

It’s all about the mares on day two of the April meeting at Cheltenham, all seven races being exclusively for the females and we have found some decent betting opportunities in amongst them.

1.30 (Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – Listed Race) – MARTELLO SKY

Most of the online cash in this opening race will no doubt be going the way of The Glancing Queen, and she is very solid at the top of the market too.

Alan King’s seven-year-old is just five runs into her hurdling career, but she’s been seen twelve times in total in public and doesn’t appear to necessarily be hugely improving now.

The value therefore could be in Lucy Wadham’s Martello Sky. Only a five-year-old, she won her first two hurdle races before heading to the Cheltenham Festival where she found things a little hot.

She still carried on her improvement however, running a fine 8th of 15 at Grade 2 level and now in this easier contest and with more progression to come, she rates a fair bet. Fantastic Lady could also run into a place for Nicky Henderson.

2.05 (Fillies’ Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – PROGRESSIVE

There is a lot of focus on the horse at the head of the market here – Joseph O’Brien’s Scholastic. JJ Slevin’s mount is the only runner on the card for O’Brien and her form backs up her position, however she is no certainty after nine attempts over hurdles which have so far yielded one win.

Scholastic has also gone up another 6lbs in the handicap since last seen, and it may be that there has been an overreaction after the Cheltenham Festival to the presence of any Irish-trained National Hunt horses in English races.

On the numbers, much stronger is Nicky Henderson’s Progressive who could live up to her name. Only seen four times over timber so far, she is getting better all the time and looks to be better treated in the weights as a result.

Of the outsiders, Table Mountain looks best in what should prove to be a very competitive betting event and an equally competitive race on the track.

2.40 (Mares’ Handicap Hurdle – Listed Race) – REGARDING RUTH

According to our calculations, Lucy Wadham could be in for quite some day! As well as the fancied Martello Sky in the first, she also trains this underrated and overpriced Regarding Ruth and she may be worth a bet to small stakes.

With likely favourite Sexy Lot of the David Pipe stable the one to compare her to, it seems on the numbers Regarding Ruth is right where she needs to be and after an easy win last time out it would be no stretch to expect even more improvement now.

The doubt for many punters will come from the fact that said win last time was over three miles, she drops to 2½ here, but around Cheltenham that extra stamina may come in very handy. Molly Ollys Wishes is next on the list.

3.15 (Mares’ Handicap Chase – Class 3) – BLACK TULIP

This three-and-a-quarter-mile event is extremely close to call, with all runners holding a realistic chance of winning and, at the time of writing, all being listed between 5/1 and 10/1 in the betting.

Small stakes are therefore recommended here, with the one to perhaps side with being Henry Daly’s consistent nine-year-old Black Tulip. Tom O’Brien takes the ride.

For the places, there is little to separate the likes of Whatsdastory and Goodnight Charlie at the weights, though it may be prevalent to watch any betting moves in the minutes before post time.

3.50 (Mares’ Novices’ Handicap Chase Final – Listed Race) – FLOWER OF SCOTLAND

Another close race, at least between the three we’d initially shortlisted who were Pink Legend (Venetia Williams), Danse Idol (Dan Skelton) and Liberty Bella (Brian Eckley).

When assessing the form a little more closely however, the one who stands out is Sandy Thomson’s Flower Of Scotland who could well make the team’s journey worthwhile.

Flower Of Scotland is a six-year-old grey who’s had just a couple of goes over fences since arriving from France; an average effort at Carlisle albeit in Listed company, and an easy win in a three-runner contest at Kelso last time out.

She’s getting better and looks to be the type who can put daylight between herself and her rivals at the crucial stage of this race, while she should also have enough stamina to see it out. Ryan Mania rides.

4.25 (Mares’ Handicap Chase – Class 2) – MISS AMELIA

This could be another close race with five of the six scheduled runners having all been under consideration, however all things considered the one at the head of the market is indeed the most solid overall and so it’s worth sticking with Miss Amelia.

Mark Walford’s mare will be ridden by the excellent Brian Hughes who should get the best out of her, and at the weights that best should be good enough for her to beat Cut The Mustard (Paul Nicholls) and Northern Beau (Michael Scudamore).

5.00 (Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race – Class 2) – WIND FROM THE WEST

It’s very difficult to know at the time of writing how this market will shape up, which is rather typical for a bumper race.

With that in mind, you should once again consider any horse being solidly backed in the moments before the off, but with what information we have to hand on an inexperienced field we’d say there may be some value in this Wind From The West.

Warren Greatrex’s young filly has had just the one run, a decent third-placed finish at Taunton in March, and she is obviously the type to improve plenty from that run to this.

She also has the assistance of Sam Waley-Cohen up top who knows Cheltenham like the back of his hand, so presumable she’ll be eased into the race at just the right time. Brian Hughes’ mount Game On For Glory was next on our shortlist.