Saturday, 17 November 2018

November Meeting Day Three: Royal To Be Crowned In Grade 2 Chase

The last of three wonderful days of racing at Prestbury Park takes place on Sunday with the potential for us to see future contenders for the Champion Hurdle in the Greatwood, as well as potential entrants in the Arkle and the Supreme Novices’.

We get going at 1.15 with the first of six races, all of which we have good value selections for starting with the conditional jockeys’ race where a big priced horse may well defy his odds:

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1.15 (2m5f Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle) – FOLLOW THE BEAR

Ned Curtis takes the ride on Nicky Henderson’s charge, a six-year-old gelding who needs to take a step forward from him seasonal bow at Aintree when beaten 15 lengths.

He hasn’t won in fact since May 2017 at Kempton Park but remains capable and showed a good level of form this time last year when third at Worcester and it’s thought today could be the day he rediscovers his best before perhaps starting to make his way up the hurdling ladder somewhat.

One at a big price who could also go well is David Pipe’s Three Star General who, like the selection, is only a young horse and not one to give up on just yet.  Ballyhome will be much more popular in the betting than the aforementioned pair and looks good for place money representing Fergal O’Brien.

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

Nicky Henderson is the man the watch and his 6yo may yet for the Arkle itself in March at the Festival, though that becomes a more realistic prospect if he does manage to take this race.

He reached a mark of 151 over hurdles, albeit in a short five-race career over the smaller obstacles and it seems the yard think he’ll be much better over fences making him potentially quite a formidable opponent for his rivals in this race.

Although he didn’t have much to beat he performed perfectly well on his chasing debut at Uttoxeter at the start of this month which should have set him up nicely to tackle Grade 2 company for the first time and he is taken to score ahead of Philip Hobbs’ seasonal debutant Defi Du Seuil.

2.25 (Schloer Chase – Grade 2 – 2m) – SCEAU ROYAL

Sceau Royal’s debut season over fences saw him win four and finish a close runner-up here at Cheltenham and so it’ll be no surprise if he’s a short priced favourite on Sunday for Alan King and Daryl Jacob.

That confidence could prove to be well founded however as this French-bred just gets better and better and seems certain to be aimed at the Queen Mother Champion Chase back here at the Festival in four months time.

This impressive type jumps well, goes well fresh and is already a Grade 1 winner as a novice meaning there are few chinks in his armour.  Any flaws he does show on his first run of the season need to be seized upon and if that is to happen then it is likely to be by Brain Power of the Nicky Henderson yard, a horse who is having his first run since a wind op in July and who was second to Footpad in last season’s Arkle.

3.00 (Greatwood Hurdle – Grade 3 – 2m ½f) – STORM RISING

The most talked about horse in the race is bound to be last weekend’s Elite Hurdle winner Verdana Blue and sure enough, Nicky Henderson’s representative is high on the list.

There is a train of thought with Jeremiah McGrath’s mount though that he may not be at his very best around Cheltenham and we have to consider that, no matter how simple he made it look last week, that the Elite will have taken some winning and so the race must have taken something out of him meaning this quick turnaround is not quite ideal.

Storm Rising is a much more attractive price and has all the credentials needed.  He loves Cheltenham, stays well and is improving hand over fist for his new yard and may well just strip much fitter than most in this line-up for Dr Richard Newland and as such rates a very fair bet.

Silver Streak and Western Ryder are others to consider in what is a cracking early season race over the Champion Hurdle distance.

3.30 (2m ½f Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – SEDDON

What we’re looking for in these trials is not so much the best horse according to where they all stand going into the race, but rather which one has the combination of ability and potential and with that in mind we could see somewhat of a coming of age of Tom George’s Seddon.

Having only run three times under rules, once over hurdles, we’ve no idea yet how good he could become but what we do know is that he’s already got to roughly the level shown by chief rival Itchy Feet and done so with less miles on the clock than Olly Murphy’s runner.

A good step forward is expected then and with that victory in Grade 2 company with Adrian Heskin once again in the saddle.

4.00 (2m ½f Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race – Listed Race) – THYME HILL

As impressive as McFabulous was on debut at Chepstow in October the race was nothing out of the ordinary and so until he does it again we should just curb our enthusiasm somewhat.

With that in mind, let’s consider the way Philip Hobbs’ 4yo won his own bumper at Worcester where on the book he achieved less than the Paul Nicholls horse but did it so easily we have no real idea how much he had in hand that day.

Like his main rival he’s been treated carefully, waiting 5½ weeks to come here rather than getting straight back out on the track and the tactic may pay dividends here today with a win under Richard Johnson.

Friday, 16 November 2018

November Meeting Day Two: Rock The Kasbah To Take Handicap Clash

Day two at Cheltenham in the November meeting and more great action is on the cards.  A good Grade 2 Juvenile race and a Listed Bumper bookend what is sure to be a terrific day featuring the BetVictor Gold Cup for which we have a cracking value bet!

Here are our selection for all seven races on the card, starting with a fine bunch of youngsters aiming for the Triumph Hurdle back at this track in March.

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12.40 (Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle – Grade 2 – 2m ½f) – NEVER ADAPT

We’re hoping this one isn’t particularly well named given that we’re in hope that he can adjust from France, where he won so easily on heavy ground, to Cheltenham on a better surface but if he does he could be a level above these rivals in all truth.

It goes without saying that owner JP McManus and top trainer Nicky Henderson have the Triumph Hurdle itself at the front of their minds for this horse and while he doesn’t need to win this, it would certainly help his cause.  Look out for Montestrel for place money.

1.15 (3m ½f Novices’ Chase) – THE WORLDS END

An unoriginal selection perhaps and things are probably closer between this one and Minella Awards than many believe, but the level our boy reached over hurdles and the way he won on his chase debut suggest he may just have too much on this occasion for the opposition assembled.

Minella Awards did win well also at Aintree but only had one rival to beat that day while best of the rest, though some way back in fact, could be Ibis Du Rheu for the Paul Nicholls yard with Harry Cobden on board.

1.50 (3m 3½f Handicap Chase) – ROCK THE KASBAH

Philip Hobbs’ runner didn’t really hit the expected heights on his seasonal reappearance at Chepstow when a well beaten favourite, though his career doesn’t exactly stop there and a much better performance is on the cards this time now that he has that run under his belt.

His best run was his sign-off effort last season when running second to the well-handicapped Step Back in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown and he looks ready now to take a step forward and furthermore would be doing so off a 2lb lower mark.

The likes of Vicente and Singlefarmpayment are likely to be vying for places and are expected to be prominent in what will be a lively betting market.

2.25 (BetVictor Gold Cup – 2m4f Handicap Chase) – BARON ALCO

Gary Moore may take the feature race with his French bred Baron Alco who ran extremely well when coming back from a long break at Chepstow only to run out of steam in the closing stages to be a close second to Charbel.

He’s expected to be much fitter today and as such he can carry on his climb up the chasing ranks having previously run into Top Notch and Road To Respect in good races at Cheltenham and Sandown including at Grade 1 level.  His form figures over the larger obstacles in fact are 3121222.

Nicky Henderson’s Rather Be and Kalondra of Neil Mulholland’s yard are next on the list for places, the latter named especially looking likely to fight all the way against our selection.

3.00 (3m Listed Handicap Hurdle) – BOYHOOD

All eyes will be on First Assignment of the Ian Williams here and at first glance he’s the rightful favourite however there’s a lot to like about the second-top weight Boyhood of Tom George’s and he may be the value choice in this line-up.

The seven-year-old hasn’t run since New Year’s Day when taking a three-mile hurdle here at Cheltenham on heavy ground but if anything he may appreciate the better surface this time and may simply make his staying power count under jockey Paddy Brennan when the going gets tough up the hill at the finish.

Olly Murphy and Richard Johnson team up with Weebill who may be challenging for places when the race gets going in earnest but unless something happens to the leading two he looks a little way off for win purposes.

3.30 (2m5f Handicap Hurdle) – SPEEDO BOY

Ian Williams’ 4yo may have been underestimated off a mark of just 118 as he is sure to improve over hurdles this season.  He has been in cracking form on the Flat this year too having run fifth in the Mallard Handicap at Doncaster before going sixth in the Cesarewitch at Newmarket marking him out as a potentially decent hurdler for this term.

The key to this one could be the step up in trip from two miles to 2m5f and he is taken to score this time under Tom O’Brien at the probable expense of the likes of Lygon Rock and Westend Story.

4.00 (Listed Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race) – ROYAL ILLUSION

Willie Mullins is not really in the habit of sending mugs to Cheltenham and he could be set to land another good prize in the form of this Listed event with his Royal Illusion, ridden by Danny Mullins.

A winner two weeks ago at Cork, he had any amount in hand that day and if anything can improve further quite quickly making him a fair bet to score in the lucky last.  Mrs Hyde and Paul Nicholls’ Danse Idol are sure to go well and will make plenty of appeal in the ring though you feel Royal Illusion will have to under-perform for either of them to grab the win.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

November Meeting Day One: Dig Up Some Double Treasure In The Lucky Last

We have three fantastic days of racing at Prestbury Park to come across this weekend, day one bringing us potentially a big betting opportunity at a nice price as this year’s Grand National winner reappears in the Cross-Country Chase.

12.40 (3m1f Amateur Rider’s Handicap Chase) – SKY PIRATE

In these amateur rider’s events we can perhaps be afforded the chance to place more emphasis on the jockey than normal as some are considerably better than others at this stage of their careers.

With that in mind, the booking of Patrick Mullins for Sky Pirate can be taken as a big positive and goes hand-in-hand with the improvement shown by Jonjo O’Neill’s horse to create what looks like a good value bet.

Having run second the last twice but got better each time, the 5yo seems capable of another step forward in this race and with that could have too much for last-time-out winner The Young Master who isn’t quite as good as he was though does have the assistance of Sam Waley-Cohen, along with For Good Measure of Philip Hobbs’ yard.

1.15 (2m ½f Novices’ Handicap Hurdle) – DOSTAL PHIL

This one has to go close to being called our bet of the day.  Philip Hobbs’ 5yo is having what is only his fourth run under rules and his second after a wind operation and it seems clear we can expect plenty of improvement on what we’ve seen thus far.

A winner on debut at Deauville two years ago, he was a beaten favourite under Barry Geraghty this time last year on his stable debut before another setback meant a break of yet another year.  He took a step forward four weeks ago for Hobbs and Geraghty when running second at Uttoxeter and it seems the stable expect much better now.

Normal rate of improvement may see him win this with Nicky Henderson’s fellow French recruit Dream Du Grand Val perhaps next best while the booking of Richard Johnson on Snapdragon Fire may create a betting buzz for a horse capable of the places.

1.50 (2m Handicap Chase) – BUN DORAN

When rating this race we couldn’t help noticing that plenty of them were close together in terms of ability versus weight – Shanahan’s Turn, Movie Legend and Peppay Le Pugh for example all having precious little between them on the numbers.

The two that stood out however were Ben Pauling’s A Hare Breath and Tom George’s Bun Doran and the latter is the selection.  A Hare Breath is well fancied for this and it would be no surprise to see him win it, though with a few more years in the bank we can expect more improvement from Bun Doran and he has been equally well backed this week.

Having not raced for 218 days there is a bit of guesswork involved in the selection, but after only 9 chases there is clearly more to come from this one and today could be his day under jockey Paddy Brennan.

2.25 (2m4f Novices’ Chase) – MR WHIPPED

This is the race we’re least confident about so do bear that in mind, though the choice of Mr Whipped appears to have been backed up by the money coming for the Nicky Henderson horse this week.

Four wins and a second preceded his pulling-up here in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival in March and his top trainer has always thought he’d make a chaser.  The fact we should see a better chaser than hurdler is taken into account, but how good he is bound to be is an unknown.

After winning 12 days ago on chase debut we have a little more to go on with Count Meribel and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ runner rates second best, while Jerrysback is the intriguing one for Philip Hobbs after winning both his hurdle races hard held.  If there is very strong money for him on Saturday morning and/or just before the race – take note.

3.00 (3m6f Cross Country Handicap Chase) – MIDNIGHT SHOT

If the likely short-priced favourite and Grand National 2018 winner Tiger Roll does indeed come back here and win on the bridle it’ll be great to see after his Aintree heroics, however at these prices it’s very easy to take a chance on Charlie Longsdon’s Midnight Shot.

The 8yo has plenty more to give at this stage and despite previously having been thought of as a 2½ mile horse he improved markedly last time for a step up to three miles when scoring at Fakenham.  He can be better again over this unique course and distance and in receipt of 21lbs from Tiger Roll his price is simply too big.

Bless The Wings of Gordon Elliott’s probably rates as best of the rest but at 13 years old even in a cross country race it’s conjecture as to what level of form we can expect, especially after more than 200 days off the track.

3.35 (2m5f Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – DOUBLE TREASURE

We finish the day with this Grade 2 hurdle and there is of course a distinct lack of experience on show here, though no little potential.

We can’t help thinking favourite Pym is overrated in the context of this race so at these prices we cannot have him, though Coolanly looks a little more likely among those at the head of the betting market for trainer Fergal O’Brien and a place therefore would be no surprise.

Colin Tizzard’s Darlac is an intriguing runner having won ever so easily on his hurdling debut under Richard Johnson, though that was on good-to-firm over at Fontwell and it remains to be seen whether he’s as good with cut in the ground.

The one to be on though could be Jamie Snowden’s Double Treasure after a successful summer and autumn over timber.  He may not be the best of these in 3-6 months time but right now he is overpriced, arguably because he is not from one of the very top yards.