Monday, 31 December 2018

Blind Side The Bookies On New Year’s Day

Cheltenham’s New Year’s Day fixture looks a real competitive affair with seven races kicking off at 12.15 including the Dipper Novices’ Chase and the Relkeel Hurdle, both Grade 2 affairs.

Yet more Festival clues could present themselves over the course of the afternoon and it’s a festival favourite trainer who may be responsible for getting us off to a great start:

12.15 – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Listed Race) – I CAN’T EXPLAIN

In winning his only race under rules, I Can’t Explain created quite an impression on very soft ground three weeks ago and there’s no reason why he can’t go on from that run and set himself right up for a crack at the Festival in March.

He’ll need to prove he can stay the extra four furlongs of course but on slightly better ground it shouldn’t be a problem and all being well Nicky Henderson’s six-year-old should comfortably have too much for the likes of Darlac (Colin Tizzard) and Anemoi (Harry Whittingdon).

12.50 – Class 2 Handicap Chase – SOME CHAOS

There are some solid chances at the top of the weights, especially Rolling Dylan who has a chance of further improvement and who can outclass most players in this race.  He may not though have enough at the weights to quite beat one of the bottom horses in the shape of Some Chaos.

Michael Scudamore’s 7yo gelding has done well from a lowish base in his three chase races to date though you feel his value price is based on his last run when beaten at Wincanton.

Having won very easily off marks of 102 and 109 he was runner-up off a much higher rating of 122 leading many to think he’s handicapped up to his best, but the fact is he probably wanted the ground a little softer that day and he can improve further now to perhaps see off this field.

1.25 – Dipper Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) – ON THE BLIND SIDE

This race should still be run at Newcastle in all honesty, but away from that slight moan we do have a high quality novices’ chase to enjoy and it’s one in which we are backing pure potential as our selection hasn’t yet gone over fences.

Nicky Henderson’s On The Blind Side reached a good level over hurdles in no time at all and it’s thought he’ll be better over the bigger obstacles.  Having been off the track over eight months and had a wind operation we are relying on a master trainer having him here in good form and I don’t think that should be a problem.

If he is at his best, Nico de Boinville’s mount should be capable of reaching a level approaching the 160-mark and that would make him just too good for Crucial Role at a very nice price and, at these weights, for Defi Du Seuil too.

2.00 – Handicap Chase (Grade 3) – BORN SURVIVOR

This is a very close, very tight and very competitive handicap chase and so it was virtually impossible narrowing down this field.  Every runner has been rated independently and while it’s obviously a close call, Born Survivor comes out just on top.

Dan Skelton’s 7yo gelding came back for the season with an improved display when scoring easily on good ground at Wetherby back in November though a look back at his hurdle form suggests he may be better as the season goes on with more cut in the ground.

Harry Fry’s Acting Lass and bottom weight Dustin Des Mottes come out best of the rest though absolutely nothing in this field can be discounted with any confidence.

2.35 – Class 2 Handicap Hurdle – NAUTCAL NITWIT

We thought the last race was tight and competitive but even that has nothing on this race!  Even seasoned racegoers will just stick a pin in the paper at this one but for what it’s worth our private ratings make Nautical Nitwit the most likely scorer, though not by very much.

His win at Wetherby in November was good enough but he may improve more for a proper test and so I can see Cheltenham suiting him just fine.  We could name half the field as his competition for places but Aux Ptits Soins and Vive Le Roi are probably just about the best of them.

3.10 – Relkeel Hurdle (Grade 2) – OLD GUARD

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Wholestone will be hugely popular and fair play; he’s very consistent at this sort of level and knows this place well.

Paul Nicholls’ runner Old Guard however has tons of experience and has been kept busy this year but the thing that sticks out is his improved performance at this track in November.  The course suits him and despite having already run in 30 hurdle races he seems capable of a personal best and that would be good enough to win this.

Evan Williams’ Clyne, in receipt of 6lbs from the main protagonists, has every chance of getting in on the act under jockey Adam Wedge.

3.50 – Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Listed Race) – FEARLESS

Naturally there isn’t much to go on here in terms of form, though this Fearless rates just about the best of them and so piecing that together with the fact he was sold for £120,000 after his debut win at Wincanton makes him statistically the most likely winner.

Having made all to dominate his field last time it would appear the demands of Cheltenham can coax out the appropriate level of improvement and so he can stake a claim for a return to Prestbury Park for the Festival in March.

Martyn Meade’s Cascova looks best of the rest having won at Huntingdon, though he got the job done without too much to spare and could be challenged for place money by Doncaster runner-up Fuseau.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

International Meeting Day Two: Welcome To Hell’s Kitchen

There is over £400,000 in prize money on offer on day two of the International meeting at Cheltenham for what promises to be a cracking day of jump racing.

We have selections in all seven races on Saturday, the highlights undoubtedly being the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (December Gold Cup) at 1.55 along with the Grade 2 Unibet International Hurdle at 3.05 and the race formerly known as the Bristol Novices’ Hurdle at 2.30.

It’s looking like an explosive day of action with plenty of value bets to get stuck into, starting with the Triumph Hurdle trial at 12.10:

12.10 (Triumph Hurdle Trial – 2m+ Juvenile Hurdle – Class 2) – PROTEKTORAT

Plenty of attention (and money) will be thrown the way of both Fanfan Du Seuil and Fret D’Estruval but they may each be found wanting against French recruit Protektorat of the Tony Carroll hard.

Harry Bannister’s mount may well be underestimated given that he was runner-up over the Channel while the other two have been winning, though in truth his level of form more than matches up with the main two in the market and with plenty of improvement expected he could be the one to be on.

12.45 (2m4f+ Novices’ Chase – Class 2) – DROVERS LANE

Other than perhaps reappearing too early at Aintree following a successful seasonal debut at Hereford, this Drovers Lane has shown little but improvement in five hurdles and three chases so far and rates a fine bet to score once more for Rebecca Curtis.

His win over Soupy Soups last time out at Market Rasen was achieved with the minimum of fuss and he more then deserves a crack round here.

Le Breuil may be the one to chase him home under Daryl Jacob for the Ben Pauling yard.

1.20 (2m+ Handicap Chase – Class 2) – HELL’S KITCHEN

This Hell’s Kitchen didn’t exactly raise the roof on his seasonal reappearance at Aintree but remains a horse of potential for races such as this and gets the vote to score on this occasion.

Barry Geraghty knows how way around here and will understand fine well he’s on a horse who is improving overall and has plenty up his sleeve; no doubt he’ll be brought into race gradually before being produced when it matters.

Theinval of the ever powerful Nicky Henderson operation may prove to have plenty of potential and can fight on for place money at the very least.

1.55 (Caspian Caviar Gold Cup – 2m4f+ Handicap Chase – Class 1) (Grade 3) – FRODON

Nicky Henderson’s Rather Be was beaten narrowly at the Festival before being brought down on his seasonal return and is sure to command plenty of attention in the betting for this contest.

As good as he is though, he may well find one too good in the shape of the nicely priced Frodon who returned with a career best second in the BetVictor Gold Cup behind our selection Baron Alco and who can step up now.

With an improving profile and hailing from a quality yard, it’ll be no surprise to see Frodon score this time under Bryony Frost at the midnight expense potentially of Guitar Pete, the winner of this race last year.

2.30 (3m Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – Class 1) (Grade 2) – AYE AYE CHARLIE

I want to make it clear as it seems we are always going against the champ; but as good a chance as Doux Pretender obviously has, the definite value seems to be with this Aye Aye Charlie.

Fergal O’Brien’s charge won in bloodless fashion last time at Kelso and has plenty more to give. He has regressed in all honesty but it ready rock ‘n roll again and should take care of the aforementioned Doux Pretender.

3.05 (2m+ Unibet International Hurdle – Class 1) (Grade 2) – SUMMERVILLE BOY

This Summerville Boy should be well ahead given his fourth in the Fighting Fifth and his previous improving form over hurdles. Kalashnikov’s form and his win over him in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival makes him the best of this bunch all things considered.

Silver Streak and We Have A Dream are solid options for places and I couldn’t put you off backing them for a place, though all things being equal they shouldn’t be entitled to beat our boy.

3.40 (2m4f+ Mares’ Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – OSCAR ROSE

Oscar Rose is cracking value in this race to reach a place at the very least. Fergal O’Brien’s 6yo mare has shown herself to be the type mare to improve race on race as the season goes on and she could well prove to be the best of these at a nice price.

Warren Greatrex’s Petticoat Tails looks like being the chief opposition following her improved second at Ascot last time out with jockey Richard Johnson always likely to attract support.

Friday, 14 December 2018

International Meeting Day One: Rockerfeller Too Rich For His Opposition

The international meeting kicks off on Friday at Cheltenham Racecourse featuring two excellent days of racing offering around £600,000 in prize money in total.

Day one’s highlights are the £60,000 December Handicap Chase over three-and-a-quarter miles and the £35,000 Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase, both of which promise to be big tests of stamina.

We as always have selections for all 14 races this weekend, starting with Friday and a very good opening novices’ hurdle race:

12.10 (2m+ NH Novices’ Hurdle – Class 3) – ELIXIR DE NUTZ

Nicky Henderson’s Angel’s Breath will no doubt be popular in the market and you can see why given his easy win in Ireland before moving to Lambourn. It’s unclear just how good the 4yo is though and he remains vulnerable.

The value could be with Colin Tizzard’s Elixir De Nutz, the gelding having proven his ability with a win at Cheltenham in November.

Harry Cobden’s ride ran on well last time and looks the business in this grade, enough to get the better of Henderson’s runner and perhaps Jarveys Plate who can grab a place for Fergal O’Brien.

12.45 (3m1f+ Novices’ Chase – Class 2) – LIL ROCKERFELLER 

Long regarded as an exciting chaser, for me Lil Rockerfeller has done very little wrong so far over fences and he may in fact have been slightly underestimated here.

The 7yo of Neil King’s is plenty experienced given his hurdle form and is just a whisker away from reaching the top level over the larger obstacles.

Well fancied The Worlds End and Ibis Du Rheu look like being best of the rest thought ultimately should fall short.

1.20 (2m+ Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – MAGIC DANCER

This is a very competitive handicap hurdle and thus one in which picking the winner is difficult, but on balance this Magic Dancer looks the best value for the Kerry Lee yard with Richard Johnson on board.

Looking for peaks in form, this horse has comfortably put his best work in around Prestbury Park including over course and distance back in April.

The 6yo gets the verdict then ahead of Ben Pauling’s A Hare Breath who provides a decent alternative at a good price.

1.55 (2m4f+ Mares’ Handicap Chase – Class 3) – MIDNIGHT TARGET

John Groucott’s mare warmed up for the season with a good second at Kempton last month and it’s felt we’ll see a much better horse now she’s blown the cobwebs away.

She was a good winner here in April and is just 5lbs higher in the weights now, her handicap mark not looking like being enough to stop her alone.

The Bay Birch and Synopsis probably have enough form in the book to be considered the main dangers today.

2.30 (December Handicap Chase – 3m2f – Class 1) (Grade 3) – THEATRE TERRITORY

Warren Greatrex’s mare is 1-6 over hurdles and so far 0-7 over fences but she’s never run out of the first three over the larger obstacles and importantly is improving gradually race by race.

The 8yo was only headed after the last on her seasonal bow behind Ibis Du Rheu, well fancied in the 12.45, off 7lbs lower and that form reads well.

Rock The Kasbah and Singlefarmpayment also rate highly in the context of this race and must both be considered for place money.

3.05 (3m6f+ Cross-Country Handicap Chase – Class 2) – JOSIES ORDERS

The 10yo Milan gelding has been around the block a few times and in fact won this very race three years ago, by no means has his time gone at the game and in fact he seems the most likely winner once again this time around.

A simple win in a similar race at the last meeting here should have set him up for a big run with My Hometown for the same team probably the biggest danger.

3.40 (3m Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) - SIZING GRANITE

I’m pleased to see this horse going up in trip and reverting to hurdles as his recent chase efforts don’t really show him in the best light.

Having crept down to a low base this horse is slowly getting better over the last year or so with each run and can take advantage of that now, running in this off a mark 8lbs lower than his hurdling peak.

Dr Richard Newland’s Aaron Lad did well to score at Market Rasen last time and looks on balance to be the main danger to the selection.