Wednesday, 17 April 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.50 (Class 3 Mares’ Handicap Chase) – SHENEEDEDTHERUN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

April Meeting Day One: Dingo to Earn Us a Dollar at April Meeting

Cheltenham’s two-day April Meeting gets going on Wednesday, keeping things ticking over for National Hunt fans while the flat horses are strutting their stuff over at Newmarket at the Craven Meeting.

We have a 7-race card featuring a nice novice hurdle and Grade 2 handicap chase among other things, and we’ve picked out a selection for you in every race beginning with the 2.05 and a chance for Jamie Snowden to get amongst the winners at Prestbury Park.

2.05 (Class 2 Novices’ Hurdle) – THISTLE DO NICELY

There are plenty in with chances here in a competitive enough two-and-a-half mile race despite a smallish field, but on what we saw at both at Taunton over 2m3f and here at Cheltenham at the Festival when never being in the right position, Thistle Do Nicely can improve on good ground over the extra yardage.

Jamie Snowden’s five-year-old has kept improving, albeit slowly and steadily, so we have to believe there is more to come and he may be just a little more battle-hardened than some of the others.

Philip Hobbs’ Cotswold Way is next on the list after his demolition job at Taunton while Dr Sanderson comes into thoughts as well.

2.40 (Silver Trophy Chase Handicap – Grade 2) – MR WHITAKER

Mick Channon’s 7yo gelding has some very solid past form, including round here, and cannot be judged on his disappointing run in the Ultima at the Festival given that it was over 3m1f and on very soft ground.

These conditions should bring out the best in him and if they do, he looks fairly well off in the handicap ratings and in his new headgear can put his best foot forward under Jonathan Burke.

Both Highway One O One and Kings Monarch are very close behind by our reckoning and should each go well, though hopefully only for place money behind the former Close Brothers Handicap Chase festival winner.

3.15 (Class 2 Handicap Hurdle) – ESPOIR DE TEILLEE

Tom George’s runner missed the festival but has generally been on a pretty steep upward curve and given the trip and ground for today’s contest there is no reason to believe that improvement has suddenly stopped.

In taking another step forward here, Espoir De Teillee can prove to have a little in hand on this field and potentially at a very nice price, rating him a fair bet to land this £15,000 prize ahead of Nicky Henderson’s Rather Be, Jeremy Scott’s Unison and Ben Pauling’s Gowiththeflow all of whom have solid chances on the book.

3.50 (Class 3 Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase) – TIKK TOCK BOOM

Ian Williams’ Tikk Tock Boom has had just the one chase race and did well enough, finishing second at Warwick over three miles, and with this extra furlong-and-a-half looking likely to suit and him sneaking in at the bottom of the weights he looks overpriced to gain a first win over the larger obstacles.

Including hurdles runs the 7yo’s form figures in recent times read 6312 with improvement coming after each outing so it’s expected that jockey Tom O’Brien will get a good spin round and at the very least, give us a good run for our money.

Minella For Me and The Dellercheckout make the shortlist too for Tom George and Paul Nicholls respectively.

4.25 (Class 2 Handicap Hurdle) – FIRST ASSIGNMENT

There are plenty of value prices to be had in such a competitive heat – if you can find the right horses of course –  and we feel we’ve done that in the shape of First Assignment, trained by Ian Williams once again.

As a six-year-old we can assume there is a fair amount of improvement still to come from this horse in the fullness of time, so despite having had five runs this season and having looked held by the handicapper the last twice, conditions here may mean a proper return to form and therefore a return to the winner’s enclosure too.

Having won a Listed 3m handicap hurdle on good ground here back in November, one can conclude that conditions maybe haven’t been to his liking since then despite a solid third behind Paisley Park having been registered in the meantime and today could be the day.

Both Thomas Campbell at the top of the weights and Copper Gone West at the bottom can give our boy a run for his money but will hopefully both be fighting for place money only.

5.00 (Class 2 Handicap Chase) – DINGO DOLLAR

Both Rocky’s Treasure and Dingo Dollar have outstanding chances on the book, but given that the latter named was extremely well fancied and strongly backed for the Scottish Grand National last Saturday at Ayr before being withdrawn due to the very fast ground, it seems he is primed to put in a very big performance and so is taken to land this.

Alan King’s charge was a decent second at Doncaster last month on this sort of ground and when you consider that it’s likely the race was treated merely as a prep for Ayr, lots of improvement can be expected from that run to this.  Wayne Hutchinson rides.

Rocky’s Treasure is a clear second-best, while Allelu Alleluia sneaks onto the shortlist as well and can give supporters a decent run.

5.30 (Class 3 Handicap Hurdle – Conditional and Amateur Jockeys) – LAUGHING LUIS

Nicky Henderson and Jonjo O’Neill Jr, claiming 3lbs, look a fearsome combination in the context of this race and their Laughing Luis is showing fine improvement over hurdles with two wins from five so far.

A further step forward can be expected over this course and distance from the 5yo son of Authorized and as such, he should have enough weight in hand to see off this field and claim the lucky last.

Kerry Lee’s Magic Dancer has done precious little wrong and can get involved in the finish once again, while Turning Gold of Nigel Twiston-Davies’ yard makes up the shortlist and could provide some value for each-way punters.