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.