Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Cheltenham New Years Day 2020: Singlefarm to Provide Our Payment

There’s no better way to start 2020 for jumps fans than with a Cheltenham card and so it’s great to begin as we mean to go on.  We have some great value selections for the first meeting of the year, beginning in the Ballymore Novices’ event.

12.15 (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – 2m4½f – Listed Race) – WELSH SAINT

A good event to kick off our seven-race card and it’s one in which we trust crack trainer Nicky Henderson to have prepared his Welsh Saint well enough to handle the rigours of Cheltenham.

While Nico de Boinville’s mount is unproven in such company and around such a tough course, we feel this horse is the one with the most potential having won his maiden hurdle at Warwick ever so easily and at the likely odds, he could also represent some value.

Top weighted Redford Road is the most solid contender in the line-up and rates next best for us, just ahead of Imperial Alcazar.

12.50 (3m2½f Handicap Chase) – SINGLEFARMPAYMENT

There are some good old Cheltenham types in this line-up, one of which is Tom George’s ten-year-old Singlefarmpayment and while we don’t expect him to reach his career highs in terms of ability on the day, the level he can get to off his current mark could see him win this.

With a record most encouraging around this track, Singlefarmpayment is sure to give us a run for our money and based on his improvement from race one to race two this season, a fourth placed finish in the BetVictor Handicap Chase in December, we think he can take another small step forward which off a mark of 140 could be enough.

Both Doing Fine and Singlefarmpayment’s old rival Cogry remain of interest and should give a great account of themselves, but at both these weights and the likely odds we stick with Jonathan Burke’s mount.

1.25 (Dipper Novices’ Chase – 2m4½f – Grade 2) – CHAMP

Even at probable long odds-on, it’s very hard to oppose Cheltenham Festival ante post favourite Champ in this race but every horse can have an off day, so we don’t recommend having too much on him.

Should you need an alternative, one in the ‘without the favourite’ market or for the Placepot for example, you could do worse than back Deyrann De Carjac who rates as our second-best, but is third in the market overnight at around the 6/1 mark.

2.00 (Paddy Power Handicap Chase – 2m4½f – Grade 3) – EX PATRIOT

After an excellent effort at Newbury in defeat when losing a shoe, it’s very much expected that solid top weight and Grade One winner Kalashnikov will put up another bold show in this race but as the likely favourite he won’t offering a great deal in the way of betting value to do so.

Money may come for former Arkle Trophy favourite Lalor and that would be interesting, but the best value in the race lies with Irish raider Ex Patriot of the little known Ellmarie Holden yard.

His form so far, while going under the radar perhaps on this side of the Irish Sea, is good enough to get him involved at a big price and should he improve further which we expect, then in fact he could prove to be a very well handicapped sort indeed.

2.35 (3m Handicap Hurdle) – SKANDIBURG

Both Rapper and Goodbye Dancer are solid propositions here in what is a highly competitive three-mile hurdle race, the two being by our reckoning very close at these weights with former top-class staying chaser Might Bite meaning quite a battle for place money could be on the cards.

Even in taking into account that as an Aintree winner Skandiburg may not be quite as good around this track, Olly Murphy’s six-year-old still comes out on top for us so given that he could even improve today he definitely rates as the most likely winner and the best value in the line-up at around 6/1 overnight.

3.10 (Relkeel Hurdle – 2m4½f – Grade 2) – SUMMERVILLE BOY

Another fascinating race, one in which Nicky Henderson tries again to make hay over hurdles with a horse proven over fences, this time in the shape of Janika.  It remains to be seen how good he is over the smaller obstacles these days though and as favourite, we don’t like his price much either.

William Henry is solid though he gives weight away, while Emitom is probably the one with the most ticks in the most boxes and would be the one we’d recommend for a place.  A chance is taken at a nice price however on Summerville Boy who returns to hurdles having fallen on his second chase start and he’s one that could just outclass them in this sphere.

3.50 (1m6f Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race – Listed Race) – GRAND ROI

It’s always hoped that the lucky last can either supplement our winnings or get us out of trouble, but with not a lot to go on there are a fair few leaps of faith we need to take in order to pick out the right one in the closing bumper race.

It does look though that, on all known evidence at least, we can pick out two against the field with first of all Belle De Manech of Anthony Honeyball’s yard holding a winning chance in receipt of weight following her simple enough win at Warwick in November.

She has a tongue-tie for the first time and is expected to improve, though that may still not get her to the level of Grand Roi of Nicky Henderson’s yard and he gets the nod.

A very, very easy Wincanton winner, we have no idea yet where the bottom of this horse is and as such, he brings the most potential into this event.


Friday, 13 December 2019

International Meeting: 14th December 2019 - Time of the Lord in International Hurdle

A few favourites went in early on day one of the meeting and it’s hoped punters have another good day today at Cheltenham, the feature races this time being the Grade 2 International Hurdle and the Grade 3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase.

12.10 (Triumph Hurdle Trial Juvenile Hurdle – 2m1f) – BOTOX HAS

Whether or not he will ultimately prove good enough to challenge for the Triumph Hurdle itself remains open to some doubt, but on this occasion Gary Moore’s Botox Has appears to have a very fair shout in this trial race.

Receiving 3lbs from two-time winner Langer Dan this time, Joshua Moore’s mount won at Fontwell on his British debut before running well in second in a Grade 2 Triumph Hurdle trial here recently and he should have enough ability to see off most of this field comfortably enough, with the possible exception of Irish raider Tremwedge who remains of interest in this sort of grade.

12.45 (2m 4½f Novices’ Chase) – MISTER FISHER

All things being equal, this race could come down to likely market leaders Mister Fisher and Good Boy Bobby, with the former being favoured this time.

Nicky Henderson’s 5-year-old has had just the one chase start, finishing runner-up to Torpillo over two miles at Warwick which is good form, and it’s thought he should progress rather well now going up in trip and that’s something which gives him the edge at these weights.

Good Boy Bobby, carrying a penalty for his Wetherby win, shouldn’t be far away while Beakstown is probably best of the rest.

1.20 (2m½f Handicap Chase) – BALLYWOOD

This is a very tight one to call between two outstanding challengers, and while it’s expected that there will be a bigger weight of money behind Destrier, who ran a cracker to finish third in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter last time out, we are happy to take a chance on Ballywood of Alan King’s yard.

Himself third at Ascot last time, while Ballywood was beaten a long way in the end the bare result doesn’t tell the full story and so we think the performance can be upgraded somewhat.  As a 5-year-old it could also be argued that he has more improvement to come that Destrier, giving him the edge, while old-timer Croco Bay could once again make himself competitive and is taken to sneak into a place.

1.55 (Caspian Caviar Gold Cup – Grade 3) – NOT THAT FUISSE

It goes without saying that our feature race, a £130,000 handicap, is hugely competitive but that usually means it’s best to look for one who could be very well-handicapped and we have that in the shape of Dan Skelton’s Not That Fuisse.

The 6-year-old did well here earlier in the season over two miles but it’s felt he’ll be better off over this sort of distance and it’s hoped, as is so often the case, that even more of an effort will be coaxed out of him now that he’s in a handicap and not a slowly-run novice event.

Only a young chaser, this being his fourth run and second around Cheltenham, he has a ton of potential and based on his close form with Al Dancer, his official rating of 131 may well have underestimated his abilities and so he is taken to land this ahead of Knocknanuss and Good Man Pat.

2.30 (Bristol Novices’ Hurdle – 3m – Grade 2) – CHAMPAGNE WELL

Once again things look close in this high-level Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle trial for the Festival in March, but while we like the chances of Igor in big races to come, he is not certain by all accounts to thrive over the full three miles and so on this occasion the percentage call is Fergal O’Brien’s Champagne Well.

Having landed a huge gamble here in October, the locally-trained horse came back to finish second to Thyme Hill last month in an improved showing and it’s felt that he has not finished progressing yet.  This extra three furlongs could unlock yet more and so he gets the shout at reasonable odds, with Mossy Fen and Valtor perhaps getting into things too.

3.05 (International Hurdle – 2m1f – Grade 2) – CALL ME LORD

Nicky Henderson has an extremely strong hand here and while his unbeaten dual Grade 1 winner Pentland Hills is very much the better fancied among the public and bookmakers going into the weekend, his more experienced Call Me Lord could just be the shrewd call.

Getting 3lbs from his younger stablemate, Call Me Lord as well as being largely consistent probably already boasts the best form in this field given that it has been achieved not just in juvenile company, while he also appears to be getting quicker as he gets older.

Having won over 2m5½f before, he came right back to this sort of trip for the Imperial Cup last season in which he was third, before returning in Ascot’s Grade 2 Coral Hurdle where he was runner-up.

His form is solid and reliable and he can be backed at nice prices to tough this out ahead of his teammate Pentland Hills, and perhaps the returning Ch’tibello who remains of interest.

3.40 (2m4½f Mares’ Handicap Hurdle) – DAME DE COMPAGNIE

This is a very competitive race on paper to finish off the card, but it’s one in which Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty could team up to win once again for JP McManus with this 6-year-old mare Dame De Compagnie who is on the comeback trail.

Having had some significant time off the track, she returned last time with a thoroughly decent fifth in the Greatwood Hurdle last month and she can kick on from that now to record a first victory in 20 months since scoring in a Listed race around this track in April 2018.

In behind the competition is numerous with JP’s other horse in the race, 4-year-old Vision Du Puy likely to go well, along with another Nicky Henderson mare in Lust For Glory.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

International Meeting: 13th December 2019 - West the Right Approach in Day 1 Feature Race

The International meeting gets underway on Friday and, while Saturday’s card is the one most people are looking forward to, todays has on it the £60,000 Grade 3 BetVictor Handicap Chase, a race that may have implications for bigger upcoming events.

12.10 (2m1f Novices’ Hurdle) – GLORY AND FORTUNE

5-year-old Chantry House should be very popular here, representing crack connections JP McManus, Nicky Henderson and jockey Barry Geraghty.  He in fact should be the market leader and he shows up pretty highly on our ratings too, though he is vulnerable we feel to one with a little more racing experience.

That contender is Glory And Fortune who, while only a 4-year-old, has run in two hurdle races already, acquitting himself well including at Haydock last time out in a Listed race when he was hampered in his run en route to finishing third.  He should improve and will be good value to land the opener.

12.45 (3m1½f Novices’ Chase) – PYM

Stoney Mountain is interesting now going chasing while Imperial Aura should go on after winning last time, however in fighting for place money they may have their work cut out to get past Rockpoint who is consistent rather than brilliant, but has run well around here twice now and is clearly improving steadily.

The one to be on though seems likely to be Nicky Henderson’s Pym, the 6-year-old who has already left his hurdle form well behind after just two chase starts, reaching a mark of 149.  He won very well at Ascot last time with the major point about him being that he can jump brilliantly, meaning he’s able to take lengths out of his opposition and keep much needed energy for the hill.

1.20 (2m1f Handicap Hurdle) – BARNTOWN

With 14 runners this at first glance looks like a highly competitive handicap hurdle, but there are three that for various reasons appear as though they may be a little way ahead of the handicapper and as such should be the ones to concentrate on.

Ecu De La Noverie, Philip Hobbs’ runner who is a good deal better now than when he last ran over hurdles and Oakley, our next best and also trained by Hobbs, is very much going the right way and seems to handle this track quite well but they may both have it all to do to get beyond Barntown.

Right at the bottom of the weights, Tim Vaughan’s runner doesn’t have a lot to carry and yet is used to an undulation and some heavy ground, so should see things out well here.  Given natural improvement from his latest Lingfield success, he could be a horse heading into the 120’s making his official mark of 112 for this race look very lenient indeed.

1.55 (2m4½f Mares’ Handicap Chase) – CHEQUERED VIEW

None of the six mares involved here can be considered to be out of form as such, and so this is a pretty open race on the face of it.

At nice prices the likes of Skewiff and Parlour Maid can get involved in the finish, but the solid one of the bunch appears to be last-time-out winner Chequered View and she gets the nod.

Her win at Fakenham was achieved on good ground and over three miles, but her stamina could come in handy at the death here and arguably her most impressive performance to take came over this trip on soft ground at Worcester in the early autumn, meaning there’s not much not to like about her profile.

2.30 (BetVictor Handicap Chase – 3m2f – Grade 3) – WEST APPROACH

It’s tight at the top in this important race, but while several are in contention on paper there are doubts lingering over them.  Whether it be taking a punt on some coming back to form or chancing whether or not they’ll handle Cheltenham, runners such as Singlefarmpayment, Dandy Dan and Cogry are all viable options but all have question marks.

West Approach on the other hand, the likely market leader for trainer Colin Tizzard, does handle Cheltenham just fine and is going the right way.

Having won well here over a slightly longer trip in November, he was sent off favourite for the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury no less but crashed out at the seventh.  If you’re in the frame of mind to say he was the rightful favourite that day, which we are, then we have to believe he can put in the sort of performance that would make him well handicapped today off a mark of 150 and with no concerns regarding the track, the trip or underfoot conditions, he is the percentage call.

3.05 (3m6f Cross Country Handicap Chase) – NEVERUSHACON

There are some good old favourites lining up here including Yanworth, Josies Orders and Kingswell Theatre who we think could go very close at the weights, but interesting too in this sphere are Chic Name and Jessie Harrington’s Neverushacon who rates as just about the selection.

The 8-year-old was behind Yanworth last time in Ireland but should enjoy it here while he also looks capable of coming on plenty from that run at Punchestown.  Should he indeed improve in this contest, then off 11st4lbs he is weighted to win we feel and at around 10/1 would represent great value too.

3.40 (3m Handicap Hurdle) – GOODBYE DANCER

The lucky last is a very, very wide-open race and so a leap of faith will be required to a degree.  At the likely prices though, it could be worth taking a chance on Fergal O’Brien’s Goodbye Dancer.

The local trainer has a great record here and has only just recruited this horse from Nigel Twiston-Davies’ yard, a move that it is hoped will trigger some reinvigoration and improvement in his form.

Having already shown a liking for Cheltenham, he may well make light of his current mark now he’s had a change of scenery and could get the better of the likes of Ask Ben, Falco Blitz and No Getaway.