Saturday, 14 November 2020

November Meeting Day Three: Sunday 15th November 2020 - West to Double-Up in Big Handicap

We have more quality action on the last of three fantastic days during the November meeting, with potential Cheltenham Festival clues on offer too.

The Greatwood Hurdle may yet prove to be a genuine Champion Hurdle Trial, while at 3.35 some of those being pointed at the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle are taking their first serious steps towards the Festival.

1.15 (Novices’ Chase – Class 2) – SOLDIER OF LOVE

Not that this is in any way considered a match race, but in Soldier Of Love and The Big Breakaway we have two contenders here who look to be a little way clear of the rest on the form book.

The latter, a five-year-old trained by Colin Tizzard, is set to be favourite but he is making his chasing debut and has been off the track for a little while now.

He may well be a talented type, but he may also need this run and so in being rated the same as his main rival he doesn’t look like an even-money shot to us.

Paul Nicholls’ Soldier Of Love, although beaten last time, is on a terrific run and there is no way we’ve got to the bottom of him yet. Another step forward here if it is forthcoming makes him pretty tough to beat and so at the odds, he is the call.

1.50 (Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – WEST APPROACH

We spend so much time looking for the next big thing, the horse we believe is improving and will reach a new level.

Sometimes though, in a near three-and-a-half-mile handicap chase around this track, it pays to go back to basics and so in ten-year-old West Approach we have the ideal candidate.

While it’s true Colin Tizzard’s runner is not getting any younger, he won this race last year in great fashion, albeit off 6lbs lower, and returned last month with another solid run to sharpen him up. He is no certainty of course, but West Approach may take some pegging back up the hill and is the one to be on.

In terms of his nearest rivals; Captain Drake, Discorama and Yala Enki are all of interest for each-way money and should be watched in the betting.

2.25 (Cheltenham Chase – Grade 2) – PUT THE KETTLE ON

The form of Al Dancer is appealing to us, hence we fancied him for Saturday’s feature event, and another horse who has ties with him is Henry De Bromhead’s Put The Kettle On.

Set to go off second-favourite for this event with Tingle Creek winner Defi Du Seuil in the line-up, he arguably possesses as much speed as anything else in the line-up bet crucially is given weight by Philip Hobbs’ runner and Rouge Vif.

Defi was beaten at the festival when a 2/5 shot and while that wasn’t his true running, Put The Kettle On’s win in the Arkle showed not only his class but his liking for Cheltenham which has never fully been proved by the jolly.

The aforementioned Rouge Vif, a comfortable winner at the meeting here last month, makes the list but he needs to take another big step forward to tackle the two genuine Grade 1 types in the field.

3.00 (Greatwood Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – PROSCHEMA

Alan King has a terrific record in this contest and so his Edwardstone will obviously attract plenty of support. Paul Nicholls’ young hurdler Thyme White has to be considered as does the overpriced Ballyandy, however the one to be on could well be Dan Skelton’s Proschema.

A very smart flat performer for Tom Dascombe who was briefly under consideration for The Derby at one point in his career, Proschema demolished his field last November at Wetherby but suffered a setback and spent the best part of a year off the track.

Needing a run to blow away the cobwebs, Proschema returned to Wetherby and ran a very sound race in second place and he is set to now reach his hurdling peak.

One thing is for certain and that is that he has the look of a horse who can be much better than his official mark of 131, so could easily be well-handicapped for this event under Harry Skelton.

3.35 (Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – COURTANDBOULD

Given the nature of this race, we have to watch it with an eye on the future. Over the course of time it seems certain that likely favourite Third Time Lucki will be the best of this particular bunch and could indeed head to the Supreme, but at prices around the 11/8 mark he is too short for us.

In at around 3/1 is Fergal O’Brien’s Courtandbould who has been on the go during the summer. He has reached a decent level, now rated 141, and still has at least a little more to give which all in all gives Third Time Lucki a rather steep level to aim at.

Paul Nicholls has Fidelio Vallis in this race and he is not without a chance either, but we know how well O’Brien’s horses go around Cheltenham at all meetings bar the Festival and so we can’t ignore that.

4.05 (Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race – Listed Race) – WESEEKHIMHERE

Gordon Elliott had a major disappointment with Tiger Roll on Friday but he is bound to land some success over the weekend.

While it is by no means a fool proof plan for backing winners, the fact that his hangs around until the very last race of the meeting to run one of his is a fact that can’t be totally ignored and so his Weseekhimhere is of most interest.

Already boasting the best form, albeit from little evidence given the type of race, the four-year-old seems like a reasonably solid wager to finish off the meeting.

Friday, 13 November 2020

November Meeting Day Two: Saturday 14th November 2020 - Al to Dance to Paddy Power Win

On day 2 of the November meeting we really ramp up the quality. The Paddy Power Gold Cup is the feature race in which we should see an epic battle up the hill, while we also have a couple of Grade 2’s to look forward to.

12.30 (Triumph Hurdle Trial – Grade 2) – DUFFLE COAT

Short-priced favourite Hell Red, Gordon Elliott’s Duffle Coat and Adagio look to be the three horses to concentrate on in this race, but despite giving away weight it could be the Irish raider who comes out on top.

Already rated 133, Duffle Coat is unbeaten in three runs and has very definitely shown the speed needed around the Old Course between hurdles.

Paul Nicholls’ Hell Red made a good impression on his British debut at Chepstow recently, but he’ll need to improve plenty to get to Robbie Power’s mount who looks overpriced to us.

1.05 (Handicap Chase for Conditional Jockeys and Amateur Riders – Class 3) – KILFILUM CROSS

A tough race to call, both in terms of horse form and in attempting to second guess the varying ability of the jockeys involved, but the most solid on the list probably Kilfilum Cross.

Others, including Lamanver Pippin, Bermeo and What A Moment all rate highly too, but Henry Oliver’s nine-year-old is solid in the conditions, is race fit and is proven around Cheltenham after finishing second in last season’s Kim Muir.

1.40 (November Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – QUEL DESTIN

Most of the money pre-race is bound to go the way of impressive two-time chase winner Fusil Raffles, while Eldorado Allen appears to have it all to do despite being second-favourite.

Simply going for the best value though, it could pay to side with Paul Nicholls’ chasing debutant Quel Destin. Given his hurdle form, he’s the highest rated horse in this contest and even gets 3lbs from Fusil Raffles, and while you’d usually want to see him have a run first it is perhaps pertinent that his esteemed trainer throws him straight in at this level.

Furthermore, while most punters would rightfully expect improvement from first to second outing over the larger obstacles, many horses of his type are better over fences than they are over hurdles making that rating look all the more intriguing.

2.15 (Paddy Power Gold Cup – Grade 3) – AL DANCER

This is a good quality renewal, one in which past Cheltenham and big-race form should very much come to the fore.

Simply The Betts was excellent in winning two big handicaps around here in January and at the Festival in March and will attract plenty of money, while Paul Nicholls’ Saint Sonnet is a most interesting former French runner who may prove to be well treated in the weights.

The one attracting overnight support is Nicky Henderson’s Mister Fisher, however having had close form with him, being open to plenty of improvement and being nearly twice the price, the smart play is definitely Al Dancer.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies yard is going really well right now and that counts for plenty, while there appear to be no negatives in the trip, the grade or the course for the graded hurdle winner.

For what it’s worth, Mister Fisher is next on our list and it could be that their first and second from Doncaster last January in a Grade 2 novices’ race is the key piece of form in this event.

2.50 (Paddy Power Games Handicap Hurdle – Listed Race) – DANDY DAN

Despite the Listed grade of the race, there are many holes in the form and in the profiles of some of the principal runners.

On The Blind Side may prove to be too big a price here, though he has been off the track for quite some time, while likely favourite Tea Clipper has form figures of 111121 and cannot be discounted.

The jolly won at Grade 3 level last time out at Chepstow and clearly has the ability, but winning over 2m3f on good ground then belting round the Old Course for three miles are two very different things. With that in mind, it would be a brave punter who would take a short price about a horse who has gone up 7lbs in the weights.

Enter Kim Bailey’s Dandy Dan, a seven-year-old of Kim Bailey’s having his first hurdle run since April 2018. On the face of it the handicapper hasn’t taken many chances with his hurdle mark, but it is still 5lbs lower than his chase rating and he put in a career high last time over fences. He could be well-in.

3.25 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – WHATSUPWITHYOU

The obvious one here is Dr Richard Newland’s Captain Tom Cat, a winner three times since July including last time out at Cheltenham.

While he did win comfortably that day, he has gone up another 6lbs in the handicap for a winning what was a tight race in the end.

Only 4¾ lengths behind in seventh that day was Whatsupwithyou who has been kept at the same mark. That 6lb pull could be handy enough, but when you also consider that the race was little more than a pipe-opener for Ben Pauling’s six-year-old who now looks quite well positioned to reverse those placings.

Son Of Camas and Topofthecotswolds are both on the list too, though they aren’t of as much interest as the well-priced selection.

3.55 (Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race – Listed Race) – ELLE EST BELLE

Clear of the others in the market are Ishkhara Lady, Ucanaver and Elle Est Belle with the last named being the one to focus on.

While the other two mares are also last time out winners, Dan Skelton’s runner scored on her only outing to date in little more than a hack canter and yet put in a performance that would entitle her to favouritism here anyway.

The level of improvement she can reach makes her a rock-solid favourite in this contest and so she should be able to finish off the day in the right way for backers of the market leader.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

November Meeting Day One: Friday 13th November 2020 - Easysland to Tame the Tiger Again

We kick off Cheltenham’s three-day November meeting on Friday with six competitive races on the Old Course, all of them giving us betting opportunities if not clues towards the Festival in March.

1.15 (Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – INDUNO

We have a but of a conundrum to begin with on day one. The biggest field of the day at 18 runners is set for this race, which also happens to be a handicap and for conditional jockeys only!

That said, the form of the principal runners has a solid and reliable look about it and with that we put our money on David Pipe’s Induno. The six-year-old, last seen out nearly a year ago but who has won when fresh before, has plenty of improvement in him being so lightly raced and is anticipated to love it around here.

Induno’s handicap mark of 115 looks as though it significantly underestimates him and so he is taken to get us off to the best possible start under jockey Fergus Gillard. The Queen’s horse Steal A March and easy recent winner Castle Robin are next on the list for place bet purposes.

1.50 (Handicap Chase – Class 2) – FANION D’ESTRUVAL

A good two-mile handicap with a decent prize, this Class 2 contest should again be competitive despite a slightly smaller than ideal field of nine potential runners.

There isn’t too much to choose in our books between solid types Born Survivor of Dan Skelton’s yard, Gary’s Moore’s Beat The Judge who is likely to come on nicely from his run here last month, and Dicky Johnson’s mount On The Slopes who will be very well supported in the market.

The smart money however may well be going the way of the horse representing Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch, Fanion D’Estruval.

The former French runner, who had two very encouraging runs for this yard before a setback, has almost certainly improved well past his handicap mark now and has the speed dexterity to cope with this track. He also goes well fresh.

2.25 (Novices’ Chase – Class 2) – PROTEKTORAT

We have just the four runners for this novices’ event unfortunately, and so often such events throw up strange results. That seems fairly unlikely this time with Dan Skelton’s Protektorat being more than sufficiently ahead of his main rivals Southfield Stone and Mossy Fen at the weights and so ultimately, he is the call.

There is another betting angle though should you wish to take note. The 2m4f trip here represents a fair step up in distance for the favourite over fences, and his hurdle form over this kind of trip doesn’t necessarily give the world of encouragement.

With that in mind you could do worse than have a very small punt on outsider Paint The Dream, one trained by Fergal O’Brien who always does well here and who has been underestimated for certain.

3.00 (Cross Country Handicap Chase – Class 2) – EASYSLAND

The race featuring double Grand National hero Tiger Roll and as such, the one many will be stopping what they’re doing to watch.

The Tiger’s colours were lowered on the cross-country course at the Festival by French raider Easysland for this column and he was denied the opportunity to show it was a blip in the National at Aintree.

With the French odds-on favourite carrying 4lbs less but also rated 4lbs lower and the Tiger being a much more attractive price, you’d perhaps believe Gordon Elliott’s runner would be the smart bet.

Overall though Tiger Roll is likely to be going just a little backwards now and there is some evidence of that; his run behind Easysland in March and his very low grade showing in a flat turf race recently despite the trainer being happy and it only being a warm-up.

A better alternative to the selection at the odds is likely to be Christian Williams’ Welsh Grand National winner Potter’s Corner, though it remains to be seen truly how fit he is for his first race back.

3.35 (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – DOES HE KNOW

The “big” event of the day, at least in terms of status given that this is a Grade 2, the race registered as the Hyde Novices’ Hurdle should go the way of Kim Bailey and David Bass who team up together with the hat-trick seeking Does He Know.

The youngest of the main contenders at five and the one with the most potential for improvement, Does He Know won easily over the course and distance on good ground at the meeting here last month and there is nothing in his profile to make us believe he will suddenly take a backward step.

Deserving his rating, the jolly is the percentage call for sure and in fact could be further clear of Grand Mogul and Polish than we think although in the case of Grand Mogul in particular money could come based on the horse’s trainer.

4.05 (Novices’ Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – ONE TRUE KING

Hopefully by this point we’ve had another profitable day at Cheltenham, and this novices’ handicap hurdle is a good way to round off day one with 17 runners potentially going to post and allowing us some pretty big prices to take aim at.

Short enough in the betting overnight but with likely improvement to come is Fergal O’Brien’s The Bees Knees, but while we love Fergal and rate him highly at the track his easy last time winner may in fact have looked more impressive than was actually the case at Musselburgh.

Chasamax and Takeit Easy are tempting enough at the prices, but the one who could just skip clear of them at a crucial point in the contest is the top weight One True King for the Twiston-Davies team.

While he does have that big weight, One True King looks the type to be better when attempting to outclass his field rather than get weight from them and he took a big step forward last time out.