We kick off three days of terrific action at the November Meeting on Friday, as the Grade 2 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle highlights a good-quality card.
Bigger races are still to come over the weekend, including the Paddy Power Gold Cup and the Greatwood Hurdle, but for now we have a selection in all six of Friday’s races.
1.10 (Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – NEON MOON
We kick off with what looks like an incredibly tight, competitive handicap hurdle for the conditional jockeys. 20 runners go to post for this event over 2m5f, but a few of them do stand out against the field.
Captain Blackpearl may yet improve for Dr Richard Newland having had a breathing operation, while there is little to choose between Art Approval (Fergal O’Brien), Skatman (Paul Nicholls) and An Tailliur (Jonjo O’Neill). Looking arguably the best value however is Neon Moon for the David Pipe team.
Only a five-year-old and with plenty of improvement to come, he opened up at more than double the price of market leader Skatman but has all the right attributes to be able to land this race.
Having had a win op of his own, Neon Moon improved greatly on his second hurdle start back in March and his handicap mark now looks lenient.
1.45 (Handicap Chase – Class 2) – KAP AUTEUIL
It’ll be all about speed if the rain stays away for this two-mile handicap chase around the Old Course.
Paul Nicholls has another favourite here in Magic Saint, but one could argue that he has an ever so slightly regressive profile and so while he can still put in a big run, backing him off topweight is not advised.
Sam Thomas’ Stolen Silver perhaps has a better shout having beaten two rivals very easily four weeks ago. He and Aintree’s Red Rum Handicap Chase winner Editeur Du Gite have sold chances, but they may both be vulnerable against Kap Auteuil, now on a five-timer.
Toby Lawes’ runner has been winning, mostly easily, and going up in the handicap appropriately but there’s a strong suspicion that he’s not done yet and his speed between the fences could make the difference here. Hatcher is also worth considering.
2.20 (Novices’ Chase – Class 2) – GIN ON LIME
A deeply disappoint field of two will take part in this race. After only three were initially declared, Fancy Foundations has come out to leave chase debutant My Drogo to face the mare Gin On Lime only.
That said, it’s disappointing in quantity only with both of these young chasers likely to go on and reach a very good level this season.
Gin On Lime is favoured as the outsider of the pair, purely on the grounds of value. So often in such races the long odds-on favourite cannot perform to expectation, usually because of a lack of pace.
If My Drogo happens to front-run things may be different, but as he’s used to stalking it may well be that Gin On Lime can do her own thing up front and could just kick away from a slow pace. At least, that’s the thinking.
2.55 (Cross Country Handicap Chase – Class 2) – BACK ON THE LASH
Rachael Blackmore and Henry De Bromhead may well win the dual for us in the previous race, but we’re going against their likely market leader around the cross-country course.
Balko Des Flos is indeed a top challenger, as is Talkischeap despite some recent pull-ups, but the one we like best of all is the latter’s stable companion Back On The Lash, a horse the name of which will resonate with many a post-lockdown visitor to the track.
Back On The Lash has time on his side as a seven-year-old and seems to really want a trip. If that turns out to be true, then over this three-and-a-quarter miles he can reach new heights now under jockey Sean Bowen.
He’s not badly priced either and so is given the nod, although others including Alpha Des Obeaux, Freewheelin Dylan and Plan Of Attack can also have a major say in the contest.
3.30 (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – GELINO BELLO
Other than My Drogo, two horses in this Grade 2 contest will already be in some notebooks with the upcoming Cheltenham Festival in mind and so we watch with great interest to see how Gelino Bello and Off Your Rocco get on around here.
The latter has to carry a 5lb penalty for Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell, but comes into this race in great form after wins at Listowel and Limerick.
Gelino Bello, representing Paul Nicholls who has not managed to win a race known as the Hyde Novices’ Hurdle since its inception in 1996, can get the job done though and is favoured.
He was mightily impressive at Aintree last month on his first outing over hurdles, and while there isn’t much yet to back up the form of the race, it seems to be more than reliable and he put that race to bed with the minimum of fuss.
Blazing Khal and Current Mood are probably best of the rest, but they’ll have to suddenly improve plenty to mix it with the big two you’d feel.
4.00 (Novices’ Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – CITY DERBY
At around 7/1 the field on the first show this race has looked very tricky to solve, but there are variables to take into consideration that may just give us a heads-up.
As we’ve mentioned plenty of times before, Fergal O’Brien does very well here and the O’Brien-McPherson Racing team are beginning to scale new heights.
It could be prevalent then that they have a solid third-favourite here in the shape of Samba Dancer. A winner of all three of his most recent runs, he comes into the race in sparkling form and has impressive numbers to back him up in terms of speed etc.
Ahead of him in the pecking order however appears to be City Derby, the choice of Paddy Brennan, who might just prove to be a step ahead of the handicapper.