Friday, 11 November 2022

November Meeting Day Three: Sunday November 13th 2022 - Edwardstone To Announce His Champion Candidacy

Sunday means day three and the final day of the fantastic November Meeting at Cheltenham.

We’ve seen some excellent action so far, some of it of course having a bearing on the upcoming Cheltenham Festival which we are already counting down to.

This time around, the Grade 2 Shloer Chase and the Greatwood Hurdle are the standout races. In the former, Nube Negra and Edwardstone are both expected to be on the Champion Hurdle trail and go head-to-head, while the latter is very competitive.

We begin with a classy-looking novices’ chase in which one of our favourites may well land a high-profile opening win of the season.

1.10 (Novices’ Chase – Class 2) – MISTER COFFEY

On these pages we really rather fancied Nicky Henderson’s Mister Coffey to win the Kim Muir at the Festival back in March, a race in which he was a respectable and well-backed runner-up.

He also went off 5/1 favourite for the Topham at Aintree in April but frankly needed a rest, something he’s had now which should lead to him resuming his progress over fences.

With that, we reckon he can outclass Irish challengers Bardenstown Lad and Indigo Breeze, trained by John McConnell and Gordon Elliott respectively.

1.45 (Shloer Chase – Grade 2) – EDWARDSTONE

In what looks like a match between Edwardstone and Nube Negra, we could not put anyone off backing a Champion Chase runner-up who took this race easily last year and is second favourite.

As good as Nube Negra is however, his challenger Edwardstone looks the real deal and is offered as the selection in what we know as the Cheltenham Chase.

Alan King’s runner was a novice last season, but is the same age as Nube Negra and doesn’t lack experience. What he has done is improve plenty in his eight chases and really came of age when running out an impressive winner of the Arkle back in March.

He has the speed and the jumping prowess, he can do it on softer ground if the rain comes, he’s very classy and is firmly on the road to the 2023 Queen Mother Champion Chase.

2.20 (Premier Handicap Chase – Class 1) – SLIPWAY 

In an open heat two horses stand out in the betting market; Fantastikas and Does He Know. Both horses have obvious chances on the book, however they may both prefer things to be a little softer out there and so they are vulnerable.

It’s not as though certain others in the pack are incapable at the weight anyway. One challenger, Back On The Lash, definitely wants it quicker and he has plenty of experience around Cheltenham including over on the cross-country course.

Even better off at the weights could be the bang in form Slipway of Ben Pauling’s yard and he promises to be a nice price for backers too.

Although pulling up a couple of times as well, he finished last season with a win at Southwell and a good fifth at Newbury, before heading to Perth where he won easily. He’s entered in this race and over at Fontwell.

2.55 (Greatwood Handicap Hurdle – Class 1) – I LIKE TO MOVE IT

Not many trainers truly use the Greatwood as a bona fide Champion Hurdle trial, mostly because they tend to try and win it with a lower-rated horse at the bottom of the weights.

There is a chance however that it may be treated as a trial this year given that, although ever so narrowly, we like the topweight in the race I Like To Move It.

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ runner is rated 142 which means he’s not in the Champion Hurdle bracket yet, but he does have class and at only five years old he can continue to climb the hurdling ladder.

The difference in this competitive race is that he has more speed than the others between flights which may count for a hell of a lot. He was a Grade 2 winner at this meeting last year, a good one too, and he may be able to outclass this field.

There are plenty of others to note; Severance, Sonigino and Gin Coco being the best of them for sure, while Dads Lad is bound to attract plenty of support in the market.

3.30 (Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – IBERICO LAD 

The very race I Like To Move It won last year was this Supreme Trial, otherwise known as the Sharp Novices’ Hurdle.

As you’d imaging there’s not a whole lot for us to go on here. What we do know is that while top contenders such as Springwell Bay and Fennor Cross are decent, they aren’t so far above standard for a race of this nature which means it could be one by an unknown quantity with potential.

That brings in Iberico Lad. New owner JP McManus doesn’t get it wrong very often with his French recruits and surely, he’ll be expecting plenty from this four-year-old as the season goes on.

He won in his homeland back in May over 1m7f, quickening clear nicely on soft ground in the style of a horse who may appreciate a better surface. He’ll get that here and it might just be that Iberico Lad has that bit of star quality needed to separate himself from the rest of this inexperienced field. Aidan Coleman rides.

4.00 (Open National Hunt Flat Race – Listed Race) – NOTNOWNED

These bumper races are never easy to call in advance so, as always, we recommend you have a close look at the betting in the half-hour or so before post time to see what is truly fancied.

As far as picking one out based on known information goes, John McConnell’s Notnowned is definitely the one who stands out.

Second in a point-to-point in April, the son of Notnowcato was beaten on his bumper debut but ran well at 25/1 before landing a similar race in very easy fashion at Bellewstown over the summer.

On that evidence he’s clearly improving very quickly, so the fact that his current level of form beaten that offered by Roger Pol, Cape Vidal and Crambo means he has an outstanding chance of making it two from three in bumper races.

November Meeting Day Two: Saturday 12th November 2022 - Midnight to Turn the Lights Out

Day two of the November Meeting is Paddy Power Gold Cup Day. We have a selection in that race, as well as in the other six on what is another fascinating days of racing at the home of National Hunt.

12.35 (Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle – Grade 2) – BLUEKING D’OROUX

How many of these horses make it to the Triumph Hurdle itself is anyone’s guess, but in its own right it is a fascinating juvenile event.

They piece of form coming into the weekend seems to be the Listed juvenile hurdle staged at Wetherby last month.

There, Dan Skelton’s Meydaf got home well to score by three lengths from Tuddenham Green (Alan King), though the winner now carries a 5lb penalty. It’s 50/50 whether or not Sheena West’s Mr Freedom would have won the event, though he ran out two from home.

Those three are at a very similar level at the weights, while War Correspondent and Scriptwriter could be roughly on a par with them too.

Standing out however is another Paul Nicholls recruit from France, Blueking D’Oroux. In a couple of races at Auteil he ran to a better level than anything in this race and can now improve. It’s also true that he reached his level of form despite the heavy ground and not because of it, so he should appreciate conditions here.

1.10 (Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase – Class 3) – VALSHEDA

An interesting race for the amateurs, one in which the Irish challenge may prove to be quite strong.

Henry De Bromhead’s Brave Way should be well backed coming into the race on a hat-trick, while Gordon Elliott’s Punitive and Gavin Cromwell’s Malina Girl are also interesting, especially the last named.

Charlie Longsdon has a solid chance with his race-fit Kelso fourth Castle Robin, but the best of the bunch may prove to be Valsheda.

Carrying the familiar Kelvin-Hughes colours for trainer Nicky Henderson, Valsheda was a gutsy winner last time but he is one that is getting better. His 234 days off the track will have led to plenty of improvement, he’s fresh and he has the form at the weights.

1.45 (Arkle Challenge Trophy Trial Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – PENTLAND HILLS

Higher profile races will be won by 2023 Arkle contenders this season, but this race looks very important too.

It’s a close one to call at first glance. Pentland Hills was given a walkover, Tommy’s Oscar won on debut over fences, Monmiral was classy over hurdles and makes his chasing debut while Banbridge was a comfortable debut chase winner and at five has lots more to come.

Nicky Henderson’s Pentland Hills was a Grade 1 juvenile hurdle winner and was a close second in the Champion Hurdle Trial in 2020.

After a forced absence, he came back with a win on the Flat and was better than before and he could be the best of this bunch now chasing.

2.20 (Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase – Premier Handicap) – MIDNIGHT RIVER

This two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase is as competitive as we’d expect it to be. Familiar Cheltenham runners Coole Cody and Simply The Betts will be popular, while French Dynamite has been very well backed and topweight Mister Fisher can hardly be ruled out.

Stolen Silver could be very well handicapped for Sam Thomas, while similar comments apply to David Pipe’s Umbrigado and Paul Nicholls’ Il Ridoto.

The one we liked best of all was the race-fit Midnight River. Dan Skelton’s seven-year-old has yet to peak as a chaser and after being solid but unspectacular last season looks a very different prospect this.

3/1 for his seasonal reappearance at Stratford, he demolished his opposition to win by an ever so easy 25 lengths, going up only 8lbs in the handicap. He’s a good deal better than that and may land this race before returning in December.

2.55 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – PADLEYOUROWNCANOE

This is a tough race to pick apart and it’s one that may come down to two good value horses, each not seen very often over hurdles in recent times.

Annual Invictus of Chris Gordon’s yard could be better than when last seen over timber, while Padleyourowncanoe very much has the speed between flights needed this time around and gets the vote.

He hasn’t won over hurdles for a little while but is well enough handicapped for the Skeltons, with Shearer and Sidi Ismael also making the shortlist.

3.30 (Intermediate Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – WISEGUY

This isn’t the sort of race to be dedicated massive stakes to, but there’s enough in the profile of Nicky Henderson’s Wiseguy to think that he has tons of improvement to come this season so gets the nod.

Rated only 119 at present, it would seem obvious that he won’t stay on that mark for very long so is more than likely to be very well handicapped.

When earning that rating, he jumped out to the side a little and looked unfinished but there will have been a lot of work done in the interim. Nico de Boinville takes the ride.

4.05 (Mares’ Open National Hunt Flat Race – Listed Race) – QUEENS GAMBLE

Fergal O’Brien’s Bonttay won three out of three last season, winning at this very meeting before not being seen again.

She may make a good fist of things, while Willie Mullins sends over Williamstowndancer and she will no doubt have her supporters too.

The likely favourite is Nicky Henderson’s Luccia and her winning would be no surprise, but it may pay to go for the value offered by backing Oliver Sherwood’s Queens Gamble instead.

Her debut win was more impressive than that of Luccia, she definitely has the speed for the Old Course on decent ground and although she has only raced once, both horses have been off for over 200 days which is ample time to strengthen and catch up.

Thursday, 10 November 2022

November Meeting Day One: Friday 11th November 2022 - Hermes to Deliver in Ballymore

What a treat we have in store this weekend at Cheltenham.

Friday marks the beginning of the three-day November Meeting and includes the Grade 2 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.

We have information on all six Friday races, while later in the week we’re covering the Triumph Trial, Arkle Trial, the Paddy Power Gold Cup, Shloer Chase, the Greatwood Hurdle and the Supreme Novices’ Trial.

1.10 (Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – FINE CASTING

The market will be interesting in this qualifier for the Challenger Stayers’ Hurdle Series, as it looks very competitive indeed. Hurricane Harvey may yet return to form, while Hector Javilex is solid at the top and Astigar can go well.

Plenty is expected of Enki Flacke and Sweet Will, but we don’t see them as being as well handicapped as Hardy Boy and especially Fine Casting.

Ben Pauling’s six-year-old was climbing the ranks quite quickly last winter. If he’s ready to go after a break then he will prove to be well handicapped, while he also possesses the speed needed on the Old Course.

1.45 (Handicap Chase – Class 2) – AMARILLO SKY 

The Glancing Queen would of course be a very popular winner on her seasonal return, while Grey Diamond, Hasankey and Malystic are also interesting.

The standout horse for us at the weights is Joe Tizzard’s Amarillo Sky. Fifth in the Grand Annual in March, he was improving quickly before that and can resume his progress now off a handy chasing mark. Brendan Powell takes the ride and the pair look well placed to run a very big race.

2.20 (Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase – Class 3s) – HEREDITARY RULE

This is an interesting novices’ chase over two and a half miles. Here, we have some who haven’t taken a single fence, while conversely Railway Hurricane has already run in 14 steeplechases.

All things taken into consideration, Fergal O’Brien’s topweight Pull Again Green should have a fair shout, as should Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Super Six who should have done much better on his fencing debut but can improve now.

Above them on the shortlist however were Chris Gordon’s Unanswered Prayers and John McConnell’s Hereditary Rule, the latter getting the nod.

Unanswered Prayers was very consistent over hurdles but can probably reach a new level if taking to the larger obstacles, while the Irish-trained runner looks very well handicapped.

Hereditary Rule won ever so easily at Cartmel in the summer, then took in a hurdle race last time to ensure his fitness was spot on. Daryl Jacob takes the ride.

2.55 (Veterans’ Handicap Chase – Class 2) – MAGIC DANCER

It’s hard enough to track the progress of horses who are on the way up in their careers and to correlate that with their current handicap marks. What’s even worse however is to do the same with those who are gradually regressing.

This is a great veterans’ chase, one in which lovely types such as Broken Quest, Elegant Escape and Ballyandy may all go well, but two against the field may be Kauto Riko (Tom Gretton) and Magic Dancer (Kerry Lee).

At 11 Kauto Riko still has plenty of zip and he was strongly considered, however the ten-year-old Magic Dancer was in winning form when last seen and has shown the requisite speed as well as jumping ability to give punters confidence in a two-and-a-half-mile race on the Old Course.

Kauto Riko is one of only two rides on the card for the excellent Brian Hughes, but Richard Patrick is on the selection.

3.30 (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – HERMES ALLEN

Still known to many as the Hyde Novices’ Hurdle, the Ballymore is important in sorted out future staying stars and has been won recently by Thyme Hill and Gold Cup winner Coneygree.

A brief look at the names involved this time suggests the result of this race will very much be worth keeping in mind when looking at bets for the festival in March.

Willie Mullins, Paul Nicholls, Nigel Twiston-Davies, Gordon Elliott and Dan Skelton all have fancied horses in this race. We can only judge the horses however, not their handlers, though it’s almost impossible to do so naturally when it comes to runners such as Weveallbeencaught (Twiston-Davies) who makes his hurdling debut.

Elliott’s Music Drive is interesting, while the bulk of the money will probably go the way of Hubrisko for Elliott’s main rival Willie Mullins.

Quid Pro Quo for JP McManus and the Skelton’s is right up at their level, though they may all find themselves playing catch-up to Paul Nicholls’ recruit Hermes Allen.

The five-year-old former point-to-pointer won with his head in his chest at Stratford last month. True, he didn’t have much to beat but in reality, was around 35lbs ahead of a solid yardstick in second and there’s no doubt he will improve from race one to race two.

If the numbers are right and we think they are, then he is at a level above this opposition. Harry Cobden rides.

4.00 (Novices’ Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – RATHMACKNEE

A very tentative selection for the final race is Rathmacknee. This is a terribly difficult race to solve as a wide-open novices’ hurdle, but this horse at least ticks a few boxes.

Rathmacknee was a very easy winner last time out and could be considered well handicapped for this event. He is also trained by a top-class handler in Nicky Henderson and trained by Nico de Boinville, the pair having won much bigger races than this around Cheltenham.

In terms of the trip and ground there should be no problems at all for this six-year-old, with some of our thinking being that you won’t get too many 124-rated horses in the Henderson yard, so there’s some reason to believe he is very much better than that.

Others to consider are Alto Alto, Galahad Threepwood and Master Dancer.