Thursday, 20 April 2023

April Meeting Day Two: Thursday 20th April 2023 - Lavelle the Voice of Calm on Day Two

Day two of the April Meeting offers punters the last chance to see the professionals at Cheltenham before we break for the season.

After racing is over, the Cheltenham April Sale takes place. A select group of placed and winning point-to-pointers and National Hunt form horses go on offer in the Tattersalls sale ring.

Before that though there is a fine card to watch which include some Challenger Series finals, a Grade 2, a Listed event and a Premier Handicap. We have a tip for all seven races.

1.30 (Mares’ Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – WELL VICKY

This 2m4½f race is the final of the NAF Challenger Series. There are plenty in with chances in this 18-runner contest, but the one that caught our eye most is Alastair Ralph’s Well Vicky.

Before finishing fourth to Dollar Bae last time, who also made our shortlist for this race, Well Vicky had won three in a row and was improving sharply.

She was favourite for that race on merit and there’s nothing to suggest her improvement has suddenly stopped. In fact, we reckon it was only the soft ground that beat her and she can get back to winning ways here.

Sashenka and Grivetana are also worth considering.

2.05 (Mares’ Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase Final – Grade 2) – VOICE OF CALM

Though this is for novice mares, as a limited handicap at Grade 2 level it is very competitive.

Despite this, we got it down to La Renommee, La Domaniale and Voice Of Calm who we think are the three to concentrate on, especially the latter.

Emma Lavelle’s seven-year-old is just too good a price to ignore. She ran well enough on her chase debut last autumn before hating heavy ground at Bangor, though it should be noted that she was put straight into Listed company there.

She improved when third in a handicap at Taunton before winning ever so easily at Leicester last time and it seems there is a good bit more to come from her.

2.40 (Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – Listed Race) – LUTINEBELLA

Outside of the Cheltenham Festival, though surely success there will come in time, Fergal O’Brien tends to do very well at this course.

His Lutinebella won in an absolute hack canter last time and looks capable of getting to and beyond the required level to win this race. Paddy Brennan takes the ride as usual.

Challengers are numerous, including Queens Rock, Zestful, Ahorsewithnoname and Ilovethenightlife.

3.15 (Challenger Series Mares’ Chase Final Handicap Chase – Class 2) – CREDO

This mares’ chase is a bit of a stamina test, being run over nearly three and three-quarter miles around the New Course.

That said, the ground is quick this week and it’ll suit those with a bit of pace between fences which is where Credo may just get the race won for trainer Anthony Honeyball.

The eight-year-old has been the model of consistency this season. Since going chasing in November, her form figures read 21221 and, most importantly, on two of her last three runs she showed very different talents, both of which she’ll need here.

At Hereford in December, she plugged on and kept going on soft ground over this trip. It showed she has the stamina and she is more experienced now. Last time out at Warwick she was faced with quick ground which she skipped over beautifully to win very easily. She can put it all together here.

It’s competitive in behind. Gazette Bourgeoise is a live danger, while there is plenty to like about Rose Of Arcadia, My Silver Lining, Good Luck Charm and Lady Kk.

3.50 (Fillies’ Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – Class 1) – OBSESSEDWITHYOU  

This race is a Premier Handicap, akin to the Grade 3 handicaps we were used to seeing so it’s a good race.

Any juvenile race is hard to judge. None of the runners are experienced, while they are also improving at different rates. It makes sense though that almost all horses in this field will have been trained to peak today in order to win at this level.

With that, we can see the level they each reached at the same stage of their hurdling careers, their respective second runs being the ones to concentrate on, before adjusting that for weight as this is a handicap.

That being done, Jamie Snowden’s Obsessedwithyou looks good value. Based on what she achieved after two runs and having improved nicely since, she seems well handicapped to go well at a nice price ahead of Pink Fire Lilly, Arclight and Komedy Kicks.

4.25 (Mares’ Handicap Chase – Class 3) – FORTUNES MELODY

Over the two-mile trip on this sort of ground, proven speed really should come to the fore.

With that, Harry Fry’s Fortunes Melody looks excellent value to turn over the likely short-priced favourite Pink Legend who represents Venetia Williams.

Another thing to note is that, while we’re backing a mare who hasn’t won in six chase wins, she has a record over fences this season of 1353224 and never seems far away. She is almost guaranteed to run her race and we know she likes these conditions which isn’t the case for all the mares in the field.

The aforementioned Pink Legend is the main danger, ahead of Royale Margaux.

5.00 (Mares’ Open National Hunt Flat Race – Class 2) – MARY

As the last race is so wide open, we can afford to take a small punt rather than have a very firm opinion. That punt is on Mary.

Ian Williams trains the four-year-old filly who is by Yeats and her handy weight advantage is what we’re trying to take advantage of here.

She was runner-up on her debut, putting in a performance that would see her be competitive here so considering the level of improvement she surely has in here on race two, her chance is obvious.

This is competitive though, with any amount of others holding chances including El Elefante, Dontyawantme and Bobbi’s Beauty in the finale.

Wednesday, 19 April 2023

April Meeting Day One: Wednesday 19th April 2023 - Williams Runner a Real Gem in Silver Trophy

The glitz, glamour and excitement of the Cheltenham Festival may be a thing of the past, but we are back at Prestbury Park this week for the two-day April Meeting.

We begin with a seven-race card, one which kicks off with a fine Grade 2 event over fences.

1.30 (Silver Trophy Handicap Chase – Grade 2) – GEMIRANDE

The opening race is the extended two-and-a-half-mile Silver Trophy, a limited handicap chase at Grade 2 level.

The likely favourite is Dan Skelton’s Heltenham who really is improving. He has won three races very well since Christmas and while he’s gone up 25lbs in that time, it seems he still has more to offer.

We couldn’t put you off backing him, but at slightly better odds there is a lot to like about Venetia Williams’ Gemirande and he gets the nod from us.

Never out of the first two in five runs this season, this gelding is just seven and he too has more room for improvement. After finishing second in the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury last month he’s gone up another 3lbs in the weights, but he can cope with that and always give his running.

2.05 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – MASTER CHEWY

There will be plenty of attention going the way of Nicky Henderson’s Bold Endeavour and the Oliver Greenall/Josh Guerriero runner Homme Public as they have nice profiles and are bigger prices.

The solid one for us however is Master Chewy. His performance when 8th in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle here at the festival was more than respectable. It will, if nothing else, have got him to absolute peak fitness and he is very likely to appreciate the quicker ground offered this week.

2.40 (Handicap Chase – Class 3) – CHECKITOUT

Staged over three and half miles, this handicap chase really will take some getting even if the ground is dry enough.

The New Course is more about stamina than speed as we know, and here the field is tasked with taking on no fewer than 24 fences.

The one we think can cope best with it all is Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Checkitout, ridden of course by Sam Twiston-Davies.

While many horses are trained to peak in the DRF, the Cheltenham Festival or Aintree, some don’t quite make it but do peak later and he could well be one. He looks ready to win now and is the call ahead of Wake Up Early, Tip Top Cat and Max Dynamo

3.15 (Novices’ Hurdle – Class 2) – RED DIRT ROAD

Much of the attention, and the money, will go the way of The Carpenter in this race and we can see why. As a runner trained by red-hot Nicky Henderson who has won his last two races, he seems a very solid selection.

A six-year-old with arguably better form, who has run only three times over hurdles, the last 40 days ago and who has no doubt improved plenty in the interim is Jonjo O’Neill’s Red Dirt Road.

His latest win was very easy indeed and this race is a natural step for him. Theatre Man looks solid for those entering the Placepot, while Chasing Fire can recover and regain the thread if putting it all together so rates as a fine contender too.

3.50 (Handicap Chase – Class 2) – PERCUSSION

We’re on what is essentially the Gold Cup course here as these chasers go over 3 miles, 2½ furlongs.  Twelve of them take on 22 fences, with stamina and just a little speed being important.

The one for money is Captain Cattistock. The ten-year-old remains in fine form, he likes the New Course and he is trained by Fergal O’Brien who as regular readers know does very well here at all meetings away from the festival.

A better price, and with a better chance for our money, is Laura Morgan’s Percussion. This one is an eight-year-old who has better days ahead of him.

Despite this, his level of form (at the weights) is about the best on offer for us. What is even more noteworthy is that his best performance all round was his third to Ashtown Lad in the Becher Chase in December, so now that he has to use that stamina again, we can see him reach a new career high.

4.25 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 2) – BROADWAY BOY

What we like to see at this late stage of the season is a horse getting faster/betting right now. It’s not the case at the highest level, but in a race such as this it remains possible and it happens to be the case with Broadway Boy.

This is another runner for the Twiston-Davies team who may just have a very good day. Their Broadway Boy has been busy enough this season, running six times, but it must be pointed out that those half-dozen runs are all he’s had in his whole career and he is only five years old.

No doubt then there is a lot more to come from him, he won his second race three weeks ago and he has all the attributes needed to do well here.

Santos Blue is on a four-timer for the Skeltons and On The Blind Side can’t be discounted having suddenly rediscovered his form for a stable in very fine form (Nicky Henderson).

5.00 (Handicap Hurdle – Class 3) – BY YOUR SIDE

The final race on the card is one for conditional jockeys and amateur riders only. Claiming 5lbs in the race is Ben Bromley who has ridden a winner and two seconds in his last three starts and Gordon Elliott has called on him to ride By Your Side.

Only a four-year-old, By Your Side is coming along nicely albeit at a lower level than many in the stable, in fact he comes to Cheltenham on the back of a maiden hurdle win against 22 rivals at Naas is March.

He looks fair value in the circumstances, with both Mayhem Mya and Ballygeary not far behind in the reckoning.