Hennessy Gold Cup Tips 3m2f Handicap Chase

I thought last week’s e.w. selection, Definitly Red, ran a great race when finishing second in Haydock’s high class Fixed Brush handicap hurdle. Not only was it his first run in a handicap, but it was also his first outing since March. Destined now for the larger obstacles, he is definitely one to keep on the right side of in novice chases in the coming months. Saturday’s Newbury test is at the other end of the jumping spectrum, and is usually won by an animal either already proven capable of competing at the highest grade or by one that subsequently gets to the top level. Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson share the training honours with three victories apiece and both field strong candidates at the weekend.

The Nicholls runner, the 6yo Saphir Du Rheu, is the apple of his trainer’s eye, and describes him as having the speed of Kauto Star, and the stamina of Denman. Having unseated or fallen in his first two attempts at the larger obstacles at the end of last year, one wouldn’t have expected to find him heading the market for this years Hennessy, but master trainer Nicholls restored confidence by putting him back over hurdles. He won at Cheltenham in January, and came a highly commendable second in the World Hurdle at the Festival. Back over fences he trotted up in the 3m1f Gd1 novices chase at Aintree, jumping fluently and winning by an eased down, fifteen lengths and a head from Carraig Mor and Irish Saint. He reappeared at Carlisle in a three runner affair four weeks ago, and won as a 1/5 favourite should. He has plenty going for him at the weekend but a definite negative is Coneygree’s defection, leaving the Nicholls horse lumbered with top weight. It is a considerably tougher task lumping 11st12lbs, rather than his original 11st3lbs, around Newbury, in what is likely to be testing conditions,in such a competitive heat. Another slight concern would be his lack of experience in large field handicap chases, but ifTwiston-Davies has him where he usually races, just off the leaders, this strong traveller, should avoid any trouble, and despite the weight, must be on the short list.

Nicky Henderson’s 10yo Bobs Worth won the 2012 renewal of this and went on to win the 2013 Gold Cup. He won the Lexus Gold Cup at the end of the same year, but disappointed in his next four runs and failed to hit the back of the net again until scoring in an Aintree hurdle three weeks ago, when beating stable companion Simonsig in an inconclusive affair. The handicapper has certainly cut him plenty of slack as he races on Saturday off a mark 27lbs lower than his career high and indeed is 7lbs lower than for his 2012 win. While there must be serious doubts about how much ability remains, coming from this yard his chance has to be respected.

Neil Mulholland’s 6yo The Young Master looked a very exciting prospect when winning The Badger Ales handicap last November off a mark of 130 in most impressive fashion. While winning totally on merit, he had the race taken off him on the grounds of “not being qualified to run” and had to compete off a new mark 14lbs higher in his next race, a Cl1 handicap at Ascot six weeks later. Despite a tendency to jump left he raced up with the pace all the way and stayed on strongly to beat last years Hennessy second, Houblon Des Obeaux, by 2 1/2L. He ran far too freely in the RSA chase at the festival finishing a well beaten seventh, but made a satisfactory reappearance when finishing second to Saphir Du Rheu at Carlisle three weeks ago. Like the winner he is bound to come on for the race and meeting the Nicholls horse on 12lbs better terms on Saturday, (including Waley-Cohen’s 3lbs claim) this very progressive young chaser looks well handicapped with his nice racing weight of 10st10lbs. With stamina not an issue, (has won a hurdle race over 27f on heavy ground), this strong traveller looks set to run a big race at the weekend.

Philip Hobbs, who won the 2001 renewal with the 7yo What’s Up Boys tries with another of the same age, If In Doubt. He won a competitive handicap at Doncaster off a mark of 139 last January, despite a far from fluent round of jumping, and again clobbered plenty when finishing fifth in the RSA Chase at the Festival 8L behind Don Poli. However he did come up the hill with some gusto and would have got third place in another twenty yards. He was subsequently pulled up in the Irish National and makes his seasonal debut on Saturday. If his jumping errors have been ironed out, and who better than Philip Hobbs to do it? If In Doubt, looks a very well handicapped contender.

Alan King blames the lack of a previous run for Smad Place’s early capitulation in last years renewal. Indeed he feels that the horses entire season was negatively affected. So determined not to make the same mistake again he ran him at Kempton four weeks ago where he looked back to his best, jumping soundly and staying on strongly. Placed in two World Hurdles, Smad Place has a touch of class about him, and it would come as no surprise to see him involved at the business end at the weekend.

Selection: The Young Master.

E.W. : Smad Place.newbury races

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Betfair Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle Haydock 2ml 7f Saturday

Betfair Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle Haydock 2ml 7f Saturday

Saturday’s contest is run over obstacles based on the French hurdle design, which is similar to a plain fence but lower in height, and significantly, unlike the British design, are of very rigid and inflexible construction, so it comes as no surprise that many subsequent top chasers, such as Grand Crus and Dynaste have won the race, and Holywell and Synchronised have been placed.

David Pipe has won three of the ten renewals of the contest, but given the likely conditions at the weekend and the current low strike rate of the Nicholashayne operation his two representatives, Low Key, and Batavir are passed over. However the man with the second best record in the race, Nick Williams, who has hit the back of the net on two occasions, runs the six year old Tea for Two, and he isn’t so easy to dismiss.

He breezed up in the 21f Lanzarote hurdle last January off a mark of 134, winning by 16L, but was hit with a 19lbs rise for his trouble. Having disappointed in his next two races he has been cut some slack by the handicapper and raced with some promise, off a mark of 142 finishing sixth, on his reappearance at Chepstow six weeks ago. By Kayf Tara, Saturday’s 23f shouldn’t present any problems and again enjoying the benefit of Lizzie Kelly’s 5lbs claim he looks a well handicapped horse off his new mark of 141, only 7lbs higher than for his Lanzarote romp.

With a greater emphasis on stamina likely at the weekend, Warren Greatrex certainly has a candidate in Shantou Bob bred for the job. The seven year old is by the St Leger winner, Shantou, out of a Bob Back mare so Saturday’s 23f should hold no fears. He relished testing conditions in only his third race over hurdles, when failing by the shortest of margins to get the better of Vyta Du Roc in a Cl1 Gd2 novices hurdle at Sandown last December. He was staying on with great resolution, and the effort was even more meritorious as he lost a shoe causing him to hang. He broke a blood vessel when odds on in his next race and was a little disappointing at the Festival over three miles, but did run on well to finish sixth. Very lightly raced one feels the best is still to come from Shantou Bob and a reproduction of his Sandown effort would put him firmly in the mix.

Venetia Williams’s French-bred 5yo Yala Enki looked an animal going places when hosing up in a 21 1/2f novices hurdle at Exeter eighteen days ago, making all, and winning by sixteen lengths. A winner over fences in France he is clearly a pretty versatile young horse and as six of the ten winners have hailed from his country of birth, and five of the last six first past the post, have been five year olds, the stats certainly point firmly in his direction.

Brian Ellison’s 6yo Definitly Red showed the right attitude, when despite a ground losing mistake at the third last, he fought back to beat the favourite, Fletchers Flyer, over three miles at the course in Febuary on soft ground. He was pulled up at the Festival, but this winner of two listed bumpers in testing conditions at Newbury and Cheltenham, (also won a heavy ground Uttoxeter bumper) definitly has an engine and looks well treated off a mark of 138, giving him a nice racing weight of 10st10lbs. A winner first time out for the last two years, he is well worth considering.

Emma Lavelle’s triple course winner, Closing Ceremony, is worth a second look. He was beaten in a 26f Warwick slog by Join The Clan, to whom he was conceding 22lbs, (including Patrick Cowleys 10lb allowance) last January off a mark of 134, but made a very good impression five weeks later when making all in a Cl1 Gd2 hurdle over three miles at Haydock, in a time four seconds faster than Definitly Red managed on the same day. While such time comparisons can be slightly spurious this stout stayer is clearly on the up, and will definitly improve for his reappearance run behind Aqualim three weeks ago.

Selection : Shantou Bob

E.W. : Definitly Redhaydock park

Paddy Power Gold Cup 2m 4 1/2f handicap Cheltenham Saturday

Cheltenham Mackeson Meeting

First run in 1960 as the Mackeson Gold Cup, it acquired its present sponsor in 2003 and has always been an extremley competitive affair. Historically weight hadn’t been hugely significant, but in recent renewals the lighter weights have been having the best of the argument.

First run in 1960 as the Mackeson Gold Cup, it acquired its present sponsor in 2003 and has always been an extremley competitive affair. Historically weight hadn’t been hugely significant, but in recent renewals the lighter weights have been having the best of the argument.

Al Ferof (11st8lbs 2012) has been the only horse to shoulder more than eleven stone in the past eight years. The star of the older more exposed animal has been in decline with eleven of the last twelve winners being relatively lightly raced second season chasers. This is a really severe test and it is usually won by a progressive animal capable of defying a mark at least 10lbs higher, (the 2013 winner, Johns Spirit who won off a mark of 139, is being asked to defy an eighteen pound rise on Saturday). Read the Oddsguru’s 2014 Paddy Power Gold Cup preview.

Course form is highly significant, with fifteen of the last twenty winners boasting a success over Prestbury Park’s unique undulations. Usually run at a frenetic pace, stamina for the trip is essential, although interestingly it tends to be the type who has the pace to be competitive at two miles but stays 21f, rather than the three miler coming back in distance who have the better strike rate.

The market has proved a useful guide in recent renewals, with seven of the last ten winners starting at 8/1 or less. Having won three times Nigel Twiston-Davies is the most successful trainer represented on Saturday, followed by Paul Nicholls with two victories. David Pipe, whose father, Martin, won the race seven times, hit the back of the net himself in 2011 with Great Endeavour, and tries for a repeat with the current favourite Kings Palace at the weekend.

By Kings Theatre out of the Witness Box mare, Sarah’s Quay, he is certainly bred for the job, and his racing c.v. Is also pretty impressive. He has won three of his four starts over fences including an impressive victory as a novice over three miles and a half furlong at this meeting last year. Four weeks later he was again impressive over the course when beating that good yardstick Sausalito Sunrise (3m 1 and 1/2 furlongs) by seven lengths. Making all he jumped superbly and was pushed clear on the run in easing down near the finish. He then made all in a two runner affair at Newbury, again winning easily, despite some decidedly dodgy jumping. He was a big disappointment at the Festival where denied a soft lead his jumping went to pieces and he finished a well beaten sixth. There must be some doubts about his ability to handle the drop back in trip in Saturday’s large field, but he did have the pace to win a bumper as a 4yo and I’m certain any jumping deficiencies will have been ironed out at the Pond House Academy. He looks a horse with a big future and is well treated off a mark of 154.

Rebecca Curtis’s Irish Cavalier won over the course and distance at the festival off a mark of 137, and was kept busy, running twice in the space of three days at the Punchestown equivalent, where he ran well on both occasions. He reappeared in a conditions event at Newton Abbot four weeks ago and won comfortably. He is a very progressive animal and his chance has to be taken seriously, but his mark,19lbs higher than for his Festival win is a big ask.

Nick Gifford whose dad Josh won the race twice in the ninetys with Bradbury Star, runs the 7yo Generous Ransom. He has won two of his seven starts over fences, including over the course last January, and ran another fine race at the Festival, finishing third , 3L behind Irish Cavalier, whom he now meets on 15lbs better terms. Following a six month break he reappeared in a 2m5f hurdle at Cheltenham three weeks ago, and clearly needing the run he finished tailed off. Likely to come on a ton for the pipe opener, and with his nice racing weight of 10st7lbs he has plenty going for him and is shortlisted.

Fences have been the making of Malcolm Jefferson’s 7yo Oscar Rock. He has won two of his last three chases, and was probably unlucky in the other, being brought down when looking the likely winner. He really impressed on his reappearance at Market Rasen six weeks ago easily winning off a mark of 147 and a rise of 8lbs seems more than fair. His very able trainer knows what is required to win at Prestbury Park, and it will be no surprise to see his 7yo involved at the business end.

Alan King is quite bullish about his 7yo Annacotty and this course winner is worth a second look. Previously in the hands of Martin Keighley, he is only 3lbs higher then last January, when taking a graded contest over the course. The move to the King Academy may well have elicited further improvement, so is worth considering.

Selection: Oscar Rock

E.W. : Generous Ransom

November Handicap Tips 1m4f Doncaster Saturday

Brian Ellison

Brian Ellison, another trainer enjoying a great season, has won the race twice, Batswing (2000) and Carte Wing (2004), and he runs the lightly raced four year old Seamour.

Run on the last day of the British Turf flat racing season, it is usually contested on a pretty unforgiving surface, so stamina and an ability to handle testing conditions have usually been a prerequisite,and Saturday’s renewal is unlikely to prove an exception. Mixed messages have come from the Market over the last twenty years. Only two favourites have obliged, but the same period has seen only four winners come home at odds of 20/1 or longer. Good current form has been the rule with virtually all of the last twenty winners registering a top four finish in their penultimate race, the Gosden trained Zuider Zee in 2011 being the most recent exception. Historically three year olds have performed well, registering eleven success’s in the two decades between 1987 and 2007, but have drawn a blank since. The reason for this has been the paucity of the classic generations representatives surviving the cut in recent renewals.

If a three year old is to prevail at the weekend the most likely candidate would appear to be the Ralph Beckett trained Argus. Beckett, who is enjoying such a fine season, certainly knows what is required, having trained the three year old, Come On Jonny to win in 2005. Argus who was unraced as a two year old has made steady progress in his five races, culminating with a workman like victory over course and distance two weeks ago in the race which has produced two of the last three winners. Set to race off a mark only 3lbs higher at the weekend, this well bred, and expensively bought colt, has to be on the short list.

Mark Johnston, who won with the five year old Quick Ransom in 1993, and the six year old, Yavana’s Place in 1998, tries for a third success with another seasoned campaigner, the five year old ex French gelding, Zand. A winner twice over the distance on soft ground in the French Provinces, he showed some decent form over an inadequate 10f at Newbury in September, finishing a close fifth off a mark of 92. His next two runs, both on the All Weather, at Wolverhampton and Chelmsford, were far from conclusive, as he met trouble in running on both occasions. He races on Saturday off a mark only 1lb higher than Newbury, so hailing from this yard is definitely one to keep on the right side of.

Luca Cumani’s very game four year old, Penhill, who will love the ground, ran another fine race at Haydock Park eight weeks ago when getting the better of Buonarroti off a mark of 95, getting up to win by a hard fought 1/2L. It is no certainty that the form will be confirmed on 5lbs worse terms on Saturday, and the Cumani gelding may just find his new mark of 100 a touch beyond him.

Andrew Balding’s four year old Shirocco gelding, Storm Force Ten won like a horse going places at Chester in May. Racing over 12 1/2f on soft ground he won easily, and as the third and fourth have both won four races each in the meantime, the form looks gold plated.

Off for nearly six months, he finished a disappointing 7 1/2L behind Argus a fortnight ago, but can be expected to improve for the run. He meets Argus on 3lbs better terms on Saturday, so the 20/1 available at the time of writing may represent some value.

Brian Ellison, another trainer enjoying a great season, has won the race twice, Batswing (2000) and Carte Wing (2004),and he runs the lightly raced four year old Seamour. Stamina will not be a problem as he has won twice over 16f, and neither should pace, as he showed loads of it when winning at Haydock in May.

We tipped Ellison’s Totalize for the Northumberland Plate. The soft ground he encountered when winning at Ascot seemed a positive and his sixth in the 2m2f Doncaster Cup in his most recent race can be blamed on his failure to get the trip. Only 6lbs higher than his Ascot win he does seem to have a lot in his favour and it will be surprising if he isn’t involved at the business end on Saturday.

Selection: Seamour.

E.W. : Zand.