Racing Tips BetBright Handicap Chase

Tea For Two and Lizzie Kelly jump the last to win the William HiBetBright Handicap Chase 3m Kempton Saturday – Last week’s Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock saw our two selections, Vieux Lion Rouge, (E.W.) and Blaklion finish first and second, and both certainly enhanced their Aintree prospects. The 8/1 winner stayed on really strongly to get the better of the tiring Blaklion after the last, and may well prove to be be the first since Sundew in 1956 to win the Haydock race and go on to collect a first Grand National. However it has to be said that Twiston-Davies’s gallant Blaklion lost little in defeat, and meeting Vieux Lion Rouge on 3lbs better at Aintree must have serious prospects, of emulating the runner up in the 2012 Grand National Trial, Neptune Collonges, who went one better in the Aintree Showpiece. Indeed, Trainer Twiston-Davies was quite bullish in his post race comment, suggesting that after such a long layoff the race was needed, and full of praise for Blaklion’s jumping, particularly when tiring, sounded pretty confident that a third Grand National Trophy could be on it’s way back to Naunton come April.

Saturday’s BetBright Chase has also served as a Grand National Trial, and two winners of the Kempton race, Rhyme ‘n’ Reason (1988) and Rough Quest (1996), have gone on to victory in the Aintree Showpiece in the same season. Weight has been no bar to success with six topweights coming home in front over the past twenty five years, and twelve winners shouldered at least 11st in the same period. Kemptons tricky circuit takes some jumping, so unsurprisingly many of the winners of this, boast previous winning form over the course, as indeed did last years hero, Theatre Guide. Always run at a good clip, valuable handicaps at Kempton get competitive from a long way out, putting plenty of emphasis on stamina, so an assured ability to stay three miles has been essential. Few horses older than nine get their nose in front, although course specialist Nacarat did so when winning for the second time, as an eleven year old in 2012. Eight year olds have won four of the last six renewals.

Clearly a strong contest for trends and the one with the best “fit” is the Nick Williams trained, 8yo, Tea For Two (pictured above). He won the first three of his four Kempton Park races, including at Grade1 level over course and distance, and on the fourth occasion, in the King GeorgeV1 Chase on Boxing Day, he put up another fine performance to finish 4th, 3 1/4L, Shd,  and a Hd behind Thistlecrack, Cue card, and Silviniaco Conti. He had a nice pipe opener thirteen days ago when winning a four runner affair at Exeter with his head in his chest, which should put him spot on for Saturday, and with the talented Lizzie Kelly able to claim her 3lbs allowance, (couldn’t in the King George) he looks good value at current odds of 6/1.

Tom George and Adrian Heskins, who have proved such a potent force this season, must fancy their chances with their course and distance winner, Double Shuffle. Stepped up to three miles for the first time sixty days ago the 7yo showed that the trip was just what the doctor ordered when coming home 3 1/2L in front of the useful Go Conquer here at Kempton. He took it up between the last two fences and responding well to pressure stayed on really well in a contest that was run in a good time. Last years runner up, and 2013 winner, Opening Batsman, was 20L back in fifth. Now that connections have worked out his correct trip there should be plenty more to come and only 6lbs higher than last time is well worth considering.


Irish Saint is Paul Nicholls’ best chance of success, or so say the markets

Paul Nicholls has won the contest on two occasions and if the Markets are to be believed his 8yo, Irish Saint represents his best chance of a third. The problem is that he doesn’t really convince as a three miler having only achieved two distant thirds from his three attempts at the trip. However he has won all three races, including the Grade2 2 1/2f Novices Chase on this card two years ago, that he has contested at Kempton, and is also beginning to look a very well handicapped horse, so isn’t easily dismissed. His run over 3miles on soft ground at Sandown last time was looking quite promising until making a mistake at the second last and he finished a tired third, 19L behind Otago Trail. It is worth remembering that it was only his third run back after 19 months on the sidelines, so perhaps the Ditcheat Operation is expecting better over Kempton’s flat track on good ground at the weekend.

The Neil Mulholland yard is in top form at the moment and their 7yo Fingersontheswitch looked an improver last time out. Having only his sixth race over fences, he won a Wetherby Class4 very easily off a mark of 119. It is a huge step up to a Kempton Park Class1 off a 13lbs higher mark on Saturday but the son of Beneficial was actually rated 137 over hurdles. Bred to be a chaser, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if Fingersontheswitch, off his low weight of 10st took a hand in the finish at the weekend.

Selection:  Tea For Two

E.W.         : Irish Saint

Betting Tips Betfred Grand National Trial Handicap Chase



Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Blaklion gets the Oddsguru’s nod on Saturday

Betfred Grand National Trial Handicap Chase 3m4f 97y Haydock Saturday
– The three contenders we highlighted in last week’s preview of the Betfair Hurdle, Ballyandy, Movewithetimes, and Clyne put up excellent performances filling the first three places, but of the trio, the very lightly raced Movewithetimes, has to be the one to back wherever he goes next. Considering it was only his fourth race over hurdles, (he did show his inexperience with some deliberate jumps in midfield), the way he moved up effortlessly in the straight was most impressive. He again looked “novicy” when asked for maximum effort from the last, hanging slightly, but keeping on strongly to go down by 3/4L. It was the performance of a high class animal, and as his pedigree would suggest that he will be well suited by further, some of the fancy prices available about him for the 21f Neptune Investment Management Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival look very tempting.


As a trial for the Grand National, Saturday’s Haydock contest hasn’t been a great success, as the last winner to go on to Aintree Glory, was the Fred Winter ridden Sundew in 1956, who collected the big one a year later. However the roll of honour does boast three other Grand National winners, Freebooter, Red Rum and Party Politics who all won this after success at Aintree. Perhaps a more interesting stat is that victory here foreshadowed two Cheltenham Gold Cup winners, Cool Ground and Master Oats. The contest was suspended from 1985-1990 and since it’s reintroduction in 1991 weight has proved no bar to success. Two animals have carried the maximum burden of 11st12lbs to victory,  and a further nine have defied 11st or higher. Lucinda Russell, with three wins has been the most successful handler and for this years renewal her sole representative is the 9yo, Kilbree Chief. However, from 9lbs out of the handicap and needing a few above him to come out, perhaps he can be safely ignored. The fairer sex have been responsible for the last three winners, and as there are three other lady trainers, besides Ms Russell represented, Kerry Lee, Sue Smith, and Venetia Williams, all of whom have trained the winner of this in the past, and all fielding likely looking types, we may see this female dominance extended.

Last year’s winner, the Kerry Lee trained Bishops Road was withdrawn on Tuesday, but the talented Herefordshire handler has another strong candidate with her 9yo Goodtoknow. Blinkers have sparked a revival in his last two races, finishing second off a mark of 136 in a valuable 29f Grade3 Warwick Handicap in January, and then winning a Hereford Handicap off a 1lb higher mark, seventeen days later.


Kerry Lee knows all about success in this race and this year saddles Goodtoknow

He is set to carry 5lbs extra for that win on Febuary 1st, and if the blinkers continue to work, this tough stayer has to be considered. A slight reservation would be the poor record of contenders carrying a penalty in recent renewals, as Heltornic, ten years ago, was the last to get his head in front.

Sue Smith trained Last Fling to win in 2000 and is represented by the 8yo, Wakanda. A winner of six of his sixteen races over fences, including over the course, he ran a nice race last time, finishing second to the useful Definitly Red, off a mark of 149, sixty days ago. Only 1lb higher on Saturday, this son of Westerner, out of a mare by Indian River, (sire of Hennessy winner Madison Du Berlais) should be suited by the step up in trip and as a course winner is worth considering.

Venetia William’s best chance of a second victory would seem to lie with her gallant warrior, Houblon Des Obeaux, but, despite getting some respite from the Handicapper, he looks well held by Goodtoknow.

The great Martin Pipe won this twice in his illustrious career, but son David, has yet to hit the back of the net, and he will be hoping that his Beecher Chase winner, Vieux Lion Rouge can correct this state of affairs. Last season he showed that stamina was his forte when finishing 6th in the 4m National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, and then putting up an excellent performance in the Grand National for a seven year old, to finish seventh. Backed in to 8/1 fav for the Beecher Chase over the National fences on his reappearance eleven weeks ago, he stayed on with great resolution to get up in the shadow of the post off a mark of 142. Only 4lbs higher at the weekend he has to be fancied to give the younger Pipe his first win in the contest.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Blaklion has always looked a stayer and could find Saturday’s first attempt at this 28f trip right up his street. He has a bit to find with Wakanda on Wetherby form in December but as a Grade2 winner over hurdles and a Grade1 winner over fences he has that touch of Class and I feel that we haven’t yet seen the best of this eight year old.

Selection : Blaklion
E.W.           : Vieux Lion Rouge

Racing Tips Betfair Hurdle Newbury

racing-tips-betfair-hurdle-newburyBetfair Hurdle (Handicap) 2m67yds Newbury Saturday – Historically, in a race first run in 1963 as The Schweppes Gold Trophy, an experienced handicapper was usually the order of the day, but recent renewals have seen the Novice division very much to the fore, with less experienced animals dominating.  Novices have collected five of the last seven runnings, and indeed, of the last six to pass the post in front, only Gary Moore’s Violet Dancer had previously run in a handicap. Weight as ever has been a significant factor, with seven of the last ten winners, carrying less than eleven stone. It is worth mentioning however that the three successful animals carrying above this level, Essex (11-6), Zarkandar (11-1) and My Tent Or Yours (11-02) were all well backed favourites, starting at odds of 4/1 or less. Nicky Henderson has been the most successful handler with five victories overall, but only one of those has come in the last ten renewals, while Gary Moore has hit the back of the net three times in the same period.

From 6lbs out of the handicap, it’s difficult to see the Moore yard collecting for a fourth time with their 6yo Krugermac, but Henderson certainly has a live contender with his 5yo Consul De Thaix. He has only had the five starts, and has acquitted himself well on the last two occasions, finishing second in both races, to genuine Champion Hurdle aspirant, Brain Power, and he also demonstrated last time, that the demands of a large field competitive handicap, were right up his street. Held up in midfield, in the 19 runner Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle at Ascot in December, he stayed on well to snatch 2nd in the shadow of the post. Only 5lbs higher at the weekend there should be plenty more to come.

Having won with Splash Of Ginge three years ago, Nigel Twiston-Davies knows what is required, so last year’s Champion Bumper winner, Ballyandy, is worth considering. The 6yo Twiston-Davies contender, made his hurdles debut at Perth in September, and, but for clouting the second last obstacle, must have gone very close to beating the current 2nd favourite for the Supreme Novices, Moon Dancer. He put up another good performance two months later when finishing 3rd behind the same horse at Cheltenham in November, and last time got to within 1/2L of subsequent Challow Hurdle winner, Messire Des Obeaux over 20f at Sandown ten weeks ago. He showed his ability to cope with a big field when winning the Champion Bumper, and has been given a generous looking mark of 135, leaving him with a nice racing weight of 10st10lbs. Having won the valuable Bumper on this card last year, he should like the track, and all in all seems to have plenty going for him on Saturday. One for the shortlist!

Last year the Oddsguru went for the JP McManus-owned gelding, Blazer.

Welsh maestro, Evan Williams, has never won a Betfair Hurdle, but this upwardly mobile trainer has a strong candidate with his improving 7yo Clyne. Prior to running in Haydock’s Champion Hurdle Trial, this son of Hernando had won his four previous races, improving from a mark of 115 to his current mark of 143, and showed that rating fully deserved when making The New One pull out all the stops in that Haydock contest. Well suited by a flat left handed track on testing ground he could find conditions ideal on Saturday.

If the Alan King trained, William H Bonney turns out again, only fourteen days after a convincing win at Cheltenham, take note.


Trainer Alan King will be hoping for a Bonney bonanza

He had the favourite for that Prestbury Park heat, Wait For Me, 3 3/4L back in fifth, and meets him on only 5lbs worse terms, so should confirm the form with the Hobbs runner. A winner of three of his six starts over hurdles, it won’t come as any great surprise if this “gun slinger” is involved at the business end on Saturday.

Represented by the 5yo Zubayr, and the 6yo, Movewithetimes, the master of Ditcheat, Paul Nicholls, is finding it hard to split them. However with the outstanding recent record of handicap debutants/novices in mind, perhaps the one to concentrate on is the JP McManus owned Movewithetimes. A winner of the first of his three races over hurdles at Fontwell in October, he found all the trouble going twenty five days later, when finishing 5th, 3 3/4L behind the winner, Moon Racer at Cheltenham, (Ballyandy 3rd, 1L ahead of Movewithetimes). He won his last race, a Wincanton Novices comfortably six weeks ago, and is reported in good order. Considering that he was hampered on two occasions in the closing stages of that Cheltenham contest, meeting Ballyandy on 3lbs better terms for that one length deficit makes him look a well handicapped horse, and being a big strong type should be well suited by Newbury’s expansive galloping track.

Selection: Movewithetimes

E.W.         : Clyne (if abs Ballyandy)

Racing Tips Betfred Masters Handicap Chase


Jonjo’s Beg To Differ is the Oddsguru’s call at Sandown on Saturday

Betfred Masters Handicap Chase 3m Sandown Saturday – Jonjo O’Neill (pictured above), Paul Nicholls, Philip Hobbs, and Venetia Williams have all hit the back of the net in this contest over the past decade, and all four field viable looking candidates again on Saturday.

O’Neill is double handed at the time of writing with the 7yo, Beg To Differ, and the 8yo, Go Conquer. The latter, who has declined some recent engagements, presumably because of ground concerns, looks better at shorter anyhow, so with plenty of rain about, Jonjo’s, Beg To Differ, looks the one to concentrate on. Starting at odds of 16/1, 20/1, and 33/1 for his first three runs this term, little was expected, and indeed nothing was delivered, although he did out run those odds of 33/1 last time, when finishing 4th in the Welsh National. However, the 7yo has proved in the past to be a much better performer in the second half of the season, with all his four career wins coming in January, February, or March, and indeed, his sole Chase victory was achieved over course and distance in this month last year. That was only his fourth outing over the larger obstacles, where he had Saturday’s opponent, the Sandown specialist, Loose Chips, 4 1/2L back in second. The runner up reopposes on a pound worse terms so looks held. Beg To Differ started, as a not unfancied 11/1 shot, in a very competitive, 23 runner Cheltenham Festival handicap, 24 days later, racing off a 10lbs higher mark, but clipping heels, unshipped his rider. He races on Saturday off a 4lbs lower mark, (139) only 6lbs higher than for that previous Sandown victory, and with conditions likely to be in his favour, has to be one for the shortlist.

Course form is always important at the Esher track, so with a win and a place from his three Sandown appearances, the Paul Nicholls trained Irish Saint is worth considering. He has done all his winning over shorter than Saturday’s three miles, and it has to be said, that his two attempts at the distance haven’t given much encouragement that 3miles is his optimum trip, although he did finish 3rd, albeit 15L and a head behind Saphir Du Rheu and Carraig Mor in the nine runner 25f Grade1 Novices Chase at last years Aintree Festival. The jury remains out on his best trip, but what can be said in his favour is that Saturday’s right hand track, (has won six of his ten races going this way round) will be very much to his advantage, and heavy ground won’t be a problem. As the sole Ditcheat representative he is worth considering.

The Philip Hobbs trained Novice, Rock The Kasbah, was a more than useful hurdler, achieving a rating of 150, winning at distances up to 20f, but after only three outings over the larger obstacles, looks as if a step up in trip is required. A winner of his first Chase (Chepstow 2m3 1/2f good) from the talented Our Kaempfer, he was a staying on 3rd next time (Cheltenham 2m4 1/2f good), and last time was second to the very useful Politologue (Ascot 2m5f Gd-Sft) keeping on well from the last. He has made some jumping errors in his races but may well be helped by the slightly slower pace of Saturday’s trip. He is racing off a mark 4lbs lower than his hurdles rating, so if taking up the engagement, (also in 2.25San and 2.45 Wetherby) has to be of interest.

Otago Trail looks the most likely of the Venetia Williams pair but I just wonder if he will have recovered from his exertions behind the spring heeled Bristol De Mai only fourteen days ago, when he looked a very tired animal, trailing in 22L behind the impressive winner, to take the runner up spot.

The past decade hasn’t seen a graduate of the Seven Barrows academy in the winners enclosure, but I’m sure that headmaster Henderson, is hoping to put the matter right with his talented pupil, Vyta Du Roc. A winner of six of his seventeen starts, twice at Grade2 level over hurdles, he made a satisfactory start to the new term when finishing 3rd at Aintree in November. He ran a solid race three weeks later when finishing 6th, beaten 9L in The Hennessy off a mark of 143. He has to be forgiven a poor run at Cheltenham 34 days ago, but racing off a mark of 139 on Saturday, he does look well handicapped, and with the stable in rude health is on the shortlist.

Considering the very poor record of Willie Mullins trained handicap chasers in Britain over the years, one is reluctant to mention his 10yo, The Crafty Butcher, but the claims of this son of Vinnie Roe are undeniable. Having only his second run for the Irish genius, he stayed on strongly to finish second in a valuable Leopardstown handicap off a mark of 127, thirty nine days ago, so now, with the Master of Closutton calling the shots, it will come as no great surprise to see further progress being made. Off a mark of 132, giving him a nice racing weight of 10st6lbs at the weekend, he is hard to ignore.

Selection : Beg To Differ

E.W.          : The Crafty Butcher (if abs, Vyta Du Roc)