Betfair Chase Tips (Grade1) 3m1 1/2f Haydock Saturday

Last week’s E.W. Selection, Starchitect, put up a brave effort to only go down by a neck to the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained, Splash of Ginge, in The BetVictor Gold Cup. The 10/1 shot looked the most likely winner before two out, but meeting both fences wrong, he just couldn’t get past the Naunton runner who revelled in the testing conditions. Neither was Starchitect’s cause helped by the overnight rise of 5lbs in the weights, putting him over the 11 stone mark, a barrier which has become increasingly difficult to overcome in this contest. However it was the Pipe horse’s best effort to date over fences, and he is one to bear in mind for The Caspian Caviar Chase over course and distance in a couple of weeks time.

Despite there being only seven runners declared for Saturday’s Grade1 Betfair Chase, it is the classiest field of chasers assembled so far this season, and any race featuring The Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Sizing John, the wonderful Cue Card and the rising star, Bristol De Mai has to be worth travelling a long way to see. Not that Saturday’s contest is by any means a three horse contest with none of the other four runners easy to dismiss, and with a £1000000 bonus on offer if any of the contenders can go on to win The King GeorgeV1 Chase on Boxing Day, and the Gold Cup itself, expect a hard fought contest at the weekend.

When trained by Henry De Bromhead, Sizing John was mostly campaigned at around two miles, and indeed he scored a Grade1 victory over the trip back in December 2014. However since Jessica Harrington assumed responsibilities, he has been trained as a stayer, and has won all of his last four races. The victory in Cheltenham’s Blue Riband was fantastic and connections showed great confidence in the horse, not to pull up stumps for the season, but go for the Irish equivalent at The Punchestown Festival five weeks later. He duly delivered, albeit narrowly, beating the tough Djakadam by a short head. He hasn’t been out since that stirring Punchestown win two hundred and thirteen days ago, but the talented Jessica Harrington knows how to get them fit first time up, and reports the horse to have had three trips out to racecourses, including a two mile workout over fences at Naas, and a mile and a half gallop at Punchestown last Sunday. Sizing John has won twice in the past after a similar break so a near peak performance can be expected on Saturday.

The all conquering Gordon Elliot runs his 9yo, Outlander. He is not the most consistent of animals and surprised many when winning a Grade1 Chase from Road to Respect at Down Royal three weeks ago at odds of 16/1, although it has to be said, that the favourite didn’t run his race, and the runner up looked unsuited by the right handed track. He is well held by Sizing John on Cheltenham and Punchestown running but it is worth remembering that this inconsistent type put in an excellent effort when beating the very useful, Don Poli at Leopardstown last Christmas. He seems to be at his best when the mud is flying so should have his conditions on Saturday.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained, Bristol De Mai did the Oddsguru followers a good turn when winning The Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby three weeks ago. He responded bravely to maximum pressure from the saddle, and put up his best performance to date, getting home by 1/2L from stable companion Blaklion to whom he was conceding six pounds. As he usually needs an outing to bring him to peak fitness, further progress can be anticipated, and with the memory of his hugely impressive, twenty two lengths victory over the course, (3m soft) last January, still fresh in the mind, the upwardly mobile 6yo, looks the one to beat. (I hope some of you took our advice, (Badgers Ale Blog) and availed of the 4/1 on offer at the time.)

The evergreen Cue Card won this in 2013, 2015, and last year, and he seemed to be travelling as well as anything when tipping over at the fifteenth in The Charlie Hall. It was too far from home to draw any firm conclusions but the fact remains that it was the eleven years old, and rising twelve, Cue Card’s second fall in three races, and I just wonder if, after thirty eight races over fences, the old warrior is crying enough.

The step up in trip should help Garry Moore’s 7yo, Traffic Fluide and as he handles heavy ground is worth a second look but does need to find the best part of a stone.

Selection : Bristol De Mai

Danger : Sizing John

John Gray

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Racing Tips BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase 2m 4 1/2f Cheltenham Saturday

Last week’s selection, Present Man, never put a foot wrong under an inspired ride from young Bryony Frost. In a sustained battle up the straight, the runner up, Final Nudge, looked the most likely winner, but under sustained pressure from the daughter of Jimmy Frost, who himself won the 1996 renewal on Coome Hill, the Nicholls 7yo kept finding and held on to give the Ditcheat yard their eighth success in the race, and indeed Oddsguru’s third consecutive winner. There promises to be plenty more to come from the brave Present Man, and with his excellent jumping a huge asset, is one to bear in mind for Aintree next April.

Saturday’s BetVictor Gold Cup at headquarters, has a very open look to it, but is a contest with some pretty strong trends, which might make finding the winner a little easier. Weight in recent renewals has been very significant. Historically, plenty of winners defied burdens in excess of 11-7 but in the last decade only last year’s winner Tarquin Du Seuil and the 2012 winner Al Ferof have carried more than 11st to victory. Age has also been a big factor, with animals aged seven or younger, winning eight of the last ten renewals. A proven ability to handle the idiosyncratic track has been a great pointer in the past so good previous form over Prestbury Park’s undulations should be noted.

One that fits the trends very neatly is the Paul Nicholls trained 5yo Romain De Senam. He was only beaten a head by Diego Du Charmil in the 2016 renewal of the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, demonstrating his aptitude for the course, and his ability to handle the demands of a big handicap. A winner of three Hurdle races he achieved a rating of 139 in that discipline. He has taken a little time to get his act together over fences but a step up in trip to around 2 1/2 miles has brought about definite improvement, and he has won his last two races, most recently, four weeks ago, at Stratford (2m 5f) off a mark of 139. This young French bred is progressing nicely, and could be the second five year old to win for the master of Ditcheat. ( Nicholls has won the race twice before with Al Ferof in 2012 and with the 5yo Caid Du Berlais in 2014).

The name Martin Pipe, is on this particular role of honour an amazing eight times, but to date, son David has only got up there on the one occasion, (Great Endeavour 2011). However they clearly know what is required down Nicholashayne way, and they field a live looking contender this year, the 6yo Starchitect. By Sea The Stars out of a Saddlers Wells mare, he is bred to win a Derby, but alas, all he could achieve on the Flat was a second in a Curragh Maiden. However he did much better over hurdles, winning three of his ten races, and achieving an eye catching rating of 150. He has won two of his seven starts over fences, last time, comfortably taking a Stratford Handicap, (2m3 1/2f Gd) off a mark of 140, sixteen days ago. He has never won at Prestbury Park but has run respectably on all his four appearances there. He races on Saturday on a mark 6lbs lower than his hurdles mark, giving him a nice racing weight of 10-11 and is well worth considering.

Having only won this once ( Tranquil Sea 2009) in the past thirty five years, it hasn’t been a great race for the Irish, but they do have a strong looking contender this term with Alan Fleming’s 7yo Tully East. Fourth of twenty two in a two mile handicap Hurdle at the 2016 Festival, he put up a superb performance in his only other course appearance when winning The Novices Handicap Chase at this year’s March extravaganza. Run over Saturday’s course and distance, the son of Shantou took it up after the last, and stayed on well to to beat Saturday’s opponent, Gold Present by 1 1/4L. The runner up, on 6lbs better terms has to be respected, but Tully East, who had a nice pipe opener over hurdles thirty one days ago, racing in the colours of a great supporter of the “Winter Game”,Barry Connell, is fancied to confirm the placings.

Nigel Twiston-Davies has won the race three times, including uniquely, with the subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Imperial Commander, so his contender, the recent course winner, Foxtail Hill has to be considered. Having his first run for over six months he held on tenaciously to win by a neck from Saturday’s opponent Le Prezien(2miles Gd) three weeks ago. This bold front runner will be well suited by the extra distance on Saturday but it does seem a big ask in a contest like Saturday’s, for the 8yo to make all, off a mark seven pounds higher than he has ever won off.

The runner up, Le Prezien, meets Foxtail Hill on a pound better terms on Saturday, and this stoutly bred 6yo, who has run the top class, Yorkhill, to 2 1/4L in a Grade1 Aintree Hurdle (2m4f Soft), is also sure to be suited by the step up in trip, and looks a strong second string to the Ditcheat bow.

Selection : Tully East

E.W. : Starchitect

John Gray

Badgers Ales Trophy Handicap Chase 3m1f Wincanton Saturday

What a progressive animal last week’s winner of The Charlie Hall Chase, Bristol De Mai is! He came to the second last absolutely cruising, but, not getting it perfect, he seemed to idle as his stable companion Blaklion, in receipt of 6lbs rallied, and came with a strong looking challenge. The 6/1 shot responded in the gamest fashion, and was comfortably in charge at the line, leaving followers of The Oddsguru blog on good terms with themselves. He looks to be a horse very much on the up, and antepost backers could do worse than take the 4/1 available for his next assignment, The Bet Fair Chase at Haydock, run over the course and distance where the Twiston-Davies gelding, cruised home by 22l from Otago Trail last January.

Paul Nicholls has won The Badgers Ale Trophy seven times, and indeed was very unlucky not to make it eight, when his contender, Southfield Theatre, toppled over at the last with the race at his mercy in last year’s renewal. He fields three runners, including the unlucky Southfield Theatre this time, and none of them can be easily dismissed. The aforementioned has only run the once since his unfortunate fall, finishing tailed off behind Theatre Guide at Cheltenham in December, but in his favour he is only 3lbs higher than last year.

The second Ditcheat runner, is the 6yo Mr Mix who boasts a 100% record on the track from his two course appearances, and he gained that second course win in workmanlike fashion over 3m2 1/2f at the venue thirteen days ago (Class3 Handicap good). That was only his fourth outing over fences and he had last year’s Badger Ales Victor, Gentleman Jon six and a quarter lengths back in third. This young French bred was rated on 141 over hurdles but has clearly found his metier steeplechasing, and if turning up on Saturday has to be seriously considered off a mark of 144.

We can assume that the third of the Nicholls contenders, Present Man, will be as ready as the master of Ditcheat can get him, as he is owned by the Chairman of the sponsoring brewery, Mark Wood, who would dearly love to repeat his victory in 2010 which he won with the Nicholls trained Meanus Dandy. Present Man only got as far as the second fence in last years renewal where he unseated claimer Jack Sherwood, but put up an excellent effort next time under the same rider winning a solidly run Novices Chase at Ascot by 1 3/4L from the useful Dark Flame. By Presenting out of a Strong Gale mare he was always going to be a chaser so rated 7lbs above his hurdles mark of 135, he looks well treated. Sure to have benefited from a nice pipe opener twenty days ago, winning a 2m5f Kempton Novices Hurdle under Bryony Frost, he looks one for the shortlist.

The Fergal O’Brien trained Master Dee also holds an engagement at Aintree at the weekend but if running here has to be of interest. Not the most consistent of jumpers, the fact that he has never finished out of the first three in all ten races over fences, speaks volumes for his powers of recuperation. He put in an excellent effort last October to beat the now rated 155, San Benedetto at Ascot, and he put in another decent performance last time, finishing third in a 2m5 1/2f Market Rasen Handicap which is working out well. The runner up, Guitar Pete, won by seven lengths at Wetherby last Friday, and the fourth home, Play The Ace won at Stratford on Thursday, all of which makes Master Dee look a well handicapped animal on a mark of 145. Saturday’s trip is a slight concern but he was only beaten a neck over the distance in a Warwick Chase, and has won a three mile point to point and a three miles and half a furlong hurdle race.

Neil Mulholland was unlucky to have the 2014 renewal taken off him when The Young Master was disqualified on a technicality, but perhaps compensation awaits with his 7yo, Pilgrims Bay. Well suited by going right handed, the 7yo put in his best effort last term when winning a valuable Grade3 Kempton Handicap (3mGood) last February off a mark of 130. He disappointed at The Cheltenham Festival but as he has never won going left handed can be forgiven. Saturday’s mark of 140, giving him a nice racing weight of 10-9 looks fair, and he could be the one to put the smile back on his excellent trainers face.

Selection: Present Man

E.W. : Master Dee (if abs Pilgrims Bay)

John Gray

bet365 Charlie Hall Chase Tips (Grade2) 3m Wetherby Saturday

It was great to see Aidan O’Brien beat the world record for Group1 races won, in last week’s Racing Post Trophy, particularly as he achieved the record with Oddsguru’s selection, Saxon Hero. Aidan’s horse looked in trouble when Roaring Lion challenged and headed him at the furlong marker, but despite the Gosden horse doing himself no favours by hanging badly, I felt that Saxon Hero showed his class, quickening again, and was comfortably in charge at the line. The son of the fabulous Japanese stallion, Deep Impact, he is favourite for next year’s Derby, but as his dam, Multiply, was best at a mile, breeding would suggest that ten furlongs might prove to be the colt’s optimum trip and for those thinking of having an antepost bet, a waiting brief is advised.

Saturday’s Charlie Hall Chase, run over three miles with eighteen fences in the way, presents an entirely different challenge, but has attracted some of the best exponents of “The Winter Game” around, including the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Coneygree and the evergreen veteran, Cue Card.

Hopes are high that Coneygree will become the first winner of Cheltenham’s Blue Riband to grace the field since See More Business in 2000, but he does need an easy surface to take part. However with soft in the current going description it is hoped that Malcom Bradstock’s marvellous 10yo will line up on Saturday. He was the first Novice since the Pat Taffe trained Captain Christy in 1974 to win The Gold Cup, and that effort in 2015 was all the more remarkable, as it was only his fifth race over the larger obstacles. Due to injury he has only raced three times since his Cheltenham victory, winning at Sandown in November 2015, finishing third behind Cue Card at Haydock a year later, and showing that there was still plenty left in the locker when only beaten a short head and a length and a half by this year’s Gold Cup winner, Sizing John, and Djakadam, at The Punchestown Festival last April. He was entered for The Kerry National in September so should be pretty straight for this his seasonal debut, and due to the conditions of the race, he receives six pounds from Cue Card so must go there with every chance.

It is hard to believe that it will be eight years next March since the evergreen Cue Card won the Festival Bumper at Cheltenham, but Colin Tizzard’s amazing 11yo just keeps on winning, and has amassed an astonishing £1,372,065 in prize money for his lucky connections. He won The Charlie Hall in 2015 but could only manage to finish third to Irish Cavalier, (Oddsguru’s Selection at 16/1) in last years renewal. Although subsequently winning two Grade1 contests, and only beaten a neck in a third, he has a tough looking task on Saturday giving 6lbs to Coneygree.

Nigel Twiston-Davies has won this three times, with Tipping Tim in 1992, and twice with Ollie Magern, in 2005 and 2007. He looks to hold a strong hand again this year with last year’s fourth, the 8yo Blaklion, and the two years younger, Bristol De Mai. The former went on to finish an excellent 4th in The Grand National, and as a course and distance winner of a Grade2 Chase, has to be of interest. However he does seem to need a testing surface at three miles, and with little rain in the forecast Nigel’s best chance of bringing the prize home to Naunton for a fourth time would seem to lie with Bristol De Mai.

A winner of five of his fourteen chases, he has shown all his best form in his three seasons racing, prior to the big Spring festivals. Last term was no different, and he put up his best performance of the season when winning a 3mile Grade2 Chase at Haydock (soft) off a mark of 154 by 22L and 3 1/2L from Otago Trail, and Bishops road, in January. As the runner up won a Grade2 Sandown Handicap next time out the form looks strong, and despite a couple of subsequent lacklustre attempts by Nigel’s 6yo, I suspect there is plenty more to come from Bristol De Mai, and as one who can go well after a break has to be on the shortlist.

Another who can go well fresh, is the Brian Ellison trained Definitly Red, and he was particularly impressive when winning by 14L from The Last Samurai at Doncaster in March. He was subsequently sent off a very well backed 10/1 shot for The Grand National, but was badly hampered at Beechers on the first circuit, and was pulled up. He looked an improved animal in that Doncaster heat, and with a score of a win and a second from his two Wetherby appearances is well worth considering.

A winner of seven of his first eight races, including The World Hurdle by 1 1/2L from that marvellous Mare, Annie Power in 2014, great hopes were entertained for Jonjo O’Neill’s 9yo, More Of That. However since his second win in as many races over fences in December 2015 he has failed to get his head in front, and indeed the only slight ray of light in his last six outings, has been his 6th in this year’s Gold Cup, 9 3/4L behind the winner, Sizing John. Pulled up at the last in The Grand National, connections continue to persevere with the 9yo, and it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise, if this once outstanding animal figured at the weekend.

Selection : Bristol De Mai

E.W. : Definitly Red

John Gray