It was very sad to see Starchitect break down before jumping the penultimate fence in last Saturday’s Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. There is little doubt that had he jumped the last two fences he looked the most likely winner, but full credit to our e.w. selection, Guitar Pete, (available at 20/1 when first advised). He himself had suffered the other side of Steeplechasing’s capricious coin, when nearly brought down at the first in The BetVictor Gold Cup three weeks earlier. And let’s not forget the sterling effort of Clan Des Obeaux, who despite an early mistake, and struggling to go the pace, rallied to such effect, that he was only beaten two and three quarters lengths, giving the talented winner twenty four pounds. Surely one to look out for over three miles! Let’s hope that Boxingday’s King George V1 Chase, which has all the ingredients to be the race of the season to date, is tragedy free, and all contenders return uninjured, to fight another day.
First run in 1937 in honour of the new King George V1 following the abdication of his brother Edward, it is the second most prestigious Chase in the calendar, and has been won by most of the greats of the Winter Game. A particular feature of the contest has been the number of winners who have repeated their success the following year,
(Pendil, 72 73 Captain Christy, 74 75 Silver Buck, 79, 80 Wayward Lad, 82 83 Desert Orchid, 88 89 90 The Fellow, 91 92 One Man, 95 96 Kicking King, 04 05 Kauto Star, 06 07 08 09 and Silviniaco Conti, 2012 2013), all of which must make last year’s winner, Thistlecrack, of particular interest.
A late developer, he didn’t make his racecourse debut until he was six but quickly made up for lost time and was the champion staying hurdler of 2016. Transferred to the larger obstacle he won his first four races, and put up a terrific effort for a novice, when winning last year’s King George V1 Chase by three and a quarter lengths from stable mate Cue Card, on only his fifth outing over fences. He was sent off at 4/9 thirty three days later in The Gold Cup Trial at Cheltenham, but was outstayed by the brave Many Clouds, who payed the ultimate price for his gallant effort. Thistlecrack wasn’t seen again until reappearing in a Newbury Hurdle race four weeks ago, but despite going off the 11/10 favourite, finished a well beaten fifth of the six runners. Connections feel that the race was needed and expect a much improved performance on Tuesday, but it was hardly the ideal prep for such a major contest, so perhaps the Tizzard Clan’s best chance of adding to their two previous victories, lie with their second string, the seven year old Fox Norton.
The son of Lando was campaigned exclusively at around two miles by both previous handlers, Nick Williams and Neil Mulholland, but following a marvellous close second to Special Tiara in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Festival, Mr Tizzard stepped him up to two and a half miles for a Grade1 Chase at Aintree. He won easily by six lengths and a length from Sub Lieutenant, and Traffic Fluide, strongly suggesting that Tuesday’s trip should be within his compass. He followed that Aintree win with further success at the top level at The Punchestown Festival, back over two miles. He made a winning reappearance at Cheltenham in November, and followed up with an excellent, staying on second in The Tingle Creek eighteen days ago, again suggesting that a step up in trip was required. There is plenty of stamina in Fox Norton’s pedigree as Sire, Lando, twice German “Horse of the year” is a past winner of the 2,500 metre Japan Cup, and his dam, Natt Musik, as a daughter of Kendor, is similarly stoutly bred, all of which augurs well for Tuesday’s trip, and It will be fascinating to see how this dual Grade1 winner performs over three miles on Tuesday.
Bristol de Mai (main picture) has been a great friend to the Oddsguru blog, winning both The Charlie Hall and Betfair Chase for us in November, so let’s hope he can keep the ball rolling, on probably faster ground, and racing right handed. Mind you, on the evidence to hand, there is no reason why he shouldn’t, as he has performed with credit in the past on good, and good/soft ground, and has won the Grade1 Scilly Isles Chase at right handed Sandown. The reality is, that at the age of six he is an improved performer, and just hasn’t had the opportunity to show it yet on faster ground. It was a scintillating performance last time at Haydock, and the apple, of Trainer Nigel’s eye, may well lead them all a merry dance on Tuesday.
With the ammunition he has had to hand in the past, it is perhaps a little surprising that master trainer Henderson, has only hit the back of the net in this on two occasions,
(Long Run 2010 2012) but he certainly has a strong candidate this year with the 8yo, Might Bite. The son of Scorpion would have cantered up in the Grade1 Novices Chase on this Card last year but for falling at the last. He has won his subsequent four chases but did give his supporters a fright, when idling and hanging badly right in The RSA Chase at the Festival, and only holding on by a nose, from stable mate Whisper. However he went on to further Grade1 success at Aintree, and made a satisfactory return to action with a facile win at Sandown forty six days ago. But for his unfortunate fall at last year’s meeting, Might Bite would have a 100% record from his three races going right handed, and it would come as no surprise if he rings up a third victory for the Master of Seven Barrows.
The Nick Williams trained, Tea For Two, likes it around the Sunbury track. He ran a very solid race last year finishing fourth, (beaten 3 1/2L) and has won on all his other three course appearances, including the Grade1 Novices Chase alluded to above, in 2015. He achieved further success at the top level at Aintree last April, and is easily forgiven his last two defeats, behind Smad Place on his reappearance in October, and behind Bristol De Mai in the Haydock mud. Back on his favourite track on decent ground he could be interesting.
Selection :Bristol de Mai
Danger : Might Bite