Peter Marsh Handicap Chase Racing Tips (Grade2) 3m1 1/2f Haydock Saturday

First run in 1981, the first nine runnings saw an amazing four of the winners (Little Owl 1981, Bregawn (main picture) 1983, The Thinker 1987 and Jodami 1993) going on to victory in The same years Cheltenham Gold Cup, (the race was abandoned in 1984 1988 and 1991). However those were the days of the northern powerhouse in National Hunt Racing, when legends like Peter Easterby, Michael Dickinson, Arthur Stephenson and Peter Beaumont had the talent, and just as important, the ammunition, not only to compete with their powerful southern counterparts, but beat them at the highest level. Alas that golden age is long gone, and with the loss of prestige that Saturday’s contest has suffered over the years, it has become a race in which the older more experienced handicapper has come to dominate. With the exception of last year’s 4/1 winner, the 6yo Bristol De Mai (Oddsguru’s selection), no animal younger than eight has passed the post in front since Peter Easterby’s 7yo Scotton Banks in 1996, and indeed, with the exception of last year’s winner, the younger brigade are zero from thirteen in the last decade. Another very solid statistic has been the number of winners who had previous form over the track. Twelve of the last nineteen winners boasted winning form, either over fences or hurdles at the track, and indeed seven of the last ten winners had either won or been second at the venue.

One that certainly fits the trends is the Philip Hobbs trained 8yo Rock The Kasbah. A winner over hurdles on his only course appearance (2m3f soft November 2015) he made the ideal start to this year’s campaign winning a Class 2 Chepstow Handicap in October following a five and a half month break off a mark of 142. He was taken out of The Welsh National due to the very heavy ground, but it is also worth noting that the yard had been going through a very untypical, lean spell at the time. With the stable going much better now, and as he clearly goes well after a break, he could just be one of the freshest in the field, and doesn’t look too badly treated on a mark of 149.

2016 Peter Marsh oddsguru preview.

The Stuart Coltherd trained 9yo, Captain Redbeard boasts a record of two wins and a second from his three course appearances. He won last time out, here at Haydock, (2m7fHeavy) four weeks ago by six lengths from Catamaran Du Seuil off a mark of 135 and has been raised a quite severe looking nine pounds, but in his favour he will be partnered by his usual rider, the five pounds claiming Sam Coltherd, who knows the horse so well.

The James Moffat trained 12yo, Highland lodge is well into the veteran stage but has only raced twenty four times under rules and showed last time out there was still plenty of life in the “old dog” yet. He put in a great round of jumping, finishing third of fifteen to Blaklion on heavy ground over the Grand National fences six weeks ago. He did finish 14L behind the winner but was still in contention at the last so off the same mark on ground that he will relish with a nice racing weight of 10-9 it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see him involved at the business end on Saturday.

Being only a 7yo and with no course experience you have to say that the stats do not speak in favour of the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Tintern Theatre (pictured above) but it is worth remembering that his brilliant trainer has already defied the age statistic twice, winning with the 6yo Bristol De Mai last year, and with the 7yo Earth Summit in 1995. Tintern Theatre has met with mixed fortunes in his five efforts over the larger obstacles to date, falling once, and unseating once, but his other three efforts were quite promising, particularly last time when winning a competitive heat at Kempton off a mark of 134 with some authority. He has only been raised 4lbs for Saturday giving him a nice racing weight of 10-9 so if he copes with the conditions, the prize could be going back to Naunton for a third time.

David Pipe won this in 2010 with the 12yo Our Vic and is represented at the weekend by the talented 9yo Vieux Lion Rouge. He is two from three over the course and the last time he appeared at the Merseyside venue he took the notable scalp of Blaklion, and races on Saturday off a mark only four pounds higher. He hasn’t set the world alight with his two runs this term but as a double Class1 and Graded winner who thrives in testing conditions, has to be worth a second look.

The Venetia Williams (pictured) trained 8yo, Yala Enki won a Class2 Kelso Handicap over 3m2f in bog like conditions off a mark of 146 and races on Saturday off a mere 1lb higher. His three subsequent appearances haven’t been exactly promising, but he hasn’t had his conditions so with testing going a certainty, this previous course winner may be in for another payday.

Selection : Yala Enki

E.W. : Vieux Lion Rouge

John Gray

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Coral Welsh Grand National Tips (Handicap) 3m5 1/2f Chepstow Saturday

Following rainfall of biblical proportions the Welsh Grand National, scheduled for last Wednesday, the 27th, the annual “slog in the mud” was cancelled, but thanks to a flexible executive, and cooperation from The British Horse Racing Authority, the race has been saved and is due to be run on Saturday. Reports from the track at the time of writing are positive, so unless there is an unexpected deterioration in the weather, the contest should be underway sometime after ten past two on Saturday. First run at a track near Cardiff way back in eighteen ninety five, Chepstow has been the home of the gruelling marathon since nineteen forty nine, when the winner was ridden by the “Royal Jockey”/ Thriller Scribbler, Dick Francis, of Devon Loch fame. Dick Francis Two legends of the Winter Game, Martin Pipe and Jenny Pitman, had great success in the nineteen eighties and nineties with eight victories between them, but in recent renewals, it has been the Lee family, (dad Richard, and daughter, Kerry) who have been the yard to follow. They have won three of the last six renewals, and their, Bell House Operation, with two solid looking candidates in Bishops Road and Alfie Spinner, must entertain serious hopes of adding to their haul this year.

The ten year old, Bishops Road, did manage to win a couple of “Bumpers”, a Maiden Hurdle and a Chase when trained in Ireland by Henry De Bromhead, but transferred to Kerry Lee in December 2015 and stepped up in trip, he met with immediate success, winning his first two races, including a Grade3 Haydock Handicap over three miles four and a half furlongs on heavy ground, by an aggregate of twenty six lengths. He drew a blank in his next six races, but put up a highly satisfactory effort on his reappearance following an eight month break, when running Saturday’s leading fancy, Beware The Bear, to two and a half lengths over an inadequate two miles seven and a half furlongs at the beginning of December. He meets the winner on four pounds better terms and off a mark only two pounds higher than for that impressive Haydock victory this strong stayer who will love the conditions is well worth considering.

The evergreen Alfie Spinner, thirteen last Monday, was second to Wild West Wind in the Trial race for this (Chepstow 2m 7 1/2f heavy Dec9). A horse in it’s teens has never won the Welsh National but after competing in thirty chases the son of Afflora looks as good as ever, and as a real mud lark, racing off a nice weight of ten stone seven, it wouldn’t come as the biggest surprise if he managed to become the first.

Nicky Henderson has never won this contest but looks to hold a strong hand with current market leader, Beware The Bear. As we saw above, he won the Trial for this by two and a half lengths from Bishops Road, and as he also was coming back from a break, further progress can be anticipated. Having won three of his five starts over fences he is clearly progressive, and as a son of Shantou, out of the Be My Native mare, Native Bid, staying is going to be the name of his game, so he has plenty to recommend him on Saturday. My only slight reservation would be the very likely heavy ground. The only time he has raced on a heavy surface he duly won, but it was only a three runner Bangor Maiden Hurdle and the runner up is only rated on 110.

The Philip Hobbs trained eight year old, Rock The Kasbah just loves Chepstow, and he can boast a record of three wins and a second from his four course appearances, including last time out,(2m7 1/2f Ch good/soft) in October when beating petrou by two lengths off a mark of 142. He has paid the price for that success and races off a mark of 149 on Saturday giving him 11-10 to shoulder at the weekend. However he is still on a mark a pound lower than his hurdles rating and as he is by that strong influence for stamina, Shirocco, out of The In The Wings mare, Impudent, who won over two miles plus on soft to heavy ground when trained by Willie Mullins, should find Saturday’s trip right up his street. Due to the postponement of the race, he will have the benefit of Richard Johnson’s assistance from the saddle, as the champion jockey, having been stood down by the doctor for concussion following a fall at Ludlow, would have had to forego the ride last Wednesday.

The Michael Scudamore (pictured below) trained ten year old, Mysteree, got to within one and a half lengths of Chase The Spud in the Midland Grand National (4m 1/2f soft) last March and meets the winner on thirteen pounds better terms on Saturday. Michael Scudamore's Mysteree has a fine chance of landing the spoils.As he had previously beaten the same horse by three and a quarter lengths (Haydock 3m4f heavy) when meeting him on the same terms as he will at the weekend, he does look well handicapped. It is a slight concern that he hasn’t been seen since that good run in The Midland Grand National but that emphatic Haydock victory over Chase The Spud came after an eight month break, so perhaps the plan was always going to be, to line up as a fresh horse.

The 8yo Pobbles Bay, trained by Welsh Maestro Evan Williams, won the Novices Chase on this card last year off a mark of 139. He reappeared over an inadequate two and a half miles at Aintree in November finishing a well beaten ninth, but the evidence of his three quarter length second to the useful Flintham over 3m2f in a Warwick Class2 Handicap Hurdle on heavy ground two years ago, strongly suggests that staying trips should be his forte. Only five pounds higher than for his course win he is another to consider.

Selection : Mysteree

E.W. : Pobbles Bay

John Gray