Historically known as The Great Yorkshire Chase, it was first run in 1948, and was won by Cool Customer, carrying the eye watering weight of 12-7. However, heavy burdens have been a serious bar to success in recent renewals, with the Henrietta Knight trained Calgary Bay (11-11) in 2012, being the only animal to carry more than 11-02 to victory since Speaker Weatherill in 1998. Older horses have a poor record in the race with only five in double figures obliging in the entire history of the contest. Proven stamina at three miles has proved essential, as Doncaster with it’s long strait, is a track where they tend to start racing in earnest early, and it takes a true stayer to get home. Another couple of significant relevant stats are that all of the last ten winners had winning form going left handed, and there hasn’t been a winning Northern trainer since Richard Guest won with Tyneandthyneagain fourteen years ago.
One horse that fits plenty of the above criteria is the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Bigbadjohn. The 9yo was sent off favourite for last years renewal when trained by Rebecca Curtis, but never travelled after a bad mistake at the sixth, and slipped up on the following bend. He put up an excellent performance next time out winning a Grade2 Ascot Novices Chase over three miles but alas, his next five races have been very disappointing. However he can be excused as the Curtis yard has been hopelessly out of form all season. He recently joined the Naunton powerhouse, and it wouldn’t come as the biggest surprise, if Nigel, who has won the race on two previous occasions, ( The Young Hustler 1993 and Beau 2000) didn’t effect a Renaissance in the horse, who is 3lbs better in than last year, and has only the featherweight of 10-00 to carry.
Paul Nicholls has also trained the winner twice, (Colourful Life 2005 and Big Fella Thanks 2009) and of his two contenders, the 9yo, Warriors Tale (pictured) has the more taking profile. He was only beaten a neck by the talented Gold Present (Newbury 2m6 1/2f Dec9) where he was staying on stoutly. He has only been raised 4lbs for Saturday and as his Newbury conqueror, having won at Ascot since, is now on a mark 13lbs higher, the Nicholls animal looks very well treated. He has won over three miles and had the pace to win over shorter. With a nice racing weight of 11-0 he looks one for the shortlist.
The Emma Lavelle trained Vibrato Valtat has been rated as high as 162 in the past, but having failed to catch the judges eye since November 2015, had dropped to a mark of 145 last time out. He showed then that there was still plenty of petrol in the tank when putting in an excellent performance he ran Mustmeetalady to a neck over Saturday’s course and distance. He meets his conqueror on 2lbs better terms on Saturday, and only raised four pounds to 149 giving him 11-02 to carry, has to be worth considering.
Despite jumping badly out to the left, the Neil Mulholland trained, The Young Master put in one of his better efforts for some time when finishing third behind Fountains Windfall and Ballykan at Kempton two weeks ago. He has been dropped to a mark of 139, nine pounds lower than his highest winning mark, giving him a nice racing weight of 10-6 with a further 3lbs to come from his talented owner/Jockey, Mr S Walley-Cohen. Back on a left handed track worth a second look!
The Kim Bailey trained 8yo, Thumb Stone Blues, has only had the three outings over fences, and put up a very creditable effort on his handicap debut last time out,
(Catterick 3m1f Nov27). Jumping soundly he finished second off a mark of 132. Racing off the same mark at the weekend, there could be more to come over the larger obstacles from this very genuine and consistent animal, (has won three and been placed ten times from his fourteen races under rules).
We have to rewind ten races to the last time the Nicky Henderson trained, L’Ami Rouge (pictured), jumped a fence in public. In the meantime he has been making hay over the smaller obstacles, winning twice, including at the highest level, and as a result is now rated 7lbs lower over fences. Mind you, he was no slouch steeplechasing, winning twice at distances of 2m1f and 2m4f. Judging by his strong staying performances over hurdles, he seems sure to be well suited by Saturday’s trip, and will undoubtedly have been well schooled at the Seven Barrows Academy and deserves his place at the top of the market.
Selection : L’Ami Rouge
E.W. : Warriors Tale