Bet 365 Edinburgh National Handicap Chase 4m1f Musselburgh Saturday

edinburgh national handicap

Aerial view of the Edinburgh track

With racing’s major focus concentrated on Leopardstown’s “Dublin Racing Festival” this weekend, the UK’s most interesting offering is north of the border, where the award winning seaside course of Musselburgh, stages the Edinburgh National. The track usually provides some of the best winter ground available anywhere in these islands and connections of course specialist, Wonderful Charm, will be hoping that his preferred, decent ground, again prevails at the weekend.

Now a 12yo, the previous Grade2 winning chaser, (rated as high as 159 in the past) has made a real success of his reinvention as a Hunter Chaser, winning 5 of his 9 starts, including both times (2017 and 2018) he has competed in the race in that discipline, on Saturday’s Card. The fact that he hasn’t been on a racecourse since winning at Stratford 246 days ago is of little concern as he has won 4 times following a break, and we can be pretty sure that master trainer, Paul Nicholls, will have the son of Poliglote ready to go. Racing off a mark of 137, with his part owner, the excellent amateur, Sam Waley-Cohen taking another 3lbs off, he looks one to be interested in.

Since changing ownership, and transferring to Dan Skelton’s Warwickshire yard last May, the career of the 8yo, Very First Time, has undergone something of a renaissance. Having failed to win or been placed in 9 runs for Tim Easterby since winning at Newcastle in December 2017, he has now won 3 of his 6 starts for the Alcester handler, and really caught the eye when winning at Doncaster last Saturday. Out the back, and seemingly under pressure five fences out, his prospects looked fairly bleak, but two fences later was travelling like the winner, and taking it up at the last went away for a very comfortable 6L win. He is 7lbs higher in a better race on Saturday, and his pedigree wouldn’t inspire huge confidence, (out of a sprinting bred mare) that racing over 4m1f was ideal, but there is no denying that the further he went last week the better he travelled. He is in the ownership of a partnership, (The Can’t Say No) led by one of the shrewdest and luckiest in the game, (Marmo) and it will come as no surprise whatever if connections are seen yet again, in their customary post race pose, ordering lashings of “Bubbly” on Saturday afternoon.

The Philip Kirby trained 8yo, Little Bruce, stayed on well to win a Catterick marathon over 3m6f (Soft) by 3L from Saturday’s opponent, Sumkindofking 22 days ago. He meets the runner up on 6lbs worse terms on Saturday and it could be close between them, but having won over 3m6 1/2f at Huntingdon, (right handed like Musselburgh) with his head in his chest last March, and being by the four times Gold Cup winner Yeats, Philip Kirby’s 8yo has much the stronger staying profile, and is preferred.

The Warren Greatrex trained Bob Mahler comfortably beat Little Bruce by 7L in a
3m1 1/2f Cheltenham Handicap last April and meets the Kirby horse on 3lbs better terms. However, perhaps too much shouldn’t be read into that result as the runner up never looked comfortable on Prestbury Park’s undulations, and is clearly much more at home on a flat track. It’s also worth noting that the Greatrex animal has never won going right handed, and has never raced beyond 3m1 1/2f.

Richard Hobson’s 8yo, Chic Name, has run well in his last two races, both over Cheltenham’s Cross Country Course, finishing 4/15 and 3/10 and a reproduction of his effort when winning a 3m6 1/2f Perth Handicap in April 2018 off a mark of 126 would make him a serious threat. 2 years older, and a more mature animal, he is only 2 lbs higher on Saturday, and with the talented and inform Jonathan Burke doing the steering, with a nice racing weight of 10-10, is another to definitely be interested in.

Michael Scudamore’s 9yo Some Chaos confirmed earlier impressions that staying was to be his game when landing a 3m2f Kelso Handicap off a mark of 138 by 2 1/2L from the now 150 rated Blue Flight. The son of St Leger winner, Brian Boru, failed to make any impression in The Ladbroke Trophy last time but could be a different proposition if getting his preferred good ground on Saturday. However he has quite a task with the steadier of 11-11 on his back.

If Co Meath trainer, Dermot Mc Loughlin sends his 8yo, Freewheelin Dylan over, take note! A winner of 4 of his 14 starts over fences, (3 of them going right handed). He did well to win over an inadequate 2m6f at Punchestown (Soft) in November off a mark of 130 and back over a staying trip, (had some interesting form in staying hurdles) on Good ground is worth considering.

Selection : Little Bruce

EW.           : Chic Name

John Gray

Paddy Power Cotswold Chase (Grade2) 3m1 1/2f Cheltenham (New Course) Saturday

cotswold chase

Little Owl and Jim Wilson

First run in 1980, The Cotswold Chase serves as a trial for The Gold Cup in March and did prove a pretty good guide in it’s first 18 renewals, producing 4 winners, Little Owl,
Master Oats, See More Business, and Looks Like Trouble In 2000 who went on to land the big one at The Festival. However the contest since 2000 has lost much of It’s significance, failing to produce a single Gold Cup victor, and indeed the only winner of the heat to even make the places in March in the last decade, has been The Giant Bolster 6 years ago, (also placed behind Synchronised in the 2012 renewal). The single Irish trained winner of the heat has been the Ted Walsh trained Rinnce Ri, 18 years ago, a statistic Co Meath Maestro, Gordon Elliott, with 2 contenders, Delta Work and Alpha Des Obeaux, will be hoping to improve on.

The former is a 7yo by the stallion Network, sire of many top class NH horses, including the wonderful Sprinter Sacre, and having already won 5 of his 7 starts over fences, Delta Work is well on his way to joining that pretty select band. A winner of his first 3 races over the larger obstacles, including two at the top level, he was sent off the 15/8 Favourite for Cheltenham’s RSA in March, and despite making a mistake four out and finding himself short of room after the last, finished a highly honourable 3rd, 1/2L and 1 3/4L behind Topofthegame and Saturday’s opponent Santini. Further Grade1 success came with a facile win in Punchestown’s Champion Novices Chase 6 weeks later, winning by 12L and 2 1/4L from Discorama and the 160 rated A Plus Tard. Making his seasonal debut in November following a 186 days break he ran no sort of race in Down Royals Grade1 Champion Chase, but showed that he was right back on track 4 weeks ago when landing the highly competitive Grade1 Savill Chase at Leopardstown, with a strong staying performance from Monalee and Road To Respect. Clearly going the right way, if Delta Work turns out on Saturday, (also engaged in The Irish Gold Cup in a fortnight’s time) he might just be the one to re-establish “The Cotswold’s” reputation, as a genuine Gold Cup Trial.

It would require a career best effort for Mr Elliott’s 2nd string, the 10yo, Alpha Des Obeaux to win, but he has run well on is only two visits to Prestbury Park, finishing 2nd to Thistlecrack in the 2016 World Hurdle and 4th to Might Bite in The RSA in 2017. He proved his well-being finishing 3/18 in The Becher Chase over The National fences last time and could be interesting particularly if the ground turns testing.

The Nicky Henderson trained Santini heads the market at 6/4 but will need to improve on his seasonal reappearance when only getting home by a Head from the 144 rated
Now Mc Ginty, in a Sandown Listed Chase if he is to justify such skinny odds. One presumes the logic behind his price is that he finished 1 3/4L ahead of Delta Work in The RSA in March and on 2lbs better terms on Saturday will confirm the form, but I’m not so sure. Delta Work, who looks the stronger stayer, has taken his form to a higher level while Santini has yet to win a Grade 1 over fences, and that Sandown effort wasn’t exactly full of promise. However they certainly know the time of day down at Seven Barrows, and presumably, with one eye on March, have left plenty to work on.

The 9yo Bristol De Mai has been a grand servant to connections, winning 10 of his 31 starts, amassing nearly £700,000 in prize money, and following an excellent 3rd in last year’s Gold Cup, there would be no more deserving winner on Saturday. He has failed to win from 4 attempts at Prestbury Park, but ridden with more restraint than usual in The Gold Cup, it was his best performance to date at the track, (only lost second place in the last 120yds) and similar tactics on Saturday over the furlong shorter trip could yield the maximum dividend.

The Philip Kirby trained 8yo, Top Ville Ben’s form has taken a serious step forward in his last two races, and is now on a mark 13lbs higher than he was at the beginning of the season. He was particularly impressive last time, winning Wetherby’s Grade3 Rowland Meyrick off a mark of 154, by an impressive 8L from Didero Vallis to whom he was conceeding 27lbs, and had the 155 rated Lake View a further 3 1/4L back in third. This young horse, (won’t actually be 8 until the 12th Of May) seems only now to be reaching his full potential, and there could be plenty more to come from this son of the top class jumps sire, Beneficial.

Another animal to take a large step forward last time is Emma Lavelle’s Ladbroke Trophy Handicap Chase (previously The Hennessy) winner, De Rashar Counter. A son of the 4 times Ascot Gold Cup winning sire, Yeats, he stayed on strongly to win what is one of the most competitive handicaps in the calendar, and is now rated 18lbs higher than he was 2 Chases ago. That was only his 7th race over fences so further progress over staying trips can be anticipated.

The Colin Tizzard trained 8yo, Slate House was going best of all when coming down at the penultimate fence in Cheltenham’s Bet Victor in November, and showed no ill effects winning his next 2 races, including Kempton’s Grade1 Kauto Star Novices Chase last time. (3m Soft Dec26). Jumping soundly, he travelled strongly throughout, and idling after the last was probably worth plenty more than the 1 1/4L he won by. An easy winner of a Cheltenham Novices Chase (2m4f Heavy) in October he is another on a strong upward curve and if effective over Saturday’s longer trip will be a danger to all.

Selection :       Delta Work   (If Abs Bristol De Mai)

EW.           : Top Ville Ben

John Gray

Peter Marsh Handicap Chase (A Limited Handicap) (Grade2) 3m1 1/2f Haydock Saturday

peter marsh chaseFour of the first 9 winners of Saturday’s feature, Little Owl, Bregawn, The Thinker, And Jodami went on to land Cheltenham’s Blue Riband, but alas, that was a golden period for northern stables, eager to run their best on their local tracks, and while subsequent winners have in the main been a talented lot, the race has become the preserve of tough staying handicappers who act on proper testing winter ground. West Yorkshire trainer Sue Smith with 4 winners on the board, (including Wakanda last year and Oddsguru’s EW selection) is by some distance the most successful handler and will be hoping to bring home the bacon for a fifth time with the 10yo, Vintage Clouds, on Saturday.

Having won twice and been placed 7 times from 9 course appearances, the son of that  good NH stallion, Clouding, clearly enjoys the Merseyside air, and he put in another decent effort 4 weeks ago, finishing 3rd in The Tommy Whittle over Saturday’s course and distance. Outpaced from 4 out, he rallied after the 2nd last, and stayed on well to grab third place close home, albeit 20L behind the winner, Lord Du Mesnil. All ground comes alike to Vintage Clouds, but he is particularly effective on Heavy, and with top Haydock pilot, Danny Cook, (has ridden the winner of The Peter Marsh 3 times) doing the steering, racing off a mark he has previously won from, Ms Smith’s contender is one to be interested in.

Somerset trainer David Pipe won with the 12yo, Our Vic ten years ago, and has 2 entered, both in the same ownership, the 10yo, Champers On Ice and the two years younger Daklondike. With few miles on the clock, (17 runs ) the former is pretty lightly raced and his sole victory from 4 starts over fences came in a Uttoxeter Novices over 3 years ago. A respectable 2nd in a Class1 Warwick Novices followed 5 weeks later but he disappointed in both subsequent races over fences including in his last Chase, when sent off the 7/1 fourth choice, for the 4 miles National Hunt Chase at The Cheltenham Festival in 2017. He has been campaigned exclusively over hurdles since and there were serious signs of a revival in his fortunes at Ffos Las in November when making his seasonal debut, following a 241 days break. Looking a tad rusty, he made all in the 3mile heat (Soft) off a mark of 132 and stayed on well to win by 3 3/3L. He confirmed the promise with another strong staying performance 19 days later, winning a 3 miles Class2 Newbury Handicap off a mark of 137, and 2 weeks after that, finished a close 3rd in a Cheltenham Class2 off a mark of 140. Clearly in good heart, he will be tackling fences for the first time in nearly 3 years but some of that early Chase form, (4 1/2L behind the now 154 rated American in that Warwick Class1) make him look very realistically handicapped on a mark of 141 on Saturday. A slight concern would be the trip as he has never won beyond 3 miles but he certainly wasn’t stopping up the Cheltenham Hill last time.

There are no such worries about his 2 years younger stablemate, Daklondike, as he has won a 3m2f Newbury Handicap on Heavy and his style of racing strongly suggests that staying trips are what’s required. However he does seem to have his own ideas about the game and rarely runs two races alike. He was sent off the Market Leader for The Tommy Whittle just before Christmas but never travelled like one, but did keep on under pressure and finished a remote 5th. He is reasonably treated on a mark of 142 giving him a racing weight of 10-10 and one wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he won but being such an Awkward animal, is difficult to recommend.

The Harry Fry trained mare, Acting Lass has won 4 of her 8 starts over fences and put in her best effort to date when just outstayed by Regal Encore in a Class1 Ascot Handicap, (3m Heavy) 4 weeks ago. Racing off a mark of 147 she had the 143 rated Jerrysback, to whom she was conceeding 4lbs, 2 1/2L back in 3rd, which makes Saturday’s mark of 150 giving her a racing weight of 11-4 look just about fair. The 3m1 1/2f trip will be the furthest she has tackled, but she is by Kings Theatre out of a mare who has won a 3m Chase on heavy Ground over Naas’s stamina sapping track, so the omens from her pedigree are pretty positive. A slight cause for concern would be her lack of experience going left-handed, as 10 of her 11 races have been the other way round, but that said, she didn’t seem to have a problem when winning Chepstow’s Coral Welsh Grand National Trial at the beginning of December. (2m7 1/2f Soft)

Another mare who has taken well to fences is the Anthony Honeyball trained Midnight Tune who is 2/5 over fences and has won her last two. It has to be said that they didn’t take a lot of winning, a 4 runner Mares Novices (3m Heavy Uttoxeter) and a 3 runner  Mares Novices (2m2f Heavy Exeter) but she won them both very comfortably and the 9yo daughter of the high class hurdler, Midnight Legend is now rated as high over fences as she was over hurdles, 134. (Won 3/11 including a Sandown Grade2). She too is stepping up in trip but is stoutly bred and looked as if she could go around again when winning that Chase at Uttoxeter. If her lack of experience doesn’t count against her with just 10-2 on her back she has to be of interest.

We have yet to see an Irish trained winner of The Peter Marsh but Co Meath Maestro, Gordon Elliott, has an intriguing entry in this year’s renewal, Prince Of Scars. Now a 10yo he was rated as high as 159 over hurdles after winning a Leopardstown Grade1 back in December 2015. He made a very promising start to his chasing career giving the top class, Road To Respect, plenty to think about in November 2016, but has done absolutely nothing in his 7 races since. He has always raced in The Gigginstown Stud
Colours, but the O’Leary’s decided to unload last November, and the intriguing question is why would two such shrewd operators as Simon Munir, and Issac Soude have decided to invest in such a dodgy looking prospect. There were no obvious answers forthcoming in Prince Of Scars first run in their colours at the beginning of December, as after an indifferent round of jumping, he finished a remote sixth,(Fairyhouse 3m5f). However there are few better handlers than Mr Elliott, and it will be interesting to see how the son Of Flemensfirth performs at the weekend.

Selection : Midnight Tune

EW.          : Champers On Ice
John Gray

McCoy Contractors Civil Engineering Classic Handicap Chase (Grade3) 3m5f Warwick Saturday

mccoy warwick racesWarwick’s feature on Saturday, was run as the Brooke Bond Oxo Warwick National until 2000, when following a 3 year hiatus, it was reincarnated as The Classic Chase, and its most notable winner since has been the 2017 Aintree Hero, One For Arthur. No animal in the entire history of the event has managed to win the race twice but this year we have the 2018 winner, Milansbar, and last year’s victor, Impulsive Star, attempting to double up.

The former went on to run two more excellent races in 2018, finishing 2nd to Saturday’s opponent, Regal Flow, in The Midlands Grand National, and then finishing an honourable 5th in the real version at Aintree. It has been all downhill since, including last time, when he finished a distant last over the course in November, so perhaps at 13, age is having its say. Impulsive Star hasn’t exactly set the racing world alight either since last year’s victory, ( pulled up in all 3 starts) but as a result, this relatively lightly raced 10yo, gets to race on Saturday off a mark only 4 lbs higher than 2019, and one has the feeling that a repeat victory has always been the target. Last year, he jumped soundly over Warwick’s tricky fences, and outstayed the runner up, Callet Made, to land the spoils pretty comfortably under a sound ride from his owner, the talented amateur Sam Walley-Cohen, (claims 3lbs) and it won’t come as a great surprise if Sam Is celebrating again on Saturday.

Dorset handler, Colin Tizzard won with the 9yo Hey Big Spender In 2012 and will be hoping to bring the prize back to Milborne Port for a second time with the 2 years younger Darlac. The 7yo has failed to hit the back of the net in his 4 races over fences, but was only beaten a neck in a beginners Chase at Fontwell in October. However his other 3 attempts, all around 2m4f, have been pretty undistinguished, and I can only presume that connections are hopeful, rather than optimistic, that their son of The St Leger winner Lucarno, is going to seriously improve for Saturday’s step up in trip.

The ex Irish 8yo, The Conditional’s sole success under rules in his native country came in a modest Thurles Maiden Hurdle nearly 2 years ago, but since joining the Gloucestershire yard of David Bridgewater last September, his form figures read 3 1 2. The win came in a Cheltenham Class2 Chase (3m1f Soft) at the end of October and he put in an even better effort last time, when despite a mistake at the last, he got to within 1 1/2L of De Rasher Counter in the hugely competitive Ladbroke Trophy Handicap Chase at Newbury 6 weeks ago. By leading National Hunt stallion, Kalinisi, out of a Saddlers Hall mare, he is bred be a strong stayer, likes testing conditions, and is only 5 lbs higher than Newbury.

The Tom Lacey trained 8yo Kimberlite Candy, has won 3 of his 14 starts over fences and put in an excellent effort last time to finish 2nd in the Becher Chase (3m2f Soft) over the National fences. Racing off a mark of 137, he stayed on well from the last, and this mud loving, strong stayer, who is a half brother to the 2005 winner, Hawkes Point, racing  off a mark of 140, has plenty to recommend him.

Following a workmanlike victory in a Chepstow Novices Handicap 13 months ago the Handicapper put the Philip Hobbs trained 8yo Steely Addition, up a very harsh looking 13 lbs and his sole success since has been in a Class4 Novices Chase at Hereford. Having finished a well beaten last of 4 at Sandown last time (Nov10) the Handicapper has relented a little, and dropped him 3 lbs to a mark of 147 which still leaves him with the not inconsiderable burden of 11-11 to carry on Saturday.

At the ripe old age of 11 the Fergal O’Brien trained Petite Power looks an improved performer, and he put in a career best effort last time when failing by a neck to win a Class3 Exeter Handicap, (3m6 1/2f Soft) off a mark of 125. He will have to do even better to win on Saturday off 131, but on his seasonal debut, coming back from a 516 days break, he won a Cheltenham Class3 off a mark of 115 in October, and 23 days later landed another Class3, at Uttoxeter (3m2f Heavy) off a 5 lbs higher mark. He has a nice racing weight of 10-9 and if there is further improvement to be found, Fergal is the man to find it.

Hats off to the veteran, Regal Flow if he can become the first teenager to win the contest, as he will be trying to do so having had a really tough race just 7 days ago. The sprightly 13yo raced prominently throughout the valuable Unibet Veterans Handicap Chase at Sandown (3m Soft) last Saturday, and despite being carried right after the last, stayed on with great gusto, to lose out by the shortest of short heads. A winner of the Midlands Grand National, Saturday’s trip will be fine, and he has an excellent record over the Warwick fences with a win and a close 3rd from his 2 appearances. If fully recovered  from his Sandown effort, with just 10-8 to carry he has to be considered.

Selection.  : The Conditional. If Absent Kimberlite Candy

EW             Petite Power