Betting Preview BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase

betting-preview-betbright-best-for-festival-betting-handicap-chaseBetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase 2m5f (new) Cheltenham Sunday – With nine of the last ten winners returned at odds of 8/1 or less, and the “Jolly” hitting the back of the net on the last three occasions, the contest has certainly been punter friendly, and long may this happy state of affairs continue. Previous Cheltenham form has been a significant guide as seven of the last ten winners had won over the course, and indeed two of the last three winners of Decembers contest, The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (also run over the new course) have doubled up here, Village Vic last year, and Double Ross two years ago.

With two wins and three places from nine runners over the past decade, the Twiston Davies yard knows what is required and have two left in at the time of writing, Bristol De Mai and Foxtail Hill. The latter needs a half dozen to come out to get a run, so the 6yo Bristol De Mai is the one to concentrate on.

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Nigel Twiston Davies’ in-form Gloucestershire yard could well throw up yet another winner according to the Oddsguru

He was well beaten on his reappearance in a two horse affair at Carlisle after a six month break, but showed the benefit, when running a very solid race in the 2m7 1/2f Rehersal Chase at Newcastle last time. Racing off Sunday’s mark of 154 he finished second to Otago Trail with Definitly Red, who was in receipt of 12lbs, 1 1/4L back in third. As the latter absolutely hosed up in the Roland Meyrick at Wetherby on Monday, the form looks rock solid. The drop back in trip should be an advantage, and as he showed that the undulations of Prestbury Park hold no fears when finishing second to Black Hercules in the JLT at the festival in March, he clearly has plenty going for him. A slight concern would be that no animal rated in the one fifties has won since Fondment won off 152 ten years ago, but a literal interpretation of the Rehersal Chase form does make him look well handicapped on 154.

The Paul Nicholls trained 7yo, As De Mee was over 14L behind Bristol De Mai in the JLT at the festival, and meets the Twiston-Davies contender on only 7lbs better terms here, but does look an improved animal this term. He won first time up, at Fontwell in October, and last time looked really good when winning a Class2 handicap over the National Fences at Aintree twenty nine days ago off a mark of 137. However in between, doubts were raised about his affinity for Cheltenham, when disappointing in the BetVictor Gold Cup over the course in November, and indeed he has only managed one placing, (over hurdles) from his four course appearances. Despite this it has to be said that he looked good at Aintree, and as the sole representative of the Ditcheat powerhouse, racing off a mark of 145, he has to be considered.

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Backers of Thomas Crapper could be feeling flush on Sunday

The 10yo Thomas Crapper is now reaching the veteran stage but does go well here and has won twice over Cheltenham’s smaller obstacles. Fitted with a tongue strap in the BetVictorGold Cup he ran well to finish 6th, 15L behind the winner, and has had a minor soft palate operation since, to aid his breathing. Trainer Dickin, reports him in fine fettle, and with just 10st in the plate, it would come as no surprise to see him involved at the business end.

With two wins and three places from his ten course appearances, the redoubtable winner of last year’s race, Village Vic, clearly feels very much at home on the Prestbury Park turf, and is likely to lead them all a merry dance again on Sunday. However he is 14lbs higher than last year, and failed by a neck to defy a 3lbs lower mark in the “BetVictor” in November, and could only manage a gallant third in the “Caspian Caviar” twenty two days ago off Sunday’s mark of 158. While it would be great to see this brave animal prevail, he has it all to do with 11st11bs on his back.

Nicky Henderson’s 8yo Vaniteux has mostly been campaigned at trips shorter than Sunday’s 20f but this winner of two of his six chases looks as if a step up in distance will suit.

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Will Nicky Henderson be all smiles with Vaniteux?

Having his first run for seven months he finished a respectable third behind Sire De Grugy and Quite By Chance over 2m1f at Ascot, and put in another solid performance when again finishing 3rd over 2m1/2f here at Cheltenham twenty two days ago. A winner of an Aintree Grade2 chase, this French bred has a touch of class about him, and quite stoutly bred, by Voix Du Nord out of a video rock mare, is likely to enjoy the step up in trip and even off his mark of 154, has to be on the shortlist.

Selection : Vaniteux

E.W.          Bristol De Mai

Betting Tips Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase

betting-tips-caspian-caviarCaspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase 2m5f Cheltenham (new) Saturday – Sponsored by Massey Ferguson from its inception in 1963, until 1980, the race has had many diverse supporters in the succeeding thirty four years, with the Caspian Caviar organisation, generously providing the cash since 2014. In the sixty five year history of the race, top weight, hasn’t stopped seven of our steeplechasing heroes, including the great Flyingbolt, who won the 1965 renewal by 15L, with 12st6lbs in the plate, and the immortal Fred Winter’s Pendil, who carried 12st7lbs to victory in 1973, from getting their heads in front, but we do have to go back twenty years to find the last successful top weight, Addington Boy (11st10lbs) in 1996.

The race is regularly contested by animals who have run in the centrepiece of the big Cheltenham November meeting, The BetVictor Gold Cup, and that race has been an excellent guide, with five of the last nine winners having been placed in that contest. Indeed three winners of the November race, Pegwell Bay (1988), Senor El Betrutti (1996), and Exotic Dancer (2006), have doubled up.

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Village Vic won this race in 2015

With one 4yo, five 6yo’s, six 7yo’s and six 8yo’s taking the honours since 1996, it is clearly a race for the younger animal. Indeed we have to go back to the 9yo Fragrant Dawn’s victory in 1993 to find a winner older than eight, a stat that doesn’t augur well for the chances of the first three past the post in last month’s BetVictor Gold Cup, Taquin Du Seuil, Village Vic, and Buywise, all nine year olds. Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson, with three winners apiece, share the training honours, although Philip Hobbs with two, including last year’s winner, Village Vic, has them in his sights. Poquelin in 2009 and 2010 is the only horse in the entire history of the race to have followed up the following year, which makes things look even more difficult for  the 9yo Village Vic. With the stats speaking strongly against the first three home in the BetVictor, the two to concentrate on from that good guide, are the 4th, Aso, and 5th Bouvreuil.

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Venetia Williams saddles the 6-y0 Aso

The Venetia Williams trained 6yo Aso was having his first run for nearly seven months, and was also making his handicap debut so it was a highly meritorious effort to get within 5 1/4L of the winner Taruin Du Seuil. Indeed, but for a mistake at the second last, he would have finished closer still. He races off the same mark at the weekend, (144) so it would come as no surprise to see this Frenchbred, a winner at Grade2 level over hurdles, go close. A slight caveat would be the ground, as he does seem very effective on a soft surface. However the good-soft ground in the BetVictor didn’t seem to inconvenience him, so given similar conditions, he should be fine, and must have serious prospects of giving Venetia a second success in the race, (won with Niceonefrankie two years ago).

The last, and only 5yo to win, was The Laird, all of fifty years ago, but the Paul Nicholls trained Bouvreuil looks to have serious prospects of doubling this age groups tally. Like Aso, he was having his first run for seven months, when finishing 5th, 1 1/2L behind the Williams runner (4th) in the BetVictor Gold Cup, but this doesn’t tell the whole story, as pilot, Gavin Sheehan, travelled wide the whole way around, covering much more ground than most of the opposition. A French import two years ago, he didn’t get his head in front until last January, and then went on to show what a steeplechaseing prospect he was, when narrowly beaten in a Novices Handicap Chase at the Festival in March. Having been runner up in the Martin Pipe Hurdle at the 2015 festival, Bouvreuil clearly handles Cheltenham’s undulations well, so with B. Geraghty doing the steering on Saturday, the likelihood of Mr Nicholls recording a fourth victory, and owner, J.P Mc Manus, a third look strong.

Warren Greatrex‘s 6yo Aloomomo ran a fine race on his first outing since the Cheltenham Festival, when finishing 3rd in a Novices Hurdle at Ascot three weeks ago. He looked at one stage as if he might win, but lack of condition found him out. He will have benefited hugely for the run and as a winner three times over fences he looks nicely weighted with 10st5lbs in the plate. His talented trainer is quite bullish about his chances but is concerned about the ground. If we do get some rain he is well worth considering.

The Harry Fry trained 7yo, Thomas Brown has only had seven races over the larger obstacles, and considering it was his first run for seven months, he put up an excellent performance when winning a Class2 Aintree Handicap five weeks ago, off a mark of 137. Jumping well he was tiring in the closing stages, but battled on well to win by a length from On Tour. He has plenty to find with Bouvreuil on Cheltenham running in March but is clearly progressive, and has won over hurdles at Prestbury Park. He looks well handicapped off a mark only 5lbs higher than Aintree, and with one of the best jockeys around, Noel Fehilly, in the plate, is another to consider.

Selection: Bouvreuil

E.W.  Thomas Brown

More Of That For BetVictor Gold Cup Success

more-of-that-for-betvictor-gold-cup-success-1BetVictor Gold Cup looks good for More Of That by Oddsguru – Since the original sponsors, Mackeson, gave up their thirty five year association with the race in 1995, the contest has had numerous backers, and this year’s renewal will see it run under yet another banner, with the BetVictor organisation putting up the cash. Always run at a cracking pace, the race has seen plenty of top notch handicappers in the winners enclosure, but only one, Imperial Commander in 2008, has gone on to win the Gold Cup itself. It has been a race for the younger horse, with only three animals older than nine collecting in it’s entire fifty five year history, and indeed, only three horses older than seven have won since 2000. Only two horses have won back to back contests, Half Free, trained by the great Fred Winter in 1984-1985, and Bradbury Star, trained by Josh Gifford in 1993-1994. The former carried the same weight for his repeat victory, and Bradbury Star had only 3lbs more in the plate for his, so last year’s hero, Annacotty, faces a major task off a 9lbs higher mark, if he is to join this exclusive club.

The Alan King trained 8yo only ran three more times last season, winning once, again over the course in January, and was well beaten in his last race, finishing 43L behind Vautour at the Festival. However he clearly goes well at the course, is at his best when fresh, and following a successful hobday operation, his excellent trainer is hopeful that he has made the necessary progress to defy Saturday’s new mark of 156.

more-of-that-for-betvictor-gold-cup-successPaul Nicholls has won two of the last four renewals, and is mob handed, seeking a third. Cases can be made for all four of his runners, but undoubtedly the 4yo Frodon is of particular interest as it is unprecedented for a horse of his age to participate. This ex French gelding has contested four chases, the first of them as a three year old at Auteil where he finished fourth of nine. He did win over hurdles at Auteil before joining the Ditcheat team, where, despite a win at Haydock last February, he has struggled over the smaller obstacles. However he has really come into his own since tackling fences, winning all three contested chases, last time quite impressively, a Grade2 novice chase at Wincanton seven days ago, where spring heeled at the obstacles, he came home in front in a good time. There is some uncertainty as to how he will react to the entirely different ball game of racing against twenty seasoned handicappers travelling with the choke out over Cheltenham’s tricky circuit, (he was well beaten in large fields at both the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals over hurdles) but it’s worth remembering that these French breds are taught to jump from the cradle, and if Mr Nicholls thinks he’s ready for Saturday’s test we should take note.

Tom George, who is having such a good season runs Double Shuffle, and this 6yo made an eye catching reappearance thirty four days ago. Racing off a mark of 140, and ridden for the first time by new stable jockey A. Heskins, he was having his first run for nearly six months, and looked badly outpaced until three out, where, taking hold of the bit, he ran on strongly, and only just failed to catch the winner, Art Mauresque, by a fast diminishing head. He has run well on all three previous visits to Cheltenham but didn’t seem to be quite getting home. That run at Chepstow strongly suggests that a lack of stamina has not been the problem and it may be that new man Heskins has found the key to him. Well worth considering!

Jonjo O’Neill has won the race twice and has two live contenders on Saturday, More of That and Taquin Du Seuil. The former won the 2014 World Hurdle, and following an enforced holiday, launched his chasing career at this meeting last year, where he comfortably beat Saturday’s opponent, As de Mee, over course and distance. He won again over the course four weeks later, and might well have remained unbeaten over fences, (and on the course) but for breaking a blood vessel in the RSA chase where he finished third. O’Neill considers him the best he has trained, and entertains strong hopes of winning the Gold Cup itself in March with this hugely talented animal, so you would have to give the 8yo, who goes well after a break, and racing off a mark of 154 a great chance at the weekend.

His other runner, Taquin Du Seuil is no back number either as he is twice a course winner, including at Grade1 level, and is ideally suited by Saturday’s trip. He ran a perfectly satisfactory trial for this when finishing less than 3L back in 6th, behind Ballyoptic over hurdles at Chepstow thirty one days ago on his first start for six months, and it will come as no surprise to see him involved at the business end on Saturday.

Young, and upwardly mobile trainer, Johnny Farrelly, runs the previous inmate of the Nicholls academy, Stilletto, and this 7yo could get involved at a nice price. He won off a mark of 132 by 10L at Leicester in February, and was then sent off the 11/2jf  for the Plate at the Festival, only to come down at the third fence. He made a satisfactory debut for his new stable five weeks later, finishing last of three over an inadequate two miles at Warwick. He looks nicely treated off a mark of 141, giving him a nice racing weight of 10st7lbs, and with one of the best pilots around, Noel Fehilly, doing the steering, could be there at the finish.

Selection: More Of That

E.W.      : Double Shuffle

Melrose Stakes Handicap Betting Tips

Betfred Melrose Stakes Handicap 1m6f York Saturday – With so many higher rated older animals qualifying for the Ebor, it is almost impossible for a progressive 3yo to get into the contest, and as a result the Melrose Handicap, which is run over the same distance, and is confined to the classic generation, has become the target for the improving 3yo stayer. This indeed has resulted in the “Melrose” becoming the classier of the two contests, surely an undesireable situation for the York executive! John Dunlop won the race three times between 1999 and 2009 and Luca Cumani collected on two occasions, but of Saturday’s contenders only Haggas, Johnston, and Stoute have managed to hit the back of the net.

Yorkshireman William Haggas enjoys nothing more than a victory on the Knavesmire, and has high hopes of emulating his 2012 win with Guarantee. He carried 9st 4lbs to victory, and coincidentally, the Haggas contender at the weekend, Dal Harraild, is set to carry the same weight. A winner of three of his eight starts, he impressed when taking a Class3 handicap at Musselburgh off a mark of 87 at the beginning of June. As the runner up, and third both scored next time out, the form looked solid and he was duly sent off a 5/1 shot for an Ascot Class2 handicap next time out. Racing off a mark of 95 in the 12f contest he looked unlucky when going down by a couple of heads, but made no mistake three weeks later when winning a valuable Class2 Goodwood handicap off a mark of 98. He had five of Saturday’s opponents behind him that day, and some of them must fancy their chances of reversing the form on better terms on Saturday, not least Jaameh and Shaaroh.

The former, a colt by Iffraj and trained by Master Trainer, Mark Johnston, finished 4th at Goodwood where he was beaten less than a length despite getting upset in the stalls, and looking ill at ease on the track. He meets Dal Harraid on 3lbs better terms so has to be considered, but it has to be said that the Haggas horse also had to wait, and wait, for a gap, so it wont come as a great surprise if the placings are confirmed.

The Sir Michael Stoute (pictured above) trained Sea the Stars colt Shraooh might prove a tougher nut to crack. Ridden by Frankie Dettori he was only a short head behind Dal Harriad at Goodwood and as it was only his fifth time on a racecourse plenty of improvement can be anticipated. He finished strongly that day and with plenty of stamina on the distaff, the step up to 14f looks sure to suit. Two pounds  worse off and with Dettori again doing the steering on  Shraooh the Haggas runner is going to have to pull out all the stops.

Irish Maestro, Aidan O’Brien has never won this, but two of his three previous contenders have been placed, so any runner from this yard is worth a second look. At the time of writing the Galileo colt Kellstorm is his most likely representative, and this very lightly raced full brother to staying sensation, Order of St George, you would think is highly likely to improve for the  greater stamina test. Unplaced on his only 2yo appearance, he finished 3rd, only 4L behind stablemate US Army Ranger, on his seasonal debut, and followed up with an easy win in a Tipperary maiden. He can be excused his second in a muddling four runner affair at Naas 101 days ago, and gets in here off a mark of 92, giving him a nice racing weight of 8st8lbs. Up in trip and racing on good ground for the first time in his career we might be forgiven for thinking by 3 .O’Clock on Saturday, what a handicap snip he was.

The Willie Mullins trained Laws Of Spin demonstrated that the trip would hold no fears when comfortably winning over a furlong further at Leopardstown sixteen days ago, and this son of Lawman has quite a progressive profile. He won a 10f Ballinrobe handicap (July 18th), despite stumbling over a furlong out, off a mark of 75 but, stepped up to 15f in the Leopardstown contest seventeen days later, he won going away, off a mark of 82. The step up in trip has clearly been the key to this animal and in the hands of this trainer it will come as no surprise to see further progress at the weekend off his new mark of 89.

Unraced as a 2yo the Michael Bell trained Forth Bridge has only had the three runs and showed very little in the first of them, coming home a well beaten third of four in a 10f soft ground Nottingham maiden in April. However stepped up to 12f a fortnight later, he ran a much more promising race when finishing second in a Sailsbury maiden. He was beaten 2 3/4L by Harbour Law, and had the 3rd, Real Dominion, 4 1/2L behind. As all three won next time out the form looks solid. Forth Bridge duly won his maiden in battling style at Haydock thirty nine days later in a contest which hasn’t really worked out but he remains an animal of some potential.

Selection: Shraaoh

E.W.       : Laws Of Spin

Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle Tips

Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Swinton Hurdle) 1m 7 1/2f Haydock Saturday

Last week’s selection in the 1000gns, Lumiere, ran no sort of race, and looked as if she didn’t stay, but fortunately, our E.W. selection, Alice Springs ran a super race to finish 3rd at odds of 16/1. She has grown into a big impressive looking filly and with her pedigree is certainly one to keep in mind when tackling further. (The Irish Oaks?)

We are back over the sticks this week with a look at the Swinton Hurdle and it looks a wide open contest.

Philip Hobbs, who has won the race twice before, (including last year) has three entries and at the time of writing the two to concentrate on are last year’s hero, War Sound, and Wait For Me. The former took last year’s renewal off a mark of 140 when a well supported 6/1 chance but is now 8lbs higher, and hasn’t run since finishing down the field at Newbury on heavy ground in mid February. Saturday’s ground should be much more suitable, and it is a race where previous winners have performed well on their return, so his chance is respected.

Wait For Me ran a fine race in The County Hurdle at the Festival for a novice, having only his fourth run over the smaller obstacles. Backed in to 7/1 joint favourite from 11/1 on the day, he was held up towards the rear, crept into the contest, and stayed on to finish 4th. The hurly burly of Saturday’s contest should hold no fears for him, and off the same mark as Cheltenham, has a lot to recommend him.

Welsh maestro, Evan Williams has also trained the winner twice, in 2014 and 2013, and indeed his 2013 winner Barizan was placed 2nd last year. It would seem that Williams targets the race so his contender John Constable is of special interest. This decent flat racer, (rated92) put up an eye catching performance on only his third run over hurdles at Newbury last November. In a Class1 handicap he finished 2nd to Sternrubin and had Saturday’s opponent, and likely favourite Ch’tibello five lengths back in third. John Constable has disappointed in his two subsequent races but the yard has been badly out of form. He now meets Ch’tibello on 3lbs better terms than Newbury, and as the stable has had a winner this Tuesday he’s one to keep on the right side of.

The Paul Webber trained 5yo novice Gwafa was taking a huge step up in class when contesting the Grade1 novice hurdle at Aintree but was badly hampered at the 4th and unseated his rider. He had won his two previous races very easily at Fakenham and Huntingdon,so this 92 rated flat racer may have got in lightly off a mark of 137 and is worth a second look.

Paul Nicholls has never won the race but seems to be making a serious attempt with three runners this year. His 5yo, All Yours, probably represents his best chance of correcting this particular blot on the Nicholls C.V. The winner of the Grade1 novices event at last years Aintree festival, (April 2015) he has had a very easy time of it since, running only twice. He was a well beaten 5th behind stablemate Irving at Wincanton in November, and wasn’t seen again until running in the County Hurdle in March where he ran better than his finishing place of 12th would indicate. Well suited by a flat track and reasonably treated off a mark of 145 it will come as no surprise to see him involved at the business end.

Robert Stephen’s 5yo Beltor has attracted some interest in the market and actually beat All Yours easily on only his second race over hurdles, at Kempton 14 months ago. His two subsequent efforts, in the 2015 Triumph Hurdle, and the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle last November, have been disappointing and I just wonder does he need to go right handed.

The other trainer who can boast two previous wins is Nicky Henderson and his 7yo Cardinal Walter, despite failing to hit the back of the net for 14 months is interesting. His win in a novice hurdle at Doncaster in Febuary 2015 was achieved with consummate ease and his 3rd to Saturday’s opponent Shrewd at Musselburgh this Febuary was a pretty decent effort. He meets the winner on 14lbs (excluding Shane Shortalls 5lbs claim on the winner) for the 2 3/4L beating and as his jumping wasn’t the most fluent things could be a lot closer between them on Saturday.

Dan Skelton runs his Scottish Champion Hurdle winner, Ch’tibello and he must have a serious chance off just a 6lbs higher mark. At Ayr he showed a great change of gears between the bypassed third, and second last flights, and despite a mistake at the last the result was never in doubt. This was his first run for five months so further improvement can be expected, and with Saturday’s ground likely to be even more suitable he has an awful lot going for him.

Selection : Ch’tibello

E.W. : All Yours

Lucy Wadham's 8yo Le Reve has to go right handed to show his best and duly won at Sandown last time.

BetBright Chase 3m Kempton

Last week’s selection, Broadway Buffalo gave us a great run for our money in that Haydock marathon which was run on dreadful ground in a time 73 seconds slower than standard. He looked the likely winner coming to the last but just couldn’t find the stamina reserves to challenge Bishop’ Road on Haydocks glue like run in. Kerry Lee’s hero must now have serious prospects of getting a run in the National and on soft ground is definitely one to keep in mind.

While only two winners of this Saturday’s Kempton contest, Rhyme n’ Reason (1988) and Rough Quest (1996), have gone on to victory in the Aintree showpiece it’s roll of honour bears witness to some great performances. The immortal Desert Orchid won it in the twilight of his career in 1990 as an 11yo, carrying an eye watering 12st3lbs, and the win of Martin pipe’s oh so promising, but ill fated 6yo, Gloria Victis in 2000 will live long in the memory. (Killed in the same years Gold Cup)

Previously known as the Racing Post Chase it is a contest in which the higher rated animal has been very much to the fore, with eleven winners since 2000 carrying at least 11st. Indeed four top weights have prevailed in the same period. Philip Hobbs with four victories has been the most successful handler, followed by Paul Nicholls who has won it twice. Course form has been especially significant with ten of the last seventeen winners boasting winning course form. Age hasn’t been of great significance with winners coming from all groups between six and twelve, although the 8yo’s have the best record. The race is invariably truly run so non stayers may as well stay at home.

Philip Hobbs’s Champagne West, sustained an injury in the 2015 running of the Scilly Isles chase which kept him off the track for eleven months. He put up an excellent performance on his reappearance at Cheltenham in December, where despite a mistake at the 7th, he stayed on well to finish second to Village Vic, who won next time out. He was travelling nicely, again at Cheltenham four weeks ago, when short of room at the 8th he blundered and was pulled up two fences later. He has never run at Kempton but has plenty of form going right handed and as Grade 1 aspirations at the festival are entertained his mark of 154 on Saturday looks reasonable.

Racing off 2lbs lower than his hurdles mark the Harry Fry trained 7yo novice chaser, Thomas Brown, looks interesting. He made his debut over the larger obstacles at Ascot (2m3f) last November, and going off the hot favourite he duly obliged. He forged clear after two out and eased down he won easily. He ran well again at the same venue (2m5f) four weeks later, finishing second to Le Mercuery, in a race that has worked out well. Stepped up to 3m four weeks ago for his third chase, he demonstrated an abundance of stamina, when despite some indifferent jumping, he stayed on stoutly to win by 10L. This contest has been won by novices in the past, so with Noel Fehilly doing the steering on Saturday it would come as no surprise to see their record added to by this upwardly mobile ” Fry” 7yo.

Last year’s winner Rocky Creek was sent off the 2/1 favourite for a Grade2 chase at Newbury two weeks ago but disappointed, finishing 4th. However it was his first run since being pulled up over the National fences ten weeks earlier, and the outing may well have been needed. He is only 4lbs higher than last year so it would come as no surprise, coming from this yard, to see a much improved horse at the weekend.

Nicholl’s other candidate, the 10yo Ruben Cotter is interesting. Lightly raced with only six starts over fences he obviously has had his problems, but was quite impressive in a 2 1/2m chase over the course last March on his first run for 16 months. Racing off a mark of 132 and starting at odds of 14/1 he stayed on well and won comfortably by 4L. He was sent off 8/1 co fav over the Aintree fences (2m5f) four weeks later and finished a respectable 5th. Stamina won’t be a problem as he has won over 3m2f, so after his 10 month break and racing off a mark of 140 he may just be ready to run a very big race.

Lucy Wadham‘s (pictured above) 8yo Le Reve has to go right handed to show his best and duly won at Sandown last time. Racing off a mark of 144 he travelled really well and finished with gusto to see off Pete The Feat and Unioniste. As the latter has won next time out Le Reve looks really well treated off 149 and is one for the short list.

Colin Tizzard’s 9yo Theatre Guide showed he has the requisite pace and stamina for this when finishing second, albeit at a distance of 12L to Smad Place in the Hennessy last November. He can also boast winning course form, in a 2 1/2m chase, so running off the same mark as in his fine Hennessy effort, he is worth considering.

Neil Mulholland’s 9yo The Druids Nephew had a day in the sun when winning at last years festival, and for a time, four weeks later, looked like another was on the cards. He was leading the National field into “Valentines” the second time around, where unfortunately he came a cropper. He has been disappointing in his two outings since, and is now 9lbs higher than Cheltenham and Aintree so despite having form over the course he is passed over.

Selection : Le Reve

E.W. : Ruben Cotter

Betfred Grand National Trial 3m4f handicap Haydock

Having won three of the last ten renewals, Lucinda Russell’s sole entry, One For Arthur, has to be of interest. The 7yo, who has had only four races over the larger obstacles, can be excused a poor performance last time at Cheltenham (2m5f). Unsuited by the Prestbury Park undulations and over a trip too short, he finished a well beaten fifth. However his two chases at flat, left handed Kelso were more promising, yielding a win, and a third place, behind Seeyouatmidnight who is very prominent in the market for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. He was beaten 21L but was conceding 5lbs to Seeyouatmidnight,so it can be considered a decent effort. The previous Russell winners were aged 8,9, and 11, but three 7yo’s have won this in the last seventeen years so age shouldn’t count against him. A course winner over the smaller obstacles on heavy ground he is racing off a mark on Saturday 3lbs lower than his hurdles mark suggesting this promising young stayer has plenty in his favour.

The Paul Nicholls trained Unioniste had disappointed in his previous five races (two of them over the Aintree fences) since winning at Sandown in January 2015, but hinted at better things to come last time. Held up and seemingly struggling, he started to progress from the 17th fence and stayed on to finish third behind La Reve in a Sandown handicap racing off a mark of 150, two weeks ago. Running off the same mark at the weekend, he will have top weight of 11st10lbs to carry, but it didn’t stop his superb trainer winning with Shotgun Willy carrying the same weight in 2003, and indeed Silver By Nature also carried 11st10lbs to victory five years ago. With odds as long as 16/1 available at the time of writing, this winner of six of his nineteen starts over fences does look tempting.

David Pipe’s 8yo Broadway Buffalo ran a fine race in a valuable Grade1 3m hurdle at Auteuil last November finishing 5th, at level weights only 5L behind the winner, the top class Thousand Stars. Considering it was his first run since finishing 6th in the Scottish National last April the performance was particularly meritorious. He is two from three over the course having collected a 2m7f soft ground handicap hurdle in 2014 and the same years renewal of the Tommy Whittle Chase. Indeed he might well have brought up the hat trick but for falling at the 16th when still travelling strongly in last years Betfred Grand National Trial. Stamina won’t be an issue as he has finished second in the 4m National Hunt Chase at the Festival. Off a mark only 4lbs higher than last year he has to be on the shortlist.

The Pipe yard is also represented by the 7yo Vieux Lion Rouge who also boasts winning chase form over the course. However he was being pushed along when unseating at the third last over 3m2f at Cheltenham last time, and his stable companion would seem to possess the better stamina credentials for this.

Sandy Thomson’s 11yo Harry The Viking has run well on all three course appearances, and ran a super race when going down by a head in last years renewal racing off a mark of 124. Remarkably for an 11yo it can be argued that he even trumped that when running second to Rigadin de Beauchene again over the course (3m3 31/2f hvy) in December off a mark of 128. Running off the same mark on Saturday it will come as no surprise to see this hardy veteran again involved at the business end when plenty of the others have cried “enough”.

Alan Kings 8yo Sego Success looked a strong stayer when winning a 3m Doncaster handicap off a mark of 139 in December, and duly went off a well backed 7/1 favourite to take a 3m5f Warwick Grade 3 chase off a mark of 146 five weeks later. In a strange start to a marathon race on heavy ground,they tore off the blocks, and the King horse hit the deck at the second. Always thought of as a stayer and held in high regard his best days are surely in front of him so again racing off 146 is another worth considering.

The Jonjo O’Neill trained 8yo Spookydooky didn’t jump a fence in public until finishing a well beaten 4th in an Aintree novices chase last November. He showed remarkable improvement nineteen days later taking a 2m6 1/2f Newbury novices handicap chase off a mark of 134 and again ran well next time finishing second to Seventh Sky off a mark of 142 on heavy ground at Haydock in December. He had Cloudy too, who went on to win the valuable Peter Marsh Chase, (was Oddsguru’s e.w. Selection) next time out, 6L behind, and now meets that horse on 11lbs better terms, so does look well handicapped. The question is will he stay? It has to be said that he hasn’t looked as if he was crying out for further in any of his races to date, but his pedigree, on both sides has plenty of stamina in it and he has won a 3m and a 3m 1/2f hurdle race, so while the omens are positive the jury remains out.

Selection: Broadway Buffalo

E.W. : Unioniste