BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase 2 1/2m Cheltenham (Old Course) Saturday

Cheltenham RacesInaugurated in 1960, this valuable Grade3 Handicap, with it’s maximum field of 20, is invariably run with the choke out from flag-fall, and is no place for the faint hearted. The great Martin Pipe with an amazing 8 wins before retiring, certainly understood the type of animal required to succeed in this tough handicap, and son David will be hoping that a little of the Old Mans Magic has rubbed off when he attempts to win the race for the second time on Saturday with the ex French, Kings Socks.

The 6yo has only raced 3 times since finishing 2nd (Btn 2 1/2L) to the outstanding Willie Mullins trained, Footpad, now rated 166, in a French Grade1 Hurdle back in
June 2016. Thanks to niggling problems, it was a frustrating 607 days interval between his arrival  at Pond House in September 2016, before the son of Kings Best could make his British racecourse debut. He finished 3rd to Modus in a Class 2 Kempton Graduation Chase last February and 34 days later ran well to finish 5th, 8 1/2L behind
The Storyteller off a mark of 140 in a Grade3 Handicap at The Cheltenham Festival. Sent off the 7/2fav for the Red Rum Chase at Aintree the following month he was pulled up before 3 out and hasn’t been seen since. None of the above inspires any great confidence, but the suspicion lingers that we have yet to see the best of the Pipe horse, and off his mark of 139, giving him a racing weight of 10-4 he looks dangerously well handicapped.

Nicky Henderson’s sole success came with Fondmort 15 years ago, but he goes out to bat this time with a very live contender, the 7yo son of Oscar, Rather Be. He hasn’t raced since going down by a Head, off a mark of 153, to Mister Whitaker in The Close Brothers Novices Handicap (Soft) at The Festival in March, and meets that opponent on 9lbs better terms at the weekend. He goes well at Prestbury Park, running  well in the 2016 Festival Bumper, and significantly, “The Close Brothers”was run over Saturday’s track, The Old Course. Lack of a recent run is of no concern as he has won 3 times following a break of 6 months or longer. He looks nicely handicapped on a mark of 149 giving him a racing weight of 11-0 and has a serious chance of providing The Master Of Seven Barrow’s with a second success.

Despite being 9lbs worse off with Rather Be, Mick Channon’s Mister Whitaker deserves plenty of respect as he is clearly an animal improving at a rate of knots.

mick channon windmill

Will we get to see Mick Channon’s famous windmill on Saturday?

He has won his last three races, including the above heat over course and distance, and is bound to have benefited hugely from his reappearance win over Happy Diva at Carlisle 14 days ago. Very buzzy at the start he finished strongly up the Carlisle hill to beat the 140 rated runner up and should be a much more settled horse on Saturday. A 7lbs rise for the win looks quite severe but this 6yo, half brother to the useful, Broadway Buffalo, probably has plenty more to offer, and with the stable firing on all cylinders will be hard to keep out of the placings.

The Neil Mulholland trained 7yo, Kalondra would have gone close to winning The Galway Plate but for falling at the 2nd last racing off a mark of 147, and looks well handicapped on only a pound higher. He is another who enjoys the Prestbury Park air, finishing 3rd to Traffic Fluide last April and winning a Novices Chase last December both over the New Course, and coming from a yard in form is worth considering.

Irish stables have only taken the prize twice in the last 40 years, and if this poor record is to be improved, the sole representative from across The Irish Sea, Black Scorpion, will need a few above him in the Handicap to come out, but if he does get into the race, he wouldn’t be the worst EW punt, at 33/1 in the contest. He won nicely at Listowel in September and probably found the 3mile trip in The Munster National last time beyond him.

The BetVictor hasn’t been the greatest heat for top weights, but having said that it’s hard to ignore the claims of this year’s racecard no1, Frodon. bryony frost betvictorOne of 4 entries from the twice winning yard of Paul Nicholls, the 6yo, French bred Frodon, has won 8 of his 19 starts over fences, and following wind surgery and a 193 day break, put up a career best effort 3 weeks ago when winning the Grade2 Old Roan Chase at Aintree, off a mark of 158, under a great ride from Bryony Frost (pictured). Frodon has won twice at Cheltenham, including a near unique victory as a 4yo in the 2016 “Caspian Caviar,” and indeed was travelling strongly in that year’s renewal of the BetVictor when blundering away his chance at the 4th last. The son of Nickname has been jumping fences since his 3yo days in France and May only now be reaching his full potential, (has been entered for The King George V1) and it will come as no surprise if he joins that select band of Top Weighted Winners, particularly if Ms Frost keeps the ride.

Selection : Mister Whitaker
E.W.          : Frodon

John Gray

Advertisements

bet365 Charlie Hall Chase (Grade2) 3m1f Wetherby Tips

The North Yorkshire venue stages “The Charlie Hall” on Saturday, the first big chase of the season and if the lack of rainfall in the Wetherby area doesn’t discourage any of the current 11 entries from participating, we could be in for a vintage renewal. The ground at the time of writing is described as Good and the Clerk of the course assures that watering will continue so Saturday’s ground shouldn’t have Firm anywhere in the description, which will be welcome news to Colin Tizzard, the trainer of the current favourite, Thistlecrack. Colin won with the marvellous Cue Card three years ago and he will be hoping that the 10yo Thistlecrack can bring the prize back to Milborne Port for a second time.

colin tizzard

Colin Tizzard aims for what would be a memorable double

 

A winner of 4 Grade1s over hurdles, (including The World Hurdle at Cheltenham 2016) he was a latecomer to chasing, winning at the first time of asking in October 2016 as an 8yo, and then demonstrating 2 months later, when winning Kempton’s
King George V1 Chase, that he was just as potent a force over the larger obstacles. Following a titanic battle with the late lamented, Many Clouds for Cheltenham’s Cotswold Chase 32 days later, he was beaten a Head, and was put on the easy list for 307 days. A disappointing reappearance at Newbury at the beginning of December was followed by a moderate 4th in The King George. He sustained a stress fracture in training and hasn’t been seen since, but trainer Tizzard reports him in great form for Saturday, and if back to his best will be hard to beat. However it has to be said that his odds of around 2/1 for an animal with plenty of question marks hanging over him, not least his liking for plenty of give, look decidedly skinny.

Nigel Twiston-Davies has won the race 3 times, twice with Ollie Magern and last year with Bristol De Mai and he will be hoping that the latter can put his last three disappointing efforts behind him and bring up win number 4 for the Naunton Handler. The popular grey won last year’s renewal from his stable companion, Blaklion, (rec6lbs) on his seasonal debut, and went on to beat Cue Card by an astonishing 57L 3 week’s later in Haydock’s Betfair Chase. The wheels appeared to have come off in his next two races, The King George and The Cotswold, but following wind surgery, and a 75 day break, he put up a better performance when finishing 2nd (Btn 7L) to Might Bite in an Aintree Grade1. Reports from Naunton are positive and if back to his best this still young chaser, (despite seeming to have been around for ages is only 7) will make them all go.

Connections of the 8yo, Double Shuffle will be hoping the rain stays away as 3m1f around Wetherby on good ground is probably as far as he wants to go. A son of that good National Hunt Stallion, Milan, he hasn’t won for nearly 2 years but ran a blinder when finishing 2nd, 1L behind Might Bite in last year’s King George. Both his 2 subsequent efforts were disappointing but trainer Tom George reports him in great form and as one who can go well after a break, (hasn’t raced for over 6 months) needs considering.

Paul Nicholls (pictured) has won the heat 3 times, twice with the Gold Cup winner,
See More Business in 1999 and 2000, and with Silviniaco Conti in 2012 so certainly knows what is required. paul nicholls charlie hallHis two representatives this time are the highly promising 6yo, Clan Des Obeaux, and the very consistent Black Corton. The former has won 3 of his 10 races over fences, and his penultimate effort, finishing 2nd to the useful
Guitar Pete, to whom he was conceding 22lbs in Cheltenham’s Caviar Gold Cup last December was particularly praiseworthy. Following a 117 day break he again ran well finishing 3rd, 10 1/4L behind Might Bite at Aintree. He is another who can go well fresh and won’t mind the ground. He is the type to continue to improve and with the yard going well is one for the shortlist.

2017 Charlie Hall Chase race preview.

The second Ditcheat contender,the wonderfully consistent 7yo, Black Corton is 8/13 over fences and 7 of these have been achieved with the talented Bryony Frost in the plate. The combination looked particularly good when winning the Grade1 Kauto Star
Novices Chase at Kempton last Christmas and he may have been feeling the effects of a long season when well beaten in his last two races both Grade 1s at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals. Following a well deserved 6 months break we could well see a rejuvenated Black Corton resume his upwardly mobile trajectory.

Selection: Clan Des Obeaux (if abs Black Corton)
E.W.         : Double Shuffle

John Gray

The Dubai £500,000 Cesarewitch Handicap 2m2f Newmarket Tips

cesarawitchWhile last year saw the welcome return of the market leader getting his head in front, it has been a poor contest for favourites, Withhold, (Oddsguru’s selection) being only the third Jolly to collect since the great Vintage Crop prevailed in 1992, and in the past decade we have seen winners returned at 66/1, two at 50/1, and another at 25/1 so don’t be put off by a long price. The race uniquely is run over 2 counties, (starts in Cambridgeshire and finishes in Suffolk) and has only the one slight change of direction, a gentle turn around the 10f marker, giving the 35 runners a nearly straight 2m2f to contend with. Always run at a furious gallop from flag fall, stamina is at a huge premium, so contenders without very solid staying credentials are best ignored. Irish yards, with just 2 wins in the last 50 year’s have a very poor record, but Willie Mullins, (3rd last year with Lagos To Vegas) is mob handed at the time of writing, and he’s making a determined effort this term to improve the Celtic record. He trains the  current market leader, Stratum, and this son of Dansili certainly shouldn’t fail on the stamina front.

A 5yo gelding, he is out of the stoutly bred Galileo mare, Lunar Place, and demonstrated his ample stamina credentials in this year’s 2 1/2m Ascot Stakes, keeping on strongly for 3rd place, 2 1/4L behind the winner, stablemate, Lagos To Vegas. He followed up with a comfortable Newbury victory in the 2m1/2f JLT Cup in July, and was then sent off favourite for the 1m6f Ebor Handicap at York last time where he looked unlucky. Held up in the rear by pilot Robert Winston, he was left with an awful lot to do, but still looked a real danger, impressively weaving his way through the field only to be badly hampered 1 1/2f out where he lost all chance. He should be well suited by the step back up in trip and looks fairly treated on his York mark of 102.

williemullinsConnections of the second Mullins runner, the 7yo mare, Limini, have had to be very patient as she was off the course for 503 days prior to making her comeback in a 2m1f Handicap for Qualified Riders at Galway in July, where she finished a commendable 2nd. Bought from France by the Ricci’s in May 2015 she was campaigned exclusively over hurdles in 2016 and 2017, with considerable success, winning three of her 7 starts, including a Cheltenham Festival victory over 2m1f in 2016, and she looked a tad unlucky the following year, again at Cheltenham, when beaten 1 1/2L by the top class Apple Jade over 2m4f, where presumably she sustained that injury that kept her off the racecourse for 503 days. She started a 5/1 shot for the very valuable Petingo Handicap at Leopardstown over 13f, 4 week’s ago, and under a super ride from Saturday’s pilot, Oisin Murphy, led at the furlong marker, and kept on strongly to hold her stable companion, Law Girl, by a head. Racing off the same mark on Saturday, and with Murphy again doing the steering, she has plenty to recommend her.

Ian Williams who trained last year’s ill fated runner up, London Prize, (Oddsguru’s E.W. selection) produced his 7yo, Stars Over The Sea, to win the trial for Saturday’s contest over course and distance by 10L three weeks ago. However he was allowed his own way out front and the time was slow so may struggle with another 8lbs on his back.

The Neil Mulholland trained Vis A Vis looked well suited by the step up in trip when winning a 2mile handicap on the Kempton AW last time (Aug 8) and had previously won a Class4, 14f Sandown Handicap, 53 days earlier on his debut for the stable. By the strong influence for stamina, Dansili, out of the Rainbow Quest mare, Pretty Face his pedigree is all about stamina and could be very well suited by Saturday’s trip. Neil has secured the services of last year’s winning rider, Silvestre de Sousa and looks fairly treated on his mark of 90.

The Aidan O’Brien trained 3yo, Southern France would be only the third 3yo to prevail in the last two decades, but that said, you don’t get many horses from the Classic generation, with the class to finish 3rd in a St Leger competing in The Cesarewitch, and as a son of Galileo, sire of the Ascot Gold Cup winner, Order Of St George and plenty of other staying types, it wouldn’t surprise to see the Ballydoyle colt play a leading role on Saturday.

The Ralph Beckett trained 4yo, Here and Now has won 3 of his 12 starts and was quite impressive in his penultimate race, the valuable Sky Bet Handicap over 2m1/2f at York in August. He stayed on strongly to beat the useful, Davy’s Dilemma by 5L off a mark of 91. Dropped back to 1m6f in a Chester Listed contest 6 week’s ago, he was slow coming out of the gate and never got into a challenging position, but did stay on well and was only 1 3/4L adrift of the winner, Duretto at the line. Well bred, Here And Now is By Dansili out of the top class Hernando mare, Look Here, ( won The Oaks in 2008, 3rd St Leger 2008, Btn Shd when 3rd Coronation Cup 2009) so on breeding should find Saturday’s trip right up his street, and only 4lbs higher than York looks good value at current odds of 20/1.

Selection  : Vis A Vis
EW.            :  Here And Now. (If abs. Stratum)

John Gray

Newtonabbotracing.com Handicap Hurdle, 2m5 1/2f Newton Abbot Saturday

On a day when most of the flat racing is of a fairly pedestrian nature, Saturday’s Newton abbot Card provides this very competitive looking heat, so let’s hope that most if not all of the 13 four day declarations make it to the start.

Harry Skelton learning that he’s carry the weight of yours truly’s twenty pounds at Bangor last summer

 

Topweight, High Secret, only joined The Skelton Academy in June, (from Paul Nicholls) and hit the back of the net at the third attempt for his new yard when he impressively won a Class2 Market Rasen Handicap (2m4 1/2f Good) 6 week’s ago. Racing off a mark of 132 he made all, went clear before two out, and won hard held by 9L and the same, from North Hill, and Saturday’s opponent Voodoo Doll. He is 9lbs higher on Saturday and it’s a slight worry that his two previous victories over hurdles were also achieved on right handed tracks, but that performance at Market Rasen was most impressive, and a literal reading of the form with Voodoo Doll from their meeting at Worcester in June, (second run for Skelton) would suggest that High Secret had improved by at least 12lbs.

The Michael Blake trained Knight Of Noir is 4/18 over hurdles but has drawn a blank in all 6 starts since transferring from the Neil Mulholland yard last February. However there was some encouragement from his penultimate start when finishing 3rd, he was only beaten 1 1/2L in a Class2 Market Rasen Handicap racing off Saturday’s mark of 135. He can be excused his 4th on soft ground at Uttoxeter last time and it’s worth noting  that the 9yo has won off a mark 5lbs higher than Saturday’s in the past.

The above mentioned Mulholland has an interesting contender himself with the Tony Bloom owned 6yo, Sleep Easy. Since winning a Class3 Handicap at Wincanton off a mark of 130 in March 2017 he has been disappointing, but following wind surgery and a 91 day break, his 4th/6 here at Newton Abbot (2m2f) 32 days ago, racing off a mark of 134 was a little more encouraging. He was in contention until the 2nd last and may have found the trip on the short side. He races on Saturday off 132, and with his connections, any market moves are worth noting.

newton abbot odds

Newton Abbot race course

Harry Fry won last year’s renewal with the 6yo, Golden Birthday, and at the time of writing has two entries, Litterate Ci and Serosevsky. The former is 3/10 over hurdles and the JP McManus owned 5yo was quite impressive when stepped up to 2 1/2m for the first time. He won over this trip at  Ffos Las  off a mark of 125 under 7lbs claimer, Miss A O’Connor at the end of May, and he again ran well last time, under the same rider, in that heat won by Voodoo Doll at Worcester in June. Meeting trouble in running and not getting a clear run on the flat he finished strongly to finish 4th, 2L behind Voodoo Doll who he meets on 5lbs better terms on Saturday. He also meets High Secret who finished just ahead of him in 3rd on 9lbs better.

Harry’s second contender, Serosevsky, has won 2 of his 4 starts over hurdles and had little more than an exercise gallop when winning a Novice’s over the course (2m2f) ten days ago, at odds of 1/4. He makes his handicap debut off a lenient looking mark of 125 and while he has yet to race over Saturday’s distance under rules, he is stoutly bred and had no difficulty winning a PTP over 3miles as a 4yo.

The Philip Hobbs trained mare, Katy P is a course and distance winner, and the 6yo had a nice pipe opener following a 78 day break at Southwell, 13 days ago. Racing off a mark of 128, she looked to have every chance until weakening between the last two obstacles. A winner of 3 of her ten starts over hurdles she races off a mark of 127 and it wouldn’t surprise to see her involved at the business end.

The Nicky Henderson trained 8yo, Ballinure is 3/12 over hurdles and looks pretty exposed. His highest winning mark over hurdles is 122 so looks to have it all to do under 3lbs higher on Saturday.

The 8yo mare, Kentford Heiress, has been a great servant to connections, winning 7 of her 13 starts, and she also boasts an excellent record here at Newton Abbot, nearly always running well, and winning two of her 8 starts at the track. Indeed her last appearance here in July, (3m2f) only beaten 1 3/4L when finishing 4th off a mark of 122 was one of her best performances. However she finished 7/7 at Stratford last time and connections will be hoping the Devon air sparks a revival.

Selection. : litterate Ci (if abs) High Secret

E.W.           : Katy P

John Gray

188bet Summer Plate 2m5 1/2f Chase Market Rasen Saturday, a preview by Oddsguru

alcala summer plate

Alcala with trainer Paul Nicholls

First run in 1995, The Summer Plate has come home to the Ditcheat yard of Paul Nicholls on two occasions, when Dorans Gold won in 2001, and last year, when Oddsguru’s, 9/1 selection, Alcala, brought home the bacon. Last year’s Victor is joined this time by the 7yo, Bagad Bihoue, and the ex Point to Pointer, Monsieur Gibraltar, to mount a pretty serious looking challenge for this year’s renewal by the Somerset stable.

Alcala, on a mark of 148, is only a pound higher than last year, which seems quite lenient, as this winner of six of his fifteen starts over fences, went on to win his next two contests, and might well have made it three but for slipping up on the bend before the straight just after taking it up in a Listed race at Chepstow next time. He always seemed to be travelling well within himself in last year’s contest and beat the Peter Bowen trained Wadswick Court, (also entered on Saturday) by 3/4L giving him 21lbs. The runner up went on to win a valuable Uttoxeter heat a week later, and meets Alcala on 9lbs worse terms at the weekend. Alcala has had a pretty similar preparation for this as last year, and should be primed to give it his best shot on Saturday.

Stablemate, Bagad Bihoue, has won five of his nine starts over fences and beat Alcala last time by 3 1/2L at Newton Abbot 26 days ago on his first start for seven months. He meets Alcala on 4lbs worse terms at the weekend which should bring them closer together, and it’s worth remembering that Bagad Bihoue has won after a long break in the past. He may just have had a fitness edge on his stable companion and with Sam Twiston-Davies, (has won two of the last five renewals) in the plate, Alcala is preferred.

The third Ditcheat contender, the Hunter Chaser, Monsieur Gibraltar, has won four times in that discipline and gets into Saturday’s contest on a mark of 128 but a race like Saturday’s looks a big ask on his first attempt handicapping.

Peter Bowen has won The Summer Plate a record five times and is mob handed on Saturday, but the markets would seem to suggest that his best chance of landing a sixth win, lies with his 8yo, More Bucks. A winner of four of his thirteen starts over fences, including last time when coming home 21L clear of Pickamix off a mark of 119 in a Class3 Perth Handicap four weeks ago. He is 8lbs higher on Saturday but has won of this mark in the past, (Sandown 3mGd Dec 2016), and it wouldn’t surprise to see the son of Presenting involved.

market rasen summer

The finishing post at Market Rasen

JP McManus has seen his colours carried first past the post on two previous occasions, (No strings attached 2009 and It’s a Gimme 2014) and he will be hoping for a third win with the Rebecca Curtis trained Geordie Des Champs. A winner of two of his five chases, he could only finish 5th of 18 in Uttoxeter’s Summer Cup three weeks ago, but probably found the 3m2f trip beyond him, and will find Saturday’s trip more suitable. Rated 2lbs higher over hurdles we have probably yet to see the best of the son of Robin Des Champs over the larger obstacles and is worth considering.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Calett Mad has been plying his trade over the smaller obstacles for his last seven races, but has plenty of form over fences that makes him of interest in Saturday’s Chase. His 6L victory over Roc D’Apsis at right handed Taunton in a three mile Chase off a mark of 138 in January 2017 would suggest that he may well be suited by Market Rasen’s clockwise circuit and could also be well handicapped off his mark of 143. An excellent run in the 18 runner, 4miles, 2017 National Hunt Chase, where he was in contention until the 3rd last but didn’t last home, demonstrated his ability to cope with the demands of a large field. Only six, there could be plenty more to come from the ex French son of Axxos.

The Colin Tizzard trained Vicente Du Noyer finished 3rd, 3 1/2L and a nose behind Bagad Bihoue and Alcala in that Newton Abbot heat 26 days ago and meets the winner on 4lbs better on Saturday which must give him a squeak, but it has to be noted, that the 9yo veteran of 33 races under rules, has never won going right handed.

The Peter Niven trained 7yo, Brian Borhana is already a much better chaser (130)than hurdler (114) after only five outings over the larger obstacles, and showed how progressive he is last time, when winning a Class3 Southwell Handicap comfortably from that good yardstick, Ballyboker Breeze four weeks ago. The runner up went on to win his next race and is now rated 140, which makes Peter Niven’s son of Brian Boru, look pretty well treated on 130 giving him a very nice riding weight of 10-8.

Selection : Alcala
E.W.             :  Calett Mad      Geordie Des Champs

Pertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle Tips 1m7 1/2f Haydock Saturday

As Welsh Maestro, Evan Williams has won three of the last five renewals of this valuable contest, his two contenders, John Constable, and Silver Streak, have to be of particular interest. The former won last year’s race by an impressive 14L racing off a mark of 134, and went on to defy a 16lbs higher mark in Market Rasen’s Summer Hurdle next time out. Raised another 6lbs to Saturday’s mark of 156 has seen him confined to conditions events with little success, including last time, when he finished 41L behind Buveur D’Aire in The Champion Hurdle in ninth place. Considering a mark of 141, ( Nicky Henderson’s Eradicate in 2011) is the highest rating of any winner in the last twelve years, John Constable clearly has a mammoth task on his hands, so perhaps Evan’s best chance of landing a fourth Swinton lies with the 5yo, Silver Streak.

A winner of three of his ten starts over hurdles, his highest winning mark to date has been 122, but he did run really well when finishing 2nd off a mark of 130 in the very valuable Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle at Ascot last December. If top weight and stable companion, John Constable, takes up the engagement, Silver Streak will only have the featherweight of 10-2 to carry and with his preferred good ground at the weekend almost assured, has to be worth considering.

Nicky Henderson won back to back runnings of The Swinton with Eradicate in 2010 and 2011 and fields two strong looking candidates, the 6yo mare, Verdana Blue and the 7yo Whatswrongwithyou this time around. The mare has been unplaced in her last two races but was a decent 3rd in that Racing Welfare heat at Ascot in December, and is 3lbs better off with the runner up that day, Silver Streak. Nevertheless, she looks high enough on her mark of 143, and preference is for the year older Whatswrongwithyou.

Lightly raced, he has only run four times over timber, finishing 2nd on his debut in December, winning a Novices next time from the useful Ok Corrall, and then winning his first venture into handicap company very easily off a mark of 133. He was beaten last time at Sandown off a mark of 139 but there were excuses as he was caught behind a wall of horses turning in, and did run on to finish 9L third of fifteen. We are unlikely to have yet seen the best of the 7yo, but a concern would be the likely top of the ground conditions at the weekend as he has never won on a surface with good in the going description before. However the messages from his pedigree are positive as his sire, Bienamado, won three times at the highest level on either Firm or Good to Firm, and his half brother, Gvs Irportensa has won and been placed on Good.

Philip Hobbs won the Swinton with Dreams end way back in 1994, and doubled up three years ago with War Sound, so certainly knows what is required, and he fields a likely looking candidate in the tough handicapper, Sternrubin. Mixing the flat, chasing and hurdling, the 7yo has won four of his sixteen starts over timber, (including a 4L victory over John Constable in Nov 2015) but has only raced four times over the smaller obstacles since beating Instant Karma in a Class1 Ascot Handicap Hurdle off a mark of 142 in October 2016. His last two runs have been quite promising, 10/24 in The County Hurdle, and 3/15 last time at Aintree, 11L behind Havana Beat, Racing off a mark of 140. Competing in large field handicaps holds no fears for the 7yo, who should have his preferred ground on Saturday, and running off a mark of 139, with the Hobbs operation firing in the winners at present, is well worth a second look.

Having fallen in The Henry V111 Novices Chase behind Sceau Royal in December, the Paul Nicholls trained Capitaine reverted to hurdles 130 days later, and finished a respectable 5/15 at Cheltenham in April, racing off a mark of 139. The 6yo has been dropped to a mark of 137 (12lbs below his Chase mark) which looks pretty generous for an animal that won an Ascot Grade2 in December 2016. He likes good ground and has form over the course so could just fill in a significant gap in the P. Nicholls C.V.

Another reverting to hurdles following a highly successful stint steeplechasing is last year’s runner up, Optimus Prime. Since then the Dan Skelton trained 6yo has made serious progress over fences, winning three of his four starts, and finishing runner up, albeit at a respectful 12L, to superstar Footpad, at The Punchestown Festival. He is now rated 147 in that discipline and if he has made similar progress over hurdles would look very well treated on Saturday’s mark of 140.

Having been held up off the pace in last year’s contest, the Alan King trained William H Bonney started to improve from before the third last, and but for having to swerve to avoid a faller at the last, might have been placed. His last four races have been disappointing, although he did look as if he might deliver at Cheltenham in November in the Greatwood Hurdle, when he looked a possible winner at the last, but faded up the hill to finish 6th off a mark of 137. His master trainer has always felt that the 7yo has what it takes to win one of these valuable handicaps and has certainly been given a chance by the handicapper, racing off a mark 4lbs lower than last year, and 8lbs lower than for the Greatwood. Odds of 33/1 available at the time of writing.

Selection: Capitaine

E.W. : Sternrubin and William H Bonney

John Gray

bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase Tips 3m5f Sandown Saturday


First run in 1957 under the sponsorship of the Whitbread Brewery, the race is now sponsored by the Stoke Bookmakers, bet365, and this valuable, always competitive Chase, which has been won by some of the greats of The Winter Game, brings the curtain down on what has been another terrific National Hunt season.

Nigel Twiston-Davies won this back in 2000 with the 7yo, beau, and will be hoping that his tough and talented Blaklion might achieve some compensation for his early departure in The Grand National a fortnight ago. Unluckily brought down at the first at Aintree, the son of Kayf Tara had made a good start to his season, finishing 1/2L second to his stable companion, Bristol De Mai, in The Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in November, and then putting up a career best performance the following month, when winning The 3m2f Beecher Chase at Aintree by 9L from The Last Samurai. Raised a severe looking 9lbs, he finished a distant second at Haydock on ground that was bordering on the unraceable in February to Yala Enki. His current rating of 161 leaves him with top weight of 11-12 to carry but his performances before Christmas showed him to be an improved animal this term, and it will come as no surprise to see this tough character involved at the business end on Saturday.

If Blaklion fails to do the business the Naunton yard has a strong looking second string with the 9yo Bigbadjohn. A winner of the Grade2 Reynoldstown Chase for Novices at Ascot in 2017 the future looked bright for the son of Vinnie Roe, but alas, his next five runs were most disappointing. However he got back into the winning groove at Kempton in February where, jumping soundly, he stayed on strongly over the three miles trip to beat the useful Brandon Hill by a length. He can be forgiven his fall at The Chair in The Topham Trophy at Aintree fifteen days ago and back on a more conventional track he doesn’t look badly treated on his mark of 138 giving him a lovely racing weight of 10-3.

A winner of his only PTP and Bumper, Missed Approach went on to win his first race over hurdles and indeed his first handicap over the smaller obstacles, (3m Soft) but his future was always going to be as a staying chaser and so it has proved. He has to date put up some sterling performances in that discipline, including a second to subsequent Grand National Hero, Tiger Roll in the 4mile National Hunt Chase at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival and a superb win over Mall Dini in the 3m2f Kim Muir at this year’s Cheltenham Jamboree. He has been raised 8lbs for that victory but still doesn’t look overburdened with 10-11 at the weekend, and I suspect we have still to see the best of Warren Greatrex’s 8yo.

The Philip Hobbs trained Rock The Kasbah, having got behind, stayed on strongly from the second last to claim 6th place, only 2 1/4L behind the winner Henllan Harry, in last year’s renewal when racing off a mark of 142. phillip hobbs oddsguruHe made his seasonal reappearance a winning one off the same mark at Chepstow nearly six months later, and was then pulled up on unsuitable heavy ground in his only other race at Haydock in January. A year older, and a stronger animal this time, who will enjoy the likely good ground, he looks well treated on his mark of 149, giving him a racing weight of 11-0, and is well worth considering.

The David Pipe trained 6yo, Daklondike, has looked a seriously progressive young chaser. He won over fences for the first time at Wetherby in November off a mark of 114, and only eight weeks later saw him winning The Mandarin Chase at Newbury (3m2f Heavy) in facile fashion from that good yardstick Grand Vision off a 19lbs higher mark. He looks very well handicapped on Saturday racing off a mark of 140, giving him the featherweight of 10-5 to carry and the only reservation I have is the ground. He has done all his winning with plenty of give underneath and it remains to be seen how he will cope with conditions at the weekend. However in his favour his very talented half brother, Great Endeavour had no problem with good ground and neither had the grand dam, Ross Gale.

One who will cope if the going is on top on Saturday is the Nicky Henderson trained Sugar Baron. A winner on Good/ Firm, the 8yo was 7th in last year’s race, only 2 1/2L behind the winner Henlland Harry despite some sticky jumping and a weak finish. Jumping better and finishing strongly over course and distance in December he just failed to catch Benbens off a mark of 135. He is easily excused his last run behind Missed Approach at the Festival on unsuitable soft ground and should have his optimum conditions at the weekend. Again racing off 135, giving him a lowly 10-2 to carry he has to be worth considering.

Selection: Rock The Kasbah

E.W. : Sugar Baron

John Gray