Betfred Summer Plate Handicap Chase 2m 5 1/2f Market Rasen Saturday

Following last week’s stellar program on the flat, this week’s offering are of a considerably lower order, so let’s take a look at one of the Summer Seasons top jumping events, The Betfred Summer Plate.

Paul Nicholls has failed to hit the back of the net with any of his eleven contenders over the past decade, although three of them have been placed. However this year his 7yo son of Turgeon, the French bred, Alcala, looks a likely type to fill in this particular gap in the Master of Ditcheat’s C.V. A winner of three of his seven chases, he looked an improved animal when comfortably taking a Newton Abbot, Class3 handicap (2m5f Gd/Sft) at the beginning of June, off a mark of 135, and confirmed that good impression when, taking the step up to Class2 level in his stride, he comfortably defied a seven pounds higher mark, again at Newton Abbot, (2m5f Gd/Fm) twelve days later. He kept on well to deny the 2/1 fav, Brother Ted by 4 1/2L, and had the useful Midnight Cowboy another length back in third. This was an excellent effort by the French bred,
(they have a good record in the contest), who has won going right handed, so with proven ability in a large field, Alcala off his new mark of 147 is definitely worth considering.

Nicky Henderson’s 7yo, Days of Heaven is another very much on the up. A winner of seven of his fifteen starts, he has won his last three chases, showing progressive form on each occasion. He won at Kempton (2m good) off a mark of 136 in March, at Stratford, (2m 3 1/2f good) off 142 in May, and last time, fifty five days ago, he won off a mark of 148 at Haydock (2m4f good). Clearly progressive, the slight reservation about his prospects on Saturday is the trip.He doesn’t seem to have had much petrol left in the tank at the end of his races, and might just be found out by the extra 1 1/2f in a race always run at a pretty frenetic pace, particularly off his new mark of 151.

Henryville, trained by Henry Fry finished 4L behind Days of Heaven in that Haydock heat 55 days ago, and now meets his conquerer on 4lbs better terms. As a four times winner at the trip there are no stamina doubts about the Fry horse, but his new mark of 152 giving him top weight of 11-12, looks a big ask so Henry’s best chance of collecting on Saturday, may lie with his second contender, the ex Irish 8yo, Art Of Payroll. Trained in the Emerald Isle until recently joining the “Fry” operation, he was rated on a mark of 128. He won a beginners Chase over 20f at Down Royal at the beginning of May, his first win from twelve attempts over the larger obstacles, (placed seven times). His record isn’t exactly awe inspiring but he did have the well supported favourite 24L back in third at Down Royal, and will be well suited by Saturday’s trip, so with his nice weight of 10-09 and in the hands of ace trainer Fry, is well worth considering.

Jonjo O’Neill runs his 2014 winner, It’s A Gimme, and the 10yo races off a mark of 134, only 2lbs higher than for that victory. He hasn’t won since, but showed that he was no back number when finishing second at Stratford off a mark of 133 six weeks ago, and it would come as no surprise to see him in the mix again. However the same owner/trainer combination, O’Neill and McManus, are also represented by course winner, I’dliketheoption, and this 6yo son of Presenting has plenty to recommend him. He took some time to get into a rhythm over the course 9 weeks ago, (2m3f good) but the further he went the better he got and finished strongly to win by 3 1/2L and 22L from Voix d’Eau and Yorkist. As a son of Presenting he will enjoy the likely good ground and looks nicely treated on a mark of 132 giving him the light weight of 10-06 to carry.

Owner McManus, has a third string to his bow with the 8yo Cup Final, another son of Presenting. Previously trained by Nicky Henderson, he is now in the hands of Ben Haslam and he demonstrated his wellbeing when going down by a nose to Midnight Shot in a two and a half mile Novices Chase at Hexham thirty three days ago, where the pair were 17L clear of the third horse. With a win in a 24 runner Punchestown handicap on his C.V. Saturday’s large field should hold no fears. As three of his four wins have been achieved going righthanded, and there are no stamina doubts, this lightly weighted animal, (10-06), is another well worth considering.

Selection : Alcala

E.W. : I’dliketheoption

John Gray


Betting Tips Swinton Handicap Hurdle

Pertemps Network Swinton HandicapPertemps Network Swinton Handicap Hurdle 2m Haydock Saturday – Paul Nicholls has yet to add a Swinton Hurdle to his outstanding C.V. but went close last year with the 5yo, Set To Go who finished second to Paul Webber’s Gwafa. He tries again with two likely looking types, the 5yo Zubayr, and the year older High Secret, and both have plenty to recommend them. The former looked an unlucky loser of The Scottish Champion Hurdle three weeks ago, where despite meeting the last all wrong, he was only beaten a short head. Only 4lbs higher on Saturday compensation may well await.

The year older Novice, High Secret, is a very solid performer on the flat, winning six of his seventeen starts at distances from 12f to 17f. He finished a close 4th in the 14f sixteen runner handicap, The Old Borough Cup over the course in 2015, strongly suggesting that Saturday’s large field should hold no fears. He is beginning to look just as talented over the smaller obstacles. He has won two of his four starts, and last time put up a noteworthy performance when finishing 4th in an Aintree Grade1. The handicapper hasn’t exactly been generous giving him a mark of 141 and a racing weight of 11-9 but the 6yo has plenty of pace and will be well suited by a fast run contest at the weekend. I feel that there will be plenty more to come from this very genuine animal in his new discipline and is shortlisted.

Last years Scottish Champion Hurdle winner Ch’Tibello, could only finish third in last years renewal, but Master Trainer Skelton looks to have a very strong hand this time with his three 5yo’s, Optimus Prime, Red Tornado, and Mohaayed.

dan skelton swinton

Trainer Dan Skelton has a strong trio for Saturday’s race

The former, a six figure purchase from France where he was a dual winner over hurdles, including at Listed level looked as if he might justify his purchase price when finishing a close second in a Huntingdon Class2 on his debut for the stable. However he disappointed at Musselburgh three months later when pulled up but we got an idea of what he might be capable of next time in the very valuable Betfair Hurdle at Newbury seven weeks ago. Fitted with a tongue strap for the first time he was travelling strongly coming to the second last only to be badly hampered by a faller. It is hard to say what the probable outcome may have been but it is fair to say that he would have at least been involved in the finish. He comes here a fresh horse and racing off the same mark as Newbury has to be considered.

Stable companion Mohaayed is a very likeable type who always seems to run his race but unfortunately pays the price. He has gone up 2lbs for finishing 2nd in last months Scottish Champion Hurdle and is 3lbs higher than his mark in the County Hurdle at The Festival where he finished 7th. He deserves to win a decent prize but looks handicapped to the hilt.

The talented Welsh trainer, Evan Williams has won this twice in the last five years so certainly knows what is required and is represented by the 10yo, Court Minstrel, and the 6yo John Constable. The former races off a mark of 144 making him joint top weight with 11-12 but he did win the Chepstow Silver Trophy off a 5lbs higher mark in 2015. He has failed to hit the back of the net in his subsequent ten races but ran well last time, beaten only 4 3/4L in the County Hurdle when finishing 10th. He races on Saturday off a 1lbs lower mark and is worth a second look.

John Constable fell at the last having been headed at Aintree last time and off a 5lbs higher mark on Saturday is hard to fancy.

Nicky Henderson won this twice with Eradicate in 2010 and 2012 and with the 6yo Peace And Co has a very well handicapped animal to go to war with. The French bred son of Falco looked destined for the top when winning the 2015 Triumph Hurdle but was a bitter disappointment in his second season. However the Handicapper has taken note and dropped him from a high of 159 to Saturday’s mark of 144. Following a 13 month break he reappeared in the Scottish Champion Hurdle three weeks ago, and ran a race full of promise. He travelled really well throughout and despite losing a shoe finished 6 3/4L behind in 10th. His owners  Munir and Souede are great supporters of the Winter Game and have had a great season. Peace And Co might just put the icing on the cake.

Selection : High Secret
E.W.          : Peace And Co

Racing Tips Betfair Hurdle Newbury

racing-tips-betfair-hurdle-newburyBetfair Hurdle (Handicap) 2m67yds Newbury Saturday – Historically, in a race first run in 1963 as The Schweppes Gold Trophy, an experienced handicapper was usually the order of the day, but recent renewals have seen the Novice division very much to the fore, with less experienced animals dominating.  Novices have collected five of the last seven runnings, and indeed, of the last six to pass the post in front, only Gary Moore’s Violet Dancer had previously run in a handicap. Weight as ever has been a significant factor, with seven of the last ten winners, carrying less than eleven stone. It is worth mentioning however that the three successful animals carrying above this level, Essex (11-6), Zarkandar (11-1) and My Tent Or Yours (11-02) were all well backed favourites, starting at odds of 4/1 or less. Nicky Henderson has been the most successful handler with five victories overall, but only one of those has come in the last ten renewals, while Gary Moore has hit the back of the net three times in the same period.

From 6lbs out of the handicap, it’s difficult to see the Moore yard collecting for a fourth time with their 6yo Krugermac, but Henderson certainly has a live contender with his 5yo Consul De Thaix. He has only had the five starts, and has acquitted himself well on the last two occasions, finishing second in both races, to genuine Champion Hurdle aspirant, Brain Power, and he also demonstrated last time, that the demands of a large field competitive handicap, were right up his street. Held up in midfield, in the 19 runner Wessex Youth Trust Handicap Hurdle at Ascot in December, he stayed on well to snatch 2nd in the shadow of the post. Only 5lbs higher at the weekend there should be plenty more to come.

Having won with Splash Of Ginge three years ago, Nigel Twiston-Davies knows what is required, so last year’s Champion Bumper winner, Ballyandy, is worth considering. The 6yo Twiston-Davies contender, made his hurdles debut at Perth in September, and, but for clouting the second last obstacle, must have gone very close to beating the current 2nd favourite for the Supreme Novices, Moon Dancer. He put up another good performance two months later when finishing 3rd behind the same horse at Cheltenham in November, and last time got to within 1/2L of subsequent Challow Hurdle winner, Messire Des Obeaux over 20f at Sandown ten weeks ago. He showed his ability to cope with a big field when winning the Champion Bumper, and has been given a generous looking mark of 135, leaving him with a nice racing weight of 10st10lbs. Having won the valuable Bumper on this card last year, he should like the track, and all in all seems to have plenty going for him on Saturday. One for the shortlist!

Last year the Oddsguru went for the JP McManus-owned gelding, Blazer.

Welsh maestro, Evan Williams, has never won a Betfair Hurdle, but this upwardly mobile trainer has a strong candidate with his improving 7yo Clyne. Prior to running in Haydock’s Champion Hurdle Trial, this son of Hernando had won his four previous races, improving from a mark of 115 to his current mark of 143, and showed that rating fully deserved when making The New One pull out all the stops in that Haydock contest. Well suited by a flat left handed track on testing ground he could find conditions ideal on Saturday.

If the Alan King trained, William H Bonney turns out again, only fourteen days after a convincing win at Cheltenham, take note.


Trainer Alan King will be hoping for a Bonney bonanza

He had the favourite for that Prestbury Park heat, Wait For Me, 3 3/4L back in fifth, and meets him on only 5lbs worse terms, so should confirm the form with the Hobbs runner. A winner of three of his six starts over hurdles, it won’t come as any great surprise if this “gun slinger” is involved at the business end on Saturday.

Represented by the 5yo Zubayr, and the 6yo, Movewithetimes, the master of Ditcheat, Paul Nicholls, is finding it hard to split them. However with the outstanding recent record of handicap debutants/novices in mind, perhaps the one to concentrate on is the JP McManus owned Movewithetimes. A winner of the first of his three races over hurdles at Fontwell in October, he found all the trouble going twenty five days later, when finishing 5th, 3 3/4L behind the winner, Moon Racer at Cheltenham, (Ballyandy 3rd, 1L ahead of Movewithetimes). He won his last race, a Wincanton Novices comfortably six weeks ago, and is reported in good order. Considering that he was hampered on two occasions in the closing stages of that Cheltenham contest, meeting Ballyandy on 3lbs better terms for that one length deficit makes him look a well handicapped horse, and being a big strong type should be well suited by Newbury’s expansive galloping track.

Selection: Movewithetimes

E.W.         : Clyne (if abs Ballyandy)

Racing Tips Betfred Masters Handicap Chase


Jonjo’s Beg To Differ is the Oddsguru’s call at Sandown on Saturday

Betfred Masters Handicap Chase 3m Sandown Saturday – Jonjo O’Neill (pictured above), Paul Nicholls, Philip Hobbs, and Venetia Williams have all hit the back of the net in this contest over the past decade, and all four field viable looking candidates again on Saturday.

O’Neill is double handed at the time of writing with the 7yo, Beg To Differ, and the 8yo, Go Conquer. The latter, who has declined some recent engagements, presumably because of ground concerns, looks better at shorter anyhow, so with plenty of rain about, Jonjo’s, Beg To Differ, looks the one to concentrate on. Starting at odds of 16/1, 20/1, and 33/1 for his first three runs this term, little was expected, and indeed nothing was delivered, although he did out run those odds of 33/1 last time, when finishing 4th in the Welsh National. However, the 7yo has proved in the past to be a much better performer in the second half of the season, with all his four career wins coming in January, February, or March, and indeed, his sole Chase victory was achieved over course and distance in this month last year. That was only his fourth outing over the larger obstacles, where he had Saturday’s opponent, the Sandown specialist, Loose Chips, 4 1/2L back in second. The runner up reopposes on a pound worse terms so looks held. Beg To Differ started, as a not unfancied 11/1 shot, in a very competitive, 23 runner Cheltenham Festival handicap, 24 days later, racing off a 10lbs higher mark, but clipping heels, unshipped his rider. He races on Saturday off a 4lbs lower mark, (139) only 6lbs higher than for that previous Sandown victory, and with conditions likely to be in his favour, has to be one for the shortlist.

Course form is always important at the Esher track, so with a win and a place from his three Sandown appearances, the Paul Nicholls trained Irish Saint is worth considering. He has done all his winning over shorter than Saturday’s three miles, and it has to be said, that his two attempts at the distance haven’t given much encouragement that 3miles is his optimum trip, although he did finish 3rd, albeit 15L and a head behind Saphir Du Rheu and Carraig Mor in the nine runner 25f Grade1 Novices Chase at last years Aintree Festival. The jury remains out on his best trip, but what can be said in his favour is that Saturday’s right hand track, (has won six of his ten races going this way round) will be very much to his advantage, and heavy ground won’t be a problem. As the sole Ditcheat representative he is worth considering.

The Philip Hobbs trained Novice, Rock The Kasbah, was a more than useful hurdler, achieving a rating of 150, winning at distances up to 20f, but after only three outings over the larger obstacles, looks as if a step up in trip is required. A winner of his first Chase (Chepstow 2m3 1/2f good) from the talented Our Kaempfer, he was a staying on 3rd next time (Cheltenham 2m4 1/2f good), and last time was second to the very useful Politologue (Ascot 2m5f Gd-Sft) keeping on well from the last. He has made some jumping errors in his races but may well be helped by the slightly slower pace of Saturday’s trip. He is racing off a mark 4lbs lower than his hurdles rating, so if taking up the engagement, (also in 2.25San and 2.45 Wetherby) has to be of interest.

Otago Trail looks the most likely of the Venetia Williams pair but I just wonder if he will have recovered from his exertions behind the spring heeled Bristol De Mai only fourteen days ago, when he looked a very tired animal, trailing in 22L behind the impressive winner, to take the runner up spot.

The past decade hasn’t seen a graduate of the Seven Barrows academy in the winners enclosure, but I’m sure that headmaster Henderson, is hoping to put the matter right with his talented pupil, Vyta Du Roc. A winner of six of his seventeen starts, twice at Grade2 level over hurdles, he made a satisfactory start to the new term when finishing 3rd at Aintree in November. He ran a solid race three weeks later when finishing 6th, beaten 9L in The Hennessy off a mark of 143. He has to be forgiven a poor run at Cheltenham 34 days ago, but racing off a mark of 139 on Saturday, he does look well handicapped, and with the stable in rude health is on the shortlist.

Considering the very poor record of Willie Mullins trained handicap chasers in Britain over the years, one is reluctant to mention his 10yo, The Crafty Butcher, but the claims of this son of Vinnie Roe are undeniable. Having only his second run for the Irish genius, he stayed on strongly to finish second in a valuable Leopardstown handicap off a mark of 127, thirty nine days ago, so now, with the Master of Closutton calling the shots, it will come as no great surprise to see further progress being made. Off a mark of 132, giving him a nice racing weight of 10st6lbs at the weekend, he is hard to ignore.

Selection : Beg To Differ

E.W.          : The Crafty Butcher (if abs, Vyta Du Roc)

Sky Bet Handicap Chase Doncaster Tips


Sky Bet Handicap Chase 3m Doncaster Saturday – last week’s selection Bristol De Mai, hopefully left followers of Oddsguru in a happy frame of mind. In what looked a particularly strong Peter Marsh Chase, he turned the race into a procession, winning by 22L, with his head in his chest, at odds of 4/1. Jumping superbly from flag fall, he never touched a twig on the way round, and the ease of his victory made a mockery of his mark of 154. A Dual Grade1 winner, this brilliant 6yo, who may still have further improvement to come, comprehensively proved on Saturday that stamina is his strong suit, and as he demonstrated last March, when finishing second to Black Hercules at the Cheltenham Festival, that Prestbury Park holds no fears, he must now be considered a serious threat to all if going for this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Although this Saturday’s Sky Bet Chase, in it’s previous incarnation, as the The Great Yorkshire Chase, does boast, in its dim and distant past, two future Cheltenham Gold Cup winners, Knock Hard in 1953, and Bregawn in 1982, it’s pretty unlikely that Saturday’s contest is harbouring another. Nevertheless it looks a highly competitive heat and no doubt will take a good animal to collect. It has been a good race for Novices with seven of them in the last twenty runnings coming home in front. Doncaster is a course where top handicaps tend to get competitive a long way from home so strong stamina credentials are important and a glance down the roll of honour of the race, reveals three Grand National Winners, Freebooter, E.S.B. and Nicolas Silver.


Vicente, trained by Paul Nicholls, could go close this weekend says the Guru

Paul Nicholls has won two of the past ten renewals of the “Sky Bet” and of his three entries, the 8yo Vicente looks the most interesting. The winner of last year’s Scottish National, off a mark of 146, he races on Saturday off a mark only 3lbs higher, and with the forecast looking reasonable for the weekend, may get the decent ground he prefers. His super shrewd trainer may well have his eye on the Grand National weights, and a few pounds rise in his charges burden would not come amiss, to guarantee a place in the line up for the big one in April. Worth considering!

Rebecca Curtis has two entered at the time of writing and her 8yo Novice, Bigbadjohn catches the eye. A decent hurdler, rated 136, he has only had the three runs over fences, and showed plenty of promise on the first of them, finishing third in a Uttoxeter Class3. He took a big step forward a month later at Newbury winning by 6L from subsequent winner Our Kaempfer, and last time ran another fine race when finishing second, 8L behind Gold Cup favourite, Thistlecrack, with the useful, Ibis Du Rheu, who was receiving 7lbs a further 6L back in third. He gets into Saturday’s contest on a mark of 136, giving him a nice racing weight of 10st10lbs and looks well treated. Considering the good record of Novices in the race, this son of Vinnie Roe, a strong influence for stamina, is definitely one to be interested in.

Last year’s winner the Alan King Trained 8yo, Ziga Boy, already a veteran of 21 chases is only 4lbs higher this time. Having his second race of the season and running off Saturday’s mark of 137 he unseated at the first over the National fences at Aintree in December, but showed there were no ill effects a week later, when running a solid race over Saturday’s course and distance, to finish third behind No Duffer and another of the weekend opponents, Long Lunch. He was 5L behind Long Lunch that day and now meets him on 5lbs better terms. It could be close between them but I fancy Alan Kings charge, who is becoming something of a course specialist, (2wins 1place from 3 course appearances) to come out on top this time.

The Warren Greatrex trained 8yo, Out Sam won the first two of his seven starts over fences, but for the next four, the wheels seemed to be missing. However he looked back on track last time when putting in a very solid round over Kemptons tricky circuit. Despite jumping left he finished a respectable third, 3 1/2L and 1L behind Double Shuffle and Saturday’s opponent, Go Conquer. A pound better off with the latter, and bound to be much better suited by flat, left handed Doncaster he is certainly worth a second look on his attractive mark of 136, only 1lb higher than the 135 he earned over the smaller obstacles.

The Neil Mulholland trained 7yo, Southfield Royale, showed that he can go well after a break when running a great race to finish 4th in last years National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, following a three month lay off. Indeed he may well have made Minella Rocco and Native River really pull out all the stops that day, but for making a howler at the second last. He is a winner at Grade2 level over the course and distance here at Doncaster, and his very talented trainer is in great form so could be very interesting on this his first run for 277 days, particularly if the heavens open.

Selection: Bigbadjohn (if abs Out Sam)

E.W.         :  Vicente

Betting Tips Peter Marsh Handicap Chase

betting-tips-peter-marsh-handicap-chasePeter Marsh Handicap Chase 3m Haydock Saturday – What a great race our “alternative” E.W. selection, One For Arthur, ran in last week’s Warwick Classic, winning at the rewarding odds of 14/1 with plenty of petrol left in the tank. Considering how well he handled the Aintree fences in his previous race, this upwardly mobile animal, who seemed to benefit from the use of a tongue tie for the first time last week, has got to be seriously considered for the Grand National itself if getting in. Certainly his trainers post race comment, “He jumps superbly and if going up sufficiently in the handicap could be a Grand National horse this year, and if not definitely will be next year” was most encouraging. In it’s thirty six year history only one horse, the Twiston-Davies trained Earth Summit, has gone on from this Saturday’s Peter Marsh Chase, to Aintree glory, but with the top eight in the handicap, at the time of writing, rated above 148 it’s not impossible that another Aintree hero could be lurking.

Course form is always important at Haydock, and this contest is no exception, with ten of the last fifteen winners, including last year’s victor, Cloudy Too, (Oddsguru’s E.W. selection), having winning form at the track. Wychwood Brook in 2014 was a rare novice to win, but most victors have had  plenty of previous experience, and indeed, a 10yo, an 11yo, and a 12yo have come home in front in three of the last five renewals. Recent runnings have been great for less experienced pilots, with claimers riding five of the last seven winners. Winter ground at Haydock is particularly attritional and a recent outing has been a help. Sue Smith with three previous winners is the most successful trainer and is represented by the 7yo novice Vintage Clouds.

He was a decent hurdler, winning a novice Hurdle over the course, and was also placed in a Grade2 on the track. Switched to the larger obstacles this term, he acquitted himself well in his first two races. He finished second to subsequent winner Briery Belle at Carlisle in November, and eleven days, later put in another promising effort when finishing second to another subsequent winner, Politologue, in a valuable Novices Chase here at Haydock. Slightly disappointing last time over Catterick’s tight circuit, he might well resume his previous progress over Haydock’s more galloping track, and looks nicely treated on a mark 1lb lower than his hurdles rating.

Paul Nicholls has had two contenders placed from only five runners in the last seven renewals, and his dual course winner Virak, catches the eye. He has been disappointing in his two runs this term, but he did show the talent was still there when finishing second off a mark of 157 in a Class1 handicap chase at Aintree last April. A return to form is not unknown in this contest, and with the going and course strongly in Virak’s favour and off a mark 5lbs lower than Aintree, it will come as no great surprise to see the Nicholls CV further enhanced.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained 6yo, Bristol De Mai, must be a lovely horse to own. This genuine animal has won four of his ten chases, and come second in the other six. Until his last race he had been campaigned at distances short of three miles, but in the 23 1/2f rehearsal chase, on soft ground at Newcastle, at the end of November, he showed that the distance was within his compass.


Twiston-Davies’ Bristol De Mai gets the Oddsguru’s nod for Saturday

Giving 8lbs to the winner Otago Trail, and not putting in the most fluent round of jumping, he was headed two out but rallied, and kept on well to finish 3 1/4L in second, with another of Saturday’s opponents, Definitely Red, who went off the 5/4fav, 1 1/4L back in third. As he meets the winner and third on 5lbs and 7lbs better terms respectively on Saturday, he looks well handicapped, and with a Class1 Novices chase on heavy ground over the course to his credit, he has to be seriously considered.

Colin Tizzard is quite bullish about his recent French import, Alary, and it did run a fine race last time when beaten 1/2L by the very talented Milord Thomas, in a Grade1 27 1/2f Auteil chase, on very soft ground. He led over the last and was only collared in the last 100yds by the Jacques Ricou ridden hot favourite. By my reckoning he improved by nearly a stone from his previous race, and if that sort of progress has been maintained since joining the Tizzard Academy, Colin’s confidence could be well placed.

Selection: Bristol De Mai (if abs Alary)

E.W.         : Virak

Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase Tips

Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase Tips – 3m2 1/2f 70y March 18th.

This year’s race looks to be one of the most open, competitive, and exciting renewals, since Major Wyndham’s 5yo Red Splash stormed up the hill to beat Conjuror by a head in the inaugural running of the great contest way back in 1924. Team Mullins is mob handed at the time of writing and at least four of them have to be considered, Djakadam, Don Poli, Valseur Lido, and Vautour. Add to these top class animals the wonderful Cue Card, in line for a £1,000,000 bonus if successful, Alan King’s grand warrior Smad Place, and top rated of them all, Gordon Elliot’s 9-y-o Don Cossack (pictured above), and we must surely have one of the most intriguing contests of the modern era in prospect.

Read some of last year’s Cheltenham Festival tips from the Oddsguru.

What a great performance for a 6yo, Djakadam put up in last years contest when finishing second to Coneygree! Always up with the pace, and maintaining a relentless gallop throughout, he had every chance but hit the last and lost vital momentum. He got back on an even keel and stayed on again to secure second place. After such a hard race for a young horse, many felt that stumps should be drawn for the season, but he was back in action six weeks later, and ran well finishing second, seven lengths behind Don Cossack in a Grade1 at Punchestown. He put stable companion Valseur Lido firmly in his place when reappearing at Punchestown in December (2 1/2m) and was then sent off the hot 5/6 fav to take the BetBright chase at Cheltenham in January. He travelled well but blotted his copybook at the 10th taking a nasty fall leaving a suturing job necessary on his chest. It has hardly been the ideal preparation but last year’s performance for a 6yo was outstanding, and it would come as no great surprise to see Rich Ricci leading this one in to the winners enclosure.

Also sporting the Ricci colours is the exciting 7yo Vautour. Going down by a head to Cue Card in the King George, he looked the winner coming to the last, but couldn’t resist the late challenge of the Tizzard horse. However his tendency to jump left was no help and he is definitely a better performer going anti-clockwise. The memory of his victory in the 2014 Supreme Novices hurdle, where he led the field a merry dance, remains fresh in the memory. He won by a long looking 6L and beat the great Istabrraq’s course record into the bargain. He also never put a foot wrong when cruising up by fifteen lengths in last years JLT over 2 1/2m at the Festival, running on strongly up the hill. While there must be some doubts about his stamina credentials, this four times Grade1 winner is the class act in the field, and given decent ground is going to take a lot of stopping.

Like stablemate Vautour, Don Poli boasts a 100% course record having won the RSA last year and the “Martin Pipe” the year before. His failure behind Valseur Lido at Punchestown six weeks after Cheltenham last April was too bad to be true and is easily excused. He has won both outings this season in workmanlike fashion, most recently the Lexus, where he had to work hard to get the better of First Lieutenant. He is an animal that races very lazily and it is hard to know how good he is. However you don’t win three Grade1 contests without plenty of talent, and his win in the “Martin pipe” demonstrated how much pace he has. He has had an ideal preparation and goes to post a fresh horse who is guaranteed to stay. If it turns into a real stamina test he must have great prospects of giving Willie his long awaited first win in the race.

There would be no more popular winner should Cue Card add this to his Betfair and King George victories and bag that £1,000,000. bonus. He is another about whom there have been stamina issues in the past but following a “breathing” operation is enjoying some thing of a renaissance. He certainly hasn’t been stopping at the business end of his three starts this term, and as we saw, outstayed Vautour at Kempton. It is hard to believe that it is six years since he flew up the hill to win the Champion Bumper and three years since his victory in the “Neptune” but if he really does stay he could be the first ten year old since Cool Ground in 1998 to collect.

Many observers feel that Gordon Elliott’s 9-year-old Don Cossack might have won the King George but for coming down at the second last, where having run indifferently for most of the race, and not the recipient of the greatest of rides, he was just beginning to stay on, and had gone into second place when falling. He got back on track last time with a facile win at Thurles and if back to the form that saw him beat Djakadam by 7L and Cue Card by 26L in Grade1 chases at Punchestown and Aintree last April, this five times winner at the top Grade, looks to have an awful lot going for him.

A wind operation and a change to front running tactics has transformed Alan King’s 9yo Smad Place. He was hugely impressive when making all to win the Hennessy by 12L. Held up in the King George he was a disappointing 4th,but reverting to front running he again impressed when taking the BetBright chase over the course in January. He Probably needs to find 10lbs from somewhere to win, but coming from this yard that is not impossible.

Last years third, Road To Riches, seems to be the forgotten horse of the race. The apple of his trainer’s eye, he ran a great race last year and given good ground he could spring a surprise.

Selection: Don Cossack

E.W. : Vautour