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

Horse Racing - Cheltenham Gold Cup - Cheltenham - 1981First run in 1981, 4 of the first 9 winners went on to collect Cheltenham’s Blue Riband,
Little Owl (pictured), Bregawn, The Thinker, and Jodami. However subsequent renewals have seen The Peter Marsh become the preserve of tough, established handicappers, and it is hard to envisage any of this year’s contenders (with the possible exception of Nicky Henderson’s recent French import, Valtor, who has ambitions in that direction) troubling the judge at Prestbury Park in March. West Yorkshire trainer, Sue Smith, with 3 successes in the contest, has the best record, and her sole entry this year,
Wakanda, is certainly tough, and wont fail for lack of experience.

A son of Westerner, and a half brother to the useful Irish pair, Shanahan’s Turn, and
Kings Song, Wakanda is certainly bred for the job and has won 7 of his 25 starts over fences. The 10yo put in an excellent effort 12 months ago when winning Doncaster’s valuable Sky Bet Handicap Chase off a mark of 145, staying on strongly, to get the better of Warriors Tale and the Nicky Henderson trained warm favourite, L’Ami Serge, in a close finish. His 2 subsequent efforts last term were disappointing, but both starts this season, 5th in a Wetherby Hurdle over an inadequate 2 miles, and a respectable 4th in a Grade3 Chase at the same venue 24 days ago, suggest that he may be nearing his peak. He is only 1lb higher than Doncaster on Saturday, and if turning up,
(also entered in next week’s Sky Bet Handicap) has to be seriously considered.

David Pipe won with the 12yo, Our Vic, 9 years ago, and fields 3 interesting looking contenders this time, Two 7yo’s, Ramses De Teillee, and Daklondike, plus the 10yo Vieux Lion Rouge.

david pipe trainer

David Pipe could travel to Haydock mob handed

While it is 23 years since a 7yo has won, both Ramses De Teillee and Daklondike have plenty to recommend them. The former, a winner of 3 of his 9 starts over fences put in a career best performance last time when going down by 1 1/4L to Elegant Escape in The Welsh Grand National 23 days ago, (Indeed might have won but for a bad mistake 4 out). He looks an improving stayer and may be capable of defying his 5lbs higher mark on Saturday. Daklondike has won 4 of his 8 starts, and also put in an excellent effort last time, sporting a visor for the first time, he won the 2m7f Tommy Whittle over the course 4 weeks ago. A length down at the last, he responded gallantly to Tom Scudamore’s driving, and ran on strongly on the heavy ground to beat Saturday’s opponent, Ballyarthur. He is 6 lbs higher at the weekend but should be well suited by the extra 2 1/2f, and as a course winner, (not every animal handles Haydock’s upright fences and clay surface) has plenty going for him.

The third runner from Pond House, the 10yo, Vieux Lion Rouge has become inconsistent. It is nearly 2 years since he last got his head in front where it matters. However, following wind surgery, he did run well to finish 2nd in The Beecher Chase, over the National fences on his reappearance, but then never looked at all interested  in The Welsh National 3 weeks later, where he was pulled up at the 20th. However, racing in the same colours as Daklondike, and as a double course winner, he is difficult to entirely dismiss.

Having joined Nicky Henderson’s Seven Barrows yard in mid November from France, the 10yo veteran of 51 races, Valtor, put up an amazing performance only 5 weeks later, winning a valuable Ascot Class1 Listed Handicap at odds of 33/1. Always travelling well within himself, and handling the British fences, which he was seeing for the first time, with aplomb, he came home 8L clear of Jammin Masters, with the 149 rated Benatar a further 1/2L back in third. A strict interpretation of the form I suppose justifies his 12lbs rise to 160, giving him top weight of 11-10 on Saturday, and if connections Cheltenham ambitions are to be entertained, a very prominent showing this weekend will be required.

The second Henderson runner, O O Seven was ending a 23 months drought when getting his head in front at Doncaster 5 weeks ago. Racing off a mark of 147 he stayed on well to beat Go Conquer by a head. There probably isn’t that much more to come from the 8yo, and off a 5 lbs higher mark on Haydock’s holding surface, Henderson’s best chance of landing the prize lies with his recent French import.

Colin Tizzard won last year’s renewal with The Dutchman, and relies this time on the lightly raced 10yo, Robinsfirth. A winner of 2 of his 6 starts over fences, he hasn’t been seen since winning a Cheltenham Grade3 off a mark of 142 13 months ago. He beat the now 137 rated Shanroe Santos, to whom he was conceding 15 lbs, by 2L, which makes his mark of 146 on Saturday look generous. He has solid course form, finishing 2nd on his only other Haydock appearance, goes well after a break, and with the talented Tizzard Team doing the training, the son of Flemensfirth has plenty going for him.

Selection : Robinsfirth
EW.           : Wakanda   (If Abs. Daklondike)

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Unibet Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle Tips 2m5f Kempton Saturday

kempton park tacesOur selection last week, Elixir De Nutz, put up a really solid effort when winning the  Grade1Tolworth Hurdle. He had to do the donkey work, out front on the testing ground, and when joined by Grand Sancy at the last, kept on bravely to win by 1/2L. Last year’s winner of The Tolworth, Supasundae, went on to take the Supreme Novices Hurdle at The Cheltenham Festival, but on a strict interpretation of last Saturday’s form, Elixir De Nutz will have to improve quite a bit to repeat the feat. However that is by no means a forlorn hope, and this  tough and likeable animal, who has won twice at Prestbury Park, certainly deserves his position towards the top of the market for the Cheltenham heat.

The ground at Kempton Park at the time of writing is described as Good, and Gary Moore will be hoping it stays that way for his charge, and the current market leader,
Kloud Gate, in Saturday’s feature. The ex French 7yo joined Gary last March, and was a pretty abject failure in his first 4 hurdles culminating in a poor 4th in a Warwick Novices in May for the West Sussex handler. However the penny must have dropped over the summer, because he hacked up on his 5th attempt. Starting at 4/6, he easily won a Leicester Class4 off a mark of 108, (2m4f Gd-Fm) at the beginning of December, and followed up 8 days later with another facile win in a Doncaster Class4,(2m3 1/2f Gd) carrying a 7lbs penalty. He has been raised another 12lbs to 127, and is up in Class, which at first glance makes Saturday’s task look pretty daunting, but in view of the fact that this staying son of Astronomer Royal, has performed really well, including at the top level, on the flat in France, and has earned in this country a current rating of 90, it can be argued that he looks well treated.

The Paul Nicholls trained 6yo, Darling Maltaix, put up a career best performance when stepped up to Saturday’s trip for the first time. Racing off a mark of 122 he easily won an Ascot Class3 (2m5 1/2f Soft) looking as if he could go around again. Raised a severe looking 12lbs tempers enthusiasm, but this son of the excellent NH stallion Voix Du Nord, (sire of Kemboy, Taquin Du Seuil, Vibrato Valtat, Vaniteux, Vroom Vroom Mag, and Defi Du Seuil to name but a few), is from a yard in rude health, and it won’t come as a surprise if he does defy the 12lb increase.

Another who has improved for a step up in trip, is the Philip Hobbs trained Cotswold Way. He has won all 3 starts this term, (all on good ground) and was quietly impressive last time in a Leicester Class3,(2m4 1/2f Gd-Fm) where, racing too keenly at the head of affairs, he had to make all. He won by 3 1/4L off a mark of 127, and only 4lbs higher on Saturday could be interesting, particularly if the rain stays away.

7lbs Claimer, Chester Williams is 3/3 this season on the improving 5yo,
Erick Le Rouge, and rode an excellent race last time to beat Saturday’s opponent, Mellow Ben, over course and distance. He got a good jump out of the son of
Gentle wave at the last, and vigorously kept him up to his work to win by 3/4L. He meets the runner up on 2lbs worse terms but as the younger and less experienced horse he should have the greater potential for improvement and confirm the form.

The career of the 5yo Star of Lanka has taken a definite upward turn since joining
Warren Greatrex’s yard last November. He has won 2 of his 3 starts for the stable, and last time held on to beat Geordie B by a Shd giving him 6lbs,(Hereford 2m4f Soft). As the runner up beat a 125 rated animal by 4L next time out, Star of Lanka’s mark of 130 on Saturday looks very fair, and if he gets Saturday’s trip, (not guaranteed on pedigree) could be interesting.

The Nicky Henderson trained Doux Pretendre didn’t seem to quite get home last time over 3 miles in a Cheltenham Grade2, but previously won an Ascot Class 2 Novices over Saturday’s trip. peter bowen trainerMind you, that heat also seemed to stretch his stamina, but at easier, flat, Kempton, the distance shouldn’t be a problem. The Ascot form has worked out well, with the runner up, Stoney Mountain,winning easily at Southwell next time. It is also worth noting that Stoney Mountain had beaten the 145 Aye Aye Charlie prior to the Ascot heat at level weights, form if taken at face value, makes the Henderson horse look very well treated on his mark of 134.

Rated 77 on the flat, Lord Napier, has done well over hurdles for top Welsh handler, Peter Bowen (pictured). He won 3 of his 6 starts last term, and has acquitted himself well in both his races this season. Racing over 2 miles on each occasion, and looking as if he needed further, he finished a respectable 4th at Wincanton and 6th at Ascot last time. Saturday’s trip will be the furthest he has raced over, but he did win a Sedgefield Novices last term over 2m4f, and being by the great Galileo, he is a full brother to the useful stayer, the John Gosden trained Zenon, all of which augurs well for the step up in trip.

Selection : Lord Napier
EW.           : Darling Maltaix

Unibet Tolworth Novices Hurdle (Grade1) 2miles Sandown

unibet newburyYou really had to feel for young trainer, Ruth Jefferson, when her stable star, Waiting Patiently, lost his 6 race unbeaten record over fences in cruel fashion in last week’s King George. Held up out the back, he had jumped the first eight fences in impeccable style, and travelling really well within himself, was badly hampered by the fall of Bristol De Mai at the 9th where he unshipped pilot, Hughes. However, as the old proverb says, “every cloud has a silver lining” and any followers of Oddsguru’s EW selection, Clan Des Obeaux, (advised at around 20/1) will have been on good terms with themselves. He won the race in quite impressive fashion, and put himself firmly in The Cheltenham Gold Cup picture. Connections of many of Saturday’s Grade1 Tolworth Hurdle contenders, will also be dreaming of Cheltenham glory, none more so than the
JP McManus team, who have 4 entries at the time of writing, including the current market leader, Rathhill.

By the strong stayer, Getaway, he finished a distant 2nd in his sole PTP but making his Rules debut at Newbury 17 days ago was quite impressive. Always travelling well on the heels of the leaders, he took it up a furlong out to win readily by 1 1/2L from Nordic, with the 136 rated favourite, Dashel Drasher a further 2 1/2L back in 4th. The ground at Newbury was soft, suggesting that stamina may be Rathhill’s forte, (out of a Milan mare he is from the same family as stayers, Bellshill and Foxbridge) and unless the ground comes up testing on Saturday, JP might have a better chance of landing the spoils with his easy Kempton winner, Epatante.

A son of No Risk At All, (best at 10f) he won 2 NHF flat races (including at Grade1 level) over 12f in France and was sent of the 8/15 Fav for his British debut at Kempton where the result was never in doubt, cantering home, 3 1/2L in front of the now rated, 117
Eye Up Rocky. Out of the Silver Rainbow mare, Kadjara, his pedigree strongly suggests that around 2miles will be his optimum trip, (hasn’t been entered for the 21f Ballymore Novices at Cheltenham in March) and could find Saturday’s trip ideal.

Colin Tizzard (pictured), who won with Finian’s Oscar 2 years ago runs the 140 rated Elixir De Nutz and this steadily progressive 5yo has won both his last 2 races. Having won a Cheltenham Grade 2 in November he was sent off a 6/5 Fav for a Class 3 at the same venue 3 weeks ago and obliged in pretty convincing fashion beating Jarveys Plate by
1 3/4L giving him 10lbs. colin tizzard newburyThe runner up underlined the form with an iimpressive 13L victory on New Years Day at Prestbury Park (20f) in a Class1 event, beating the Henderson hotpot, I Can’t Explain. Strong form indeed and we have yet to see the best of this son of Al Namix.

Paul Nicholls has won the Tolworth 4 times and has 2 entered, Southfield Stone and Grand Sancy. The former has won both starts over hurdles, last time at odds of 2/9. He won the Taunton Class 4 as a 2/9 shot should, but as the runner up had been beaten a total of 68L in his 2 previous races, we are little the wiser. However all he could do was beat what was put in front of him, and with the Ditcheat operation firing on all cylinders is hard to ignore. Grand Sancy has achieved more on the book but finishing 4th in an Ascot Handicap off a mark of 137 last time is unlikely to be good enough even if he gets his preferred good ground.

The Olly Murphy trained Brewin’Upastorm kept on well to finish 4L behind the exciting Champ in last week’s Grade 1 Challow Hurdle and previously had won well at Huntingdon but will need to improve.

ben pauling newburyBen Pauling (pictured) has a very promising prospect with the well named Bright Forecast. The 5yo finished a distant 3rd in his only PTP but was a revelation when making his rules debut in a Newbury Class3 Maiden Hurdle in November. Starting at 20/1 in the 20 lrunner heat he got up close home, despite getting the last all wrong, to beat Sevarano a neck in a respectable time for the conditions, (Soft). Further progress was evident 10 days ago when he easily beat the ex flat horse Humble Hero conceding 6lbs. Making all in that Leicester Class 3 was a particularly meritorious performance, and the future is certainly looking “Bright” for the Pauling 5yo.

Selection : Elixir De Nutz   (If abs Apatante)
EW.           : Bright Forecast

John Gray

32Red King George VI Chase (Grade1) 3Miles Boxing Day

Inaugurated in 1937, and named for the new King George V1 following the abdication of his brother Edward, it ranks as the 2nd most prestigious Chase in the calendar after The Cheltenham Gold Cup, and has been won by most of the Greats of the Winter Game. A particularly striking feature of the contest has been the number of winners since 1972 who have repeated their success the following year. Ten is the current count – Pendil Captain Christy, Silver Buck, Wayward Lad (pictured), Desert Orchid, The Fellow,
One Man, Kicking King, Kauto Star and most recently Silviniaco Conti – all of which has to make last year’s hero, Might Bite of particular interest.

The Nicky Henderson trained 9yo is a winner of 7 of his 12 starts over fences, and the relatively lightly raced son of Scorpion, has demonstrated a steadily progressive profile throughout his 17 runs career. Following his victory in last year’s renewal of The King George, he was sent off favourite for The Gold Cup, and ran a marvellous race, pressing the winner, Native River, throughout, and only giving best when outstayed after the last. Following his hard race at Cheltenham, he showed what a tough individual he is 27 days later, winning the Grade1 Betway Bowl Chase at Aintree by 7L from Bristol De Mai. His reappearance in the Betfair Chase 32 days ago was most disappointing. Starting an even money favourite he trailed in last of the 5 runners, 28 3/4L behind the winner, Bristol De Mai, a performance too bad to be true, so expect to see a different animal on Wednesday, and with the Seven Barrows operation continuing in such good form, it won’t come as a great surprise if Might Bite does become the 11th animal to prevail in consecutive years.

Bristol De Mai’s victory by 4L over Native River in The Betfair Chase at Haydock was achieved purely on merit, and a similar effort on Wednesday would probably be sufficient to see him in the winners enclosure. However he could only finish 7th in last year’s renewal following an even more impressive performance at Haydock, and trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies reports him a very difficult animal to keep 100% fit. That said the vibes coming from Naunton are very upbeat and they’re more than hopeful that the flying Grey will arrive at the top of his game. If he does his current odds of 7/1 will look generous.

It is 23 years since One Man struck for the North, and Ruth Jefferson will be hoping to restore some pride to the top end of the country with her talented 7yo,
Waiting Patiently. He is unbeaten in his six races over fences and has shown a most progressive profile, culminating in his most recent victory over Cue Card at Ascot last February. Always in command,  he beat the Tizzard horse by 2 3/4L, and perhaps even more significantly, had the recent Caspian Caviar Gold Cup winner, Frodon, a further 15L back in 3rd. Top class form indeed which has earned him his current rating of 170. This will be his first attempt at 3 miles, but as a son of Flemensfirth, out of a beneficial mare, he could easily improve for the step up in trip, and as he has won 3 times after a break, including here at Kempton, his lack of match practice since February shouldn’t be a problem. His excellent young trainer reports him fit and well and with the yard in form there is plenty to recommend him.

Paul Nicholls has won the King George an amazing 9 times, and will be hoping that either Politologue or Clan Des Obeaux can round his record up to a nice even ten next Wednesday. The exciting Politologue has been mostly campaigned at distances between 2 and 2 1/2 miles, but his win over 2m5f at Ascot 32days ago offers connections some hope that Saturday’s trip might be within the compass of this top class animal. He beat the upwardly mobile Charbal by 1/2L and as the runner up went on to win a Huntingdon Grade2 by 8L from the useful Gods Owen, (gave 6lbs) the form looks pretty solid. However it has to be said that the Ditcheat runner looked all out when holding on by a rapidly reducing neck, to win the 2 1/2M Melling Chase at Aintree last April, and there has to be a serious doubt about his ability to stay 3 miles, particularly in a heat like The King George, so perhaps Mr Nicholls best chance of landing win number 10 lies with the 6yo Clan Des Obeaux.

The son of Kapgarde has finished 8 3/4L behind Bristol De Mai and 10 1/2L behind Might Bite in his last two races so obviously improvement is required, but memory of an excellent effort over an inadequate 2 1/2m at Kempton 13 months ago lingers. He attempted to make all, and but for a mistake at the last might have beaten the now rated 167, Whisper. One has the feeling that we have yet to see the best of the Dithpcheat 6yo and he might just supply some much needed seasonal cheer to part owner, Sir Alec Ferguson.

On ratings Native River is the best horse in the race and there were excuses at Haydock as he failed to get into any sort of a rhythm, but it was a similar story in his only previous Kempton appearance, The Kauto Star Novices Chase on this card 3 years ago, where after a poor round of jumping, he finished a well beaten 3rd.

Selection  : Waiting Patiently
E.W.           : Clan Des Obeaux
John Gray

Ladbrokes Trophy Chase (Handicap) (Grade3) 3m2f Newbury

newbury grandstand viewWhat a super animal Bristol De Mai is! Jumping for fun, last week’s EW selection, maintained his 100% record at the Merseyside track when winning The Betfair Chase by 4L from the Gold Cup victor, Native River. From turning into the straight, the outcome was never in doubt, and if the Twiston-Davies yard can keep the galloping grey sound, (difficult to train because of niggling problems) his chances of landing that £1million bonus (needs to win The King George at Kempton and Cheltenham’s Gold Cup) for his lucky owners, messr’s Munir And Souede, is not such a remote possibility. With a roll of honour that boasts nine individual Gold Cup winners, Newbury’s Highlight on Saturday, might just unveil another serious contender for Cheltenham honours, and Irish Maestro, Willie Mullins, who amazingly has yet to land “The Big One” at Prestbury Park, will be hoping that it is one of his upwardly mobile, 6yo contenders, Kemboy or Al Boum Photo who pass the winning post in front.

Kemboy, a winner of 4 of his 7 starts over fences, was going well enough when blundering away his chance at the 9th in The Grade1, JLT at Cheltenham in March, and 18 days later didn’t get past the 1st, when brought down in The Irish Grand National. However his next two runs saw a serious improvement in his fortunes, winning a Limerick Grade3 by 8L from the useful Tombstone, and 15 days later winning a valuable handicap at The Punchestown Festival. Racing off a mark of 147 he won very comfortably indeed. Following a 202 days break, he returned to action 16 days ago to beat the 154 rated Alpha Des Obeaux over an inadequate 2 1/2miles, and this son of the hugely successful, but alas deceased, National Hunt stallion, Voix Du Nord, (sire of Vaniteux, Vroum Vroum Mag, Taquin Du Seuil, and Defi Du Seuil to name but a few) is beginning to emerge as a pretty serious tool, and if he does prevail at the weekend, the 33/1 now available for The Gold Cup will be but a distant memory.

Willie’s second contender, Al Boum Photo, had Punchestown’s Grade1 Growise Champion Chase at his mercy, when pilot Townsend, inexplicably decided to alter course at the final fence,and crashed out through the wings. Al Boum Photo had had some jumping issues in 2 of his previous 4 chases, (fell twice) but looked the finished article until pilot error robbed him of a well deserved victory in that Punchestown heat, so riding arrangements for Saturday will be interesting. However he is undoubtedly a talented individual and as one who goes well after a break, and relishes soft ground, is hard to ignore.

The Anthony Honeyball trained mare, Ms Parfois has improved substantially since being stepped up in trip, and she ran the race of her life when just edged out by Saturday’s opponent, Rathvinden,(another contender from Willie Mullins’ Closutton Yard) in the 4miles, National Hunt Chase, at The Cheltenham Festival. She might have won but for hitting the 2nd last, and the pair finished 21L clear of the 3rd horse home, Sizing Tennessee, strong form indeed! and she showed what a tough mare she is when going on to finish 2nd in an Aintree Grade1 a month later. The 7yo meets Rathvinden on a pound better terms and having only raced 7 times over fences further improvement can be anticipated. She has a nice racing weight of 10-12 and my slight concern would be her lack of a recent outing and the yard’s poor form.

Colin Tizzard’s Elegant Escape, and Tom Lacey’s Thomas Patrick fought out a ding dong battle up the Sandown hill 20 days ago, with the Tizzard horse prevailing by 1/2L.
They were both having their first run of the campaign, so both can be expected to come on for the outing, but on 5lbs better terms one has to fancy the course and distance winning Thomas Patrick to come out on top.

tom lacey oddsguru

Tom Lacey’s Thomas Patrick has a terrific chance this weekend

It has to be a great compliment to Tom Lacey’s training skills, that he has produced an animal, whose only success from 6 attempts in the PTP field, came when given a walkover, is now a leading fancy for the second most valuable Handicap Chase in the entire calendar. No immediate improvement in the ex pointer was obvious on joining the Lacey yard, as he was well beaten at odds of 40/1 and 200/1 in his first two races under rules, but hints of the hidden potential were revealed next time, when finishing second at 100/1 in a Class 3 Novice Hurdle. He has now won 3 of his 5 starts over fences, which included victory in the 16 runner Grade3 Mildmay Handicap at Aintree in April, demonstrating that Saturday’s large field should hold no fears. He has a nice racing weight of 11-0, handles heavy ground, and it would be a great feather in Tom’s hat if the 6yo could win on Saturday.

Alan King won with Smad Place three years ago, and he has another likely looking type in the 6yo Dingo Dollar. He won twice over hurdles, but was always going to make a chaser, and has won 2 of his 5 starts over fences. He put up an excellent effort in Ayr’s Novices Championship Handicap last April, going down by only 1L, off a mark of 143, conceding 12lbs to the now rated143 winner Crosshue Boy, which makes Dingo Dollar, on a mark of 148, look very fairly treated on Saturday. He had a nice pipe opener 3 weeks ago, has won over the course, and with an entry in The Welsh Grand National, one presumes connections have no stamina doubts for a race that is invariably run with the choke out.

Selection  : Thomas Patrick
EW.            : Kemboy

John Gray

Haydock Betfair Chase (Grade1) 3m1 1/2f

betfair chase haydockLast week’s EW selection, Frodon, gave us a good run for our money at the generous odds of 16/1. Under another excellent ride, from the upwardly mobile Bryony Frost, the Top weight, just found the concession of 15lbs to the tough Baron Alco beyond him, and try as he might, was unable to pull back the freewheeling winner, up the punishing Cheltenham hill. The unlucky contender in the race was probably Nicky Henderson’s Rather Be who was travelling conspicuously well when brought down at the 4th last, so let’s hope none of the runners in Saturday’s Haydock Showpiece meet a similar fate, as it promises to be the best, and most revealing heat of the season so far, not least, because it features a rematch of the winner, Native River, and the runner up, Might Bite, of this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

2017 Betfair Chase preview.

The former hasn’t raced since his epic victory in March, but reports from down
Milbourne Port way, report “the apple of Colin Tizzard eye” in rude health and raring to go. The Markets make Might Bite a pretty short favourite taking the view that it was Native Rivers superior stamina that won the day at Cheltenham, and back on the flatter, and easier Haydock track, on better ground, placings are likely to be reversed, but I’m not so sure. The Tizzard horse had the pace to win over hurdles at 2m1f and has plenty of form at the highest level on flat left handed courses, (won the Grade1 Mildmay Novices Chase at Aintree in 2016). The fact remains that on the only occasion Saturday’s “big two” have met, Native River prevailed by 4 1/2L, and with the £1million bonus (if bringing off the King George and Gold Cup treble) firmly in connections sights, the markets might just have got this one wrong.

Might Bite did go on from Cheltenham to win the Grade1 Betway Bowl Chase at Aintree by 7L from Bristol De Mai in April ( 2nd Course win), and with victories at Kempton, (King George) and two at Doncaster, there is no denying the Henderson horse’s preference for a flat track. With only sporadic outbursts of rain in the forecast, Henderson’s 9yo could find himself racing in his ideal conditions on Saturday so can’t easily be passed over.

Last year’s winner by 57L from the legendary Cue Card, the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained, Bristol De Mai, May have something to say to those who think this year’s renewal is a two horse affair. twiston davies haydockA real Haydock specialist, he has a 100% record on the course and has won his three chases there by an average of 33L. He disappointed in his two races following last year’s win, but fared better following wind surgery, when chasing home Might Bite at Aintree in April. Ideally he would like plenty of rain but with the going unlikely to be anything faster than Good/Soft, if he gets away from his field the opposition will have their work cut out to peg him back.

Colin Tizzard’s second string, Thistlecrack looked to have the world at his feet when hosing up in the 2016 King George but has been a big disappointment in his subsequent 3 races. However Colin reports him back on track and a reproduction of his Kempton win would make the 10yo a danger to all.

Paul Nicholls has won an amazing 6 of the 13 renewals of The Betfair Chase, (4 times with the immortal Kauto Star and twice with Silviniaco Conti) so any contender from Ditcheat needs the closest appraisal, which has to make Clan Des Obeaux of interest.The 6yo son of Kapgarde has won 3 of his 10 chases showing a steadily progressive profile, and the way he won the Graduation Chase (2m5 1/2f) on heavy ground, on Saturday’s Card last year, strongly suggests that the 3m1 1/2f at the weekend could see further improvement. He took it up 2 out and stayed on well to draw clear on the run in to win by 7L on the heavy ground. With the Ditcheat operation firing in the winners from all directions, he’s well worth a second look!

Irish yards have yet to land a “Betfair” but Maestro, Gordon Elliott with 3 entered looks as if he might be serious about correcting the deficit, and if his super mare,
Shattered Love, takes her chance we could see the prize heading in the direction of The Emerald Isle. A winner of 5 of her 9 starts, the 7yo daughter of the triple Ascot Gold Cup winner, Yeats, put up her best performance to date when winning the Grade1 JLT Novices Chase (2m4f) at The Cheltenham Festival in March by 7L from Terrefort, staying on strongly from the last. She probably had had enough for the season when well beaten over 3 miles at The Punchestown Festival in April, but following a 193 day break, made a satisfactory reappearance at Down Royal 3 weeks ago (2m3 1/2f). Easy in the market, she kept on well to finish second, strongly suggesting that a return to further would suit. She has won a Leopardstown Grade1 over 3 miles, and her pedigree, (Out of the Bustino Mare Tracker which makes her a half sister to the talented staying chaser Irish Cavalier), certainly suggests that Saturday’s trip should be well within her compass, and with the benefit of her 7lbs Mares Allowance she must hold out serious prospects of becoming the first Irish winner of the contest.

Selection: Native River
E.W.         : Shattered Love.  (If abs Bristol De Mai)

John Gray

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