Bet Totequadpot Handicap Hurdle 2m5 1/2f Newton Abbot Saturday

With entries from many of the top National Hunt establishments for Newton Abbot’s Class2 Feature event at the weekend, it is a reminder, that the Summer is nearly over, and the Winter game is beginning to get itself into gear. Philip Hobbs won the event last year with Golden Doyen, and must fancy his chances of a repeat with his seven year old, Wait For Me.

The son of Saints Des Saints looked an animal with a bright future when making a winning racecourse debut in an Ascot Bumper in February 2015, but despite winning a couple of Novice hurdles at long odds on, had been a trifle disappointing until coming good on the last day of the season, April 29th. Stepped up to 2m4f for a Sandown Handicap, he looked much more the finished article, winning by six lengths from the Nicky Henderson trained Stowaway Magic off a mark of 135. As the runner up had won four of his seven races, the form looks solid and a seven pounds rise looks fair.

His sire, is a strong influence for stamina, (sire of Djakadam) and his dam is by River Mist, so Saturday’s trip should pose no problems. The only slight concern would be his ability to handle Newton Abbot’s tight circuit as he has done all his racing on tracks more galloping in nature.

Paul Nicholls is represented by the 5yo Trevisani, and this son of Dubawi, is a three times winner on the flat, where he achieved a rating of 88. He has won three of his five races over hurdles, the last twice, Novice events, over Saturday’s course and distance. The assessor hasn’t done him any great favours giving him an opening mark of 130 for this his handicap debut, but it has to be said that this well bred individual has plenty in his favour on Saturday.

The Donald McCain trained 5yo, Dear Sire, has been put up a whopping ten pounds for winning his last race, but to be fair to the Handicapper, it was a Class2 Perth handicap which he won pretty easily by 8L from the useful Caius Marcius. He steps up in trip on Saturday but could be suited, as his sire Al Namix, gets plenty of staying types,

(Saphir Du Rheu for example) and his dam, Polismith is quite stoutly bred.

Dan Skelton’s 5yo, Whatzdjazz, has won four of his six starts and was quite impressive last time when taking a Class2 Market Rasen Handicap, (2m4 1/2f) by 4 1/2L from that good yardstick, Guitar Pete off a mark of 122. As a son of Yeats the extra furlong on Saturday could be ideal and it would not be a huge surprise if the Skelton five year old defied his eight pounds rise at the weekend.

It is 161 days since the Charlie Longsden trained Snow Leopardess beat Copper Kay by 4L in a Class1 Newbury Novices Handicap Hurdle (2m4 1/2f) racing off a mark of 123. The 5yo daughter of Martaline can go well after a break but the 12lbs hike to 135 looks punitive and I would also be concerned about Saturday’s tight track.

The Harry Fry trained Golden Birthday seems to have improved for stepping up from racing around two miles, and really caught the eye when beating Miss Spent over the course (2m2 1/2f) by seventeen lengths off a mark of 126 thirty three days ago. By Poiglote out of a Glint Of Gold mare the extra three furlongs should be right up his street and off a mark of 132 looks well handicapped.

Having won on both visits to the track, last time, eleven days ago, by 2 1/4L from Peruvian Bleu, (2m1f) it’s pretty clear that Anthony Honeyball’s, Coeur Tantre, enjoys the venue. However I’m not convinced that the extra 4 1/2f will be in his favour, particularly racing off an eight pounds higher mark.

Selection : Trevisani (if abs Wait For Me)

E.W. : Golden Birthday

John Gray

Advertisements

Racing Tips Betfred Ebor Handicap 1m6f York Saturday

First run in 1843 The Ebor Handicap is now the richest race of it’s type run anywhere in Europe, and this year carries a guaranteed prize fund of £285,000. The legendary Lester Piggott (pictured) won the race five times, but the closest any rider has come to matching

“The Long Fellow’s” record in recent years, is Jamie Spencer, with two victories. Any contenders from the yards of Sir Michael Stoute or Luca Cumani, who share the training honours with three victories apiece, are worth noting, as are any travellers from across The Irish Sea, as Four of the last eight winners have been trained in The Emerald Isle. The market in recent years has been a poor guide with only the one “Jolly” obliging in the last decade, and indeed, only two of those winners were returned at odds shorter than 10/1. Good recent form has been paramount with eight of the last nine victors recording a first or second placing in one of their last two races. Weight as ever, has had it’s say, with none of the last nine winners carrying more than 9-04, and indeed, only two horses have won with a bigger burden since 1945. However it is worth pointing out that in more recent renewals the handicap has become much more compressed, leaving a much narrower weight range, and consequently the higher weighted animals have less poundage to concede, so it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see the 9-04 barrier broken.

Sir Mlchael Stoute’s representative, the 4yo filly Dubka, is certainly bred for the job on Saturday, as she is by the brilliant Dubawi out of the Sakhee mare Rosika, who herself finished second in the 2010 running of the Ebor. Four times a winner over 12f, Dubka, seemed to take her form to a new level when stepped up in trip to 14f, when she was only beaten a hard fought neck in a Goodwood Group3 last time. Having had a far from clear passage, she was ridden to lead a furlong out, and hard pressed, she battled hard, and only conceded in the shadow of the post. With 9-02 to carry on Saturday it won’t come as any great surprise if she manages to go one better than her dam, and give Sir Michael a fourth win in the famous old handicap.

Sir Mark Prescott trains the market leader, Flymetothestars, and this 4yo son of Sea The Stars, has only had five runs, all on the AW. He won the first of his two races this term, a 2m1/2f Newcastle handicap off a mark of 91 very comfortably, and six weeks later, racing off a 9lbs higher mark, was sent off the 11/4fav for The Northumberland Plate. In a slowly run race, he seemed to get outpaced, but finished with a flourish, and was only beaten 1/2L and a neck. Clearly progressive, this lightly raced animal, if transferring his ability to turf is going to be a danger to all.

Since being stepped up in trip to 12f, the Richard Hannon trained Danehill Kodiac has made significant progress and the manner of his win in a Newmarket handicap by 3 1/2L a week ago , off a mark of 97 on soft ground, strongly suggests that Saturday’s extra two furlongs should suit. Only 4lbs higher he is certainly worth a second look.

Mark Johnston won The Ebor with Quick Ransom twenty five years ago and the way his hardy campaigner, Soldier In Action, defied a mark of 106 in a 14f Goodwood handicap three weeks ago, suggests that he has a serious chance of landing another. A close fifth entering the final furlong, he quickened impressively to lead in the final stride, and even off a four pounds higher mark, burdening him with the steadier of 9-10 at the weekend it is not too hard to envisage this 4yo son of Soldier Of Fortune repeating the effort.

Following a disappointing campaign over hurdles, the Alan King trained Top Tug looked an improved animal back on the flat when finishing second, off a mark of 97 to the talented Frontiersman over 12f at Newmarket in May, and he confirmed that good impression when taking a 14f Goodwood handicap three weeks later off a 2lbs higher mark. He probably found the trip too short in the 12f Duke Of Edinburgh Stakes at The Royal Meeting next time, but still acquitted himself well, finishing fourth, a neck behind Saturday’s opponent Star Storm. He meets Star Storm on a pound better terms on Saturday and sure to be suited by the step back up in trip, and freshened up with a nice nine week break since Royal Ascot, Top Tug looks one for the short list.

There is nothing Yorkshireman Willie Haggas enjoys more than a win on The Knavesmire and he must be harbouring serious hopes of landing his first Ebor with the classy 4yo

Dal Harraild. Having won a listed contest over course and distance in May on his only course appearance, he ran another solid race when finishing sixth, four lengths behind the winner Idaho, in the Group2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot. Despite his burden of 9-11, this son of Champs Elysee has a touch of class and bearing his 100% course record in mind is worth considering.

Selection : Top Tug

E.W. : Dubka

John Gray

Racing Tips William Hill Great St Wilfrid Handicap 6f Ripon Saturday


Named after the patron Saint of the charming North Yorkshire Cathedral City of Ripon, it hasn't always been the most punter friendly contest, but with three of the last five Jollys obliging, we backers have had the best of the more recent arguments. With David O'Meara hitting the back of the net three times, and Malton Maestro, Richard Fahey scoring twice, between them they have had a near monopoly of the last six renewals, and both are strongly represented again.

O'Meara won with Out Do three years ago off a mark of 94, and racing on Saturday off a 10lbs higher mark certainly isn't out of it. He showed himself to be as good as ever when winning this year's renewal of the Wokingham Stakes at Royal Ascot off a mark of 99, so Saturday's 5lbs higher mark doesn't look impossible, and he is the intended mount of Daniel Tudhope who has ridden three of the last six winners. Keep a weather eye out though, as all his best form is on good or faster ground.

Rain won't be a problem for Mr O'Meara's second runner, Al Qahwa, and he can easily be excused his 23rd in The Steward's Cup last time out. Racing off a mark of 97, he was one of the best backed runners on the day but suffered repeated interference in what was a pretty rough contest. He has been a bit disappointing since his reappearance win at York in May, (6f soft) off a mark of 94, but it wouldn't come as any great surprise if he was involved at the business end at the weekend, particularly if it comes up soft.

Having finished less than a length behind the winner in the Stewards Cup off a mark of 99, the Richard Fahey trained Growl heads the market. He had previously run an excellent 6th in the Group1 July Cup at Newmarket finishing less than 2 1/4L behind the exciting winner, Harry Angel, and less than a length behind Brando, who went on to win the Group1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville next time out. His new mark of 109, giving him a racing weight of 9-10, looks challenging, but this classy animal is a serious contender.

Brando's talented trainer, Kevin Ryan had his stable virtually closed down for much of the season with the devastating disease, Equine Herpes, but is now beginning to hit a rich vein of form, and is represented by the 3yo, Tommy Taylor. His poor performance last time at Newmarket was almost certainly down to the situation in the yard but previously he had put up an excellent performance when beaten a head by Ekhtiyaar at headquarters in a valuable Class2 handicap racing off a mark of 95. The son of Mizzen Mast handles most ground, and with the stable now clear of that ghastly infection, might well prove up to defying his mark of 100.

Not all horses handle Ripons undulations so the fact that Tim Easterby's 4yo Flying Pursuit boasts a record of two wins and a place from five course appearances speaks strongly in his favour. The son of pastoral pursuits looks progressive, and put up an excellent performance last time winning off a mark of 90 by 2L from Al Qahwa (York 6f Good-Soft) three weeks ago. A six pounds rise looks fair and must give Tim a serious chance of emulating his success with Pipalong way back in 1999.

Roger Varian runs the lightly raced 5yo son of Kodiac, Atletico, and if getting into the race, (at the time of writing needs nine above him in the handicap to come out) could be interesting. Placed on his only previous visit to Ripon, Atletico won nicely at Windsor on July 24th off a mark of 87 and probably, turned out too soon only a week later, was beaten 2L, when finishing 5th at Goodwood off a mark of 93. He has attracted interest in the market, and coming from this powerful yard is worth a second look racing off a mark of 92.

The Charlie Hills (pictured above) trained Shanghai Glory put up an excellent performance for a 3yo when winning a listed 6f contest at the Curragh last October. He was well beaten on his reappearance in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot, but then ran a very solid race to finish 5th, (3/4L behind Growl) in The Stewards Cup at Goodwood racing off a mark of 101. Jockey Fran Berry felt that he was unlucky in running at the Sussex track, and as he does like to get his toe in, the son of Exceed and Excel, racing off the same mark of 101, definitely needs considering if turning up, (also engaged Doncaster Saturday).

Selection : Shanghai Glory (if abs) Flying Pursuit

E.W. : Al Qahwa

John Gray

Racing Tips Keenland Phoenix Stakes (Group1) (2yo) 6f Curragh Sunday

First run at the charming, but now sadly defunct, Phoenix Park racecourse (parade ring pictured below) in 1902, it was known to generations of Dublin's racegoers as the "1500". It was run over the minimum distance and was won by some very fast horses such as Windy City (1951) Current Coin (1965) and Marble Arch (1972). Interestingly Windy City went on to achieve a Timeform rating of 142, which remains one of the highest in the organisation's history. Having been promoted to Group1 status in 1979 the distance was extended by a furlong in 1983 and following the closure of The Phoenix Park racecourse in 1990 the race was moved to Leopardstown until arriving at it's current venue at The Curragh in 2002.

Having won the contest an amazing fifteen times, including last year with Caravaggio, who won this year's renewal of the Group1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, Aidan O' Brien again holds a very strong hand. He has seven of the twelve entries including Sioux Nation, the winner of the 5f Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot. However this son of Scat Daddy looked well suited by the drop in trip at The Royal Meeting, so perhaps The Master of Ballydoyle's best chance of landing a sixteenth success lies with the improving filly, Actress. With six runs under her belt the daughter of Declaration Of War certainly wont be beaten by lack of experience, and her last three runs have shown her to be a filly very much on "the up". She ran a solid race to finish sixth in Royal Ascot's 6f Albany Stakes, and put up another decent performance when finding the drop back to 5f against her when beaten a neck in a Tipperary listed contest. However it was her run in the 6f Group3 Anglesey stakes here at The Curragh last time that was a real eye opener. Starting at 7/1 ( from an opening 11/2) she travelled sweetly throughout, and when Seamie Heffernan asked her to go and win her race, she quickened in the style of a top class filly to put 1 3/4L between her and the runner up Theobold at the line. As the runner up had won his maiden by 8L and subsequently finished second to Derby antepost favourite, The Pentagon, the form looks pretty solid. Getting her 3lbs filly allowance she can make them all go on Sunday.

A major fly in the ointment may be Gordon Elliott's exciting son of Bated Breath, Beckford. He made his racecourse debut over course and distance and starting at the generous odds of 10/1 hosed up from Red Persian. The runner up hasn't done a lot for the form but did manage to get his head in front over 7f at Leopardstown. However it was Beckford's next run which marked him out as being a bit special. Up in class to Group2 level in The Railway Stakes again over course and distance he won comfortably by a length from Jim Bolger's Verbal Dexterity with Aidan O'Briens Murillo a further 1 1/4L back in third. As Murillo had been beaten less than 1/2L in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot the form looks solid, although it has to be said the O'Brien horse may not have been ideally suited by the good-soft ground at The Curragh. Another point of interest vis a vis O'Briens filly Actress, is that Commander Grigio was beaten 7L by her in the Anglesey whereas the same horse finished only 5L behind Beckford in the Railway. However with Mr Elliott turning his prodigious training talents towards the flat, it's going to be very interesting to see how the Beckford story pans out.

The Tom Dascombe trained Frozen Angel ran well to finish fourth in the 5f Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot, (2 3/4L behind Sioux Nation) and took another step forward when upped to 5 1/2f in the Group2 Prix Robert Papin at Madison's-Laffitte when going down by 1/2L to Unfortunately. By Dark Angel out of the Verglas mare, Cut no ice, his pedigree suggests that six furlongs could prove his optimum trip. The dam was no great shakes as a racehorse but did win a small 5f contest at Folkestone and was placed twice over 6f at Newbury and Newmarket, while his prolific sire has got plenty of milers including Lincoln winner Gabrial, and Cambridgeshire winner, Bronze Angel. With Tom Dascombe's talent with sprinters in mind, this son of Dark Angel is certainly worth a second look.

Mick Channon must have a high opinion of his Bath winner Helvetian to fly this high, and this son of Swiss Spirit was quite impressive on the good-soft surface. Given similar conditions on Sunday he could be interesting.

Selection : Actress

Danger. : Beckford

John Gray

Betting Tips Qatar Stewards Cup Handicap 6f Goodwood Saturday

There is little doubt that we saw a really exceptional filly win last week's King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and if reproducing this level of form in the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe in the Autumn, Enable looks a certainty. However let's not forget what a fine race our E.W. selection, Ulysses ran to finish second on ground that didn't suit. He proved that twelve furlongs was well within his compass, but just found the concession of fourteen pounds to the outstanding filly beyond him. He is worth bearing in mind for the 12f Breeders Cup Turf at Del Rey, California, in November, a race he was fourth in last year. He is much more the finished article now, and with good ground almost assured, looks good value at the 7/1 available.

Saturday's cavalry charge, down the hill at Goodwood, provides a totally different challenge. It's about speed, ruggedness and toughness to handle the hurly burly of the twenty eight runner field, and ability to act on the eccentric track. Three year olds have won the last two renewals, but over the last thirty years, the four and five year old brigade have had the best of the argument, and one that catches the eye is current market leader Projection.

He ran a great race in the Wokingham Handicap at Royal Ascot, where drawn 28, he won the contest on the stand side, but was beaten 1/2L and a Hd by the winner and runner up, both of whom were drawn low on the far side. A winner on an easy surface (won on Gd-Sft Salisbury), he proved his ability to handle the track, when despite a distinctly troubled passage in last year's consolation race over course and distance, he was only beaten 2 1/2L, finishing fifth behind Hoof It off a mark of 103, where he was sent off the 11/2fav under Ryan Moore. A year older he is only two pounds higher on Saturday, and trained by Roger Charlton, who sent out Harmonic Way (1999), Patavellian (2003), and Genki (2009) to win, has to be on the short list.

The runner up in the Wokingham was the Saeed bin Suroor trained 4yo, Steady Pace, and the son of Dark Angel was stepped up to 7f three weeks ago where he ran well to finish third at Newmarket, but didn't seem to quite get home. Back over six furlongs he has to be feared but with plenty of rain forecast his ability to handle easy ground has to be taken on trust.

There are no such worries about the Willie Haggas (pictured above) trained Raucous, and as his talented trainer has already sent out the winner on two previous occasions, he certainly knows what is required. The 4yo son of Dream Ahead was an excellent third in this last year off a mark of 102 when only beaten 1 1/4L and he looked set for a successful campaign when winning at Chelmsford on his seasonal debut in April. Things haven't gone his way since, and he was a disappointing 11/2 favourite for the Wokingham. However his 4th on soft ground in a Newbury Group3 last time, where he had little room when mounting a challenge two furlongs out, wasn't too bad, and his proven track form and ability to handle soft conditions could prove potent weapons on Saturday.

The David O'Meara trained Edward Lewis disappointed three weeks ago when well beaten over 5f at Ascot, but had put up a respectable effort when finishing 6th in the Wokingham, and prior to that ran a fine race when beaten less than a length in "The Dash" down Epsom's roller coaster five furlongs. Badly drawn in stall 11 he was hampered over 1f out but ran on strongly in the hands of claimer Josh Doyle. Another who should be suited by the track and who handles soft ground, this 4yo son of Kyllachy will have the excellent Daniel Tudhope taking over steering duties from young Doyle and is one to keep on the right side of.

For a horse who has been successful at Group3 level and continues to be competitive in the Grade, the 6yo Aeolus doesn't look badly treated on a mark of 103. He ran well when beaten a neck by the useful Mythmaker at Haydock in May, and again performed with credit last time, finishing 4th in a Newcastle Group3 (A.W.) where he would have been closer but for being short of room when making his challenge two furlongs out. An infrequent contender in these big handicaps, he was a respectable 9th in last year's Ayr Gold Cup off a mark of 107. With proven ability on soft ground he is a big price and is worth considering.

The David Simcock trained Polybius hasn't won since 2015 but has been a model of consistency in his last three races. Rested after a good third at Meydan in February he was only beaten a length when fourth from a high draw (nk behind Projection) in the Wokingham, and again ran well last time when beaten a length by Saturday's opponent Danzeno, whom he meets on 6lbs better terms. However he will need the track to dry out (which at the time of writing seems unlikely) as he was well beaten the only time he has run on anything slower than good.

Selection : Raucous

E.W. : Edward Lewis

John Gray

Betting Tips King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes 1m4f Ascot Saturday

Paul Nicholls won his first Summer Plate at Market Rasen last Saturday in fine style with the very progressive 7yo, Alcala. The grey travelled really well throughout and looked the most likely winner a long way from home. There was only a neck in it at the post, but I feel that jockey, Sam Twiston-Davies had a bit to spare, and there could be more to come from this likeable grey. Bringing home the bacon at the rewarding odds of 9/1 he certainly left followers of The Oddsguru blog on good terms with themselves, so here's hoping we can keep the momentum going in Saturday's Ascot showpiece.

First run in 1951 as a Group1 open to all ages, the Classic generation, with twenty nine wins on the scoresheet have historically had the best of the argument, but it has to be said that with only four victories since the turn of the new millennium, their record hasn't been nearly so impressive. Sir Michael Stoute and Saeed bin Suroor share the training honours with five victories apiece closely pursued by the Master of Ballydoyle, Aidan O'Brien, with four.

Sir Michael's best chance of taking the outright lead lies with recent Eclipse winner,
(and Oddsguru's selection) Ulysses. Typical of the slow maturing type that Maestro Stoute excels with, Ulysses, who had been a tad disappointing as a 3yo, showed that the penny was beginning to drop when winning the Group3 Sir Gordon Richard Stakes over Sandown's demanding 10f on his reappearance in April, and confirmed that he was indeed on an upward track eight weeks later, when finishing third in the 10f Group1 Prince of Wales Stakes to Highland Reel and Decorated Knight, beaten 1 1/4L and a Shd. Probably needing the race after his two months break, he took a very strong hold, and mounted his challenge too early in the straight, giving the winner a target to aim at, but seventeen days later looked much more the finished article when winning the 10f Group1 Eclipse Stakes. Always travelling well, he again came with his run a little too early and had to hold off the late challenge of 2000gns runner up Barney Roy, who clearly improved for the step up in trip. Ulysses won Goodwood's 12f Gordon Stakes as a 3yo and as a son of Galileo out of the Oaks Heroine, Light Shift, Saturday's trip could prove ideal. A concern would be testing conditions. Although he has performed on easy ground in the past, connections are hoping the rain stays away.

The Ballydoyle operation is represented by one of the toughest and most genuine animals on the planet, the 5yo Highland Reel, and by his year younger full brother, Idaho. The former, yet another son of the great Galileo is attempting to become only the third horse to win back to back runnings of the contest, and boasting six Group1 victories on three continents, must have serious prospects of bringing off the double. However he does like to hear his hooves rattle so with so much rain about a waiting brief is advised.

His younger sibling, the 4yo Idaho, was certainly not winning out of turn when taking Royal Ascot's Group2 Hardwicke Stakes last time out. He was an unlucky loser of last year's St Leger, unseating Seamie Heffernan when coming down the straight on the bridle, and again the fates were against him when making his seasonal debut in the Coronation Cup at the Derby meeting in June, where due to some cock up in the flying arrangements, he only got to the course an hour before the race. Third in Last year's Derby, and second in the Irish equivalent, this beautifully bred animal may only now, as a 4yo be beginning to realise his full potential, and as he seems to handle most ground is one for the short list.

John Gosden, a two times winner of the race, is represented by dual Oaks winner, Enable, and 5yo Jack Hobbs. The former, a daughter of Nathaniel, has looked a real class act when winning both the English and Irish Oaks. She won at Epsom by 5L from O'Briens Rhododendron, and was equally impressive at The Curragh, winning by 5 1/2L from Rain Goddess. It has to be a concern that it is only two weeks since her stunning Curragh victory, but very much in her favour is the fourteen pounds she will be receiving from most of her older rivals.

Second to Golden Horn in the 2015 Epsom Derby, and winner of the same year's Irish Derby, Jack Hobbs has had his problems since, but looked to have put them behind him when winning at Meydan on his reappearance in March, (yielding ground) but then was a major disappointment at Royal Ascot. He was sent off the 2/1 fav for the Prince of Wales Stakes but finished last of the eight runners behind Highland Reel. The fast ground and very hot day were blamed for the poor performance. However the horse has continued to attract plenty of support in the market, and with nothing faster than good ground likely at the weekend, is worth considering.

David Simcock would love to see the heavens open over the Berkshire track as his 5yo Desert Encounter revels in soft ground. The son of Halling is a little short of the required standard but he did run a decent race last time to finish third, 3 /12L behind Ulysses in the Eclipse, and as we all know, heavy ground is a great leveller.

Selection : Idaho

E.W. : Ulysses

John Gray

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