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

First run in 1981, the first nine runnings saw an amazing four of the winners (Little Owl 1981, Bregawn (main picture) 1983, The Thinker 1987 and Jodami 1993) going on to victory in The same years Cheltenham Gold Cup, (the race was abandoned in 1984 1988 and 1991). However those were the days of the northern powerhouse in National Hunt Racing, when legends like Peter Easterby, Michael Dickinson, Arthur Stephenson and Peter Beaumont had the talent, and just as important, the ammunition, not only to compete with their powerful southern counterparts, but beat them at the highest level. Alas that golden age is long gone, and with the loss of prestige that Saturday’s contest has suffered over the years, it has become a race in which the older more experienced handicapper has come to dominate. With the exception of last year’s 4/1 winner, the 6yo Bristol De Mai (Oddsguru’s selection), no animal younger than eight has passed the post in front since Peter Easterby’s 7yo Scotton Banks in 1996, and indeed, with the exception of last year’s winner, the younger brigade are zero from thirteen in the last decade. Another very solid statistic has been the number of winners who had previous form over the track. Twelve of the last nineteen winners boasted winning form, either over fences or hurdles at the track, and indeed seven of the last ten winners had either won or been second at the venue.

One that certainly fits the trends is the Philip Hobbs trained 8yo Rock The Kasbah. A winner over hurdles on his only course appearance (2m3f soft November 2015) he made the ideal start to this year’s campaign winning a Class 2 Chepstow Handicap in October following a five and a half month break off a mark of 142. He was taken out of The Welsh National due to the very heavy ground, but it is also worth noting that the yard had been going through a very untypical, lean spell at the time. With the stable going much better now, and as he clearly goes well after a break, he could just be one of the freshest in the field, and doesn’t look too badly treated on a mark of 149.

2016 Peter Marsh oddsguru preview.

The Stuart Coltherd trained 9yo, Captain Redbeard boasts a record of two wins and a second from his three course appearances. He won last time out, here at Haydock, (2m7fHeavy) four weeks ago by six lengths from Catamaran Du Seuil off a mark of 135 and has been raised a quite severe looking nine pounds, but in his favour he will be partnered by his usual rider, the five pounds claiming Sam Coltherd, who knows the horse so well.

The James Moffat trained 12yo, Highland lodge is well into the veteran stage but has only raced twenty four times under rules and showed last time out there was still plenty of life in the “old dog” yet. He put in a great round of jumping, finishing third of fifteen to Blaklion on heavy ground over the Grand National fences six weeks ago. He did finish 14L behind the winner but was still in contention at the last so off the same mark on ground that he will relish with a nice racing weight of 10-9 it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see him involved at the business end on Saturday.

Being only a 7yo and with no course experience you have to say that the stats do not speak in favour of the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Tintern Theatre (pictured above) but it is worth remembering that his brilliant trainer has already defied the age statistic twice, winning with the 6yo Bristol De Mai last year, and with the 7yo Earth Summit in 1995. Tintern Theatre has met with mixed fortunes in his five efforts over the larger obstacles to date, falling once, and unseating once, but his other three efforts were quite promising, particularly last time when winning a competitive heat at Kempton off a mark of 134 with some authority. He has only been raised 4lbs for Saturday giving him a nice racing weight of 10-9 so if he copes with the conditions, the prize could be going back to Naunton for a third time.

David Pipe won this in 2010 with the 12yo Our Vic and is represented at the weekend by the talented 9yo Vieux Lion Rouge. He is two from three over the course and the last time he appeared at the Merseyside venue he took the notable scalp of Blaklion, and races on Saturday off a mark only four pounds higher. He hasn’t set the world alight with his two runs this term but as a double Class1 and Graded winner who thrives in testing conditions, has to be worth a second look.

The Venetia Williams (pictured) trained 8yo, Yala Enki won a Class2 Kelso Handicap over 3m2f in bog like conditions off a mark of 146 and races on Saturday off a mere 1lb higher. His three subsequent appearances haven’t been exactly promising, but he hasn’t had his conditions so with testing going a certainty, this previous course winner may be in for another payday.

Selection : Yala Enki

E.W. : Vieux Lion Rouge

John Gray


Coral Welsh Grand National Tips (Handicap) 3m5 1/2f Chepstow Saturday

Following rainfall of biblical proportions the Welsh Grand National, scheduled for last Wednesday, the 27th, the annual “slog in the mud” was cancelled, but thanks to a flexible executive, and cooperation from The British Horse Racing Authority, the race has been saved and is due to be run on Saturday. Reports from the track at the time of writing are positive, so unless there is an unexpected deterioration in the weather, the contest should be underway sometime after ten past two on Saturday. First run at a track near Cardiff way back in eighteen ninety five, Chepstow has been the home of the gruelling marathon since nineteen forty nine, when the winner was ridden by the “Royal Jockey”/ Thriller Scribbler, Dick Francis, of Devon Loch fame. Dick Francis Two legends of the Winter Game, Martin Pipe and Jenny Pitman, had great success in the nineteen eighties and nineties with eight victories between them, but in recent renewals, it has been the Lee family, (dad Richard, and daughter, Kerry) who have been the yard to follow. They have won three of the last six renewals, and their, Bell House Operation, with two solid looking candidates in Bishops Road and Alfie Spinner, must entertain serious hopes of adding to their haul this year.

The ten year old, Bishops Road, did manage to win a couple of “Bumpers”, a Maiden Hurdle and a Chase when trained in Ireland by Henry De Bromhead, but transferred to Kerry Lee in December 2015 and stepped up in trip, he met with immediate success, winning his first two races, including a Grade3 Haydock Handicap over three miles four and a half furlongs on heavy ground, by an aggregate of twenty six lengths. He drew a blank in his next six races, but put up a highly satisfactory effort on his reappearance following an eight month break, when running Saturday’s leading fancy, Beware The Bear, to two and a half lengths over an inadequate two miles seven and a half furlongs at the beginning of December. He meets the winner on four pounds better terms and off a mark only two pounds higher than for that impressive Haydock victory this strong stayer who will love the conditions is well worth considering.

The evergreen Alfie Spinner, thirteen last Monday, was second to Wild West Wind in the Trial race for this (Chepstow 2m 7 1/2f heavy Dec9). A horse in it’s teens has never won the Welsh National but after competing in thirty chases the son of Afflora looks as good as ever, and as a real mud lark, racing off a nice weight of ten stone seven, it wouldn’t come as the biggest surprise if he managed to become the first.

Nicky Henderson has never won this contest but looks to hold a strong hand with current market leader, Beware The Bear. As we saw above, he won the Trial for this by two and a half lengths from Bishops Road, and as he also was coming back from a break, further progress can be anticipated. Having won three of his five starts over fences he is clearly progressive, and as a son of Shantou, out of the Be My Native mare, Native Bid, staying is going to be the name of his game, so he has plenty to recommend him on Saturday. My only slight reservation would be the very likely heavy ground. The only time he has raced on a heavy surface he duly won, but it was only a three runner Bangor Maiden Hurdle and the runner up is only rated on 110.

The Philip Hobbs trained eight year old, Rock The Kasbah just loves Chepstow, and he can boast a record of three wins and a second from his four course appearances, including last time out,(2m7 1/2f Ch good/soft) in October when beating petrou by two lengths off a mark of 142. He has paid the price for that success and races off a mark of 149 on Saturday giving him 11-10 to shoulder at the weekend. However he is still on a mark a pound lower than his hurdles rating and as he is by that strong influence for stamina, Shirocco, out of The In The Wings mare, Impudent, who won over two miles plus on soft to heavy ground when trained by Willie Mullins, should find Saturday’s trip right up his street. Due to the postponement of the race, he will have the benefit of Richard Johnson’s assistance from the saddle, as the champion jockey, having been stood down by the doctor for concussion following a fall at Ludlow, would have had to forego the ride last Wednesday.

The Michael Scudamore (pictured below) trained ten year old, Mysteree, got to within one and a half lengths of Chase The Spud in the Midland Grand National (4m 1/2f soft) last March and meets the winner on thirteen pounds better terms on Saturday. Michael Scudamore's Mysteree has a fine chance of landing the spoils.As he had previously beaten the same horse by three and a quarter lengths (Haydock 3m4f heavy) when meeting him on the same terms as he will at the weekend, he does look well handicapped. It is a slight concern that he hasn’t been seen since that good run in The Midland Grand National but that emphatic Haydock victory over Chase The Spud came after an eight month break, so perhaps the plan was always going to be, to line up as a fresh horse.

The 8yo Pobbles Bay, trained by Welsh Maestro Evan Williams, won the Novices Chase on this card last year off a mark of 139. He reappeared over an inadequate two and a half miles at Aintree in November finishing a well beaten ninth, but the evidence of his three quarter length second to the useful Flintham over 3m2f in a Warwick Class2 Handicap Hurdle on heavy ground two years ago, strongly suggests that staying trips should be his forte. Only five pounds higher than for his course win he is another to consider.

Selection : Mysteree

E.W. : Pobbles Bay

John Gray

32Red King George V1 Chase Tips (Grade1) 3m Kempton Tuesday

It was very sad to see Starchitect break down before jumping the penultimate fence in last Saturday’s Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. There is little doubt that had he jumped the last two fences he looked the most likely winner, but full credit to our e.w. selection, Guitar Pete, (available at 20/1 when first advised). He himself had suffered the other side of Steeplechasing’s capricious coin, when nearly brought down at the first in The BetVictor Gold Cup three weeks earlier. And let’s not forget the sterling effort of Clan Des Obeaux, who despite an early mistake, and struggling to go the pace, rallied to such effect, that he was only beaten two and three quarters lengths, giving the talented winner twenty four pounds. Surely one to look out for over three miles! Let’s hope that Boxingday’s King George V1 Chase, which has all the ingredients to be the race of the season to date, is tragedy free, and all contenders return uninjured, to fight another day.

First run in 1937 in honour of the new King George V1 following the abdication of his brother Edward, it is the second most prestigious Chase in the calendar, and has been won by most of the greats of the Winter Game. A particular feature of the contest has been the number of winners who have repeated their success the following year,

(Pendil, 72 73 Captain Christy, 74 75 Silver Buck, 79, 80 Wayward Lad, 82 83 Desert Orchid, 88 89 90 The Fellow, 91 92 One Man, 95 96 Kicking King, 04 05 Kauto Star, 06 07 08 09 and Silviniaco Conti, 2012 2013), all of which must make last year’s winner, Thistlecrack, of particular interest.

A late developer, he didn’t make his racecourse debut until he was six but quickly made up for lost time and was the champion staying hurdler of 2016. Transferred to the larger obstacle he won his first four races, and put up a terrific effort for a novice, when winning last year’s King George V1 Chase by three and a quarter lengths from stable mate Cue Card, on only his fifth outing over fences. He was sent off at 4/9 thirty three days later in The Gold Cup Trial at Cheltenham, but was outstayed by the brave Many Clouds, who payed the ultimate price for his gallant effort. Thistlecrack wasn’t seen again until reappearing in a Newbury Hurdle race four weeks ago, but despite going off the 11/10 favourite, finished a well beaten fifth of the six runners. Connections feel that the race was needed and expect a much improved performance on Tuesday, but it was hardly the ideal prep for such a major contest, so perhaps the Tizzard Clan’s best chance of adding to their two previous victories, lie with their second string, the seven year old Fox Norton.

The son of Lando was campaigned exclusively at around two miles by both previous handlers, Nick Williams and Neil Mulholland, but following a marvellous close second to Special Tiara in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Festival, Mr Tizzard stepped him up to two and a half miles for a Grade1 Chase at Aintree. He won easily by six lengths and a length from Sub Lieutenant, and Traffic Fluide, strongly suggesting that Tuesday’s trip should be within his compass. He followed that Aintree win with further success at the top level at The Punchestown Festival, back over two miles. He made a winning reappearance at Cheltenham in November, and followed up with an excellent, staying on second in The Tingle Creek eighteen days ago, again suggesting that a step up in trip was required. There is plenty of stamina in Fox Norton’s pedigree as Sire, Lando, twice German “Horse of the year” is a past winner of the 2,500 metre Japan Cup, and his dam, Natt Musik, as a daughter of Kendor, is similarly stoutly bred, all of which augurs well for Tuesday’s trip, and It will be fascinating to see how this dual Grade1 winner performs over three miles on Tuesday.

Bristol de Mai (main picture) has been a great friend to the Oddsguru blog, winning both The Charlie Hall and Betfair Chase for us in November, so let’s hope he can keep the ball rolling, on probably faster ground, and racing right handed. Mind you, on the evidence to hand, there is no reason why he shouldn’t, as he has performed with credit in the past on good, and good/soft ground, and has won the Grade1 Scilly Isles Chase at right handed Sandown. The reality is, that at the age of six he is an improved performer, and just hasn’t had the opportunity to show it yet on faster ground. It was a scintillating performance last time at Haydock, and the apple, of Trainer Nigel’s eye, may well lead them all a merry dance on Tuesday.

With the ammunition he has had to hand in the past, it is perhaps a little surprising that master trainer Henderson, has only hit the back of the net in this on two occasions,

(Long Run 2010 2012) but he certainly has a strong candidate this year with the 8yo, Might Bite. The son of Scorpion would have cantered up in the Grade1 Novices Chase on this Card last year but for falling at the last. He has won his subsequent four chases but did give his supporters a fright, when idling and hanging badly right in The RSA Chase at the Festival, and only holding on by a nose, from stable mate Whisper. However he went on to further Grade1 success at Aintree, and made a satisfactory return to action with a facile win at Sandown forty six days ago. But for his unfortunate fall at last year’s meeting, Might Bite would have a 100% record from his three races going right handed, and it would come as no surprise if he rings up a third victory for the Master of Seven Barrows.

The Nick Williams trained, Tea For Two, likes it around the Sunbury track. He ran a very solid race last year finishing fourth, (beaten 3 1/2L) and has won on all his other three course appearances, including the Grade1 Novices Chase alluded to above, in 2015. He achieved further success at the top level at Aintree last April, and is easily forgiven his last two defeats, behind Smad Place on his reappearance in October, and behind Bristol De Mai in the Haydock mud. Back on his favourite track on decent ground he could be interesting.

Selection :Bristol de Mai

Danger : Might Bite

John Gray

Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase Racing Tips 2m5f New Cheltenham Saturday

First run in 1963 as The Massey Ferguson Gold Cup, it has been won by some top class performers, including two of the greats of the Winter Game, Flyingbolt, who carried an eye watering 12-6 to victory in 1965, and Fred Winter’s Pendil, who won carrying a pound more in 1973. However more recent renewals have been dominated by good solid handicappers, although the 2006 winner, Exotic Dancer, did go on to finish second in The Gold Cup. Having won four of the last eight runnings, any contenders from Paul Nicholls Ditcheat yard, demand maximum respect, as do runners from the Seven Barrows stable of Nicky Henderson, who have hit the back of the net on three occasions. Course form is most important as the last animal to win on his debut at the track, was Kings Fountain, twenty six years ago, and the Bet Victor Gold Cup, run four weeks previously, has proved a solid guide, with four of the last ten winners having contested that particular heat. However the omens aren’t so good for the winner of this year’s Bet Victor, Splash Of Ginge, as only the classy Exotic Dancer in 2006 has managed to follow up since Senor El Betrutti in 1997. It is worth noting that the Bet Victor is run over the old course, which is much tighter in character, and the Caspian Caviar is run over the more galloping in nature, new course, which gives horse and rider that little bit more time to organise themselves.

David Pipe has only won the race once, with Tamarinbleu in 2007, but Dad Martin, won it twice, so they certainly know what is required at Pond House, and there seems to be plenty of confidence in the markets behind their runner up in last months Bet Victor, Starchitect. The 10/1 shot looked the most likely winner before two out but meeting the penultimate and last fence on the wrong stride he just couldn’t get past Splash Of Ginge who revelled in the testing conditions, and went down bravely by a neck. He meets the winner on a pound better terms on Saturday, and if tidying up his jumping must have serious prospects of reversing the placings.

Le Prezien, who finished third in The Bet Victor, did best of the Ditcheat runners and indeed made eye catching progress from off the pace to finish within two and three quarter lengths at the line, and he could well be suited by the nature of the new course on Saturday, so off a mark only two pounds higher, has to be considered. However stable companion, Clan Des Obeaux (pictured), also has plenty to recommend him. Image result for Clan Des ObeauxFrench bred, he is a son of the high class French jumper, Kapgarde who is a sire of plenty of good National Hunt animals, and he showed that he was going the right way when getting to within half a length of Whisper at Kempton on level weights on his reappearance, following a six month break in November. He confirmed the good impression three weeks ago when coming home seven lengths in front of that good yardstick, Vintage Clouds, in the Haydock mud off a mark of 148. As his Kempton conquerer Whisper is now rated on 169 Clan Des Obeaux doesn’t look at all badly treated on 155, and as he has performed with credit on all his three runs over the new course, including a sixth behind Ivan Gorbatov in the 2016 Triumph Hurdle, and a close second behind Whisper in a course and distance Chase last January, he looks a danger to all.

The Nicky Richards trained, Guitar Pete, won two Grade One hurdles as a four year old, when trained by the late lamented Dessie Hughes in Ireland, but unfortunately, daughter Sandra had little luck with the son of Dark Angel. However since his transfer to Richards, things have taken a turn for the better, and he followed a good second in a valuable Class one Market Rasen Chase in September, with an excellent win at Wetherby five weeks later, beating the Nicholls trained Sametagal, by seven lengths off a mark of 127. He lined up for the BetVictor on a mark of 134, but lost all chance when badly hampered at the first. He did persevere, and to his credit, finished the race twenty five lengths behind the winner. He lines up on Saturday on the same mark giving him a lovely racing weight of 10-02 (Including jockeys three pounds claim) and if getting anywhere close to his old Hurdle form would look thrown in.

Talented Welsh handler, Evan Williams has an interesting contender with his lightly raced eight year old Kings Odyssey. Racing off a mark of 147 in last year’s contest he was travelling easily in third place when coming a cropper six from home. He showed little in his next two races but made a very satisfactory return to action thirty three days ago when only beaten two lengths over an inadequate two miles at Carlisle. He gets into Saturday’s contest on a mark seven pounds lower than last year and as a course and distance winner over the new course has to be of interest.

The Nicky Henderson trained O O Seven made a satisfactory return following an eight months break at Newbury fifteen days ago and races here off a pound higher. If turning up, ( also entered at Doncaster ) would be worth a second look.

Selection : Clan Des Obeaux

E.W. : Kings Odyssey and Guitar Pete

John Gray

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

Last week’s E.W. Selection, Starchitect, put up a brave effort to only go down by a neck to the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained, Splash of Ginge, in The BetVictor Gold Cup. The 10/1 shot looked the most likely winner before two out, but meeting both fences wrong, he just couldn’t get past the Naunton runner who revelled in the testing conditions. Neither was Starchitect’s cause helped by the overnight rise of 5lbs in the weights, putting him over the 11 stone mark, a barrier which has become increasingly difficult to overcome in this contest. However it was the Pipe horse’s best effort to date over fences, and he is one to bear in mind for The Caspian Caviar Chase over course and distance in a couple of weeks time.

Despite there being only seven runners declared for Saturday’s Grade1 Betfair Chase, it is the classiest field of chasers assembled so far this season, and any race featuring The Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Sizing John, the wonderful Cue Card and the rising star, Bristol De Mai has to be worth travelling a long way to see. Not that Saturday’s contest is by any means a three horse contest with none of the other four runners easy to dismiss, and with a £1000000 bonus on offer if any of the contenders can go on to win The King GeorgeV1 Chase on Boxing Day, and the Gold Cup itself, expect a hard fought contest at the weekend.

When trained by Henry De Bromhead, Sizing John was mostly campaigned at around two miles, and indeed he scored a Grade1 victory over the trip back in December 2014. However since Jessica Harrington assumed responsibilities, he has been trained as a stayer, and has won all of his last four races. The victory in Cheltenham’s Blue Riband was fantastic and connections showed great confidence in the horse, not to pull up stumps for the season, but go for the Irish equivalent at The Punchestown Festival five weeks later. He duly delivered, albeit narrowly, beating the tough Djakadam by a short head. He hasn’t been out since that stirring Punchestown win two hundred and thirteen days ago, but the talented Jessica Harrington knows how to get them fit first time up, and reports the horse to have had three trips out to racecourses, including a two mile workout over fences at Naas, and a mile and a half gallop at Punchestown last Sunday. Sizing John has won twice in the past after a similar break so a near peak performance can be expected on Saturday.

The all conquering Gordon Elliot runs his 9yo, Outlander. He is not the most consistent of animals and surprised many when winning a Grade1 Chase from Road to Respect at Down Royal three weeks ago at odds of 16/1, although it has to be said, that the favourite didn’t run his race, and the runner up looked unsuited by the right handed track. He is well held by Sizing John on Cheltenham and Punchestown running but it is worth remembering that this inconsistent type put in an excellent effort when beating the very useful, Don Poli at Leopardstown last Christmas. He seems to be at his best when the mud is flying so should have his conditions on Saturday.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained, Bristol De Mai did the Oddsguru followers a good turn when winning The Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby three weeks ago. He responded bravely to maximum pressure from the saddle, and put up his best performance to date, getting home by 1/2L from stable companion Blaklion to whom he was conceding six pounds. As he usually needs an outing to bring him to peak fitness, further progress can be anticipated, and with the memory of his hugely impressive, twenty two lengths victory over the course, (3m soft) last January, still fresh in the mind, the upwardly mobile 6yo, looks the one to beat. (I hope some of you took our advice, (Badgers Ale Blog) and availed of the 4/1 on offer at the time.)

The evergreen Cue Card won this in 2013, 2015, and last year, and he seemed to be travelling as well as anything when tipping over at the fifteenth in The Charlie Hall. It was too far from home to draw any firm conclusions but the fact remains that it was the eleven years old, and rising twelve, Cue Card’s second fall in three races, and I just wonder if, after thirty eight races over fences, the old warrior is crying enough.

The step up in trip should help Garry Moore’s 7yo, Traffic Fluide and as he handles heavy ground is worth a second look but does need to find the best part of a stone.

Selection : Bristol De Mai

Danger : Sizing John

John Gray

Racing Tips BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase 2m 4 1/2f Cheltenham Saturday

Last week’s selection, Present Man, never put a foot wrong under an inspired ride from young Bryony Frost. In a sustained battle up the straight, the runner up, Final Nudge, looked the most likely winner, but under sustained pressure from the daughter of Jimmy Frost, who himself won the 1996 renewal on Coome Hill, the Nicholls 7yo kept finding and held on to give the Ditcheat yard their eighth success in the race, and indeed Oddsguru’s third consecutive winner. There promises to be plenty more to come from the brave Present Man, and with his excellent jumping a huge asset, is one to bear in mind for Aintree next April.

Saturday’s BetVictor Gold Cup at headquarters, has a very open look to it, but is a contest with some pretty strong trends, which might make finding the winner a little easier. Weight in recent renewals has been very significant. Historically, plenty of winners defied burdens in excess of 11-7 but in the last decade only last year’s winner Tarquin Du Seuil and the 2012 winner Al Ferof have carried more than 11st to victory. Age has also been a big factor, with animals aged seven or younger, winning eight of the last ten renewals. A proven ability to handle the idiosyncratic track has been a great pointer in the past so good previous form over Prestbury Park’s undulations should be noted.

One that fits the trends very neatly is the Paul Nicholls trained 5yo Romain De Senam. He was only beaten a head by Diego Du Charmil in the 2016 renewal of the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, demonstrating his aptitude for the course, and his ability to handle the demands of a big handicap. A winner of three Hurdle races he achieved a rating of 139 in that discipline. He has taken a little time to get his act together over fences but a step up in trip to around 2 1/2 miles has brought about definite improvement, and he has won his last two races, most recently, four weeks ago, at Stratford (2m 5f) off a mark of 139. This young French bred is progressing nicely, and could be the second five year old to win for the master of Ditcheat. ( Nicholls has won the race twice before with Al Ferof in 2012 and with the 5yo Caid Du Berlais in 2014).

The name Martin Pipe, is on this particular role of honour an amazing eight times, but to date, son David has only got up there on the one occasion, (Great Endeavour 2011). However they clearly know what is required down Nicholashayne way, and they field a live looking contender this year, the 6yo Starchitect. By Sea The Stars out of a Saddlers Wells mare, he is bred to win a Derby, but alas, all he could achieve on the Flat was a second in a Curragh Maiden. However he did much better over hurdles, winning three of his ten races, and achieving an eye catching rating of 150. He has won two of his seven starts over fences, last time, comfortably taking a Stratford Handicap, (2m3 1/2f Gd) off a mark of 140, sixteen days ago. He has never won at Prestbury Park but has run respectably on all his four appearances there. He races on Saturday on a mark 6lbs lower than his hurdles mark, giving him a nice racing weight of 10-11 and is well worth considering.

Having only won this once ( Tranquil Sea 2009) in the past thirty five years, it hasn’t been a great race for the Irish, but they do have a strong looking contender this term with Alan Fleming’s 7yo Tully East. Fourth of twenty two in a two mile handicap Hurdle at the 2016 Festival, he put up a superb performance in his only other course appearance when winning The Novices Handicap Chase at this year’s March extravaganza. Run over Saturday’s course and distance, the son of Shantou took it up after the last, and stayed on well to to beat Saturday’s opponent, Gold Present by 1 1/4L. The runner up, on 6lbs better terms has to be respected, but Tully East, who had a nice pipe opener over hurdles thirty one days ago, racing in the colours of a great supporter of the “Winter Game”,Barry Connell, is fancied to confirm the placings.

Nigel Twiston-Davies has won the race three times, including uniquely, with the subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Imperial Commander, so his contender, the recent course winner, Foxtail Hill has to be considered. Having his first run for over six months he held on tenaciously to win by a neck from Saturday’s opponent Le Prezien(2miles Gd) three weeks ago. This bold front runner will be well suited by the extra distance on Saturday but it does seem a big ask in a contest like Saturday’s, for the 8yo to make all, off a mark seven pounds higher than he has ever won off.

The runner up, Le Prezien, meets Foxtail Hill on a pound better terms on Saturday, and this stoutly bred 6yo, who has run the top class, Yorkhill, to 2 1/4L in a Grade1 Aintree Hurdle (2m4f Soft), is also sure to be suited by the step up in trip, and looks a strong second string to the Ditcheat bow.

Selection : Tully East

E.W. : Starchitect

John Gray

Badgers Ales Trophy Handicap Chase 3m1f Wincanton Saturday

What a progressive animal last week’s winner of The Charlie Hall Chase, Bristol De Mai is! He came to the second last absolutely cruising, but, not getting it perfect, he seemed to idle as his stable companion Blaklion, in receipt of 6lbs rallied, and came with a strong looking challenge. The 6/1 shot responded in the gamest fashion, and was comfortably in charge at the line, leaving followers of The Oddsguru blog on good terms with themselves. He looks to be a horse very much on the up, and antepost backers could do worse than take the 4/1 available for his next assignment, The Bet Fair Chase at Haydock, run over the course and distance where the Twiston-Davies gelding, cruised home by 22l from Otago Trail last January.

Paul Nicholls has won The Badgers Ale Trophy seven times, and indeed was very unlucky not to make it eight, when his contender, Southfield Theatre, toppled over at the last with the race at his mercy in last year’s renewal. He fields three runners, including the unlucky Southfield Theatre this time, and none of them can be easily dismissed. The aforementioned has only run the once since his unfortunate fall, finishing tailed off behind Theatre Guide at Cheltenham in December, but in his favour he is only 3lbs higher than last year.

The second Ditcheat runner, is the 6yo Mr Mix who boasts a 100% record on the track from his two course appearances, and he gained that second course win in workmanlike fashion over 3m2 1/2f at the venue thirteen days ago (Class3 Handicap good). That was only his fourth outing over fences and he had last year’s Badger Ales Victor, Gentleman Jon six and a quarter lengths back in third. This young French bred was rated on 141 over hurdles but has clearly found his metier steeplechasing, and if turning up on Saturday has to be seriously considered off a mark of 144.

We can assume that the third of the Nicholls contenders, Present Man, will be as ready as the master of Ditcheat can get him, as he is owned by the Chairman of the sponsoring brewery, Mark Wood, who would dearly love to repeat his victory in 2010 which he won with the Nicholls trained Meanus Dandy. Present Man only got as far as the second fence in last years renewal where he unseated claimer Jack Sherwood, but put up an excellent effort next time under the same rider winning a solidly run Novices Chase at Ascot by 1 3/4L from the useful Dark Flame. By Presenting out of a Strong Gale mare he was always going to be a chaser so rated 7lbs above his hurdles mark of 135, he looks well treated. Sure to have benefited from a nice pipe opener twenty days ago, winning a 2m5f Kempton Novices Hurdle under Bryony Frost, he looks one for the shortlist.

The Fergal O’Brien trained Master Dee also holds an engagement at Aintree at the weekend but if running here has to be of interest. Not the most consistent of jumpers, the fact that he has never finished out of the first three in all ten races over fences, speaks volumes for his powers of recuperation. He put in an excellent effort last October to beat the now rated 155, San Benedetto at Ascot, and he put in another decent performance last time, finishing third in a 2m5 1/2f Market Rasen Handicap which is working out well. The runner up, Guitar Pete, won by seven lengths at Wetherby last Friday, and the fourth home, Play The Ace won at Stratford on Thursday, all of which makes Master Dee look a well handicapped animal on a mark of 145. Saturday’s trip is a slight concern but he was only beaten a neck over the distance in a Warwick Chase, and has won a three mile point to point and a three miles and half a furlong hurdle race.

Neil Mulholland was unlucky to have the 2014 renewal taken off him when The Young Master was disqualified on a technicality, but perhaps compensation awaits with his 7yo, Pilgrims Bay. Well suited by going right handed, the 7yo put in his best effort last term when winning a valuable Grade3 Kempton Handicap (3mGood) last February off a mark of 130. He disappointed at The Cheltenham Festival but as he has never won going left handed can be forgiven. Saturday’s mark of 140, giving him a nice racing weight of 10-9 looks fair, and he could be the one to put the smile back on his excellent trainers face.

Selection: Present Man

E.W. : Master Dee (if abs Pilgrims Bay)

John Gray