Paddy Power Cotswold Chase (Grade2) 3m1 1/2f Cheltenham (New Course) Saturday

cotswold chase

Little Owl and Jim Wilson

First run in 1980, The Cotswold Chase serves as a trial for The Gold Cup in March and did prove a pretty good guide in it’s first 18 renewals, producing 4 winners, Little Owl,
Master Oats, See More Business, and Looks Like Trouble In 2000 who went on to land the big one at The Festival. However the contest since 2000 has lost much of It’s significance, failing to produce a single Gold Cup victor, and indeed the only winner of the heat to even make the places in March in the last decade, has been The Giant Bolster 6 years ago, (also placed behind Synchronised in the 2012 renewal). The single Irish trained winner of the heat has been the Ted Walsh trained Rinnce Ri, 18 years ago, a statistic Co Meath Maestro, Gordon Elliott, with 2 contenders, Delta Work and Alpha Des Obeaux, will be hoping to improve on.

The former is a 7yo by the stallion Network, sire of many top class NH horses, including the wonderful Sprinter Sacre, and having already won 5 of his 7 starts over fences, Delta Work is well on his way to joining that pretty select band. A winner of his first 3 races over the larger obstacles, including two at the top level, he was sent off the 15/8 Favourite for Cheltenham’s RSA in March, and despite making a mistake four out and finding himself short of room after the last, finished a highly honourable 3rd, 1/2L and 1 3/4L behind Topofthegame and Saturday’s opponent Santini. Further Grade1 success came with a facile win in Punchestown’s Champion Novices Chase 6 weeks later, winning by 12L and 2 1/4L from Discorama and the 160 rated A Plus Tard. Making his seasonal debut in November following a 186 days break he ran no sort of race in Down Royals Grade1 Champion Chase, but showed that he was right back on track 4 weeks ago when landing the highly competitive Grade1 Savill Chase at Leopardstown, with a strong staying performance from Monalee and Road To Respect. Clearly going the right way, if Delta Work turns out on Saturday, (also engaged in The Irish Gold Cup in a fortnight’s time) he might just be the one to re-establish “The Cotswold’s” reputation, as a genuine Gold Cup Trial.

It would require a career best effort for Mr Elliott’s 2nd string, the 10yo, Alpha Des Obeaux to win, but he has run well on is only two visits to Prestbury Park, finishing 2nd to Thistlecrack in the 2016 World Hurdle and 4th to Might Bite in The RSA in 2017. He proved his well-being finishing 3/18 in The Becher Chase over The National fences last time and could be interesting particularly if the ground turns testing.

The Nicky Henderson trained Santini heads the market at 6/4 but will need to improve on his seasonal reappearance when only getting home by a Head from the 144 rated
Now Mc Ginty, in a Sandown Listed Chase if he is to justify such skinny odds. One presumes the logic behind his price is that he finished 1 3/4L ahead of Delta Work in The RSA in March and on 2lbs better terms on Saturday will confirm the form, but I’m not so sure. Delta Work, who looks the stronger stayer, has taken his form to a higher level while Santini has yet to win a Grade 1 over fences, and that Sandown effort wasn’t exactly full of promise. However they certainly know the time of day down at Seven Barrows, and presumably, with one eye on March, have left plenty to work on.

The 9yo Bristol De Mai has been a grand servant to connections, winning 10 of his 31 starts, amassing nearly £700,000 in prize money, and following an excellent 3rd in last year’s Gold Cup, there would be no more deserving winner on Saturday. He has failed to win from 4 attempts at Prestbury Park, but ridden with more restraint than usual in The Gold Cup, it was his best performance to date at the track, (only lost second place in the last 120yds) and similar tactics on Saturday over the furlong shorter trip could yield the maximum dividend.

The Philip Kirby trained 8yo, Top Ville Ben’s form has taken a serious step forward in his last two races, and is now on a mark 13lbs higher than he was at the beginning of the season. He was particularly impressive last time, winning Wetherby’s Grade3 Rowland Meyrick off a mark of 154, by an impressive 8L from Didero Vallis to whom he was conceeding 27lbs, and had the 155 rated Lake View a further 3 1/4L back in third. This young horse, (won’t actually be 8 until the 12th Of May) seems only now to be reaching his full potential, and there could be plenty more to come from this son of the top class jumps sire, Beneficial.

Another animal to take a large step forward last time is Emma Lavelle’s Ladbroke Trophy Handicap Chase (previously The Hennessy) winner, De Rashar Counter. A son of the 4 times Ascot Gold Cup winning sire, Yeats, he stayed on strongly to win what is one of the most competitive handicaps in the calendar, and is now rated 18lbs higher than he was 2 Chases ago. That was only his 7th race over fences so further progress over staying trips can be anticipated.

The Colin Tizzard trained 8yo, Slate House was going best of all when coming down at the penultimate fence in Cheltenham’s Bet Victor in November, and showed no ill effects winning his next 2 races, including Kempton’s Grade1 Kauto Star Novices Chase last time. (3m Soft Dec26). Jumping soundly, he travelled strongly throughout, and idling after the last was probably worth plenty more than the 1 1/4L he won by. An easy winner of a Cheltenham Novices Chase (2m4f Heavy) in October he is another on a strong upward curve and if effective over Saturday’s longer trip will be a danger to all.

Selection :       Delta Work   (If Abs Bristol De Mai)

EW.           : Top Ville Ben

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

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

Betting Tips Peter Marsh Handicap Chase

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

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

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

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

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

nigel-twiston-davies-bristol

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

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

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

Selection: Bristol De Mai (if abs Alary)

E.W.         : Virak

Betting Preview BetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase

betting-preview-betbright-best-for-festival-betting-handicap-chaseBetBright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase 2m5f (new) Cheltenham Sunday – With nine of the last ten winners returned at odds of 8/1 or less, and the “Jolly” hitting the back of the net on the last three occasions, the contest has certainly been punter friendly, and long may this happy state of affairs continue. Previous Cheltenham form has been a significant guide as seven of the last ten winners had won over the course, and indeed two of the last three winners of Decembers contest, The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup (also run over the new course) have doubled up here, Village Vic last year, and Double Ross two years ago.

With two wins and three places from nine runners over the past decade, the Twiston Davies yard knows what is required and have two left in at the time of writing, Bristol De Mai and Foxtail Hill. The latter needs a half dozen to come out to get a run, so the 6yo Bristol De Mai is the one to concentrate on.

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Nigel Twiston Davies’ in-form Gloucestershire yard could well throw up yet another winner according to the Oddsguru

He was well beaten on his reappearance in a two horse affair at Carlisle after a six month break, but showed the benefit, when running a very solid race in the 2m7 1/2f Rehersal Chase at Newcastle last time. Racing off Sunday’s mark of 154 he finished second to Otago Trail with Definitly Red, who was in receipt of 12lbs, 1 1/4L back in third. As the latter absolutely hosed up in the Roland Meyrick at Wetherby on Monday, the form looks rock solid. The drop back in trip should be an advantage, and as he showed that the undulations of Prestbury Park hold no fears when finishing second to Black Hercules in the JLT at the festival in March, he clearly has plenty going for him. A slight concern would be that no animal rated in the one fifties has won since Fondment won off 152 ten years ago, but a literal interpretation of the Rehersal Chase form does make him look well handicapped on 154.

The Paul Nicholls trained 7yo, As De Mee was over 14L behind Bristol De Mai in the JLT at the festival, and meets the Twiston-Davies contender on only 7lbs better terms here, but does look an improved animal this term. He won first time up, at Fontwell in October, and last time looked really good when winning a Class2 handicap over the National Fences at Aintree twenty nine days ago off a mark of 137. However in between, doubts were raised about his affinity for Cheltenham, when disappointing in the BetVictor Gold Cup over the course in November, and indeed he has only managed one placing, (over hurdles) from his four course appearances. Despite this it has to be said that he looked good at Aintree, and as the sole representative of the Ditcheat powerhouse, racing off a mark of 145, he has to be considered.

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Backers of Thomas Crapper could be feeling flush on Sunday

The 10yo Thomas Crapper is now reaching the veteran stage but does go well here and has won twice over Cheltenham’s smaller obstacles. Fitted with a tongue strap in the BetVictorGold Cup he ran well to finish 6th, 15L behind the winner, and has had a minor soft palate operation since, to aid his breathing. Trainer Dickin, reports him in fine fettle, and with just 10st in the plate, it would come as no surprise to see him involved at the business end.

With two wins and three places from his ten course appearances, the redoubtable winner of last year’s race, Village Vic, clearly feels very much at home on the Prestbury Park turf, and is likely to lead them all a merry dance again on Sunday. However he is 14lbs higher than last year, and failed by a neck to defy a 3lbs lower mark in the “BetVictor” in November, and could only manage a gallant third in the “Caspian Caviar” twenty two days ago off Sunday’s mark of 158. While it would be great to see this brave animal prevail, he has it all to do with 11st11bs on his back.

Nicky Henderson’s 8yo Vaniteux has mostly been campaigned at trips shorter than Sunday’s 20f but this winner of two of his six chases looks as if a step up in distance will suit.

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Will Nicky Henderson be all smiles with Vaniteux?

Having his first run for seven months he finished a respectable third behind Sire De Grugy and Quite By Chance over 2m1f at Ascot, and put in another solid performance when again finishing 3rd over 2m1/2f here at Cheltenham twenty two days ago. A winner of an Aintree Grade2 chase, this French bred has a touch of class about him, and quite stoutly bred, by Voix Du Nord out of a video rock mare, is likely to enjoy the step up in trip and even off his mark of 154, has to be on the shortlist.

Selection : Vaniteux

E.W.          Bristol De Mai