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

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

2017 Betfair Chase preview.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Gray

32Red Sprint Cup Stakes (Group1) 6f Haydock Saturday

Last week’s selection, Literalle Ci’s victory in the feature race at Newton Abbot, certainly helped the bank balance, coming home at the generous odds of 7/1 under an excellent ride by the 5lbs Claimer, Aine O’Connor. Always travelling comfortably he quickened close home, and won with a little more up his sleeve than the 1/2L victory would indicate, and could be worth following if turned out under a penalty. Whatever the horse does the talented Ms O’Connor is certainly worth keeping an eye on. With an impressive score of 12 wins from 23 rides she is clearly a claimer going places.

It’s a fair bet there won’t be any claimers aboard any of the contenders in Saturday’s 6f Group1 Sprint Cup in a contest where experience and quick reactions will be at a premium, and of course weight allowances don’t apply in any case. Three jockeys, Frankie Dettori, Adam Kirby, and Gerald Mosse, will be attempting to become the first riders since Pat Eddery in 1989 to ride a second winner of the race which was first run in 1966 under the sponsorship of Vernon’s Pools. Since receiving Group1 status in 1988, Henry Candy is the only double winning handler represented on Saturday which makes his Limato of interest.

The 6yo son of Tagula is a genuine top flight performer, winning two Group1s, (7f Prix De la Foret 2016 and the 6f July Cup the same year) and being placed five times at this level, including an excellent 2nd to Saturday’s opponent, Harry Angel, (rec 6lbs) in last year’s renewal of The July Cup. His first three starts this term were disappointing but he came good last time, winning the Listed, Hopeful Stakes at Newmarket a fortnight ago, comfortably beating Top Score. He will have to find plenty more on Saturday, but in the hands of that master trainer of sprinters, Mr Candy, I wouldn’t be surprised if he did.

Market leader and last year’s winner, Harry Angel is rated 7lbs ahead of his nearest rival, (James Garfield) but has to overcome an aversion to the starting stalls. Sent off the 5/2 fav in June for the Diamond Jubilee he got very upset in the stalls and injuring himself finished lame out the back. He has been on the easy list since, but his top trainer, Clive Cox is convinced that he has him back at the top of his game, and indeed sees a silver lining in his enforced 11 week absence, feeling that being a fresh animal is a definite bonus. Certainly if handling the stalls, (he behaved himself when winning The Duke Of York on his previous start) this double Group1 winner will be hard to beat.

The 3yo James Garfield, trained by George Scott has been campaigned at distances between 5f and 1m but his performance in the Group1 Prix Maurice de Gheest over 6 1/2f five weeks ago, would strongly suggest that Saturday’s distance is the son of Exceed and Excel’s optimum trip. In a truly run race he was ahead at the distance and was just run out of it close home by Polydream, (best at 7/8f) and had Saturday’s opponent The Tin Man 2 1/2L back in third. Starting at odds of 42/1 this was a big step forward and with further progress likely and Frankie again doing the steering he has to be worth a close look, particularly as the Classic generation have won 6 of the last 10 renewals.

The David Ellsworth trained 4yo, Sir Dancealot is another animal very much on the up and his win last time in the 7f Hungerford Stakes was pretty impressive. However, while he has won twice at 6f and was 2 3/4L 3rd behind Harry Angel in The 6f Duke Of York in May, he does seem to be better at further.

The Kevin Ryan trained Brando must be a delight to own. Very genuine, he has banked over £3/4 million in prize money for connections, has won 8 of his 28 starts including at the top level (won last year’s Group1 Prix Maurice de Gheest) and rarely runs a bad race. He put in an excellent performance to finish 2nd in The July Cup but ran one of his poorer races last time, finishing 8th, 6 1/4L behind James Garfield in The Prix Maurice de Gheest last time.

The Willie Haggas trained 5yo Tasleet finished 2nd to Harry’s Angel in last year’s renewal, albeit at a respectable distance of 4L on heavy ground, but reversed the form 6 week’s later, when finishing 2nd in the Group1 Champions Sprint, he had the Cox Horse 1L back in 4th. He has only had the one run this term, finishing 3rd to Merchant Navy in The Group2 Greenland Stakes at The Curragh in May. Due to a slight setback he hasn’t been seen since, but his trainer reports him in rude health. He handles easy ground (there is rain about) and goes well after a break, so another to consider.

The Sir Michael Stoute trained Eqtidaar is in the same ownership as Tasleet and looked an animal going places when winning the Group1 Commonwealth Cup (3yo’s only) at The Royal Meeting in June, but found little when tackling older animals in The July Cup. However Sir Michael feels that Eqtidaar, a big horse, is now maturing and following a nice break a much stronger effort is anticipated, and it’s worth noting that excellent record of 3yo’s in the race.

Selection : Harry Angel

E.W. : Tasleet

John Gray

Betway Pinnacle Stakes (Group3) 1m4f Haydock Saturday

Following the heady brew of last Saturday’s Derby this weekend’s offerings are of a much thinner beer, but nevertheless, Haydock’s Pinnacle Stakes looks an interesting and competitive heat, so let’s hope we can find the winner. The race was first run in 2003 as a Listed contest for fillies and mares, but was elevated to Group3 status in 2012 when it was won by Roger Varian’s 5yo mare, Shimmering Surf. The 2004 renewal was won by Luca Cumani with the 4yo Pongee, and he will be hoping for a second success with another filly of the same age, the beautifully bred, God Given.

By Nathaniel out of the Dubai Destination mare, Ever Rigg, she is a half sister to the fantastic, Postponed, (winner of almost £5,000,000 in prize money). It’s a safe bet she won’t be climbing similar heights but she has won three of her eight starts, including at Group3 level, at Deauville last August, when winning the Prix Minerve over 1m4 1/2f. She made all and found plenty when pressed at the furlong marker and won going away by 1 3/4L and a Nk from Calayana and Lady Montdore, with the well backed favourite, Elas Ruby a further Hd behind. In the context of Saturday’s race this was pretty strong form as the John Gosden trained Elas Ruby had previously got to within 1 1/4L of the Group2 winning Strathspey. Upped to Group1 level in the last race of her 3yo career, God Given wasn’t disgraced finishing 6th, 7 3/4L behind Bateel, in The Prix Vermille at Chantilly. She made her seasonal debut following a 35 week break, in The Buckhound Stakes, (Ascot May 12 1m 4f Gd/Fm) where, racing very freely she faded in the final furlong to finish 4th, 4 1/2L behind the winner, Barsanti, but it’s worth noting, was only 2 1/4L behind Salouen, who so nearly stole last week’s Group1 Coronation Cup. With the weather set fair for the weekend a serious concern would be the ground as God Given has done all her winning on a soft surface, although she did seem to handle Good/Firm in the Buckhound at Ascot, and her half brother, Postponed was fine on it.

A winner of six of her twenty starts, The Marc Johnston trained Titi Makfi has largely been campaigned at distances shorter than Saturday but she looked as if a step back up to 1m4f would suit when a staying on 3rd in the 10f Rothesay Stakes at Ayr seventeen days ago. Perhaps her best performance to date was indeed over 1m4f when running the useful Isabel De Urbina To half a length in the Listed Warwick Fillies Stakes at the beginning of May. She handles most surfaces and coming from this yard has to be worth considering.

The Roger Charlton trained Cribbs Causeway has won five of her thirteen starts and ran well last time tackling Group3 company for the first time. In the 1m6f Dubai Bronte Cup Fillies Stakes at York, she appeared to have every chance at the furlong marker but edged left, and finished 3rd, 2L behind the winner, Precious Ramotswe. This was a very promising run on her first outing for 205 days as she had Isabel De Urbina 2L behind in 4th. The drop back in trip to 1m4 1/2 furlongs could well be in her favour, as she impressed when winning a valuable Class2 Newmarket Handicap over 1m4f from the useful Teofonic last October, and her half brother, Voyager Blue is best at around a mile.

The Kevin Ryan trained 5yo, Company Asset has never raced beyond 1m2 1/2f but looked ready for a step up in trip when finishing 4th in The Rothesay last time. Having her first run for 213 days she was slowly into her stride and made some progress over a furlong out but despite not having the pace to challenge, did keep on well.

The Keith Dalgleish trained 4yo, Euro Nightmare, won the 10f Rothesay pretty comfortably with Titi Makfi and Company Asset, as we saw, well held, but I’m not so sure she can repeat the performance over Saturday’s trip. While she has been placed over 13 and 14 furlongs at a lower level, her optimum distance does seem to be 10f.

The Willie Mullins trained 5yo, Law Girl, with only a single modest victory from nine starts on the flat in France, was purchased by The Ricci’s with a hurdling career in mind. However with just one win in a Roscommon Maiden from her five starts over hurdles the future didn’t look particularly bright until, coming back from a 226 day winter break, she ran a promising race to finish 3rd in a modest contest at Killarney (May15 1m6f) and confirmed connections hopes nineteen days later when winning another modest affair at Listowel, very easily indeed. Saturday represents a huge step up in class but coming from this yard I suppose anything is possible.

Selection : God Given (if abs) Cribbs Causeway

E.W. : Titi Makfi

John Gray

Smarkets Challenger Staying Chase Series Final (Handicap) 3m1 1/2f Haydock Saturday

The main focus of attention for jumping enthusiasts this Saturday is Haydock Park, where the betting exchange company, Smarkets, host their finals day. They generously sponsor all seven races on a fascinating card but the heat that catches the eye is the final of the Smarkets Challenger Staying Chase Series.

When one considers the historically high strike rate of the Pond House Operation, one has to conclude that so far, it has been quite a disappointing season for David Pipe and his staff, but with two winners in the past fortnight, including that convincing victory of Rathlin Rose at Ascot, the corner may have been turned. If it does prove to be the case, the master of Pond House must have a serious chance of landing the valuable Challenger Staying Chase Final with his lightly weighted 8yo, Abracadabra Sivola. A veteran of 25 chases, he drew a blank in his seven starts since landing a Taunton Class3 Handicap last March off a mark of 129. However, dropped to a mark of 112 he showed that he was no back number when winning over Kempton’s tricky circuit 14 days ago. He made all, travelling well within himself, and put the result beyond doubt with his best jump of the round at the last. A course winner at Haydock over hurdles, his new mark of 117, gives him the featherweight of only 10-1 to shoulder, and he looks seriously well treated.

The Charlie Longsdon trained, Shanroe In Milan didn’t manage to catch the Judges eye in his two PTP’s or his seven races over hurdles but did get off the mark last time out in his third attempt over the larger obstacles. Racing off a mark of 117 in a Class4 Doncaster Handicap (3m Soft) he held on gamely to beat Bako De La Saulaie by 1/2L nine weeks ago. There is nothing special about the form but the Longsdon 6yo was always bred to be a chaser and having broken his duck could move on to greener pastures.

The Lucy Wadham trained Potters Legend looked a tad unlucky when coming down at the last at Fakenham 15 days ago. Having delivered a sustained challenge from two out, he had just taken it up when falling in the Class3 event, and off just a 2lbs higher mark, with the yard amongst the winners, the 8yo is certainly worth a second look.

After six attempts over fences, the one time winner over hurdles, Behind Time, got his head in front over the larger obstacles for the first time two weeks ago. The Harry Fry trained 7yo came home 4L clear of the useful Big River in a Class2 Uttoxeter Handicap (3mChase Heavy) off a mark of 120. He had been prone to making the odd mistake in his previous races and the fitting of cheek pieces may have helped. If they work the Oracle again, he doesn’t look badly treated on a mark of 127, giving him a racing weight of 10-13.

The Fergal O’Brien trained 10yo, Jenny’s Surprise is a pretty consistent mare who has won six times and been placed six times from her nineteen starts under National Hunt Rules. She battled on bravely to land a Class3 Ffos Las Handicap (3m Heavy) six weeks ago where she had Behind Time, 3L and a neck back in third. She meets Harry Fry’s charge on the same terms at the weekend so connections must be hopeful of landing this very nice pot.

The Nick William’s trained 10yo, Horatio Hornblower, a winner of three of his previous eighteen starts over fences, just failed to make it four, when going down by a neck to the redoubtable 14yo, Pete The Feat, in a Sandown Class3 (3m Soft) three weeks ago. With form over The Lancashire Track, (2nd brush Hurdle April 2014) and racing off his Sandown mark he could be interesting.

Wicked Willy is another contender with course form, (placed in both of his track appearances under NH rules). He put up a solid performance last time when finishing 4th in a Class2 Sandown Handicap (3m Soft) eight weeks ago. He was 6 3/4L behind the winner, the useful Ballydine, but would have been closer had he not made a costly mistake at the second last. 3rd in the Staying Hurdle Final of this series last April, he will enjoy Saturday’s likely better ground, and off the same mark as Sandown he looks to have a serious chance in what will only be his 6th race over fences.

The Sue Smith trained Delusionofgrandeur’s only course appearance was pretty inauspicious, finishing 4th of five runners, 30L behind the winner, politologue, in November 2016. However he has developed into a decent chaser winning four of his twelve starts. He may have found the 4m1f trip at Musselburgh last time beyond him, but prior to that was an excellent 3rd, only 1/2L behind the winner, Get On The Yeager, in a Class1 Grade3 Chase in December. As the class act in the field he has plenty of weight, (11-10), but will benefit from any drying of the ground, and coming from this yard I wouldn’t be surprised to see him involved.

Selection: Abracadabra Sivola

E.W. : Wicked Willy

John Gray

Oddsguru Tips: Betfred Grand National Trial Handicap Chase 3m4 1/2f Haydock Saturday

First run in 1947, the race was suspended between 1985 and 1990 but was reintroduced in 1991. The contest hasn’t been the greatest guide to success in the big one at Aintree, as Sundew in 1956, remains the only winner to bring off the double in the same year. Weight has proved no barrier to success, with two winners carrying top weight of 11-12 in the last decade, ten defying 11-0 or higher since 1991, and indeed five of the last ten to pass the post in front, (including Oddsguru’s E.W. selection last year, Vieux Lion Rouge) carried 11-6 or more to victory.

The David Pipe trained Vieux Lion Rouge won last years renewal by 3L from Blaklion, and meets him on 5lbs better terms at the weekend, but in his three subsequent races he has been well beaten, and has finished behind Blaklion on all three occasions. However, what does bode well for both animals, is that horses who go well in this contest, often do so again, as instanced by Rigadin De Beauchene, who was runner up in 2013 and went one better the following year, and Lucinda Russell’s Silver By Nature who won back to back renewals in 2010 and 2011.

The tough, and Uber genuine Blaklion, went on to finish an excellent fourth in The Grand National (looked the most likely winner at the second last) and put up another impressive performance on his reappearance in November, getting to within 1/2L of his top class stable mate Bristol De Mai at Wetherby. He topped that with a most taking performance five weeks later, when running away with the Beecher Chase (3m2f Heavy) at Aintree. He has been hit with a 9lbs rise for his impressive victory, leaving him with 11-12 to carry on Saturday, and he will need to be nearly up to Gold Cup standard to succeed. With one eye on Aintree, his shrewd trainer will surely have left plenty to work on.

Trainer Colin Tizzard

The Colin Tizzard trained 8yo, The Dutchman, put up an eye catching performance over the course, (3m1 1/2f Heavy) four weeks ago when tackling a trip beyond three miles for the first time. He took it up at the14th, and despite getting the second last wrong, drew clear on the run in, to beat the useful stayer, Captain Redbeard by 13 lengths. He has paid the price for his facile win by being raised 13lbs to a mark of 148, giving him a racing weight of 10-13 at the weekend, but as a full brother to the talented duo, The Pirates Queen and Katie Too I’m sure there is plenty more to come from the Tizzard horse, particularly over staying trips.

The 10yo Mysteree was transferred from Linda Russell’s (triple winner of the contest) yard, north of the border, to the training operation of Michael Scudamore, her partner Peter’s son, before Christmas, and was quietly fancied for the Welsh Grand National. However he was never going well in that rescheduled event, and was pulled up at the 12th. Every cloud has a silver lining, and having avoided a slog in the Chepstow mud, we should see a fresh animal line up on Saturday. As a course and distance winner on heavy ground, with only 10-3 on his back he has plenty to recommend him.

One that did complete the Chepstow marathon is the Paul Nicholls trained 9yo Silsol, who kept on well over the final two furlongs to finish fifth racing off a mark of 147. That was only his fifth race over fences, and for a horse that was good enough to beat Native River and L’il Rockefeller in the Grade2 Great Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby last season, he looks well treated on Saturday off a mark of 144, giving him a racing weight of 10-9. Silsol has clearly been difficult to train, but as a winner of a Chase over the course, who handles heavy ground, and will stay the trip, has to be considered.

If David Pipe’s Vieux Lion Rouge doesn’t come up to scratch, he has a strong looking second string to his bow, with the progressive 6yo, Daklondike. A winner of three of his five chases, he impressed last time off a mark of 133. Stepped up to 3m2f (Newbury Heavy Dec30), he put Grand Vision, and the 133 rated knockanrawley firmly in their place. He has been raised 7lbs to a mark of 140 giving him a nice racing weight of 10-5 which looks quite generous, and I doubt if we have yet seen the best of this full brother to the classy Great Endeavour (rated155). Despite the poor recent record of younger horses in the contest, (no winner younger than eight in the last ten renewals) the 12/1 available at the time of writing looks tempting!

The Philip Hobbs trained, Three Faces West, has won twice over the course, including a Chase on heavy ground, and he was travelling nicely in the lead over the track before Christmas when tipping up at the 12th. The yard was in the doldrums at the time, but is going much better now, and the 10yo doesn’t look badly treated on 144. A serious concern however would be the trip, as he was well beaten on his only foray beyond three miles.

Selection : The Dutchman

E.W. : Mysteree (if abs) Silsol

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.


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

Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle Tips

Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Swinton Hurdle) 1m 7 1/2f Haydock Saturday

Last week’s selection in the 1000gns, Lumiere, ran no sort of race, and looked as if she didn’t stay, but fortunately, our E.W. selection, Alice Springs ran a super race to finish 3rd at odds of 16/1. She has grown into a big impressive looking filly and with her pedigree is certainly one to keep in mind when tackling further. (The Irish Oaks?)

We are back over the sticks this week with a look at the Swinton Hurdle and it looks a wide open contest.

Philip Hobbs, who has won the race twice before, (including last year) has three entries and at the time of writing the two to concentrate on are last year’s hero, War Sound, and Wait For Me. The former took last year’s renewal off a mark of 140 when a well supported 6/1 chance but is now 8lbs higher, and hasn’t run since finishing down the field at Newbury on heavy ground in mid February. Saturday’s ground should be much more suitable, and it is a race where previous winners have performed well on their return, so his chance is respected.

Wait For Me ran a fine race in The County Hurdle at the Festival for a novice, having only his fourth run over the smaller obstacles. Backed in to 7/1 joint favourite from 11/1 on the day, he was held up towards the rear, crept into the contest, and stayed on to finish 4th. The hurly burly of Saturday’s contest should hold no fears for him, and off the same mark as Cheltenham, has a lot to recommend him.

Welsh maestro, Evan Williams has also trained the winner twice, in 2014 and 2013, and indeed his 2013 winner Barizan was placed 2nd last year. It would seem that Williams targets the race so his contender John Constable is of special interest. This decent flat racer, (rated92) put up an eye catching performance on only his third run over hurdles at Newbury last November. In a Class1 handicap he finished 2nd to Sternrubin and had Saturday’s opponent, and likely favourite Ch’tibello five lengths back in third. John Constable has disappointed in his two subsequent races but the yard has been badly out of form. He now meets Ch’tibello on 3lbs better terms than Newbury, and as the stable has had a winner this Tuesday he’s one to keep on the right side of.

The Paul Webber trained 5yo novice Gwafa was taking a huge step up in class when contesting the Grade1 novice hurdle at Aintree but was badly hampered at the 4th and unseated his rider. He had won his two previous races very easily at Fakenham and Huntingdon,so this 92 rated flat racer may have got in lightly off a mark of 137 and is worth a second look.

Paul Nicholls has never won the race but seems to be making a serious attempt with three runners this year. His 5yo, All Yours, probably represents his best chance of correcting this particular blot on the Nicholls C.V. The winner of the Grade1 novices event at last years Aintree festival, (April 2015) he has had a very easy time of it since, running only twice. He was a well beaten 5th behind stablemate Irving at Wincanton in November, and wasn’t seen again until running in the County Hurdle in March where he ran better than his finishing place of 12th would indicate. Well suited by a flat track and reasonably treated off a mark of 145 it will come as no surprise to see him involved at the business end.

Robert Stephen’s 5yo Beltor has attracted some interest in the market and actually beat All Yours easily on only his second race over hurdles, at Kempton 14 months ago. His two subsequent efforts, in the 2015 Triumph Hurdle, and the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle last November, have been disappointing and I just wonder does he need to go right handed.

The other trainer who can boast two previous wins is Nicky Henderson and his 7yo Cardinal Walter, despite failing to hit the back of the net for 14 months is interesting. His win in a novice hurdle at Doncaster in Febuary 2015 was achieved with consummate ease and his 3rd to Saturday’s opponent Shrewd at Musselburgh this Febuary was a pretty decent effort. He meets the winner on 14lbs (excluding Shane Shortalls 5lbs claim on the winner) for the 2 3/4L beating and as his jumping wasn’t the most fluent things could be a lot closer between them on Saturday.

Dan Skelton runs his Scottish Champion Hurdle winner, Ch’tibello and he must have a serious chance off just a 6lbs higher mark. At Ayr he showed a great change of gears between the bypassed third, and second last flights, and despite a mistake at the last the result was never in doubt. This was his first run for five months so further improvement can be expected, and with Saturday’s ground likely to be even more suitable he has an awful lot going for him.

Selection : Ch’tibello

E.W. : All Yours

Sprint Cup 6f Haydock Saturday

William Haggas

The Oddsguru fancies the William Haggas trained Adday to win Saturday’s Sprint Cup.

I hope you were on last week’s selection, the Kodiac colt, Kodi Bear. He absolutely hacked up and is clearly going to be a force at the top level. He might well be worth considering for the QE11, particularly if the ground is on the easy side. Saturday presents another son of Kodiac, Adday, with the opportunity of scoring at the top level on only his second attempt at a Gp1.

Bought for €54,000 as a foal, he was resold as a 2yo for 240,000Gns, and he certainly looks a bargain now. He made his 3yo debut at Ascot at the end of April, finishing third to Saturday’s opponent Limato. He was beaten 3L by the Candy gelding, who had benefited from a previous run, but reversed the form at Haydock a month later when comfortably holding Limato by a length. Seventeen days later, in the Gp1 Commonwealth Cup at the Royal meeting Adday ran an indifferent race finishing seventh, 2 3/4L behind Limato who finished second. Given a nice two months break the Haggas colt reappeared in the 7f Gp2 Hungerford stakes, where, as an easy to back 15/2 shot, he won in workmanlike fashion from a decent field. The score between Limato and Adday currently stands at 2-1, but one suspects that the Haggas colt may not be ideally suited to the Ascot course, (plenty aren’t) and back at the Lancashire track Adday may even the score. One for the shortlist!

Magical Memory, whom this column tipped, when taking the Stewards Cup has been supplemented at a cost of £15,600 for Saturday’s race, highlighting the confidence of the all conquering Charlie Hills stable. After strolling to victory in a Newmarket handicap off a mark of 96 he was all the rage for the Goodwood cavalry charge when backed in to 6/1 favourite on the day, and won like a group horse in the making off his new mark of 102. He was actually being eased down inside the final furlong and probably deserves a considerably higher rating than his current 108. He has done all his winning on top of the ground conditions, but his trainer has no worries about an easier surface, and indeed feels that he might well be suited by some give. Very soft ground however would be a negative. Obviously on a sharp upward trajectory his sporting connections should retrieve, at the very least their late entry fee.

The redoubtable Gordon Lord Byron, who won the race two years ago, can never be left out of calculations. Particularly well suited by plenty of give, he showed his current wellbeing when a decent third at the Curragh on an unsuitable fast surface, two weeks ago. His form in the 6 1/2f Gp1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville on August 9th, where he finished only 1L behind triple Gp1 winning Muhaarar, to whom he was conceding 5lbs, would give him very strong claims indeed.

Michael Appelby’s 4yo gelding Danzeno, may have been unlucky in Newmarkets Gp1 July Cup when finishing 5th behind Muhaarar. He seemed to be given an awful lot to do, and Dettori collected a two day ban by the stewards for his belated attempt to get through. In his previous race at Newcastle he again looked unlucky finishing 3rd, just a short head behind Saturday’s opponent Mattmu, who claimed the runner up spot. Here again he was slowly into his stride, and also lost his action when stumbling after 2f. As Mattmu went on to win a Gp3 at the Curragh and finish third in the 5f Nunthorpe, there is nothing wrong with the form, so given a bit more luck in running, the Appelby runner is another worth considering, particularly as all ground comes alike to this talented gelding.

David O’Meara runs two, G Force, and Watchable, and of the two the latter may be the more interesting. Running consistently without troubling the judge all season, he ran the best race of the current term last time, when finishing 4th in the Prix Maurice de Gheest, just a length behind Gordon Lord Byron. This Pivotal gelding, who handles a soft surface well, only needs slight improvement to get involved, and coming from this yard we all know that is more than possible. His current odds of 25/1 certainly look generous.

Selection: Adday

E.W. : Magical Memory

Rose of Lancaster Stakes Gp3 1m 2 1/2 f Haydock Saturday

Roger Varian

Roger Varian’s progressive looking Dynaformer colt Intilaaq could well Saturday’s big race at Haydock.

I hope you were on last week’s selection, Magical Memory, the very tidy winner of The Stewards Cup. Returned at 6/1, he was available at the time of writing at a very tasty 14/1, so let’s hope we can keep the ball rolling this week in Saturday’s Rose of Lancaster Stakes.

Three year olds have won fifteen of the twenty eight renewals of this 1m 2 1/2 f contest since its inception in 1986, and Roger Varian’s progressive looking Dynaformer colt Intilaaq could well improve on their record. Having won his maiden at Newbury in April, he disappointed in the 2000gns, finishing fifteenth behind Gleneagles, but came good last time on his first attempt at the distance when winning a listed race at Newbury in very taking fashion. Now stepped up to pattern company for the first time this very well bred colt, (his dam won the French 1000gns) is of definite interest at the weekend. The only caveat would be the weather as his trainer feels that he would be unsuited by anything worse than good, so a waiting brief is advised.

The John Gosden trained Mahsoob is in the same ownership as Intilaaq, and based on his win in the 1m2f Wolferton Handicap at Royal Ascot off a mark of 106 is of interest. He disappointed last time in the 1m4f Gp2 Prince of Wales stakes at Newmarket when sent off favourite. He clearly didn’t get the trip and finished 6th, 6L behind the subsequent Goodwood Cup winner Big Orange. Returned to his optimum trip, (has won three times over 1m2f) at the weekend he is well worth considering.

Mostly campaigned at shorter, the Rod Millman trained 4yo Master Craftsman, conclusively proved his stamina credentials, when winning the hugely valuable, and highly competitive, John Smith handicap at York. Run over 1m 2 1/2 f he held on bravely to win by a neck, off a mark of 104. The ground at York was good, but he does like to get his toe in, (he won a Gp3 on gd/sft at Chantilly last year) so may well have his ideal conditions on Saturday. Having had a nice break since his York win, he does seem to have a lot in his favour at the weekend and is shortlisted.

In typical Mark Johnston fashion, the tough Fire Fighting’s nose has been kept close to the grindstone for the last two months, but he showed no signs of staleness when running another fine race at Goodwood last week. He was beaten less than 1 1/2L when running on resolutely behind the talented Mount Logan, to whom he was conceding 8lbs (1m2f gd/sft), and although seemingly held on some collateral lines of form, it would be no surprise to see him involved at the business end on Saturday.

Saeed Bin Suroor’s 6yo Clon Brulee ran well in a group3 over an inadequate 1m1f on soft ground at Newmarket last October, where he finished a running on 4th of 13 beaten 3L. He does like an easy surface, and back over a more suitable trip he could get involved.

Sir Michael Stoute, who has won the race three times, is represented by the relatively lightly raced 4yo Munaaser. He had been mostly campaigned at around a mile, but in his last race at Goodwood, one week ago, he looked as if he would be well suited by further. Held up towards the rear in a Cl2 handicap over a mile, he ran on strongly to get within 4 1/2 L of the winner. By the Derby winner New Approach, out of a mare who stayed a mile there is plenty of encouragement in his pedigree to suggest that Saturday’s trip should suit, so coming from this stable is worth keeping an eye on.

Selection : Intilaaq. (if absent : Master Craftsman)

E.W. : Clon Brulee.

Old Newton Cup 1m4f Haydock Saturday

Old Newton Cup

The very underrated Keith Dalgleish has done a marvellous job with the ex Sir Michael Stoute trained 5yo, Oasis Dream gelding, Pressure Point.

Luca Cumani has won the Haydock race four times since 1997, (the last time with Mad Rush, 2008) so current joint favourite, Penhill is of interest. He looked an animal to keep on the right side of when winning a Cl3 1m4f Ascot handicap, off a mark of 86 on his reappearance, when a well backed 13/8 fav. He went of at even shorter odds, 6/4, to follow up at Newmarket three weeks later off a 7lbs higher mark in a Cl2 event, but never really got competitive behind Watersmeet. He took a very strong hold, and Cumani reported that Penhill was unsuited by the course. Returned to a left handed turning track, (has won over Nottingham’s similar course) it would be no surprise to see his uber shrewd trainer in the winners enclosure on Saturday.

Andrew Balding’s very progressive 4yo Mount Nelson filly, Elbereth, looks interesting. On only her second start on turf she stepped up considerably on her first, where despite not handling Brighton’s idiosyncratic course, she was only beaten 3/4L in a Cl3 handicap off a mark of 80. Ridden by the very promising 7lb claimer Edward Greatrex, she was stepped up to Cl2 level at the Derby meeting and won cleverly off a mark of 86.(1m2f). Due to race off an 8lb higher mark at the weekend,( 7lbs will again be negated by Greatrex’s claim ) and having won over the distance, albeit on Wolverhampton’s all weather surface, this fast improving filly with just 8st4lbs (including the 7lbs claim) in the plate, has a lot in her favour, and is shortlisted.

The very underrated Keith Dalgleish has done a marvellous job with the ex Sir Michael Stoute trained 5yo, Oasis Dream gelding, Pressure Point. Beautifully bred, this full brother to the Group1 winning Visit, and half brother to the top class filly Promising Lead, who has also succeeded at the top level, was bought out of the Stoute yard, having failed to catch the judges eye as a 3yo. under the Dalgleish tutelage he picked up a Cl5 handicap at Mussellburgh last September off a mark of 67. He won a similar contest at Newcastle in April this year off 70, but it was his last run which emphasised the progress that has been made. Stepped up to Cl3 level at York at the end of May (1m4f) he stayed on well to beat Dance King off a mark of 83. It is quite probable that there is plenty more to come from this very well connected animal, and it will be no surprise to see him staying on strongly up the long Haydock straight at the weekend. Definitely one for the short list.

Roger Varian, whose horses invariably perform well at Haydock, runs his 4yo Galileo colt, Battersea. He won a Cl2 Ascot handicap (1m4f) off a mark of 90 in very taking fashion last September, but disappointed six weeks later in a similar contest, off a 10lbs higher mark at Newmarket. The Newmarket effort was too bad to be true, so considering normal improvement from three to four, he doesn’t look badly treated on 99. Perhaps he is one best caught fresh, so is well worth a second look.

Amanda Perrett’s Sea the Stars 4yo colt, Astronereus, ran a fine race in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes at Royal Ascot to finish 3rd off a mark of 100. He has been raised 2lbs for Saturday’s contest, giving him an intimidating burden of 9st5lbs to carry. However the Ascot race has been a good guide to this, so provided the two above him in the handicap don’t come out (triggering a further weight rise), his chance has to be respected.

Alan Swinbank, who won with Collier Hill way back in 2003, runs his 4yo Galileo gelding, Kinema. He showed how well suited he is by a truly run race at the trip, when winning over Carlisle’s testing track (1m3 1/2f) last week off a mark of 84. Having run seventeen times he is quite exposed, but he has been mostly campaigned at shorter, so perhaps the step up in trip has elicited improvement. Again partnered by the very talented Ben Curtis, he is worth keeping an eye on.

Selection: Pressure Point.

E.W. Elbereth.