888Sport Scilly Isles Novices Chase (Grade1) 2m4f Sandown Saturday

sandown 888Last week’s selection in the galliard homes.com Cleeve Hurdle, Paisley Park, proved, in no uncertain fashion, that he is the horse we strongly suspected he might be, when hosing up in the 3m Grade2 heat. Always travelling well in mid division, he needed a little encouragement from the saddle after three out, but made easy progress between the last two, led before the final flight, and showed the runner up, West Approach a clean pair of heels up the Cheltenham Hill. He won by 12L and had the 3rd horse, Black Op, (our EW suggestion) a further 2L back in third. He was superbly ridden by Aidan Coleman, who maintained his 100% record(4/4) on the son of Oscar, and connections will surely be looking forward to Cheltenham’s Sun Racing Stayers Hurdle with some confidence, particularly as both Big Buck and Thistlecrack won “The Cleeve”on their way to Cheltenham glory in recent years. Indeed a strict interpretation of Saturday’s race would give Paisley Park a rating in the low 170’s, which would have been good enough to have won every renewal of The Stayers since Big Bucks last victory in 2012. Unfortunately the bookmaking fraternity aren’t blind to his talent, and have made him their 7/2 Fav for Cheltenham, but with the promise of more to come from the apple of Ms Lavelle’s eye, perhaps even that represents some value.

Unlike The Cleeve Hurdle, The Scilly Isle Chase hasn’t been much of a guide to further success at Cheltenham, but both of the last two winners, Terrefort and Top Notch did finish runners up in The JLT at The Festival. Both were trained by the master of Seven Barrows, Nicky Henderson, who was notching his 5th victory in the race when the former won last year’s renewal, all of which has to make the  sole contender from his powerful yard, Ok Corral, of interest.

A 9yo son of Mahler, Ok Corral has only had 9 runs under rules, and has won 5 of them, including both his starts over fences. Very lightly raced, he obviously has had some fitness issues, but coming from the same family as that fantastic chaser,
Tidal Bay, connections have persevered and their patience is beginning to be rewarded as he showed himself to be a chaser of some potential at Warwick 3 weeks ago. Jumping well over the tricky 3 mile course, he showed plenty of pace, and came home a comfortable 6L clear of the 143 rated, Secret Investor. He shouldn’t be inconvenienced by the drop back to 2m4f as he had the speed to win 2 of his 3 NHF races, (2nd to the talented Yorkhill in the third) all over 2 miles, and also won a Novices Hurdle over the same trip. He has won twice going right handed so Sandown’s clockwise track shouldn’t be an issue and I will be surprised if there isn’t more to come from the 9yo.

Also racing in the same colours, (JP McManus, green and gold hoops) is the Philip Hobbs trained, 6yo, Defi Du Seuil and he also looks an animal of some potential. He lost nothing in defeat last time, going down by 1 1/4L to Saturday’s opponent,
Lostintranslation, at Cheltenham on New Years Day. A winner seven times over hurdles, including three times at the top level, this son of the super National Hunt Stallion,
Voix Du Nord, has only run 3 times over fences, (was quite impressive winning his second race at right handed Exeter) and meets his Cheltenham conqueror on 3 lbs better terms so it should be close between them.

Colin Tizzard’s, Lostintranslation’s form, also ties in closely with the warren Greatrex trained mare, La Bague Au Roi. She beat him by 1 1/2L on his Seasonal Debut at Newbury in November, and 3 weeks later, meeting for the second time, the Tizzard horse was going ominously well when hitting the third last so hard he broke the fence.
He nevertheless continued, but finished a well beaten 3rd, 13L behind the mare. We shall never know what might have been but there doesn’t seem to be a lot between them.

Warren Greatrex must be extremely happy with his super mare as she continued her winning run next time, winning The Grade1 Kauto Star Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. This was a super effort, beating the boys, and if she turns up in the same form, with that very useful 7lbs Mares Allowance, she will be difficult to beat. A word of caution though, she seems to preserve her best for the first half of the season.

kim bailey trainerThe Kim Bailey trained 6yo, Vinndication, has won all of his 6 starts, (all going right handed). He achieved a rating of 149 in his 4 Hurdle races (beat the exciting Champ giving him 6lbs, and the 150 rated, Western Ryder, by 3L) and has looked even better in his two outings over fences. He won a minor affair at Carlisle in November, and 33 days ago, jumping soundly, comfortably beat the now 149 rated, Jerrysback, in an Ascot Grade2, (2m5f Soft). The unbeaten son of Vinnie Roe, must have Kim dreaming of the glory days of 1995, when he won the Champion Hurdle with Alderbrook, and The Gold Cup with Master Oats. Such thoughts may be a little fanciful, but there’s no denying that Mr Bailey has a very talented individual in his care.

Selection  : Vinndication
EW.            : Ok Corral

John Gray

Galliardhomes Cleeve Hurdle 3miles Cheltenham Saturday

Cheltenham RacecourseFollowers of the Oddsguru Blog who backed our EW suggestion, Wakanda, (odds of 16/1 available when first advised) will have left the Merseyside track on good terms with themselves, having seen Sue Smiths 10yo, winning The Peter Marsh Chase
by 1 1/2L from our other selection, Robinsfirth, (Exacta paid 52/1). Wakanda stayed on well and must come into the Aintree picture, but Colin Tizzard’s runner up ran in snatches, and despite rallying, and running on strongly, didn’t seem suited by the track. The Milbourne Port handler will be hoping for better luck when Thistlecrack’s half brother, West Approach, tackles Saturday’s Cleeve Hurdle, and will be hoping that the 9yo can emulate his more famous sibling’s victory in 2017.

Having been campaigned over fences in his previous ten outings, (won twice) West Approach reverted to hurdles for the first time since being pulled up in an Aintree Grade1 in April 2017, and ran a most promising race. Starting at odds of 40/1 for the Grade1 JLT Hurdle over 3miles at Ascot (Soft) 5 weeks ago, he travelled strongly throughout, and was only headed after the last by Saturday’s opponent, the exciting Paisley Park, who went on to win by 2L. Obviously he has a bit to find with the winner, and his Cheltenham record isn’t great, (0/12) but that was an excellent effort at Ascot, and coming from this yard, it wouldn’t be the greatest surprise to see him involved at the business end on Saturday.

Devon trainer, Nick Williams, won the contest for the 2nd time last year with Agrapart, and will be hoping the same animal can provide him with a 3rd success on Saturday. Clearly best on testing ground, he came home 3L ahead of Saturday’s opponent, Wholestone, on going described as heavy in last year’s renewal. The 8yo son of Martaline had just the one further outing last term, losing by 2 1/4L at odds of 4/7 to Donna’s Diamond at Haydock in February. He has also failed to shine in both outings this season, but he has a decent record at Prestbury Park (2/4), and with the yard in top form is difficult to ignore, particularly if the ground is testing.

Emma Lavelle’s Paisley Park has been something of a revelation since teaming up with top jock, Aidan Coleman this season. The lightly raced 7yo son of Oscar only managed a single victory, ( Class4 Hereford Novices)) from his first 5 starts, but has won all 3 since Coleman took over steering duties this term. emma lavelle oddsguruVictories on Good ground at Aintree and Haydock preceded a first Grade1 for both horse and rider in The JLT over Ascot’s 3 miles on soft 5 weeks ago. He is now rated 16 lbs higher than he was at the end of last season and this observer for one, doubts very much if that is the limit of this exciting horse’s progress.

Sue Smith who won with Patriarch Express 14 years ago, is also represented by a young horse to fire the imagination, and get the pulse racing, the 6yo, Midnight Shadow. Always held in high regard at the West Yorkshire yard, he started to prove that esteem well founded when winning Scotland’s valuable Champion Hurdle, (2m Handicap Good) last April. Stepped up to 2 1/2miles for his last 2 races, he won an Aintree Handicap off a mark of 141 in early December, and 3 weeks later showed dramatic improvement when putting Wholestone and Old Guard firmly in their place in the Grade2 Relkeel Hurdle over Saturday’s  Course, earning a rating of 158. There was no fluke about the Cheltenham win and the Sky looks the limit for this exciting horse, but there has to be a slight doubt about Saturday’s trip. His sire, Midnight Legend is a strong influence for stamina, but his dam, Holy Smoke, is by the sprinter, Statoblast, and his full brother, Unify, was best at 2 1/2m. That said the dam did win over 10f on soft ground at Doncaster, and Midnight Shadow certainly wasn’t stopping up the hill at Cheltenham last time.

The Tom George trained, 8yo, Black Op, has only raced 9 times under rules, winning a NH flat race, and two heats over hurdles, including a Grade 1 at Aintree last April. Clearly very talented, he ran a great race in the Grade1 Ballymore at The Festival, finishing 2nd, 2 3/4L behind Samcro, where he had the subsequent Grade1 winner, Next Destination, 5L back in third. Having failed to make much impression in his first two attempts over fences, he reverts to the smaller obstacles and he could find the step up to 3 miles, (won his sole PTP over 3 miles by 25L) right up his street.

Selection : Paisley Park
EW.            : Black Op

John Gray