Betway Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase 3m1 1/2f Haydock Saturday

tommy whittle handicap

We’re keen on Sue Smith’s chances with Vintage Clouds

Following it’s inception in 1982, 3 winners of the previous year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, Little Owl 1981, Forgive ‘n Forget 1985, and The Thinker 1987, have won Saturday’s feature, underlining what an important heat it was in the racing calendar, but since its loss of Graded status in 2004, it is now run as a Class2 Handicap, and the prospect of any future Gold Cup Hero again appearing on the Tommy Whittle roll of honour, seems
pretty remote. However, this is always a very competitive heat that demands a tough, talented sort to succeed, particularly as this year’s  contenders will have a further
2 1/2f to travel, and one that can certainly boast those requirements in spades, is last year’s winner, Daklondike.

Trained by David Pipe, (also trained the 2014 winner, Broadway Buffalo) Daklondike, was a length down jumping the last, but kept on resolutely to outstay the Twiston-Davies trained Ballyarthur and win going away by a length. A comfortable winner over 3m2f on heavy ground at Newbury, the son of Gold Well is only 6lbs higher this year and should find the extra 2 1/2f of this year’s Tommy Whittle right up his street.
Only 7, Daklondike is a half brother to the multi talented Great Endeavour, also trained by David, and with the yard in such great form looks to have serious prospects of becoming the third animal to land the prize for a second time, and indeed bring the prize back to Nicholashayne for a 4th time, (David’s Dad, Martin won with Chatham in1994)

the hollow ginge

Master handler Twiston-Davies saddles The Hollow Ginge

Nigel Twiston-Davies will be hoping that he can go one better than last year with his 6yo, The Hollow Ginge. Short on chasing experience, he has won one of his 3 starts over fences but put in his best effort in his penultimate race, an Aintree Class3 Novices Handicap Chase over 3m1f on soft at the end of October. Having coped well with the stiff Fences on the Mildmay course, he came to the last 3L in arrears but ran on to such effect that he made up the deficit and was only beaten a head, when the winner, the progressive Irish trained, 135 rated, Plan of Attack, who was receiving 5lbs found extra in the shadow of the post. The son of Oscar probably found the 2m5 1/2f trip on Gd/Sft at Haydock 4 weeks ago on the sharp side, and he could only finish a 14L 3rd, but back up in trip, on the likely heavy ground which he handles so well, (won a 2m7f Haydock Hurdle on Heavy) The Hollow Ginge might just Land the Naunton handler his first Tommy Whittle.

The small Oxfordshire yard of Owner/Trainer, Andrew Martin doesn’t have many winners, but if Stable Star, Militarian, turns out on Saturday, (also engaged Ascot) he has to be of interest. A winner of 4 of his 14 starts over fences, he surprised many better fancied opponents at Ascot 29 days ago when jumping from fence to fence he coasted home 4L clear of his rivals at the tasty odds of 50/1. He races on Saturday off a 6lbs higher mark, (144) which looks fair and is usually ridden by the 7lbs claiming amateur James Martin. He has won on soft but heavy would be a concern, as neither he nor his 158 rated half brother, Hell’s Kitchen have raced on it.

The Sue Smith trained Vintage Clouds doesn’t win very often, (2/20 over fences) but is a thoroughly genuine type, and the Trevor Hemmings owned 9yo has rarely run badly in his 9 Haydock appearances, (has won a Chase over Saturday’s course and distance, and won the 2016 running of the 2m7f Grade2 Prestige Hurdle on heavy). All ground comes alike to the 9yo, and he stays well beyond Saturday’s trip. He is only 2lbs higher than his last winning mark, and Sue won the race in 2004 so knows what is required. If Saturday’s heat turns into a slog in the mud, Vintage Clouds could be the best equipped to deal with such conditions.

The ex French trained 6yo, Lord Du Mesnil, failed to hit the back of the net in his 9 races in his native France, and hasn’t fared much better since joining the Gloucestershire yard of Richard Hobson, registering a single victory from 15 starts. However that win came in his last race, a 3m Class3 Handicap on heavy ground at Newcastle 3 weeks ago where despite being headed, and making a mistake at the 2nd last, he rallied, and showed plenty of courage to get back up. It will require further improvement to win off a 5 lbs higher mark on Saturday, and connections, looking at the exploits of his 2 years younger full brother, Happy Monarch, who has won both his starts over fences, the last time a Listed Chase at top track, Auteuil, will be hoping that there is still some undiscovered improvement to come from their hitherto not so successful, son of Saints Des Saints.

The Herefordshire yard of Venetia Williams is going great guns at the moment and her lightly raced 8yo contender, Yalltari could be well handicapped. He has only raced 9 times, winning 3 of his 5 starts over hurdles, and one of his 4 starts over fences, a 3m Chepstow Novices Chase off a mark of 137 last December. Sent off the 11/8fav for his next race, at Exeter in January, he came a cropper at the first, and then in his last race, the Grade2 Reynoldstown Novices Chase at Ascot in February, he looked a serious threat until a mistake at the last put an end to his challenge. However, he stayed on for 3rd, 4 3/4L behind the winner Mister Malarky on the Gd/Sft ground. The winner that day is now on a mark of 148, which I suppose makes Yalltari‘s mark of 145 look just about fair. Venetia has few competitors when it comes to having an animal at it’s peak after a break, and with his liking for testing conditions, Yalltari is one to be interested in.

Selection.        : Vintage Clouds

EW.                   : The Hollow Ginge

John Gray

Coral Scottish Grand National Handicap Chase 4 Miles Ayr Saturday

The history of the race goes all the way back to 1858, but the contest didn’t reach it’s present venue until 1966 when it was run over Saturday’s course and distance for the first time. Always run with a big field, racing with the choke out, experience clearly counts, and only one 6yo, (Earth Summit 1994, and he had already raced ten times over fences) has managed to win. Age has been no bar to success with twelve animals older than nine coming home in front, and indeed the last decade has seen three 11yo’s collecting first prize, Hello Bud 2009, Merigo 2012, and Wayward Prince in 2015.

Earth Summits’ trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, is seeking an unprecedented fourth win in the contest, and at the time of writing has three entries, Ballyoptic, the veteran Benbens and last year’s runner up, Cogry, and despite the claims of the latter, the 8yo Ballyoptic looks his best chance. He has only raced five times over fences but has won two of them including a Wetherby Grade2 in February from Saturday’s opponent, Vintage Clouds, and he ran well enough last time to finish 4th in The RSA to Presenting Percy at The Cheltenham Festival. His ability to last out Saturday’s marathon trip has to be taken on trust but he is stoutly bred, (by Old Vic out of an Un Desperado mare) and it’s worth remembering that he had the class and stamina to beat Bellshill in a 3m1f Grade1 Hurdle at Aintree two years ago.

Last year’s winner, the Paul Nicholls trained Vicente, was the first animal to bag two consecutive Scottish Grand Nationals since Jimmy Fitzgerald’s Androma came home in front for the second time in 1985, and having had a fairly easy time of it this term, must have decent prospects of bringing up the hat trick. vicenteHe looked as good as ever when just losing out to Perfect Candidate on his seasonal reappearance in November, and then twice avoided a tough race, when unseating in The Welsh National in January on attritional ground, and again, racing on very heavy ground, was pulled up at the Cheltenham Festival behind Coo Star Sivola. He has a higher mark to defy this time but remember last year’s success was achieved a fortnight after falling in the Aintree edition, and with the drying ground very much in the 9yo’s favour, he has to enter calculations.

The Sue Smith trained 8yo, Vintage Clouds, meets his Wetherby conqueror, Ballyoptic, on 5lbs better terms for that 2 3/4L beating and he subsequently ran a fine race to finish 3rd to Coo Star Sivola at The Cheltenham Festival. He stayed on dourly in The Welsh National (3m5f Heavy) so could find Saturday’s trip right up his street, and with 10-12 on his back at the weekend, provides owner, Trevor Hemmings, with a useful looking second string to his bow, (also owns Vicente).

The Neil Mulholland (pictured) trained Doing Fine, has had a nice easy time of it this winter and having avoided the dreadful Winter ground will strip a fresh animal at the weekend. The 10yo hasn’t been seen since finishing 4th to Benbens over 3m5f at Sandown in December and meets that rival on 10lbs better terms on Saturday. neil mulholland ayrHe has never won over Saturday’s trip but looked an out and out stayer when beating Ugolin De Beaumont to whom he was conceding 18lbs by 6L over 3m4f at Cheltenham last April. Doing Fine, who will enjoy Saturday’s drying conditions and can go well after a break, has only been with his talented trainer for 18 months, and as the yard is firing in the winners at present, is definitely one to note with his nice racing weight of 10-6.

Having won The Irish, and Aintree Grand Nationals this Spring, the County Meath Maestro, Gordon Elliott seeks an unprecedented third with Fagan and Folsom Blue. The latter, an 11yo must have had a very hard race when finishing 4th to his stable companion, General Principle, in that controversial Irish National run on ground that many deemed unraceable, so perhaps his best chance lies with the 8yo Fagan. The ex pointer, won three of his five races in that discipline before joining the Elliott Academy where he won his first two bumpers and two of his four Hurdle races. His future always lay over fences and he duly won the second of his four chases, winning a Perth Novices Chase by 95L. Only 2nd in his last two, it was in pretty good company, finishing runner up to Ballyandy last September and Black Corton last October. Saturday’s task looks a huge one making his handicap debut in such a competitive heat off a stiff enough looking mark, but coming from this yard I suppose anything is possible.

The David Pipe trained, Daklondike as a 6yo will be trying to emulate Earth Summit, the only horse of that age to succeed in the whole history of the Scottish National, and he will be attempting to do it with far less experience over fences than the subsequent winner of the Aintree Grand National had at the time. He has only raced five times over the larger obstacles, but has won three of the last four, and looked a staying chaser of some potential when winning the 3m2f Mandarin Chase at Newbury last time. He finished with a real flourish to put that good yardstick, Grand Vision, in his place, and looked as if there was plenty more to come over staying distances. However that was on heavy ground and it remains to be seen how he will cope with the likely faster ground on Saturday. In his favour, the elder Pipe has brought the trophy back to Pond House on two occasions so they certainly know what is required down Nicholashayne way.

Selection : Doing Fine

E.W. : Vintage Clouds and Daklondike

John Gray