Bet 365 Edinburgh National Handicap Chase 4m1f Musselburgh Saturday

edinburgh national handicap

Aerial view of the Edinburgh track

With racing’s major focus concentrated on Leopardstown’s “Dublin Racing Festival” this weekend, the UK’s most interesting offering is north of the border, where the award winning seaside course of Musselburgh, stages the Edinburgh National. The track usually provides some of the best winter ground available anywhere in these islands and connections of course specialist, Wonderful Charm, will be hoping that his preferred, decent ground, again prevails at the weekend.

Now a 12yo, the previous Grade2 winning chaser, (rated as high as 159 in the past) has made a real success of his reinvention as a Hunter Chaser, winning 5 of his 9 starts, including both times (2017 and 2018) he has competed in the race in that discipline, on Saturday’s Card. The fact that he hasn’t been on a racecourse since winning at Stratford 246 days ago is of little concern as he has won 4 times following a break, and we can be pretty sure that master trainer, Paul Nicholls, will have the son of Poliglote ready to go. Racing off a mark of 137, with his part owner, the excellent amateur, Sam Waley-Cohen taking another 3lbs off, he looks one to be interested in.

Since changing ownership, and transferring to Dan Skelton’s Warwickshire yard last May, the career of the 8yo, Very First Time, has undergone something of a renaissance. Having failed to win or been placed in 9 runs for Tim Easterby since winning at Newcastle in December 2017, he has now won 3 of his 6 starts for the Alcester handler, and really caught the eye when winning at Doncaster last Saturday. Out the back, and seemingly under pressure five fences out, his prospects looked fairly bleak, but two fences later was travelling like the winner, and taking it up at the last went away for a very comfortable 6L win. He is 7lbs higher in a better race on Saturday, and his pedigree wouldn’t inspire huge confidence, (out of a sprinting bred mare) that racing over 4m1f was ideal, but there is no denying that the further he went last week the better he travelled. He is in the ownership of a partnership, (The Can’t Say No) led by one of the shrewdest and luckiest in the game, (Marmo) and it will come as no surprise whatever if connections are seen yet again, in their customary post race pose, ordering lashings of “Bubbly” on Saturday afternoon.

The Philip Kirby trained 8yo, Little Bruce, stayed on well to win a Catterick marathon over 3m6f (Soft) by 3L from Saturday’s opponent, Sumkindofking 22 days ago. He meets the runner up on 6lbs worse terms on Saturday and it could be close between them, but having won over 3m6 1/2f at Huntingdon, (right handed like Musselburgh) with his head in his chest last March, and being by the four times Gold Cup winner Yeats, Philip Kirby’s 8yo has much the stronger staying profile, and is preferred.

The Warren Greatrex trained Bob Mahler comfortably beat Little Bruce by 7L in a
3m1 1/2f Cheltenham Handicap last April and meets the Kirby horse on 3lbs better terms. However, perhaps too much shouldn’t be read into that result as the runner up never looked comfortable on Prestbury Park’s undulations, and is clearly much more at home on a flat track. It’s also worth noting that the Greatrex animal has never won going right handed, and has never raced beyond 3m1 1/2f.

Richard Hobson’s 8yo, Chic Name, has run well in his last two races, both over Cheltenham’s Cross Country Course, finishing 4/15 and 3/10 and a reproduction of his effort when winning a 3m6 1/2f Perth Handicap in April 2018 off a mark of 126 would make him a serious threat. 2 years older, and a more mature animal, he is only 2 lbs higher on Saturday, and with the talented and inform Jonathan Burke doing the steering, with a nice racing weight of 10-10, is another to definitely be interested in.

Michael Scudamore’s 9yo Some Chaos confirmed earlier impressions that staying was to be his game when landing a 3m2f Kelso Handicap off a mark of 138 by 2 1/2L from the now 150 rated Blue Flight. The son of St Leger winner, Brian Boru, failed to make any impression in The Ladbroke Trophy last time but could be a different proposition if getting his preferred good ground on Saturday. However he has quite a task with the steadier of 11-11 on his back.

If Co Meath trainer, Dermot Mc Loughlin sends his 8yo, Freewheelin Dylan over, take note! A winner of 4 of his 14 starts over fences, (3 of them going right handed). He did well to win over an inadequate 2m6f at Punchestown (Soft) in November off a mark of 130 and back over a staying trip, (had some interesting form in staying hurdles) on Good ground is worth considering.

Selection : Little Bruce

EW.           : Chic Name

John Gray

bet365 Charlie Hall Chase (Grade2) 3m Wetherby Saturday

charlie hall chaseSaturday sees the first Grade2 action over fences of the season, and with 12 contenders, nearly all for whom a credible case can be made, it promises to be a real cracker. The Naunton yard of Nigel Twiston-Davies has sent out the winner on 5 previous occasions, (the first time with Tipping Tim 27 years ago) and the stable will be hoping their talented 9yo, Ballyoptic, can bring home the bacon for a 6th time.

A son of the top class jumps sire, Old Vic, he has won 3 of his 11 starts over fences, including a Grade2 heat over Saturday’s course and distance, (The Towton Novices Chase on Heavy ground) in February 2018. His fortunes have certainly been of the mixed variety since, losing out by the minimum distance in the 4 mile Scottish Grand National in April 2018, and falling twice over the Big Aintree fences including in this year’s Grand National (came to grief 4 out). However he made a bright start to this year’s campaign, making all, and jumping with aplomb he came home 9L clear of
Lil Rockefeller in a 3m Class2 Chepstow Handicap three weeks ago. Relatively lightly raced for his age there may be further improvement in him and coming from this yard is one to keep on the right side of.

Paul Nicholls has won this 3 times, twice with the 1999 Gold Cup Hero, See More Business, and with Silviniaco Conti seven years ago. He relies on the tough and consistent runner up in last year’s renewal, Black Corton, and the 8yo certainly did his prospects no harm with an excellent effort in the Uber competitive, Galway Plate last time out. Carrying top weight in the 22 runner handicap, he finished 2nd but may have been a little unlucky, as he was going really well when hampered by a loose horse and carried right on the run in. Beaten 2L by Definitely Red in last year’s renewal, he didn’t seem to quite get home, but he looks a stronger and improved animal this year, and it could be close between them.

Last year’s victor, now 10, is trained close to the course in North Yorkshire by the talented Brian Ellison, (trains last week’s Oddsguru selection, Forest Bihan, who didn’t take up his Cheltenham engagement but went for the more valuable Old Roan Chase at Aintree the following day, a race he won very comfortably) and Brian is currently operating at an amazing 50% win to runners ratio (8 wins from last 16 runners).
Following his win in The Charlie Hall, Definitely Red won again, an Aintree Grade2, 5 weeks later, but finished his season well beaten in the Punchestown Gold Cup at the beginning of May. However, following the same pattern as last year, he is making his seasonal debut, and following a recent workout on the course, Mr Ellison reports him in rude health. With a course record of 2 wins and 2 places from 4 starts, and meeting Black Corton on 3 lbs better terms, his prospects of joining the elite band of Celtic Shot, 90 91, One Man, 96 97, and See More Business, 2000 2001, as the only consecutive winners of The Charlie Hall are hard to ignore.

charlie hall greatrex

In the Bague? Warren Greatrex saddles our leading fancy

The exciting mare, La Bague Au Roi won 4 of her 5 starts over fences, (including 2 at the top level) and didn’t look suited by the drop to 20f last time, when despite running on strongly, she was beaten 1 1/2L by Kalashnikov in an Aintree Grade1 in April. The apple of trainer Warren Greatrex’s eye, she can go well after a break, and back up in trip, with her nice Mares allowance a bonus, is well worth considering.

Having only been beaten 1 1/2L by the seriously upwardly mobile Frodon in Cheltenham’s Ryan Air Chase last time out, the Venetia Williams trained 9yo Aso, is top rated for Saturday’s heat, and if the race was run over 4f shorter, would probably be at the head of the market. However, he has only run beyond 21f twice in his 30 race career, and didn’t seem to get home on either occasion. However, that said, his shrewd trainer certainly knows the time of day, and may be hoping the undemanding Wetherby track will suit,  and her talented 9yo is another who can go well after a break.

Colin Tizzard won with the outstanding Cue Card four years ago and will be hoping his progressive 7yo, Elegant Escape can bring the prize back to Milborne Port for a second time. One thing is for sure the son of Dubai Destination won’t fail for a lack of stamina as he certainly wasn’t stopping when winning last year’s 3m5 1/2f Welsh Grand National. He ran another excellent race in the 3m 1 1/2f Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham in January finishing a staying on 2nd to Frodon who was conceding 2lbs. He failed to make any impression in the Gold Cup or in an Aintree Grade1 20 days later and hasn’t been seen since. I just wonder if he has the pace for a race like Saturday’s and unless the heavens open he may find them going a little too quick.

Selection : La Bague Au Roi

EW.           : Ballyoptic

John Gray