Thursday, 26 March 2020

Saturday 28th March 2020: Independence Hall to Stake Triple Crown Claim

After the successes last week of Addeybb and Jetz we go again, despite the lack of racing in Britain due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Ireland is now cancelled too and at this point we’d usually be concentrating on Dubai World Cup night at Meydan, but despite that and other postponements top-class racing is still offered in both Australia and the States and we have some good information for both Rosehill in Australia and Gulfstream Park in Florida.

Odds on these races are widely available with most major online bookmakers with us beginning at Rosehill Gardens and remember; it’s a very early morning start for UK-based punters so be on the ball!

4.50 Rosehill (Tancred Stakes – Group 1) – MIRAGE DANCER

A competitive Group 1 event over a mile-and-a-half, one in which former European runners Southern France, Danceteria and 2019 Ebor winner Mustajeer should all be comfortable.

Last year’s winner Avilius doesn’t seem to be in the same frame of mind this year, while he also ran just seven days ago behind Addeybb.  Ahead of him a week ago was main danger Verry Elleegant, Chris Waller’s Australian Oaks winning filly and her trainer is adamant she wants this trip although the quick turnaround can’t be ideal after what was a hard enough race behind William Haggas’ six-year-old.

The one to be on at a good price could be the former Sir Michael Stoute-trained Mirage Dancer.  A Group 3 winner and close third to Group 1 scorer Defoe in the Hardwick Stakes last season, this son of Frankel really needs this trip which explains some underwhelming recent runs.

By all accounts he remains in great heart, has the inside draw and trainers Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young are confident of a big run, as they should be given his overall level of form.

4.10 Rosehill (Star Kingdom Stakes – Group 3 Handicap) – VEGADAZE

This is a tough handicap and thus it’s advised that stakes are to be kept small, however that’s fine given that the selection could be around the 10/1 mark and he is one of few who, if running to his best level, could be described as being very well handicapped.

The likely favourite is three-year-old Villami, a last time out winner at Randwick but that was against his own age group and he is bound to find this a whole lot tougher.

James McDonald’s mount Brave Song’s most recent form figures are 88880- but he remains capable at the weights while Godolphin’s Manicure and topweight Kementari both hold chances, though again don’t look the best off at the weights.

In the case of Anthony Cummings’ Vegadaze, he’s run well in two Group 2’s off level weights both here and at Randwick and in these conditions should get back to near his best, something that makes him well-in off this rating and yet with such little mileage on his clock he could even improve further.  Tom Marquand rides and he should get a good tune out of the four-year-old son of Lope De Vega.

5.30 Rosehill (Vinery Stud Stakes – Group 1) – FUNSTAR

We’re not expecting a big price about this horse, a filly trained by Chris Waller just like last year’s winner Verry Elleegant who of course races on the card once again.

If the odds should become at least in some way backable though then she’s worth a shot as on all known evidence should looks very much the solid one in the line-up under James McDonald.

Already having had several battles, the form line to concentrate on is that between our horse and Kerrin McAvoy’s mount Probabeel, with the current score standing at 3-1 to Chris Waller’s horse.

The one time she was beaten was over seven furlongs on good ground and, while the ground is good again here, it seems the selection is the one that wants a longer trip and so a more dominant defeat of Probabeel over this mile-and-a-quarter, much like when the two met over a mile on softish ground in October, is to be expected.

10.36 Gulfstream Park (Florida Derby – Grade 1) – INDEPENDENCE HALL

This Grade 1 event is one of the very top races on the now rearranged Road to the Kentucky Derby, providing full points as a prep race for Churchill Downs and also offering Grade One status and a first prize of well over £300,000 in its own right.

The solid one on the evidence we’ve seen so far is likely short-priced favourite Tiz The Law, Barclay Tagg’s colt who beat Ete Indien comfortably in the Holy Bull Stakes before the latter went on to score around here in the GII Fountain of Youth by a huge 8½ lengths.

That’s where his status as solid favourite comes from, although it’s clear Ete Indien wasn’t at his best when they last raced and it could be that they are both at the same, admittedly good level.

On a line through the fairly solid Ajaaweed we can gain some insight into the well thought of Independence Hall however, and it could be that we’re looking at the best horse in the race here.

While arguably neither ran to their best when finishing second and a distant third in a Grade 3 over at Tampa Bay Downs recently, a look at how the odds played out among other things as well taking weight into account, it’s thought Michael Trombetta’s colt is at least 10lbs better than Ajaaweed and that would put him in with a winning shot here if true.

He built up a big reputation last autumn as a juvenile when winning the Grade 3 Nashua Stakes very easily at Aqueduct and, despite some saying he didn’t get home last time, being by Constitution and more importantly being a grandson of Tiznow much like the favourite, it could be that he routes just fine and should be comfortable at this distance.  He looks the value in the race.

Friday, 20 March 2020

Saturday 21st March 2020: Addeybb to Grab First Group One Win

The current coronavirus has hit the world hard, the horseracing world especially in fact with all meetings in Britain scratched until the end of April at the earliest, but the roadshow our sport is will not be fully denied.

Not only is Irish racing carrying on with one meeting maximum per day behind closed doors, but bookmakers are also regularly pricing up races from the States, South Africa, Australia and the USA amongst others which gives us a chance to have a well-informed bet over the weekend.

Australia and Ireland it is who provide us with the best information, so be sure to look out for the very early start this week for racing at Rosehill Gardens who have a massive day of Group 1 action in the offing, so these race times are AM!

3.25 Rosehill (Ranvet Stakes – Group 1) – ADDEYBB

William Haggas’ admirable performer, a Group 2 winner at home and always at his best on today’s forecast soft ground, really should have too much for the home team in this ideal mile-and-a-quarter event.

Only just denied in the Group 1 Champion Stakes back in October, the Royal Ascot winner is only getting better at 6 and he can take care of four-year-old Verry Elleegant and Avilius, though both have performed well on softer going in the past.

Tom Marquand is over to take the ride on Addeybb with the plan being that he can take this race before attempting to double up in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes on April 11 at Randwick, for which he’d be exempt from the ballot should he win this first.  He’d be a bigger price at local odds, so grab that if you can.

4.45 Rosehill (Rosehill Guineas – Group 1) – SHERWOOD FOREST

Plenty in with chances here, but many who are unproven on this ground and/or who have been performing to their best without winning, meaning we pretty much have a good handle on where they stand ability-wise.

A last time out winner who could yet be much better though is the New Zealand raider Sherwood Forest of the Tony Pike yard.  He took the NZ Derby last time out over a mile-and-a-half, but as a son of Fastnet Rock there is a good chance that he will thrive in this ground and for coming down to a mile-and-a-quarter.

He is a big price to get the job done so looks great value, although it also means stakes can be kept to a minimum.  Of the rest, Castelvecchio and Warning probably stand out even more than Randwick Guineas winner and likely favourite Shadow Hero.

2.10 Thurles (Hurdle) – JETZ

In an otherwise decidedly trappy race featuring plenty of ifs and buts about the horses, the one solid one who stands out in terms of the clock on this sort of ground is Jessica Harrington’s Jetz.

The reason the clock is important is that Thurles reportedly rides very well with a beautiful covering of ground, so even when described as being soft it suits a horse who can show a turn of foot and in this race, those are few and far between.

Jetz however has performed well on this ground on several occasions, often showing a decent burst and usually against much lesser opposition which gives him a great chance this time around.  Robbie Power rides with his mount looking to take care of Brace Yourself and Karl Der Grosse.

3.10 Thurles (Pierce Molony Memorial Novice Chase – Grade 3) – SIZING POTTSIE

A quick double could be on the cards for Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power as there seems to be plenty of confidence behind Sizing Pottsie in this Grade 3 chase, even under a penalty.

It’s easy to see why too; improving hand over fist as a chaser, the six-year-old loves these conditions and has won each of his last two now, including another Grade 3 in the easiest style.  He should be too goo for the likes of Capuccimix and Cut The Mustard and can collect a cool €32,000 prize.

Saturday, 14 March 2020

Saturday 14th March 2020: Nicholls Runner Just Fabulous in Kempton’s Grade 3

It’s tough on all of us, but we have to put Cheltenham behind us now and concentrate on the bread and butter of Saturday afternoon racing!

Kempton hosts a very competitive jumps card on which we can back the standout performer of the day, all being well at least, while Newcastle also stages National Hunt racing which provides a stern test for runners in the prevailing weather.

Across at Wolverhampton the only flat meeting on the card is a decent one containing a few class 3 races with in-form runners and two of them in particular look great value, but we start with Kempton and a horse we could have been seeing in a different setting several days ago.

2.05 Kempton (Novices’ Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3) – McFABULOUS

Having won Aintree’s Grade 2 bumper last season in good style this horse appeared to be heading right to the top, but a slow start over hurdles led to some completely losing faith in him as far as this sphere goes.

In truth he has steadily improved in three hurdle runs to date, culminating in a cosy win last time out at Market Rasen that has put him spot on for this race.

Had he managed that performance one run and three weeks earlier he’d no doubt have been heading to Cheltenham with a leading chance this week, so entering this Grade 3 race off a mark of 132 makes him look very well handicapped indeed and it would be disappointing were he not able to score for trainer Paul Nicholls and jockey Harry Cobden.

Of the others the overpriced Blackfinch has a shout, his seconditis not defining him with improvement now likely in today’s race conditions, while Hurricane Harvey is another in with a chance each-way.

3.45 Newcastle (Novices’ Handicap Hurdle) – POLISH

The finish at Newcastle will take some getting this weekend on soft ground, but the one able to cope with it best I feel is Fergal O’Brien’s Polish who is backed at a very attractive 8/1 at the time of writing.

The only runner sent up from Gloucestershire by the Cheltenham-based handler, Polish is having only his fourth start over hurdles and while he has been consistent and improved slowly so far, he can reach a new level for this extra test of his stamina.

Pound for pound, his best run was his hurdles debut on soft ground over 2m3f at Taunton and while he’s run well since, he has probably been a little inconvenienced by running on ground just a little quicker than ideal, especially at Kempton where it’s very flat.

Today he has soft ground, a two-and-three-quarter-mile trip and a stiff finish all of which will see him run to his full potential on what is only his second handicap start.

The rest are all very close on private ratings with not much to choose between Baron De Midleton, Landronne and the likely short-priced favourite Minella Trump who has the assistance of Brian Hughes in the saddle.

6.30 Wolverhampton (Handicap) – DEPUTISE

This is a small but competitive class 3 handicap over six furlongs in which there should be plenty of speed on show, something that should help Deputise who is long overdue a return to this course.

While he’s won races at Chester and Newcastle in the past, he is an impeccable two from two here with his last run at the track being back in December 2018 when he put in easily his best speed figure over today’s course and distance.

In running very well when third at Lingfield to Fizzy Feet who opposes again here, he made a good stable debut two weeks ago but that race was not run to suit so we can assume he will do a lot better here and probably at a thoroughly backable price too.  Franny Norton rides.

There are a number of others in the pack who can have their say in this race, most notably Tathmeen and Wild Edric, but as a four-year-old who overall probably even has a career high to come our horse gets the nod to land his first win for Michael Wigham.

7.00 Wolverhampton (Handicap) – UNIVERSAL GLEAM

This is another tight handicap, this time over a trip just short of a mile-and-a-quarter.  Some decent horses rated 90+ are taking part here and they’re in form too meaning this is no egg and spoon race, but one does stand out especially on speed figures record on this surface type and he can may well be allowed to go off at a nice price.

That horse is Universal Gleam of Keith Dalgleish’s yard all the way up in Lanarkshire, with the team hoping to land a nice double with their Caustic Love in the following race, a fillies’ handicap for which she is favourite.

In this one they have a representative who has been thoroughly consistent of late, winning and finishing third at Lingfield before finishing fourth over this course and distance last month, but his latest race was a small and slow affair and simply didn’t play to his strengths.

Today, given the fact that as mentioned we have a competitive field which will keep the pace honest, he can put his best foot forward and looks capable of digging out another few pounds.  If he can, that’s something that as he’s actually gone down a pound in the handicap since his last run would hand him a winning chance.

Richard Fahey’s versatile all-weather performer Furzig won’t mind this surface and enters calculations, as does the popular Sha La La La Lee for Tom Dascombe while Rangali Island makes up the shortlist seeking the four-timer for David Simcock.

Friday, 6 March 2020

Saturday 7th March 2020: Lily to Bloom in Dubai’s Group 1 Jebel Hatta

After another deluge of 18mm of rain at Sandown Park on Thursday, the weekend’s Imperial Cup card has been abandoned and that knocked out our only chance of a bet in the National Hunt sphere.

There are multiple flat options though, with Wolverhampton staging its Lincoln Trial and Listed Wulfruna Stakes and we have a tip in both, while it’s also Super Saturday in Dubai at Meydan as the track makes his final preparations for Dubai World Cup night on the 28th.

We have a few selections at Meydan, two of them in particular looking really good value, and we start with one in a trappy looking Listed race:

12.00 Meydan (Al Bastakiya – Listed Race) – YA HAYATI

This is a competitive Listed event on the dirt and one in which plenty of runners have potential, but patchy records for sure.

One of those is the promising filly Dubai Love who, if the form of her easy win here in January can be taken literally, really should win this but that was over a mile and she failed over this trip last time.  Indeed, all of her other runs have been substandard and so we can probably take a chance on her not living up to her reputation.

Her Godolphin rival Ya Hayati, trained by Charlie Appleby rather than Saeed bin Suroor as the Irish Oaks entry is, has proven to be on a very steep upward curve having started at a lowly level.

He won a conditions race here last time, should go on from that, will enjoy this trip and could be decent value despite his wide draw and he gets the not under William Buick.  Laser Show appears to be best of the rest.

1.35 Wolverhampton (Lincoln Trial Handicap) – FOX POWER

Taking into account his course and distance second when giving away weight in a conditions race last time, Richard Hannon’s Fox Power should prove to be too good for this field off his current handicap mark of 99 under top jock Silvestre de Sousa.

A winner here as a novice and a Listed scorer at Newcastle last year in the Burradon Stakes, Fox Power has proven himself not just in these conditions but also at a good level and it seems he has a handicap win in him before perhaps moving up in grade once again.

Wide margin Newcastle winner Red Bond may well prove to be very well handicapped, while he also obviously enjoys Tapeta, although his 8½-length win last time was the kind of success that often looks too good to be true and the 13lb rise he’s received could be enough therefore to anchor him.

Outsider Another Touch is worth considering for each-way purposes, but as a four-year-old from a top stable it’s fair to say more improvement is expected from Fox Power and he should be heading into the race with plenty of confidence from his yard.

2.20 Meydan (Jebel Hatta – Group 1) – MAGIC LILY

Most are expecting Godolphin to command this Group 1 race as they’ve often done in the past, with four of their five entrants dominating the betting this time around.

Spotify doesn’t seem to have what it takes to me, likewise Dream Castle, but in Barney Roy and Magic Lily there are two in the line-up who could yet prove to be top level performers in 2020.

Barney Roy, a Guineas runner-up and Group 1 winner in 2017 before his unsuccessful stint at stud, returned with aplomb over the course and distance in January but he did the same thing last season in England too without really going on.  He’s also drawn wide here and could be vulnerable, especially to stablemate Magic Lily who even at five is progressing very nicely.

Her recent win at Group 2 level, especially the style of it, marked her out as a very good mare and with yet more progress to come she looks too big in the betting to ignore as her turn of pace could just be enough to score under Mickael Barzalona.

2.45 Wolverhampton (Lady Wulfruna Stakes – Listed Race) – HABUB

While heavy early favourite for the race Urban Icon has rubbed shoulders with some top types such as Mohaather and Space Blues along with finishing eighth in the 2000 Guineas, the truth is he’s been somewhat dragged along by such classy horses and hasn’t beaten them, nor really significantly improved.

With that in mind a chance can be taken at a nice price on Owen Burrows’ Habub instead.  Hooded for the first time today, the five-year-old son of War Front has only had eight career races with no doubt plenty more yet to give, while his overall level of form so far puts him at least at the same quality as the jolly.

Should he take to the Tapeta surface OK, which on breeding he should, then he can get the better of Urban Icon and also Mark Johnston’s Cardsharp.

3.30 Meydan (Dubai City of Gold – Group 2) – DEFOE

In the hope that he’s a backable price on the day, Group 1 winner Defoe is taken to make a successful seasonal reappearance for the fourth year out of five.

Progressing all the time, Roger Varian’s lovely grey finally became a Group 1 winner when taking the Coronation Cup at Epsom last summer and, to prove it was no fluke, he doubled up in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot too with both wins coming over today’s mile-and-a-half distance.

Conditions are perfect for him and he is the proven horse in the field, so as long as his price isn’t too restrictive it’s Andrea Atzeni’s mount who gets the nod.  Up and comer Pablo Escobarr rates next best ahead of the globetrotting Desert Encounter.

Friday, 28 February 2020

Saturday 29th February 2020: Godolphin to Batl to Saudi Cup Win

Riyadh and Kelso don’t go together in conversation much, so this weekend really is a real mixed bag.  While Cheltenham fever continues to grow and the cold weather batters Britain, over in Saudi Arabia they host the first Saudi Cup card on the flat in likely 30-degree temperatures.

Millions of pounds are being offered and while the races aren’t graded yet they have attracted some top runners, many of whom will be very familiar with fans of British and Irish racing.

Among other things, money is going down this week on a Willie Mullins-trained horse, but not in the setting you’d expect!

1.35 Riyadh (1351 Cup) – GLORIOUS JOURNEY

Run over a trip just short of seven furlongs, this race looks absolutely tailor-made for Charlie Appleby’s charge Glorious Journey and he may yet be able to lead home a 1-2 for the yard with Mubtasim.

There are plenty of familiar names here and lots of reasonable contenders including Sir Dancealot, Speak In Colours, Larchmont Lad and the former John Gosden-trained Legends Of War, but really they do not possess the tactical speed over this trip that our lad does and he could be on for this huge £450,000 first prize.

Despite having to tackle a wide draw on this tight track, Glorious Journey’s basic level of form is way above this field and should see him prove too good following a fluent comeback win at Meydan in a Group 2 last month.

Last season he carried on showing improvement and was a close second to Limato at Newmarket before winning the Hungerford Stakes and now he can add this valuable prize to his CV under first choice jockey William Buick.

2.10 Riyadh (Turf Handicap) – TRUE SELF

The Turf Handicap is the staying race on the card, run over a trip of 1m7f and at these weights it could be wise to stick with not only the nous of Willie Mullins, but also the sheer race riding brilliance of Frankie Dettori who is in the form of his life.

Top contenders from major European races Cross Counter and Dee Ex Bee, who is now trained in the Middle East, should head the betting but given their ratings they, along with Call The Wind are arguably much of a muchness.

True Self on the other hand, a seven-year-old mare rated 130 over hurdles, has won five of 11 on the flat and continues to improve for experience.  She’s a Listed winner at Bath, Newmarket and Gowran while she also took a Group 3 at Flemington in Australia in November and she can carry on her successful globetrotting with another win here.

2.45 Kelso (Premier Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – CLONDAW CAITLIN

We may be able to grab just a little bit of value here with this Clondaw Caitlin on the basis that most of the attention (and cash) could go the way of Paul Nicholls’ Calva D’Auge.

The fact however that the Nicholls horse has been doing his winning at Plumpton and Wincanton, without improving a whole lot, doesn’t bode well for this very different test.

Our horse won ever so easily on another stiff track at Newcastle and will love conditions here.  Ruth Jefferson has the assistance of Brian Hughes once again for this mare who would have had a serious chance off level weights for me, so with a 7lb allowance she has to be backed.

Cheddleton is next best with conditions in mind, while the bigger priced Elf De Re can also not be ruled out.

3.57 Kelso (Handicap Hurdle) – BIALCO

There are questions in this race regarding several of them when it comes to trip, ground or form but Lucinda Russell’s Bialco is rock solid and is worth a punt for sure.

This beautiful nine-year-old grey loves it round here, winning over the course and distance last March before doing so again in December very comfortably indeed.

He is improving overall but perhaps didn’t like the slight step back in trip last time, but with his overall progression taken into account in conditions he is proven to thrive in, he looks to be still the best handicapped horse in this race and could well go off at a value price.

Kalaharry and Milvale are next on the list while the others all have just too many doubts surrounding them, although Lucinda Russell’s recruit from Ireland Sutton Manor was once rated 142 over hurdles and it’ll be fascinating to see how quickly, if at all, she can get him back to his best.

5.40 Riyadh (Saudi Cup) – BENBATL

Godolphin and Saeed bin Suroor have spoken about their need to find a replacement for the underrated dual Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow and, whether by luck or by design, they may well have done so.

In fact, strictly speaking I think Benbatl is developing into a better horse than the winner of the former richest horse race in the world and he could prove it by winning the new richest race, the Saudi Cup over 1m1f for an amazing £7.5million.

Fifth in the Derby and a Royal Ascot winner as a three-year-old, he became a Group 1 winner in the 2018 Dubai Turf and returned to Britain last season with a stunning win in the Joel Stakes.

This year Benbatl has already won another Group 2 race easily on turf before making a taking dirt debut at Meydan, winning another Group 2 so easily and his new career best looks like it’s on its way.  If that materialises for the six-year-old son of Dubawi, he should prove to be too good even for some of America’s very best dirt horses.

Maximum Security is the best of them for me; probably the rightful winner of the Kentucky Derby as well as being Haskell Invitational and Cigar Mile champ, beating Mucho Gusto in the former race who has since gone on to win the Pegasus World Cup easily although that race cut up badly due to runners being aimed here.

McKinzie represents Bob Baffert as well as Mucho Gusto and they’d be very close on form with this trip suiting more than the 1m2f of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, while the weight Midnight Bisou receives could prove crucial and Tacitus is bound to come to himself and start seeing his races out better at some point which would make him a serious horse.

Friday, 21 February 2020

Saturday 22nd February 2020: Dubai to be Winter Derby Warrior at Lingfield

There is some fascinating action at Kempton Park over the jumps as they now stage an eight-race card incorporating the rearranged Kingwell Hurdle from Wincanton, while at Newcastle it’s Eider Chase day in testing conditions.

Both of these meetings provide us with a bet apiece, but it’s at Lingfield on the flat where we could see a genuinely top-class performance (or two) as the Winter Derby takes place and features two four-year-olds aiming for the very top this season.

2.05 Lingfield (Hever Sprint Stakes – Listed Race) – HAREEM QUEEN

The selection hasn’t gone on the Polytrack before and comes into this having taken a five-runner handicap at Southwell, however she is a real typical four-year-old improver and a look at her profile suggests she is just getting quicker and quicker which is ideal for this track.

She could potentially burn them off then for Karl Burke, and so is advised at small stakes given her overnight price of around 7/1 looks to underestimate her a tad.  Best of the rest are Good Effort and the other potential improver Furious who is a little harder to judge.

2.25 Kempton (Kingwell Hurdle – Grade 2) – SONG FOR SOMEONE

I went for this chap last week when the race was originally scheduled for Wincanton, and despite the change in venue I see no reason to change my mind now and so he is the choice to score.

Tom Symonds’ five-year-old is a real improver who has been arguably running over unsuitably longer trips to this point, but his speed at this distance could be the deciding factor and he remains good value in the market given the presence primarily of second-best Ch’tibello for the Skeltons.

The returning Elgin is a fascinating contender for Alan King although he may just need the race, although his presence in the field has done the job of keeping the overnight price on our horse reasonable at around the 3/1 mark.

3.15 Lingfield (Winter Derby – Group 3) – DUBAI WARRIOR

The basic question most punters will be asking here is; who did it better?  Both odds-on favourite Bangkok and the selection have beaten yardstick Court House easily on their way to this Group 3 race but there’s more to take into consideration than that.

Court House had to play second-fiddle to another stablemate last year of course, but was a solid second in this race and shouldn’t be discounted once again for each-way purposes at a forecast 14/1, albeit bookmakers will only be paying out on two places.

Andrew Balding’s Bangkok, a son of Australia, undoubtedly has some high-class form having won the Classic Trial last year before running in the Derby and finising second to Japan in the King Edward VII at Royal Ascot, and he could yet be a Group 1 horse in the making as he matures.

However, in what is a real treat for Lingfield, Dubai Warrior could simply be even better than him and of course he is a horse who himself was left in the Derby by John Gosden last year before he took an injury.

He’s progressed nicely since getting back out onto the track, isn’t far behind Bangkok on ratings anyway and definitely has more potential for further improvement than his rival which is the crucial factor.  The last positive is that he shows more speed than Andrew Balding’s runner, something as mentioned before that could be crucial on this surface.

Look out for Dubai Warrior being entered into the top races over the spring if he wins this, with Group 1’s surely already being considered.

3.55 Newcastle (Handicap Hurdle) – MINELLA CHARMER

With heavy ground, strong winds and that difficult finish up the hill Newcastle is not going to be a place for the feint of heart on Saturday afternoon, nor will it be one for fancy-looking entries from far away stables.

Those from in and around the area know exactly what it takes to win around here in such conditions, and while borders trainer Sandy Thomson will be tough to be beat here with his McGowan’s Pass, it’s the Cumbrian entrant Minella Charmer that gets the vote.

James Moffatt has moved to book Brian Hughes for this nine-year-old, who looks as though he’s been wisely laid out for the contest having been given a couple of months off.

He has won around Newcastle in similar conditions to this less than a year ago (under Hughes) and got the job done nicely on his return at Haydock back in December, so all in all has very few negatives to speak of.

McGowan’s Pass is next on the list, but I can’t help thinking that the handicapper kind of has him in his grasp now and so he’ll have it all to do if one is better treated, which I think the selection very probably is.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Saturday 15th February 2020: Emitom to Claim Rendlesham Glory

Another cracking weekend of racing is in prospect, at least if the weather holds up with yet more storms battering the country left and right.

Lingfield is slowly gearing up towards its valuable all-weather championships day at Easter and we have a good value shout in their sprint handicap at 2.35, while over the jumps there are various opportunities at Ascot, Haydock and Wincanton.

Look out for a strong run from Riders Onthe Storm in the Ascot Chase at 3.35, although in all honesty he should not beat a fully fit Cyrname meaning there is no bet for us in the big Grade 1 given the prices on offer.

We kick off instead with Ascot’s second race, the £40,000 Reynoldstown Chase.

1.50 Ascot (Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – PYM

While given the class of this race we of course have a fair idea of where these horses already are in their chasing careers thus far, it is still a novice event and as such we have to use the form of the horses they’ve finished close to in order to assess their real current ability.

With that in mind, as well as the receipt of weight and the fast rate of his improvement this season, the best of them looks to be Nicky Henderson’s Pym.  The fact that he’s won over this course and distance and on soft going isn’t harmful at all either and so he is taken to score here ahead of Sam Brown and Copperhead for the yards of Anthony Honeyball and Colin Tizzard respectively.

2.05 Haydock (Rendlesham Hurdle – Grade 2) – EMITOM

Tom George’s nine-year-old The World’s End looks like being a very short-priced favourite for this race, and while he makes the shortlist his overnight odds I feel just don’t at all reflect his true chances in this fine Grade 2 event.

Even older than him is West Approach, another for the powerful Colin Tizzard operation who has a better chance here than his form figures of 21U3P would suggest, but on a more striking upward trajectory is the 6yo Emitom and he looks easily the best value in the race at 3/1 and bigger.

Warren Greatrex’s bay won three novice hurdles on the spin last season and looked to be really going places before probably just running out of puff at Aintree.  He finished a fine second to Champ in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle there, an event he could well have taken had he been just a tad fresher.

He could be coming into this already a Grade 1 winner then and having had a pipe-opener this term, which is the positive way to look at his admittedly underwhelming reappearance at Cheltenham in January, he should trip fitter now and so back on a track that will suit him much better he can prove his class under Gavin Sheehan.

2.35 Lingfield (Handicap) – HARRY’S BAR

This race revolves around likely odds-on shot Kachy and many will be putting Tom Dascombe’s course specialist speed demon in their doubles and trebles, but back in a handicap and carrying 10-2 there’s no way we can describe the seven-year-old as anything like a good thing.

He is not regarded by many as expected to be in the form of his life for this return, a thought that has developed after his defection from his last intended race, so with that in mind there are others to have against him including Peter Hedger’s Total Commitment and our boy Harry’s Bar for James Fanshawe.

The latter-named hasn’t finished outside of the places on the all-weather in ten runs to date and a proper look through his form tends to reveal a thought that he could prefer Lingfield over Kempton and Newcastle.  So, with a new career best now looking quite likely, Harry’s Bar appears better handicapped than the jolly and gets the vote with crack rider Andrea Atzeni on board.

2.45 Wincanton (Kingwell Hurdle – Grade 2) – SONG FOR SOMEONE

This is one of Wincanton’s two major two-mile hurdle races during the season and it is arguably still underrated as a contest, although to be fair I don’t think we’ll be seeing next month’s Champion Hurdle winner here.

There are four to take against the field and all are within 5lbs of each other on private ratings, but given that Wincanton’s two-mile track is one of the fastest in the country it felt germane to assess the contenders’ speed ratings on soft over this distance as well as their normal expected performance before coming to a conclusion.

Having done that, the one that looks the best value and could properly come of age is Tom Symonds’ Song For Someone, a five-year-old who has continued to improve recently despite going over seemingly unsuitable longer trips.

Back over this distance he could prove to be the best of these under jockey James Nixon, ahead of the better-known Quel Destin of Paul Nicholls’ yard and the returning Elgin for Alan King.  Ch’tibello is best of the rest.

4.45 Ascot (Mares’ National Hunt Flat Race) – FORTHEGREATERGOOD

Ascot’s closing contest is the bumper, not a particularly strong race of course but one that could provide one last bit of value during our punting day.

That value comes in the shape of Fergal O’Brien’s Forthegreatergood, a point-to-point winning mare.  She didn’t perform to a great level on her bumper debut, fairing not as well as chief rivals Sabrina and Belle De Manech for example, but there are other variables to consider.

Having been sent off favourite at Uttoxeter back in December more was expected of her under rules though ultimately, she could do no better than third.  Having been freshened up, had a wind operation and been given a tongue-tie for this reappearance a much better performance is expected and so if she lives up to previous expectations, she can be good enough to see of this field and hopefully at a very attractive price.

The aforementioned Sabrina for Paul Nicholls and Belle De Manech for Anthony Honeyball are next on the list, while there should be support for Harry Fry’s unbeaten Pure Bliss.