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.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Saturday 8th February 2020: Indefatigable in our Pursuit of Profits

Altior makes his return to two miles in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury and in all honest, he should be more than capable of winning that contest before drastically shortening his odds for a third Queen Mother Champion Chase next month.

He’s no price on the day though, neither is former Gold Cup winner Native River in the Denman Chase and so we concentrate efforts elsewhere, both on the flat and over jumps during what is a busy weekend promising to give us plenty of opportunities.

2.05 Warwick (Kingmaker Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – TORPILLO

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Torpillo gets into this race with a little weight advantage and, as a course and distance winner on soft going, may yet represent some decent value in what is a bona fide Arkle Trophy trial race.

The likely favourite is Dan Skelton’s Nube Negra who is indeed on an upward curve having won easily twice, including here, before being beaten narrowly in the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase, but he may struggle to hold off the selection this time.

On a line through Mister Fisher, who he beat at Warwick, and given the fact that he was a solid favourite in the Henry VIII himself, there is every reason to believe Torpillo has enough at these weights to get his head in front and so he gets the nod.

The likes of Precious Cargo, a beaten favourite last time for Nicky Henderson who is clearly capable of better yet, and Harry Whittingdon’s Wayward Lad runner-up Rogue Vif may also be sniffing around at the business end of the race at least for place money.

2.20 Lingfield (Handicap) – CORAZON ESPINADO

Trainer Simon Dow was quick to book crack all-weather jockey Luke Morris once again for his last-time-out winner Corazon Espinado, a five-year-old who just seems to be getting better and better as time goes on.

He is not improving in huge lumps race by race  by any means, however he’s only been given a rise of 2lbs for his last course and distance success and given that his speed figure puts him ahead of this opposition and with the prospect of more to come seeming likely, he looks a safe bet to land another handicap prize.

Andrew Balding’s four-year-old Spirit Warning has a live chance too if stripping fit enough having been off the track for some 147 days.  His best speed figures have come over this trip and on quick going too, something that usually bodes well at Lingfield, while his current handicap mark of 89 does not accurately represent his true ability making him potentially well-in.

Kuwait Currency would not be without a chance at the weights while Goring is another to consider for place money.

2.40 Warwick (Warwick Mares’ Hurdle – Listed Race) – INDEFATIGABLE 

While more could come from Rebecca Curtis’ Legends Gold who has a year on the selection and was a winner last time showing the promise of more improvement, the safe call in this race is definitely Indefatigable and she is backed to get back on the winning trail herself.

Paul Webber’s seven-year-old mare won at Cheltenham in the spring but has had a solid if unspectacular season this far, though overall she remains on the upgrade and finds herself in conditions that should suit her down to the ground.

Second in a competitive mares’ handicap hurdle back at Prestbury park in December, her overall profile marks her out as the best of this bunch considering this extra furlong should really bring out the best in her.

Coded Message, Copper Gone West and the returning Cap Soleil are all capable and could find it out for the places, but hopefully nothing more.

3.30 Lingfield (Handicap) – EXPRESSIONIST

The solid one here, and certainly the benchmark over this course and distance, is Archie Watson’s Electric Ladyland who is three from five on the all-weather and so of course she had to be carefully considered.

Her last win however was over five furlongs at Chelmsford and she was beaten around here last time so she is certainly vulnerable, especially to Charlie Appleby’s Expressionist who looked a real player when winning on debut as a juvenile last May at Ascot.

He didn’t really confirm his promise last season, but he’s now been gelded and comes from a yard that knows exactly how to get them ready first time up for the year.

On breeding and on what ability he showed in the spring it seems he’d be capable of being a 100+ horse for sure, making his current mark of 89 look a little short of his real ability and so it would be no surprise to see him score on his reappearance.

4.10 Newbury (Handicap Chase) – REDZOR

There is of course a lot to consider when ploughing through a novice handicap chase, but on all known evidence the safest play is likely to be Dan Skelton’s Redzor.

Having really fancied Shannon Bridge at the original entry stage for the same yard, I’d like to think the trainer knows what it may take to land this contest and Redzor looks more than just a substitute.

Highest Sun may well be sent off favourite for this event, but Colin Tizzard’s runner has earned his recent reputation mostly getting beaten and winning a two-runner race on the heavy at Plumpton, arguably giving him the look of a bookies’ favourite.

The wildcard could well be Paul Nicholls’ Mont Des Avaloirs who retains potential, though his most recent appearances aren’t overly inspiring in all honesty.

Friday, 31 January 2020

Saturday 1st February 2020: Greatrex Runner Worth a Few Bob in Edinburgh National

It’s the start of the Dublin Racing Festival on Saturday and we have three big bets from there, though the best value of the day lies in the Edinburgh National at Musselburgh.  Here’s our five to follow for the day: 

12.50 Leopardstown (Novice Hurdle – Grade 1) – FURY ROAD

This 2m6f novice hurdle will take some getting, but in Fury Road we have a classy type who has seen out almost three miles on heavy going and at just six years old is improving still.

Fury Road is three from three now and we’re not at the bottom of him yet, so he is taken to confirm his superiority for trainer Gordon Elliott ahead of Paul Nolan’s Latest Exhibition and Elixir D’ainay for the powerful JP McManus/Willie Mullins combination.

1.25 Leopardstown (Dublin Chase – Grade 1) – CHACUN POUR SOI

He may not be allowed to go off at the biggest price you’ll ever see but Willie Mullins’ Chacun Pour Soi, given his future rival’s penchant for an extra furlong and/or heavier ground, could be the one to take Defi Du Seuil on with in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham and so his class is not disputed.

Another contributory factor in having the confidence to back him is that Min still possesses tons of ability and is not ruled out here, though he is very much seen as the owner and trainer’s second-string in the race behind our chap.

Runaway Cheltenham Festival winner A Plus Tard rates pretty highly too, but he’ll need to improve a fair it to get to Paul Townend’s mount.

2.00 Leopardstown (Arkle Novice Chase – Grade 1) – FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES

Joseph O’Brien’s young chaser Fakir D’Oudairies is two from three now over fences in Ireland and, although he was beaten by today’s chief rival Notebook last time out, the thought is that he is so young he can basically only get better and may yet prove to be an Arkle type in March.

He can take a big enough step forward this time, if not allowing his rival the same rope as in the Racing Post Novice Chase, to bridge a length-and-a-half gap and a 2lb pull making him the choice.  Bapaume is best of the rest.

2.45 Wetherby (Towton Novices’ Chase – Grade 2) – DOMINATEUR

This is a smashing race and I hope it doesn’t get lost in the furore of the racing at Leopardstown.  As a Grade 2 novices’ race it is important for the future, but as for the now it seems Dominateur can live up to his name and remain in command of events here.

His last two wins at Chepstow have shown him to be going very much the right way and he can score once more ahead of Boldmere and Ardlethen.

3.15 Musselburgh (Edinburgh National Handicap Chase) – BOB MAHLER

There are almost too many of them to keep track of during the National Hunt season but, despite them being only around 3/1 the field overnight, this race looks as competitive as a ‘National’ should be and the race could be a cracker.

Despite this, there is one in the field that just stands out a little to me and that is Bob Mahler.  An eight-year-old arguably just about to reach his peak, he beat today’s hot favourite Little Bruce easily at Cheltenham in the spring and has been placed twice this season in handicaps at Haydock and Doncaster.

His form is sound, but now that he goes right up to beyond four miles we should really see the best of him, something that should be enough to make Adrian Heskin and Warren Greatrex’s trip up worth the miles.

As for the remainder, it would be no shock to see Arthur’s Gift run very well and into the places perhaps, while in a competitive heat the likes of Sumkindofking, Brian Boranha and the aforementioned Little Bruce all look very close at the weights and could all get involved at some stage.

Friday, 24 January 2020

Saturday 25th January 2020: Champagne to Go Well at Donny

It’s Cheltenham Trials Day in the Cotswolds but as usual in pre-festival meetings at Prestbury Park, we’re happy enough to watch the great action unfold with a view to marking our card for March.

Betting-wise there are value bets elsewhere though, beginning with Lingfield on the flat.

1.10 Lingfield (Handicap) – PIRATE KING

A decent Class 3 handicap over a mile-and-a-half, one that could well go to Charlie Fellowes and his Pirate King after a very nice win over Battle Of Marathon here a month ago, a horse who has proven to be a good yardstick when assessing the various form lines in this event.

As a horse who has just turned five we can assume there’s a little bit more to come from this horse, one whose profile shows him to be very happy over this distance as it appears to be his absolute optimum, while it was also interesting to note that Kieran Shoemark is at Lingfield only for this mount before he heads to Kempton.  Ralph Beckett’s former Aidan O’Brien horse Cliffs Of Donneen looks to be best of the rest.

2.05 Doncaster (River Don Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – CHAMPAGNE WELL

Course and distance winner Boss Man Fred will no doubt be very popular, his win at the back end of December reading well and entitling him to a step up to graded company, especially given that he took that race with a fair amount in hand.

Up in this sphere though, even with further improvement expected from Dan Skelton’s charge, he may well just fall short for my money and it could well be that his impressive unbeaten run is about to come to an end.

Enter Fergal O’Brien’s Champagne Well.  The Cheltenham-based trainer had an option for this horse at home on Trials Day today back over 2½ miles, but it makes sense to come here instead.

Winning first time up for the campaign over 2m5f at Cheltenham, he stepped up from that when running over the same course and distance in place behind Thyme Hill at this level and that form alone would have entitled him to go very close in this contest.

He was upped to three miles in December, finishing a close second to Redford Road showing no real improvement but over this easier track another step forward is predicted which should most likely make him the one to be on.

Ramses De Teillee is back over hurdles now and should go OK for David Pipe and Tom Scudamore, but Paddy Brennan’s mount is probably the class act in this line-up right now and should prove it at what look to be reasonably attractive overnight odds.

2.40 Doncaster (Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – FLORESSA

This is a race that for many will revolve around last year’s winner Lady Buttons, an admirable ten-year-old mare who comes into this race on the back of yet another win, the 14th of her career.

That success was over fences while back over hurdles you can’t help but feel she’d need more of a test to be at her best, be it softer ground or a longer trip.

At this stage of her career it’s hard to see her being any better than twelve months ago, something that in giving away weight to Floressa could mean heartbreak for her many supporters.

Nicky Henderson’s five-year-old mare is a real improver, as she should be at this age, flying up through the ranks with two wins and a second in three hurdle starts so far.  Her latest win at Newbury in Listed company reads well and with the prospect of plenty more to come from her, she should have enough to take of Philip Kirby’s local favourite.

The one to watch from an each-way perspective, even in a 6-runner field, is Kelly Morgan’s Timetochill who at around 12/1 overnight has been grossly underestimated.

Her two wins on the bounce in November will have taught her plenty and she is a fresh horse now having been off for a couple of months, so don’t be surprised off her racing weight if she puts it right up to the main pair.

9.49 Gulfstream Park (Pegasus World Cup Turf – Grade 1) – WITHOUT PAROLE

The former John Gosden-trained Without Parole, a St James’s Palace Stakes winner in 2018 at Royal Ascot, came back from a six-moth lay-off to run on extremely well at the death in the Breeders’ Cup Mile in November to eventually finish third, so now he’s back to full fitness and with this 1m1½f trip looking ideal he could be tough to beat under Frankie Dettori for master trainer Chad Brown.

Without Parole is arguably a forgotten horse but has genuine Group/Grade 1 pedigree, while both Hollywood Derby winner Mo Forza and Aidan O’Brien’s admiral Group 1 winner and last year’s runner-up Magic Wand are solid alternatives although their wide gates could negate their challenge somewhat which makes me more confident about the selection.

10.34 Gulfstream Park (Pegasus World Cup – Grade 1) – MUCHO GUSTO

Having already lost the majority of its purse, being a $3million dollar race instead of a $16million one, the fourth Pegasus has now cut up massively.

Firstly, crack dirt horses McKinzie and Maximum Security have given this a swerve to head instead for the Saudi Cup, while overnight on Thursday the race lost the top two in the market in the shape of Omaha Beach and Spun To Run with a suspected fracture and a skin rash respectively.

In their absence the solid one is Bob Baffert’s Mucho Gusto.  Underestimated to a degree, the four-year-old beat Roadster and finished second to Maximum Security last year which reads very well, while he faded late having run well in the Travers Stakes making this 9-furlong trip look ideal.

Favourite may well be Higher Power, but he was flattered by his wide-margin Pacific Classic win and his other form doesn’t match up, perhaps leaving Tax as the value alternative to the selection from a good inside gate.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Saturday 18th January 2020: Darasso Just the J O’B in Champion Hurdle Trial

This Saturday sees the important Grade One Clarence House Chase take place, a race in which Defi Du Seuil can make use of the extra stamina requirement that the 2m1f trip and heavy ground around Ascot will bring, despite his tendency to idle, but at odds-on he’s not really a reliable betting proposition.

The bad ground has scuppered a few plans to be truthful, but despite that we still have one bet from there along with the best picks from Haydock, Lingfield and Taunton.

1.00 Lingfield (Handicap) – CREATIONIST

We begin on the flat and this interesting mile-and-a-half Class 2 handicap.  The best race to use as a form guide is the race recently contested by Original Choice and Furzig over the course and distance in late January, one in which the latter came with a good run to beat the former under hands and heels by a neck.

It’s once again very difficult to separate those to at the new weights and they should both show up well, but all things considered the one to be on at the prices is Roger Charlton’s four-year-old likely improver Creationist.

Finishing his three-year-old season with a decent runner-up effort over 1m3f at Kempton, he was sent too far over 1m6f at Chelmsford before going right back to a mile-and-a-quarter around here in January and while he has acquitted himself well each time, only today does he go over his best distance.

He can find a few pounds more than the others to prove to be the best handicapped horse in the race under jockey Adam McNamara.

2.10 Lingfield (Handicap) – ELECTRIC LADYLAND

It goes without saying that on this surface genuine pace counts for a hell of a lot and that’s one thing among other talents that selection Electric Ladyland possesses.

Trained by Archie Watson, this filly hasn’t been beyond five furlongs yet but she certainly runs as though the trip is within her compass.  Having had a busy season, she finished off the year by running second in a novice stakes at Wolverhampton where the surface wasn’t ideal before scooting home to land a similar event at Chelmsford in September.

She goes well fresh as her debut win will attest to, can bounce out and run them ragged if settling OK and appears well-in given that her mark of 88 doesn’t look to be her true level on this, her belated handicap debut.

There’s little to choose in behind between the likes of Little Brown Trout, Zulu Zander and Taste The Nectar but if all goes well they’ll be running for place money anyway.

2.50 Taunton (Portman Cup Chase) – VALTOR 

Although five-year-olds and over are allowed to enter into this intriguing £50,000 chase, this year it really does have a rather Dad’s Army feel about it with all the main contenders aged ten or older.

While in theory we should see a big run from the 150-rated Rock The Kasbah, Philip Hobbs’ gelding who retains his ability having run a close second to Cogry last time at Cheltenham, a browse through his form shows that given the effort needed for a run like that he doesn’t always put in two in a row and with age now not on his side, he may well flounder.

It probably comes down to Paul Nicholls’ Yala Enki and Nicky Henderson’s Valtor.  The former ran third in the Welsh Grand National for the second year in a row which is form that entitles him to win this race, but perhaps not surprisingly he was not as good after that effort last year and the same thing may happen now.

Valtor came to this country from France with a big reputation and lived up to it with a taking success in the Silver Cup at Ascot just over a year ago and, though he hasn’t hit those heights since, his time will come despite him now being 11.

He’s won over hurdles this season and only needs to be within a few pounds of where he was that day at Ascot to potentially win this, so given he’s a bigger price than Yala Enki he’s worth a few quid.

3.00 Ascot (Handicap Chase) – SAM’S ADVENTURE

Domaine De L’Isle has won his last two and should go well once again, though it appeared that he relished the three-mile trip at Newcastle and may want a little further than this 2m5f today.

Venetia Williams’ Espoir De Guye is a fair favourite after himself winning two on the bounce now including on heavy ground, but at the odds the most interesting contender is Brian Ellison’s Sam’s Adventure and he gets the nod.

Second behind Domaine De L’Isle last time at Newcastle, it seems that trip hasn’t been helping him with today’s distance much more suitable and he also has an 8lb pull from that contest.

It’s interesting to note too that Ellison, who has a busy day at Haydock, has sent only this horse all the way to Berkshire so given that he’s one with an improving profile overall and who could arguably be better at this trip, his price is simply too large.

3.15 Haydock (Champion Hurdle Trial – Grade 2) – DARASSO

Time will tell whether or not this race can be genuinely seen as a true Champion Hurdle trial, but one thing’s for sure there is an overpriced runner in it this year in the shape of Joseph O’Brien’s Darasso.

Going over fences when last seen the best part of a year ago, Darasso had already managed to reach a mark in the mid-150’s over hurdles before trying that route and so we know he has class and should be a better horse now as a seven-year-old with 13 races under his belt.

If he runs to the level his profile suggests then he should be too good here for Fighting Fifth winner Cornerstone Lad, Ballyandy and the frankly overrated (at these odds) Pentland Hills.

In terms of how confident we can second guess connections to be; O’Brien will have had plenty of options for him in Ireland while owner JP McManus does not need to spend the money to bring a horse over to attempt to win a prize, he has plenty in England at his disposal so a big run looks to be on the cards.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Saturday 11th Janurary 2020: Kim to Provide Our Weekend Candy

While the quality isn’t quite there for us this weekend to the degree that I’d like it, there are enough races floating about for us to be able to take advantage and the four below should all give us a good run for our money at the very least.

Look out for the results of the various graded races in England and Ireland in terms of grabbing some Cheltenham clues, but where the shorter term is concerned it’s about attempting to make some profit and with that in mind, these are the horses to concentrate on: 

2.05 Kempton (Silviniaco Conti Chase – Grade 2) – FRODON

It’s bitterly disappointing that Altior doesn’t run in this race and the way that his defection was handled this week has left a rather bitter taste in the mouth.

There’s no doubt the great Nicky Henderson remains a top trainer and a gentleman, but the fact that it appears some large bets were placed on Top Notch (also his) and that the bookmakers knew Altior wasn’t running before the press and the punters did, doesn’t sit well with many people including me.

Henderson chose to use his bookmaker-sponsored blog to give reasons for Altior not running but not before many had apparently backed Top Notch at big prices, making his look great value now that he’s odds-on for the race.

As it happens, while Top Notch looks difficult to beat strictly on current form, there’s enough evidence to suggest that Ryanair Chase hero Frodon simply hasn’t had things his own way this season and is overdue a win now.

He should be allowed to bowl along in front and now that he’s back in conditions he will appreciate – it was too soft at Aintree and three miles was too far at Haydock – he will be a very tough horse to pass under regular jockey Bryony Frost.

None of the others really seem to possess the quality to get involved unless there are mistakes, meaning that even at 2/1 Frodon looks good value with the race being run to suit and with just one arguably slightly inferior rival left to beat.

3.00 Warwick (Grade 3 Handicap Chase) – KIMBERLITE CANDY

There’s a big win in this Kimberlite Candy and after the eight-year-old gelding’s recent run at Aintree, there is no reason to suggest it shouldn’t be this weekend in this valuable Grade 3 chase.

Having run a fine third in a big race at Sandown over three miles last February before being well backed for the Becher Chase last month, big things were expected at Liverpool and Tom Lacey’s charge very nearly delivered.

Although back-to-back winner Walk In The Mill ultimately took the crown, he was well clear at the elbow before Kimberlite Candy began to stay on late in the day over that 3m2f trip and with that experience under his belt and a further three furlongs to come here today, it seems we could see a chasing career best now from Richie McLernon’s mount.

His main form and market rival is The Conditional who is bound to be popular in the ring, but while his form is rock solid I can’t help thinking that his three runs this season could have just taken the edge off him.

Having opened the campaign with a third place in a novice race, The Conditional ran a stormer to beat West Approach up the hill at Cheltenham in October.  In late November, David Bridgwater’s horse put in another almighty effort in a battle with De Rasher Counter at Newbury in the Ladbrokes Trophy in which he finished second, but he’s up another 5lbs now and will need to be a monster to win this race.

Ben Pauling’s Le Breuil is essentially on trial here for the Grand National and should run well without winning, as should Ludlow runner-up Bobo Mac.

3.15 Kempton (Handicap Chase) – ON THE BLIND SIDE

After being well backed and probably running his race when second in the Graduation Chase at Ascot in December, the time could finally be just right now for Nicky Henderson’s On The Blind Side in handicap company.

While he’s been doing OK over shorter trips and on softer ground, this eight-year-old’s best run was arguably his win over this very course and distance on good ground a year ago, so the fact that we’re no better than good to soft now with the sun set to shine at Kempton, he should have his ideal conditions and can probably be classed as well-handicapped in the circumstances.

He gets the nod here at a reasonable price ahead of Paul Nicholls’ Touch Kick who, barring when he was a handicap blot in an easier race at Fakenham, appears to prefer softer going and should be a little outpaced when the crucial point of the race comes late on.

4.45 Chelmsford (Handicap) – VISIONARA

The strong favourite here should be Asdaa who appears tough and ran second at Southwell only six days ago, but the forecast difference in price between her and Visionara is baffling and the latter is very much worth taking a chance on.

Trained by Simon Crisford, rated just 3lbs lower than Asdaa and having been off for three weeks which is ideal for this seven-furlong race, Visionara has now been handed a first-time visor in a bid to help her straighten up when hitting the lead and at her current steady rate of improvement on the all-weather she would appear to be better off at the weights than the market leader.

The Kingman filly is very much at her best over this course and distance so there’s no logical reason that she should not run her race, while in the case of Asdaa we’d do well to remember that Mark Johnston is not shy to keep running his horses and understands fine well that it means sometimes they will throw in a bad one now and again before returning to form.

With that in mind, would you take 6/4 about one of his who ran less than a week ago in handicap company?  I certainly wouldn’t and so on this occasion, Visionara is the percentage call at likely odds of around 3/1.

Friday, 3 January 2020

Saturday 4th January 2020: Southwold to Get Our Saturday off to a Flyer

We have a busy card on Saturday featuring some potentially lucrative opportunities on the all-weather at Lingfield, which by the way may yet go under the radar somewhat, along with some fine races over the jumps including the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown Park

12.10 Lingfield (Handicap) – STAR OF SOUTHWOLD

This is a decent 0-95 handicap over a mile-and-a-quarter, one in which Mick Appleby’s Star Of Southwold only just gets in and he is taken to outclass his rivals and get us off to a great start.

A fantastic all-weather trainer, Appleby has overseen a steady improvement for this horse and what is striking is that, while this seems to be his ideal trip, his standout run was arguably over a mile at Chelmsford and so it appears he needs things to be just a little quicker than when third last time at Wolverhampton, making Lingfield perfect for him in my view.

The five-year-old gelding has a few in behind for competition, namely Universal Gleam, Creationist and Humbert who can all fight it out for nothing more than place money all being well.

2.25 Sandown (Tolworth Hurdle – Grade 1) – SON OF CAMAS

The biggest race of the day by some way in terms of quality, the Tolworth is a prize worth winning in its own right of course but it can also provide us with more huge Cheltenham Festival clues.

Of the two standout candidates in my opinion, the more exposed is the overnight favourite Fiddlerontheroof of Colin Tizzard’s who climbed to a rating of 140 when winning over the course and distance recently on heavy ground.

He began his campaign with a fine second to Thyme Hill at Cheltenham and has been seen in public six times, so while he’s very good we kind of know where we stand with him and it could be that there’s one to improve past him in the shape of Son Of Camas.

Ordinarily I’d go with the battled hardened Grade 2 runner-up, but in Nicky Henderson’s five-year-old we have a horse that has already reached a similar level without having to be fully tested and coming from this yard we can be sure Son Of Camas wouldn’t have been entered were he not good enough to win.

2.50 Lingfield (Handicap) – LADY BERGAMOT

We’re back on the sand and this time with a fresh animal who, with pace being as important as stamina at Lingfield, can skip clear at some point in the closing stages to hopefully be good enough to score.

While David Simcock’s former Shadwell horse Kitaabaat is obviously good enough at a nice price and Getchagetchagetcha should be well supported in the market, the ability possessed at these weights by Lady Bergamot should see her home as long as she’s fully ready to go having been off for 65 days.

James Fanshawe’s grey mare is six now but she’s only had 19 outings, just seven on the all-weather, and overall appears to be getting better.  Her close-up fifth in a Listed race around here in late October reads well considering that was over a longer trip which, despite her trainer having persevered with it, doesn’t seem ideal and so back over this mile-and-a-half trip we could witness a new career best and that would be good enough.

3.10 Newcastle (Handicap Hurdle) – ROBEAM

This is a low value, Class 4 handicap hurdle but it’s interesting purely because of the presence of our selection Robeam.

Brian Ellison is an underrated trainer who, as a Geordie and big supporter of the operation at Newcastle, loves to land a gamble at Gosforth Park and so whatever he runs around there should at least be taken note of.

Sam’s Adventure is his other major chance on the card among four entries (two in this race), but this is the only one with Brian Hughes on board and he’s a young and improving hurdler who has already landed the odds locally at Sedgefield.  He can go well here, perhaps landing another gamble for the Brian Ellison Racing Club.

If Robeam is to be the one then it’s almost certain he’ll be well backed at this track, making his 13/2 quote overnight looking huge, so the advice would be to get on early if you want to back him.  Celtic Flames probably ranks as best of the rest for Lucinda Russell.

3.35 Sandown (Handicap Hurdle) – SMARTY WILD

This is a competitive enough two-mile handicap hurdle, one in which age could play a big part along with the likely soft underfoot conditions.

The probable favourite is Nicky Henderson’s Gunnery and it’s easy to see why.  He’s from a top yard, carries no weight and is an easy last-time-out winner but it is also worth mentioning that for his current trainer, as well as for Peter Chapple-Hyam on the flat, he looked so much better on good ground and so he could get rather stuck in the mud this time.

Off for almost two years, a live outsider is Colin Tizzard’s Ainchea but it goes without saying that with such a type we’d be taking a chance, while the solid one is Totterdown for Fergal O’Brien who at nine is not past it, but won’t have as much improvement left as some others and has been raised 12lbs for a win here last time.

The biggest likely improver is Smarty Wild, a six-year-old from Philip Hobbs’ yard.  Only seven races into his hurdling career and getting better all the time, this gelding was a good winner in similar conditions to today two runs ago at Exeter before failing to justify favouritism over this track and trip last time.

That was on heavy ground of course which probably worked against him while he’s now only 3lbs higher than when winning at Exeter, a rate that more than likely doesn’t justify his rate of improvement overall and so at the weights he can prove to be the best of the bunch.