Friday 23 November 2018

Saturday 24th November: Native To Sell Betfair Chase Field Down The River

An afternoon of top class National Hunt action awaits us on Saturday with Listed and Grade 2 races merely the amuse-bouche to the very high quality Grade 1 Betfair Chase in which we have a pretty decent value bet against the likely favourite.

It’s an early start as Haydock bookends our Saturday tips, starting off with a very well fancied runner of Paul Nicholls’ yard who should ensure we’re off to a flying start.

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12.10 Haydock (Newton Novices’ Hurdle – Listed Race) – GRAND SANCY

They’re all race fit for this one so there are no advantages to take there, but I can’t help thinking the form of Grand Sancy’s second in a very slowly run race at this level is the best in this field in a (hopefully) stronger run race this time we can expect significant improvement from Paul Nicholls’ charge.

He followed up easily at Wincanton last time in a race that will have taken very little out of him and I’d expect him to dominate this, though Dan Skelton’s Denmead can give him most trouble after his step up to two-and-a-half miles last time didn’t work out and at this trip he’s likely to be more dangerous.

Not far behind is Cause Toujours for the Ian Williams yard but the youth of Grand Sancy could well win the day in conditions which would appear to be to his liking.

1.15 Haydock (Graduation Chase) – ACTIVIAL

We’re hoping that experience will count for something here as the oldest horse in the field, Activial, is our shout after his solid runner-up effort last time out on his seasonal reappearance, albeit he was a beaten favourite that day.

He took a big step forward at Stratford but that’s something he needed to do having not won since New Year’s Day 2016 but he looks good value in this race to beat Nicky Henderson’s River Wylde.

River Wylde has a better strike-rate than our horse and is bound to be popular in the betting ring following his win at Uttoxeter last November but with a problem having kept him off the track since a disappointing second at Cheltenham a year ago it remains to be seen how good he is now.

Kalondra was going well when unseating his rider in the BetVictor Gold Cup last weekend and is being turned out quickly but at the weights he may have to step forward again from that to beat our boy.

2.05 Ascot (Christy 1965 Chase – Grade 2) – CHARBEL

Betting-wise this race has been all about Politologue this week and he does look some way clear of everything but the selection in this field.

Paul Nicholls’ runner relished this sort of trip when winning at Aintree in April but it could be that the time of year and the softer ground were what he loved that day and I believe he won’t quite reach that level today.

The value in the race then is Kim Bailey’s Charbel who turned over last weekend’s big winner Baron Alco at Chepstow in October and if anything the form may have been slightly underestimated.  He’s gone up 5lbs in the handicap for that win but has been patiently waited with and on this ground may prove to be the class act in the race, receiving 6lbs from his main rival.

Benatar has been well backed this week but looks some way behind the big two, though for place backers he seems fairly solid for Gary and Jamie Moore.

2.40 Ascot (Coral Hurdle – Grade 2) – IF THE CAP FITS

A six-runner race that really boils down to three of them, not that you’d know it according to the bookmakers.  Paul Nicholls’ Old Guard has every bit the same sort of chance as We Have A Dream tough they are miles apart in terms of the odds, both horses however seeming to be some way short of the selection at the weights.

Harry Fry’s If The Cap Fits made his reappearance in the Elite Hurdle two weeks ago and ran a blinder to finish second to Verdana Blue that day over a trip now some way short of what he truly wants.

Before that he’d won three in a row last autumn in the style of a horse improving hand over fist and now, with that extra maturity, will take another step forward now that he’s tackling two-and-a-half miles for the first time.  He rates a fair bet but it can only be hoped his price holds up as I’d imagine the pros will be on when betting gets going in earnest at trackside.

3.00 Haydock (Betfair Chase – Grade 1) – NATIVE RIVER

This is a top quality race with a top quality field and, in the most polite way ever, the war of words has been raging this week with trainers of at least four of the five runners very bullish about their chances.

Bristol De Mai was a runaway winner of this last season and goes incredibly well at Haydock but, at the risk of jumping on the bandwagon, I too believe that extreme performance was due to the heavy ground and in these conditions he won’t quite be the same horse.

Might Bite and Native River are both Gold Cup winners but most commentators this week seem to think that the latter is favoured too by softer going and a tougher test and that on this flat track on decent ground he would struggle to overhaul Nicky Henderson’s 9yo.

I can’t say I’m too enamoured with trainer Colin Tizzard’s comments this week that he is not scared at all of Might Bite but I do agree that his is perhaps the better horse and has proven that on merit, this course and ground having been in too many people’s thoughts if anything and it’s hard to believe he may be allowed to go off at something like 3/1.

Friday 16 November 2018

Saturday 17th November: Treble Haggas At Lingfield

The jumps season is in full swing and we have a good value bet over hurdles at Wetherby, though in truth Lingfield is taking centre stage as we have four good bets there from two top class stables.

We have an early start so be on the ball and we are straight in with the 12.25 which boasts a potential classic runner for next season.

Note: No Chelters?! That’s right. Racing from Prestbury Park is covered on a dedicated Cheltenham Blog.

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12.25 Lingfield (EBF Novice Stakes) – NEW KING

Once we take away all the likely outsiders and no-hopers in this race and realise the best two horses with experience are liable to run to a mark of somewhere in the mid-70’s perhaps, we realise that this won’t take too much winning for one of the two good looking newcomers in the field.

Those newcomers are Saeed Bin Suroor’s Winter Sky for Godolphin, an Invincible Spirit filly, and John Gosden’s Frankel colt New King who has a Derby entry for next summer for the Qatar Racing group.

Gosden these days sends some of his better young horses to the all-weather to break maidens, especially at this time of year evidenced when the likes of Stradivarius and Enable got off the mark at Newcastle in the past and this New King could yet be the latest superstar to come out of Clarehaven.

The excellent Rab Havlin gets the chance to take the ride but don’t be surprised to see this one in something like the Dante next May at York under Frankie Dettori.

1.35 Lingfield (Handicap) – ORIGINAL CHOICE

Much like Addeybb in the Listed race (see below) this horse has done very well on the turf for William Haggas but has often shown a liking for softer ground though in truth he can run right up to his best on just about anything and is well fancied to grab a deserved win in this after a tough enough season.

His only previous run on the all-weather came way back in April 2017 but it’s worth noting that he ran easily his best race to date on that day at Wolverhampton and it’s not thought this slightly different surface holds any fears for him.

The 4yo has been running for big money in all the right handicaps this term on the grass, often placed as well, but now he comes to the races after a well needed 8-week break and as such he is a much fresher horse for this assignment.  James Doyle rides for one of the top trainers on the circuit.

6yo’s Chevallier of Archie Watson’s yard and Salateen of David O’Meara’s are next on the short list and can go well at reasonable prices, hopefully without getting to our chap at the front end.

2.45 Lingfield (Churchill Stakes – Listed Race) – ADDEYBB

OK, let’s deal with the negatives first.  This is a debut on the all-weather for William Haggas’ Lincoln Handicap and Group 2 winner after an underwhelming run in the Lockinge Stakes in May, a long break then an awful run on Champions Day at Ascot in October.  He also prefers pretty deep ground, carries a 7lb penalty and he’s set to go off favourite for this. Are you put off yet?

Maybe.  However, at his best he is a class apart and has been contesting Group 1 races for a reason.  His opposition here, weights considered, are all expected to be within a pound or two of each other leaving Addeybb as the only one who could prove to be a level above the rest.

William Haggas has commented that he was too fresh for his run in the QEII and that he was wound up by the horse next to him in the stalls making him run with the choke out, so we expect a different animal this weekend.  Trained by one of the best, he needs a run but has not been rushed back in after Ascot and should be ready to run to his best now which makes him too good for this opposition.

2.50 Wetherby (Introductory Hurdle) – KAJAKI

Tim Vaughan’s 4yo Tight Call is expected to be all the rage having won two in a row now at Stratford and Hereford but in truth, despite how well he won on those occasions, he really hasn’t beaten much and carries the same weight as Kevin Ryan’s five-year-old Kajaki who could be the value selection in the race.

The son of Mastercraftsman made his hurdling debut four weeks ago having reached a mark of 84 on the Flat earlier this year and was successful at Sedgefield, scoring by five lengths.

He was probably better than the bare form suggested that day and he has the chance to prove it against Tight Call today with Henry Brooke now taking over in the saddle from Brian Hughes.

3.15 Lingfield (Golden Rose Stakes – Listed Race) – MUTHMIR

William Haggas could yet be on for a Listed Race double and a treble on the card at Lingfield as old favourite Muthmir must be considered banging good value for this race.

The old-timer is traditionally known as a five furlong horse but on several occasions he’s been getting there all the time over the minimum trip but just not catching the leaders making this extra furlong perhaps good for him now.  Back in early 2016 he ran right up to what at the time was his top class best on this surface and hasn’t been afforded another chance until now and it’s thought he can go really well.

He and last year’s winner Gifted Master appear to be the two to concentrate on but despite giving the likely favourite 3lbs this could well prove to be Muthmir’s day and at a nice price too under the very good Daniel Tudhope.

Thursday 8 November 2018

Saturday 10th & Sunday 11th November: A Laugh A Minute At Bookies Expense

There’s plenty of great action to come over the timber in the coming months but for now the Flat can have one last hurrah with Doncaster hosting the November Handicap meeting and that’s where we focus our attention this week.

There is an intriguing Grade 2 hurdle at Navan on Sunday which we also have a tip for, but we start at Donny with the Listed Gillies Stakes over a mile-and-a-quarter to get us off to a flying start.

Saturday 10th November 2018

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1.30 Doncaster (Gillies Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – QUEEN OF TIME

I’m not usually one for banging on about trainer form, but I’d much rather have seen Dermot Weld’s string in markedly better nick since Bona Fide took a handicap in good style two-and-a-half weeks ago and as such she’s passed over despite being good value if on song on the day.

Maid To Remember is probably the most solid one in the line-up if we’re going on the basic form we can read, however Henry Candy’s Queen Of Time has achieved the top rating in this field without as yet showing us her very best form in my opinion and so we may see a career best performance which can land her this Listed prize under Harry Bentley.

2.05 Doncaster (Wentworth Stakes – Listed Race) – LAUGH A MINUTE

If we were previewing this race a couple of years ago the likes of Librisa Breeze and Gordon Lord Byron would be in a different league however their best days are behind them (dangerous to say, I know) and it seems like it’s time to pass the baton on now to a younger horse.

In what otherwise looks like another tight Listed Race, the one who could prove to be just a level above this lot at this stage of his career is Laugh A Minute and it’s Roger Varian’s runner who therefore gets the nod under Andrea Atzeni.

The turn of foot he showed in a four-runner race back here in August was eye-catching and then his runner-up effort in France and no-show last month at Ascot were both due to the ground being too soft for him so it’s a blessing he has been given the chance to run on good ground one more time before being put away for the winter.

2.45 Doncaster (7f Handicap) – GREAT PROSPECTOR

Richard Fahey and Paul Hanagan even after everything they’ve achieved both together and apart probably still don’t quite get the praise they deserve in the game and while a win in this race wouldn’t change all that, it would at least be another well deserved victory for the crack pairing.

Great Prospector wants this sound surface and the seven furlong trip seems ideal and so after a fine third in the Listed Guisborough Stakes at Redcar five weeks ago he seems well enough handicapped to me off a mark of 100 to take this at a good value price, especially having been rested for a while.

David Barron has booked Joe Fanning for Danielsflyer and the 4yo is another who can go well, while the trusty Fire Brigade of Michael Bell’s yard is another who will prove popular and could reward each-way backers with a place.

6.00 Chelmsford (Galleywood Handicap) – KELTIE

John Gosden has had much bigger fish to fry of late and this Keltie is no Cracksman or Enable but what he is, is potentially very well handicapped for this 1m6f staying race and he may yet be allowed to go off at an attractive price on the night.

The race may revolve around the three-year-olds at the bottom of the handicap and Keltie is one of them.  He was a beaten favourite last time over a similar trip around this course but it is thought that things just weren’t right for him that day and more is expected this time under Nicky Mackay.

The form of his maiden win at Kempton in October is what attracts me to him however after he won that race in the style of a horse going up the ladder and so what he achieved that day seems to put him on a higher plain to the mark of 83 he’s been given and it may yet prove a lenient move by the assessor.

Lissitzky and the in-form Landue can both prove to be dangers while Keltie’s inmate Stream Song may also yet have a say in things.

Sunday 11th November 2018

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1.35 Navan (Lismullen Hurdle – Grade 2) – BAPAUME

I always find it amazing when jumps fans call the Flat boring and dominated by certain owners when time after time we see so many of the top contenders in Irish jumps racing owned essentially by one man.  The divisive Michael O’Leary has three more contenders in this race in the run-up to the weekend but it may not be one of his who wins this.

Apple’s Jade took this race last year but conditions are different this time and as good as she is she could be vulnerable to Willie Mullins’ improving 5yo gelding Bapaume.  A winner in Grade 2 company at Auteuil in the summer he is definitely getting better and could yet be a Grade 1 contender at Cheltenham and/or Aintree later in the season, as well as Punchestown.

Both Identity Thief and Dortmund Park, should they run, can show themselves to be in good order but the son of Turtle Bowl could prove to be the one to be on as long as he’s allowed to take his chance.  Apple’s Jade would be next best on the list.

Friday 2 November 2018

Friday 2nd & Saturday 3rd November: Bring On The Thunder In Kentucky

We have a real mixed bag this week with Flat action in Britain and the US where the 35th Breeders’ Cup takes place at Churchill Downs which promises to be simply unmissable, while over the jumps the season really gets going with the running of the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.

Friday 2nd November

9.22 Churchill Downs (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf – Grade 1) – LINE OF DUTY

Likely favourite Anthony Van Dyck has been sitting at the top of next year’s Derby betting for a while and there’s no doubt he is a classy juvenile.  Finishing runner-up to the outstanding Quorto at the Curragh and running third to Too Darn Hot in the Dewhurst have shown what he can do.

However, those runs also show that he is not the very best of his age group and from gate 14 after a busy enough season he could be vulnerable to the underestimated Line Of Duty of the top quality Charlie Appleby yard who is improving hand over fist.  A European 1-2-3 may well be completed by Royal Ascot winner Arthur Kitt.

Saturday 3rd November

2.35 Newmarket (Montrose Fillies’ Stakes – Listed Race) – MANNAAL

Simon Crisford is quite rightly making a great name for himself as a trainer in his own right this season and his once-raced Dubawi filly promises to come on plenty from her debut win at Nottingham, something that may see her take this pattern race.

It’s hard to say how good a performance that was but she certainly won the race easily enough which could mean her being good value to beat Ya Hala of Charlie Appleby’s yard.  Gospel and Mistress Of Love look best of the rest.

2.40 Wetherby (Charlie Hall Chase – Grade 2) – DOUBLE SHUFFLE

All the talk this week has been about Thistlecrack (non-runner) and all the money has been for Black Corton, however during all of this I couldn’t take my eye off Double Shuffle for this race and in what is now a small affair numbers-wise he represents great value at anything around 3/1 for a King George runner-up.

3.10 Newmarket (Seymour Stakes – Listed Race) – COLLIDE

At the time of writing the forecast odds for Hugo Palmer’s horse are around 12/1 which looks absolutely ridiculous to me and on that basis he has to be backed to some small level.

A real improver and winner of 3 of his 5 starts, Collide has only been beaten on his debut and on bottomless ground at Ayr but came back to storm away with an ordinary handicap at Nottingham.  He loves this sort of surface, gets plenty of weight and can possibly outpoint Willie Mullins’ True Self.

6.04 Churchill Downs (Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf – Grade 1) – WILD ILLUSION

Chad Brown’s Sistercharlie is the main hope for the home team and while her form is admirable, strictly speaking the level she is running to does not match up to that of Wild Illusion and as a four-year-old she has to give our filly 4lbs which really should prove too much.

Round these bends the 1m3f trip should suit Wild Illusion down to the ground and after watching her excel in Europe at 1m2f she should once again have too much for Magic Wand with Fourstar Crook an attractive price for the same trainer as the likely favourite.

7.36 Churchill Downs (Breeders’ Cup Mile – Grade 1) – EXPERT EYE

Although the expected rain this week in Louisville is perhaps not greatly welcome, the generally fast track, tight bends and slightly warmer temperatures allied with a training programme that basically says “we’re now all in” should all mean we can see what would be in my opinion a third Group/Grade 1 win from this horse, though a first in name.

In winning the Vintage Stakes as a juvenile and the Jersey Stakes this summer it was clear Sir Michael Stoute’s Acclamation colt is top notch at his best but rarely does he get race conditions to suit.  A career best is possibly on the cards now under Frankie Dettori and with that he can defeat I Can Fly and French raider Polydream.

8.56 Churchill Downs (Breeders’ Cup Turf – Grade 1) – ENABLE

Many horses have come to either the Turf or the Classic after winning the Arc and almost all have failed, so why take a short price about Enable?  The main answer is that, apart from her being sheer class, she will be having only her third start of the season and is fitter now than at any point in her career.

The failures of the past have come at the end of very long and tiring seasons however if Enable is at her best, which I expect her to be, she is 10lbs better (all things considered) than Magical and even more so than Waldgeist who may be more of a threat for Andre Fabre than last year’s winner Talismanic.

9.44 Churchill Downs (Breeders’ Cup Classic – Grade 1) – THUNDER SNOW

A European trained winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic is such a rare thing with only John Gosden and Andre Fabre having achieved the feat in 34 runnings of this $6 million affair.

Thunder Snow however has long been aimed at this and is about to peak right now not for the season, but for his career.  He, like rival Mendelssohn a year later, had a mare in the 2017 Kentucky Derby here but otherwise his dirt record is spotless.

He demolished the Dubai World Cup field in March in a performance that was naively and cruelly downplayed by most in the racing media and having come back undercooked to finish second in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Cup at Belmont he is now raring to go.

Accelerate is hot property for this race but his standout effort is his 12 length Pacific Classic win which perhaps flattered him and from gate 14 he is now vulnerable.  Mckinzie is an improving three-year-old who is ready to move up the ranks while Roaring Lion may yet heroically throw it down to his rivals one more time.