Friday, 11 January 2019

Saturday 12th January: Brace Yourself for a Duel at Dawn

As we creep closer to the Festival, and Trial’s Day for that matter, we need to put up with some rather quiet days but this week both Kempton and Warwick are keeping the flame lit for jumps racing and we have some cracking value selections at both venues.

Newcastle also race once more on their tapeta surface and it could throw out another couple of decent punts on the Flat, keeping our betting day going right into the early evening.

We start in the Midlands then with a tidy Grade 2 novices’ hurdle, once more hoping to get a rather short priced favourite beaten.

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2.25 Warwick (Leamington Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – TIDAL FLOW

We have to take a slight leap of faith here that Tidal Flow’s much improved performance and brave win at Newbury wasn’t just down to the soft ground and if it wasn’t, he may actually be a few pounds better than the promising course and distance maiden winner Birchdale.

Either way Philip Hobbs’ 6yo is going the right way and is the most solid option in the race bearing in mind, just as we expected last week with Rathhill when getting him beaten in the Tolworth by our headliner Elixir Du Nutz, that maiden winners showing promise haven’t actually achieved very much and occasionally flatter to deceive.

Stoney Mountain is too big a price and ranks close up with the main two, but there appears to be quite a gap to the others further enhancing our confidence in the selection who may not have many to beat.

2.35 Lingfield (Class 2 Handicap) – ISOMER

We may benefit here price wise from Andrew Balding’s 5yo being a little up and down, certainly at a glance, but a closer look at the form reveals something a little different.

Having won at Ascot on good ground it seems that a quickish mile suits him but much more prevalent is his one run at Chelmsford back in June when winning a handicap.  It would appear this sort of surface suits much more than Kempton where he was a decent fourth behind today’s likely favourite and biggest threat Breden but he can certainly turn the tables now.

My Target is interesting at the weights based on what he can achieve, though his profile overall is one of a horse going slightly backwards and so he’s best watched.

3.00 Warwick (Classic Handicap Chase – Grade 3) – DUEL AT DAWN

There has been a shed load of money on the eve of this race for Duel At Dawn and ordinarily that may be enough to put me off, however at prices of 5/1 or above he remains good value regardless of where he’s come from in the market and he has a serious chance today.

He showed some really good form as a younger chaser on good ground and if anything began to improve recently despite softer going rather than because of it.  A win and two seconds on easy ground in small races have not shown this horse to very best effect which has really served to look after Alex Hales’ gelding’s handicap mark.

The older horses may well do well at this sort of trip and so look out for Carole’s Destrier going well, also after a warm-up Bet365 Gold Cup winner Step Back remains on a mark good enough to see him into a place though it’s possible other targets are more at the forefront of Mark Bradstock’s mind.

3.15 Kempton (Class 2 Handicap Chase) – BALLYKAN

Nigel Twiston-Davies’ 9yo Ballykan heads into this on the back of three successive chase seconds, two of them here at Kempton, and looks a rock solid challenger at the weights.

Having not won in 13 chase races he’s hardly been profitable to follow, but the trick is knowing when to dive in and given his current form and the strength of the opposition, or lack thereof, would suggest today could be the day.  Daryl Jacob take the ride.

His closest challenger may well be top weight Josses Hill at a good price while Glen Rocco will carry plenty of support from the betting ring and is feared.

5.30 Newcastle (Class 3 Handicap) – TOUGH REMEDY

This is a small race but one that may provide us with a tidy betting opportunity, so long as the price holds up.  Most money going into Friday appears to be heading the way of Marco Botti’s Azzeccagarbugli but there is nothing to suggest the 6yo is moving forwards and very little to suggest this particular surface is to his liking.

The same can’t be said for Keith Dalgleish’s 4yo Wolverhampton winner Tough Remedy who should appreciate the extra furlong he gets compared to his last visit here and with PJ McDonald on board the two should be in just the right place when others tire in order to pounce.  Ballard Down may run on for place money.

6.00 Newcastle (Class 4 Handicap) – PORTLEDGE

There’s a fuss, all be it a very small and rather muted fuss, being made about Custard The Dragon going into this weekend and I’d say that’s where the majority of the money will go in the minutes leading up to post time.

However on all known form it’s easier to see Portledge being the one that may have a couple of pounds in hand in conditions we know he likes, albeit he was a beaten favourite last weekend when the track was again described as ‘standard to slow’ after being harrowed.

The track will be riding a touch faster than it did that day and we should see PJ McDonald’s mount to much better effect this time, likely at a nice price considering this is a five-runner race.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Saturady 5th January: Elixir Our Betting Potion At Sandown

A mix of Flat and National Hunt action means a busy and entertaining enough Saturday of racing this week, unusually perhaps at this time of year the all-weather action handing us the better wagering opportunities this time.

It’s about quality over the sticks though as the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle can provide yet more Cheltenham clues and we have a juicy bet in that race against the ante post favourite, but we start with Lingfield and a couple of bets in decent winter flat races.

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1.15 Lingfield (Class 3 Handicap) – MATTERHORN

Despite the presence of Breden who, unusually for a nine-year-old, is still improving on this sort of surface Mark Johnston’s 4yo Matterhorn is the one making the greatest strides on the all-weather and should be set for another win under popular jock Franny Norton.

I’d have fancied him to some level even over the mile trip he has won his won three of his last 4 races over but the style of his victories and the fact he is a maturing type by Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Raven’s Pass suggests he’ll be even better over a mile-and-a-quarter and so he gets a definite vote.

The aforementioned Breden is next on the list ahead of perhaps the returning Shargiah who may need the run, but if coming back after 568 days to his best would take a hand in the finish for sure and in time could even be described as well handicapped.

2.15 Lingfield (Class 2 Conditions Stakes) – STRAIGHT RIGHT

Often in such races we find horses going backwards or those, as some interested parties often wrongly put it, coming into such events to get their confidence back with a win.

In this case we see a bunch of runners going about as well as we can expect of them though and so we should find an honestly run contest with one standout performer potentially still getting better in the shape of Andrew Balding’s five-year-old Straight Right.

He has won on a similar surface recently over seven furlongs but his performance in beating Gallipoli last year at Newcastle going up the hill towards the finish suggests this mile may be even better for him and he is taken to win this ahead of David O’Meara’s Salateen who continues to go well.

2.25 Sandown (Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1) – ELIXIR DE NUTZ

A quality novice race as you’d expect and the spectre of soft ground has rather thrown a spanner into the works of some tipsters and commentators this week.

The likely short-priced favourite Rathhill won a 20-runner maiden on softer going and is highly regarded, however the bottom line is that despite easing into the race nicely and scoring with something in hand, the strong pace that day in what was truthfully not a great race means his level of form just isn’t yet what some believe it to be.

In the case of hat-trick seeking Elixir De Nutz he’s won two decent races from the front at Cheltenham, certainly a better level of form than the jolly, though having done most of his best work on good ground you’d be forgiven for having doubts about him here now that the rain has come.

Even if his form were to take a dip of a few pounds he’d still be a top two fancy in this race for me and so with no real evidence that he won’t handle soft conditions these days, there is the possibility that he may continue to improve and thus prove too strong for this field.

A win here puts him on course for the Festival in March and I believe he can go there with a proper winning chance, hopefully making his odds in this look a tad silly.

5.45 Kempton (Class 3 Fillies’ Handicap) – MARGIE’S CHOICE

Plenty of all-weather horses seem to move from Wolverhampton to Newcastle or Chelmsford to Lingfield without much bother but often they do not find the same levels of form when running on Kempton’s surface, whether due to the track or for going right-handed.

With this in mind we may find the otherwise progressive Yusra back among what looks a tight pack with Pure Shores and our second choice Roman Spinner but one particular runner looks capable of comfortably besting her handicap mark and that is Michael Madgwick’s Margie’s Choice.

Rab Havlin, a quality and underrated jockey used to sitting aboard Group 1 types at John Gosden’s yard, has been booked to ride this lightly raced filly once again and he should be able to get her in a nice position before pouncing on them after the turn to record what would be her second victory in a row at this venue.

6.15 Kempton (Class 2 Handicap) – ADDICTED TO YOU

With form figures of /1UP- there may not be too many people rushing to their bookmaker to pile on their thousands on this horse, however a close look at things reveals Mark Johnston’s five-year-old gelding to be potentially very well handicapped over two miles going forward.

Having been on the improve during 2017, Addicted To You returned last May with a very easy 10-length win at Chelmsford and a look at the form of that race proves it to be no fluke.  He unseated at Newmarket and was pulled-up after a problem before being put away for the season but assuming he’s fully ready to return now his handicap mark of 95 is unlikely to prove very accurate.

Jason Hart may well attempt to dominate this race and run them right into the ground which I think he and his partner can do, with French challenger Amade on the shortlist though frankly looking to have something to find, while top weight Lord George rates as second best for place purposes.