It’s a huge weekend of National Hunt action, but while Cheltenham’s November meeting is making us all look forward to the Festival in March it isn’t necessarily throwing up too many betting opportunities.
There are two good value shouts at Wetherby to get stuck into, while the all-weather presents us with more opportunities on the flat despite the time of year.
We begin at Lingfield, where it seems that all-time great Sir Michael Stoute may be on for a very profitable day indeed.
12.45 Lingfield (Handicap) – ASTRO KING
Assuming Richard Fahey’s Irreverent and William Stone’s Dashing Roger are genuine contenders for this Class 2 event, which I think they are, then Sir Michael Stoute’s Astro King begins to look very smart indeed in the context of this event.
While the other two have solid credentials and are bound to be rightfully well-backed, Lingfield so often comes down to speed and the one with the best figures in that sphere is indeed the three-year-old son of Kingman, Astro King.
In fact, Astro King put in a display on the all-weather a couple of runs ago that would make him a genuine favourite for this, despite being a beaten favourite on the day, so considering he is down to the mile trip now and switches from Kempton Park to Lingfield we can expect even more from him under Andrea Atzeni.
We all know that this top Newmarket yard continues to improve their horses at this sort of age with Astro King looking the type to move into Listed or Group 3 company early next season, so off 87 he is well handicapped for this race and should be backed with reasonable confidence.
1.13 Wetherby (Handicap Hurdle) – SHALL WE GO NOW
This is a decent quality race, one which is very tight not only in the handicap but in the betting market as well.
Jedd O’Keeffe’s Miah Grace should attract support but her standout run was over at Doncaster last season and although it may have been described as a pipe-opener, her return at this track last month was reasonably solid but nothing to particularly write home about.
Miah Grace’s rate of improvement isn’t astounding overall, while there are also questions to answer for Ian Williams’ Speed Company and Sam Thomas’ Mario De Pail.
The one to be on instead could well be Shall We Go Now for Noel Fehily’s racing syndicate. A maiden hurdle winner at Taunton back in January, the seven-year-old has come nowhere near to his best as yet and so his handicap mark is way off.
We can use that to our advantage, while the gelding is also race fit having had a spin on the turf at Nottingham to get him ready for this. As an added bonus, it’s noted that Harry Fry sends only this horse to Yorkshire on Saturday and he is also the only ride for jockey Dave Crosse. Watch out for strong money coming in for him in the build-up to the race.
1.48 Wetherby (Handicap Chase) – ROSE SEA HAS
Dr Richard Newland sends his five-year-old grey Rose Sea Has to Wetherby and he has moved to book champion jockey Brian Hughes for the ride, something that could prove crucial in what is a competitive handicap chase.
Although an unfancied 28/1 shot, he was fifth and staying on nicely last time out at Market Rasen when he fell and it appears that overall, he has the profile of an improving horse.
Perversely, he is gradually going down the weights having not won since last November but he’s never really lost his form and could have been grossly underestimated by the bookmakers here.
The competition, on paper at least, is plentiful with Fanzio, Johnbb, Louis’ Vac Pouch and Schiehallion Munro all possessing enough form to make them contenders but at around 5/1 or 6/1 Rose Sea Has is priced well enough for us to take a chance on him.
3.40 Lingfield (Golden Rose Stakes – Listed Race) – JOVIAL
Sir Michael Stoute has arguably struggled to find the right conditions for Jovial since she last won, though it’s perhaps germane that the win in question was indeed over this course and distance. A lot has happened since then and, even in defeat, Jovial has proven that she is of Listed class at the very least.
Six furlongs looks like being her trip and it seems she can peak now that speed is very much of the essence, not just because of the trip but because of this track as well.
At a very tasty price she can be backed at small stakes to get the job done here under the excellent Tom Marquand, while the in-form Good Effort and Godolphin’s On The Warpath also rate highly with Judical potentially popular with punters on the day.
8.00 Wolverhampton (Fillies’ Conditions Stakes) – LEAFHOPPER
Not a major race, but one perhaps worth waiting until 8PM for. The favourite here is the Crisford’s Last Surprise, but while she sets a good standard having run regularly to form and earning her rating of 95, she is far from infallible.
After seeing her win her first two races easily I seem to remember being quite sweet on John Gosden’s Leafhopper for a Listed race last time out.
She was only 6/1 to win that event and it is always worth remember that, while remaining ambitious, Gosden never throws these fillies into Pattern events unless he thinks they have a genuine chance of winning.
Leafhopper is a Godolphin purchase by Dark Angel and she is one who remains on track to compete in Listed events at some stage, making this grade well within her compass. The seven-furlong trip looks ideal and she will appreciate the Tapeta surface, so at around 4/1 she looks perfectly backable under the reliable Nicky Mackay.