We have a cracking weekend of National Hunt racing on the cards, with plenty of great value bets to be had along the way at Sandown, Aintree, Punchestown and Huntingdon. There’s even a cheeky all-weather bet early on Saturday evening for us.
These are six of the best for the weekend:
Saturday 5th December 2020
1.50 Sandown (Henry VIII Novices’ Chase – Grade 1) – HITMAN
This is always a hugely interesting race, with potential Arkle and Champion Chase winners of the future in the field.
The three standouts this year are six-year-old Eldorado Allen, on a hat-trick here, likely favourite Allmankind and the potentially top-class Hitman with the latter two being four-year-olds. Allmankind remains interesting, a very easy winner over a horse who has scored subsequently and one who appreciated softer ground over hurdles meaning he could improve plenty here.
Paul Nicholls’ Hitman however looked brilliant when winning by 30 lengths at Ffos Las, if not the finished article of course, with the runner-up giving us a decent line on how to rate him. He can reach a very high level here under Harry Cobden.
2.25 Sandown (Tingle Creek Chase – Grade 1) – POLITOLOGUE
One of the top races of the season, at least in name, with this year’s Tingle Creek just perhaps signalling a proper changing of the guard.
Paul Nicholls’ runner was second to the great Altior in the 2019 Champion Chase and got close enough, while he won it in easy fashion last season with his rival out.
Even taking out the failed 2m5f experiment entered into by Nicky Henderson last term, a genuine case can be made for Altior going backwards a little now while Politologue is still heading the right way over two miles and looks a fair value bet to claim this crown on merit.
The others don’t seem to be at the same level, but Greaneteen and Rouge Vif may fight it out for third place.
2.40 Aintree (Many Clouds Chase – Grade 2) – SANTINI
Another high-grade chase, one that is so often a Grade 1 race in all but name and we can probably say that about this year’s renewal.
While we all love Frodon and know he gets on so well with his jockey, he will have to reach a new recent high to land a blow here and while that remains possible, it seems a stretch given the quality of the selection to name just one horse.
Native River, the 2018 Gold Cup winner and 33-length scorer of this race twelve months ago, is ten years old and thus not finished yet but he cannot be judged on his win a year ago as the competition was nothing compared to this time around.
Santini, very narrowly beaten in the Gold Cup this year after first landing the Cotswold Chase, is still getting better and will have the class to remain on the bridle in the final half-mile, something that is crucial here, while he clearly stays more than well enough to see out the trip too.
His general price of 6/4 at the time of writing is not ideal from a punting point of view, but confidence is high about Santini and it is hoped that there will be enough support for both Frodon and Native River to help boost the price of the selection as the afternoon goes on.
5.30 Wolverhampton (Conditions Stakes) – YAZAMAN
It’s always a tad risky going with a horse carrying the owner’s second-choice colours, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Sheikh Ahmed’s Yazaman is a better horse than Zamaani and may well prove it in this six-furlong juvenile race.
James Doyle has picked the Crisford’s Zamaani based probably on the fact that he ran a close second in Listed company at Redcar, but that may have flattered him slightly and a 21-runner race on soft turf versus this small Tapeta event is hardly the same thing.
Yazaman was good enough to be placed at Royal Ascot, the July Meeting and Glorious Goodwood, is a proven group performer and can get back to his best now he’s been gelded. He looks like the value in the race under the excellent Cieren Fallon.
Atalis Bay may go well, while Mighty Gurkha has the quality but has been in poor form and gives away 7lbs which may prove to be a little too much.
Sunday 6th December 2020
1.40 Punchestown (John Durkan Memorial Chase – Grade 1) – ALLAHO
On private ratings there are four of these very close together; Min, Chris’s Dream and Samcro being impossible to split for me with Allaho a little way ahead of them.
There are two ways you can go with a race of this nature; either leave it alone as it is too close to call, or trust in the fact that with ratings so close the race looks reliable in nature and so we’re going to take what looks like a good value price on Allaho.
Min won this race last year as well as the Ryanair Chase at the Festival, but he is not guaranteed to hold his form and his best would be needed to repel this lot.
That is especially true of stablemate Allaho. His first season as a chaser culminated in him finishing third to Champ in the RSA at the Cheltenham Festival, a race for which he was favourite and stumbled at a crucial point. He looks sure to make the very top and can begin a big campaign by landing this.
2.25 Huntingdon (Peterborough Chase – Grade 2) – AL DANCER
A fascinating race, with contenders flying up and down in their careers based on age, experience and a change in race distance.
Dolos is capable and rates second on our list, Fanion D’Estruval has a chance alongside Mister Fisher while Top Notch has it all to do, but they’ll all have to go some to catch Al Dancer.
The Twiston-Davies runner is on the way up in his career, won easily in October and was sent off favourite for the Paddy Power Gold Cup last month but will like this much better.