Season’s greetings to one and all! Hopefully, you’ve had a lovely time this year, regardless of however you spent it. It’s been ages since I updated this blog properly, so thought it would be nice to drop thoughts on the racing here through the rest of the week, and maybe an ante-post article or two. There won’t be the usual detail though – there’s a lot in the pipeline here.
It was awesome to be on the On The Hunt Podcast with Steve Ryder and Ryan Summerfield to share some thoughts, but the fields have changed so here’s a diary of sorts. The line to my podcast appearance is below:
In Chepstow’s Finale Juvenile Hurdle (1.30), it is fascinating that Cerberus, who got the better of his stablemate A Wave Of The Sea in the Baroneracing.com Juvenile Hurdle last time, is likely to come here instead of several Irish targets and he looks too big in relation to the impressive favourite Allmankind.
Two catch the eye in the “The Smart Money’s On Coral” Handicap Hurdle (2.10). The obvious one is Acey Milan, third in what used to be the Betfair Fixed Brush at Haydock, but a really interesting one is Perfect Man. He overcame a huge amount of interference to win here in November, and the form of that has been boosted massively since by the third, Good And Hardy winning twice whist fourth Dr Des bolted up by 19 lengths afterwards. An 8lbs rise for that is probably fair and Richard Johnson’s an incredibly eye-catching booking.
The Welsh Grand National has a clutch of contenders at the top of the market, with Elegant Escape and Now McGinty entirely deserving of their places at the head of the market. Both can go well along with Potters Corner, but the top choice is Yala Enki. Third last year for Venetia Williams, he’s since moved to Paul Nicholls and this has clearly been the target since then.
Prime Venture lost his right fore shoe when 18 lengths fourth to Potters Corner in the Midlands Grand National, but he’s now a stone better off with Potters Corner for that run and has run a nice warm up in preparation for today.
At Leopardstown, all onlookers should have the DVR out for the Paddy Power “Only 364 Days Till Christmas” 3-Y-O Maiden Hurdle at 12.05. Joseph O’Brien debutants Millswyn and Lake McKenzie will be worth market checks whilst Saint’ D’Oroux, fourth in a Grade 3 last time, will be a good marker for the form.
Most people will be excited about seeing Chacun Pour Soi (1.10) return after his brilliant performance at Punchestown against Defi Du Seuil. A Plus Tard has come in for support after the great day that Henry De Bromhead and Rachel Blackmore had whilst Mullins also has Great Field and Cadmium here. It’s a shame there’s no Cliaos Emery.
With an edge in hurdling experience, Abracadabras is fancied to reverse Cheltenham bumper form with Blue Sari in the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle (1.45) but should there be such a gap between the two in the market? I’m not sure, especially with Blue Sari stepping back in trip too.
The Paddy Power Chase (2.55) is almost as difficult to predict, if not more, than the Welsh National but going with one of the JP McManus army tends to be one of the best methods. He’s had three of the last four winners and has the favourite in No Comment but two other Green and Gold contenders could be the each/way value.
Blazer would have been closer than sixth in this last year if he hadn’t smashed the eleventh but he goes very well fresh – he’s never been worse than fourth off a 100 day+ absence – and all the evidence suggests he’s well treated off 141. There are few more consistent horses in handicaps than Fitzhenry, who was third in this last year and who has only been outside the top four once in a handicap chase. He caught a tartar in the shape of Chris’s Dream in the Troytown last time and if he’s given less to do in this year’s renewal then he’ll take the beating.
At Kempton, the Ladbrokes Daily Odds Boosts Introductory Juvenile Hurdle (12.50) is often a useful guide to decent British juveniles and Homer, a dual flat winner in France for Andre Fabre who was placed in the Prix du Lutece, is short for this but has very promising prospects in this sphere if he translates that ablity to hurdling. Does he want the very testing ground though? It could be worth chancing him for the Triumph. Thyme White and Goa Lil will test the Goshen form here, so don’t miss this.
The Wayward Lad (1.20) looks like an open contest but many have fluffed their lines and most will expect Fanion D’Estruval to put another exciting performance there. Rouge Vif looked like a chaser in the making last season and on his debut before a disappointing effort at Cheltenham but a stronger pace and wind operation could be game-changers and even though he might want a stiffer track.
In the Desert Orchid not much separates them all at their best. Capeland’s last time out win is probably the best form from this season in the race and Sceau Royale’s best form from last season should be enough; Neither is a slam dunk, and Duc Des Genievres hasn’t run a decent race since his wide margin Arkle win so it looks to be a race that’s best left.
Advice – Leopardstown
2 pts win Blue Sari, Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle (15/8 general)
1.5 pts each/way Fitzhenry, Paddy Power Chase (12/1 Bet365, Hills, 11/1 Betfair)
1.5 pts each/way Blazer, Paddy Power Chase (16/1 Bet365, Hills, 14/1 Betfair)
Advice – Chepstow
2 pts Ceberus, Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle (2/1 general)
1.5 pts each/way Perfect Man, “The Smart Money’s On Coral” Handicap Hurdle (8/1 Bet365, Hills)
1 pt each/way Yala Enki, Welsh Grand National (9/1 general),
1 pt each/way Prime Venture, Welsh Grand National (10/1 general)
Advice – Kempton
1 pt each/way Rouge Vif, Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase, (12/1 general)
Advice – Ante Post
1 pt each/way Blue Sari, Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (12/1 general)
1 pt each/way Homer, Triumph Hurdle (25/1 general)
1 pt each/way The Storyteller, Pertemps Handicap Hurdle (25/1 Hills)
Saturday 28th December
The Savils Chase (3.15) is a top quality renewal with Kemboy and Presenting Percy at the head of the market but Road To Respect still looks to be too big. He was possibly a little flattered by how much Clan Des Obeaux needed the run in the JN Wine but it was still and impressive performance there and he was unlucky not to get a lot closer to Kemboy here last year when being hampered around the far turn and then slipping on the bend. A straightforward and consistent ride who’s put in one bad run through the past 12 months, he looks to be value against the top two.
Delta Work was a bitter disappointment in the JN Wine but if he recovers the top class novice form he showed last season then he’ll have a big chance here. There are reports that the ground is drying and if that’s the case then Anibale Fly is a big price but it did look very hard work yesterday on the chase course. Monalee was below his best on his return at Clonmel but both he and Irish Gold Cup winner Bellshill have the capability to go nicely.
The Frank Ward Memorial Hurdle (2.00) should be a belter with Barcardys and Apple’s Jade facing off again and Penhill in the mix too. One to watch and enjoy.
Allaho returns in the Ballymaloe Foods Beginners Chase (1.25) which looks to be a proper contest. He faces Walk Away, second to Faugheen last time, Rhinestone (winner of the 2m6f Grade one held here at the DRF last season) and Canardier who held every chance when falling at the second-last on chasing debut at Navan.
Rock De Baune and A Great View have run well in previous editions of the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (12.50) with the former preferred here and another eyecatcher is The Storyteller, who is an extremely high class chaser who had a nice confidence booster over hurdles at Clonmel last time. He’s worth backing for the Pertemps and today given how well in he is based on his best form.
There are a couple of promising types towards the head of the market in the Tote Supporting Leopardstown Maiden Hurdle (12.15) although no bets for us.
At Newbury, I will have one eye on the Betway ‘Introductory’ Hurdle (1.20) which looks like a cracking contest for future reference. I felt Scorched Earth looked big there if he stepped forward from his hurdling win on debut.
Polydara made most appeal in the Mandarin Handicap Chase (2.25), having obviously needed his reappearance very badly. He’s got a good chance on the best of his form from last season.
Thyme Hill has impressed so far and he can win the Challow Hurdle (3.00) with the soft ground going against The Cashel Man. The whole field looks useful though.
Nothing made appeal at Limerick on a great card, with the fancied horses in the feature Tim Duggan Memorial Handicap Chase (2.50).
Advice – Newbury
2 pts win Polydora, Betway Mandarin Handicap Chase (5/1 general)
Advice – Leopardstown
1 pt each/way The Storyteller, Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (22/1 Betfair, Paddy Power)
1 pt each/way A Great View, Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (11/1 general)
2 pts win Road To Respect, Savills Chase (9/2 general)
Sunday 29th December
We focus on Leopardstown today for the last day of a brilliant festival. The Neville Hotels Novice Chase (1.55) looks an absolute belter. There’s good reason to fancy either Battleoverdoyen or Minella Indo but Champagne Classic’s novice hurdling form was better than either of those and he’s too big in comparison to the front two. Two runs over fences on his return from over two years off appear to have done the world of good for him based on two very solid wins so far this season and if he’s recovered peak form – and those showings suggest he’s close – then he’s every chance of getting a lot closer to the top two, promising as they are. A chance bet for the RSA is also advised, as he’s currently 25/1 and would be shorter if he landed a small upset here.
Carefully Selected, who was third in the 3-mile novice hurdle behind Minella Indo last season and an impressive winner at Fairyhouse on his debut, is another big player and one assumes he will beat Lord Schnitzel once again.
The Matheson Hurdle (2.30) is really tricky to evaluate. I’m of the opinion that Klassical Dream is better than he showed on return and if returned to his best than he’s the right favourite. That said, Coeur Sublime looked improved on his seasonal debut. Is it possible that last year’s winner Sharjah has been overpriced? He could strip a lot fitter for his comeback and ground that’s described as yielding should suit him too. I would fancy Klassical Dream – who improved rapidly leading into the Festival last year – for the Champion still but 4’s and 7/2’s doesn’t enthuse.
Stormy Ireland is a crack mare who can be too good for her stablemates in the Advent Insurance Irish EBF Mares Hurdle (1.20).
The Pigsback.com Maiden Hurdle (12.45) is another fascinating contest for the notebook but there might be some value in Cobbler’s Way. He managed to find a graded performer in the shape of Andy Dufresne on his hurdling debut at Navan but was nearly six lengths clear of the rest and Henry De Bromhead, Rachael Blackmore and Gigginstown have had a tremendous festival.
The notebook will be out at Limerick, where a quality card includes a Rated Novice Hurdle (12.00), Mares Novice Chase (12.35) and the Irish Independent Hurdle (1.45).
2 pts win Cobbler’s Way, 12.45 Leopardstown (10/3 general)
3 pts win Stormy Ireland, 1.20 Leopardstown (5/6 general)
2 pts win Champagne Classic, 1.55 Leopardstown (5/1 general)
1 pt win Sharjah, 2.30 Leopardstown (4/1 general)