Another fine Saturday of racing, which parts look tricky to solve, so fingers crossed these selections will work a treat!
If you read Wednesday’s piece then there were two winners (Jam Jar 3/1 and Milgen Bay 7/1) plus a 5/1 third in Magnus Maximus, who was well supported.
We’ll head to the action where I’ll be looking between the best of the action from Wetherby and Ascot.
A Listed Mares’ Hurdle is where we start today’s preview. Yesterday at Wetherby conditions looked testing with the ground described as soft.
Intense Tango is the selection for this contest. Firstly she has fitness on her side after featuring on the flat for her last four runs, so she shouldn’t have a problem. In the book she has some good form and won a Grade 2 Mares’ Hurdle at Doncaster where she jumped beautifully. She was then placed in a Grade 2 when coming up against the boys; that was won by Glingerburn, who should be winning at Ayr this afternoon, and Bristol De Mai was second and he was second over fences yesterday. There is plenty to like about her chances and as a four-year-old can still improve. However the record books don’t look too promising – in the last ten renewals only one winner has carried this penalised weight and that was Une Artiste.
The main danger is likely to be Harry Fry’s Blue Buttons. When she was last seen at Cheltenham in April she was beaten by an improving and a very well handicapped rival in The Govaness. She is likely to handle this sort of ground after winning on heavy ground at Wincanton but this looks to be a race to get her fit with the plan for the season is for her to go chasing.
Nicky Henderson’s Ma Filleule just looks too short in the market. She returns to hurdles but dropping back down in trip to 2m could find her out and prove too sharp for her on her return to action. She is ground versatile but after he break is likely to require this run.
Advice: Intense Tango (9/2 each-way)
The William Hill Handicap Hurdle is a Listed race and this is the race where my strongest fancy for the day runs.
Nabucco was rated as high as 109 on the flat for John Gosden and since switching to John Ferguson to go over hurdles he is two wins from three starts. He was beaten in a maiden hurdle by Cardinal Palace before running away with two novice hurdle races. Those races have been over distances of around 2m2f+, so this drop back to 2m could make him vulnerable, especially as he has made a few slight jumping errors, which he may not be able to afford here.
For me Jolly’s Cracked It looks cracking value. He is two from two over course and distance with both coming with Nick Scholfield aboard. The good ground shouldn’t be a problem and there are plenty of ticks in boxes for him in this contest. He was second to L’Ami Serge in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle, which was a good effort but he was outclassed by one that went on to finish fourth in the Supreme. He was a staying on fifth in the Grade 3 Betfair Hurdle and could be one to catch fresh. Harry Fry is lining hi up for the Ladbroke in December, so this could prove to be a pipe-opener however there could still be more to come from him around a track he likes.
Despite winning this race last year Sign Of A Victory may have work to do giving quite a bit of weight away to his rivals. Prior to winning this last year he ran at Ayr in April finishing second and this April he finished second in the Grade 2 Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr, so Nicky Henderson is sending him down a similar route. Cloonacool is race fit after winning a Listed race over a Market Rasen where he travelled nicely and asserted himself on proceedings. He’s only gone up 4lb for that success and could make his presence felt.
Advice: Jolly’s Cracked It (7/1 each-way)
The Charlie Hall Chase is the feature race of the day and despite a small field is still is one full of quality yet I’m struggling to find a strong angle into the race.
Only two horses have won this carrying 11-10 in the last two years and one of them was Menorah last year. This time around he’s only carrying 2lb more than when victorious plus he won on the back of a break, so on that he should be thereabouts. People have held question marks about him on this ground but he chased home Silviniaco Conti in the Betfair Chase on ground described as soft therefore it wouldn’t be a major concern to me. He’s a lovely horse and can make a bold bid to become only the fourth horse to win this race in consecutive years.
Dynaste has had the benefit of a run over at Auteuil where he raced keenly and failed to make an impression only to finish ninth. On the best of his form he has a chance, especially with the first time cheekpieces on. He’s better off in the weights compared to some of the rivals that have seen him off previously but this grey isn’t one I could fully trust. Conor O’Farrell takes the ride instead of Tom Scudamore who suffered a fall at Huntingdon.
David Pipe’s other charge Ballynagour is hard to weigh up. He won a Grade 2 over hurdles in France to get his confidence back after a fall. At Aintree in April he pushed Silviniaco Conti all the way only going down by a head in the Grade 1 Betfair Bowl. If able too reach that sort of form when fresh then he’d be my pick of the Pipe pair. He is also in the first time hood.
Oliver Sherwood was very optimistic about Grand National winner Many Clouds in his Racing Post stable tour. We know he acts well on soft ground as proven when he won the Hennessy at Newbury. He’s versatile about the trip and is likely to win races this season. He has to defy a 10lb penalty but he’s a solid jumper and makes very few mistakes, which makes him hard to rule out. He’s previously won coming back after longer breaks and represents a trainer with a 25% strike rate in the last 14-days.
Holywell is another in this line-up that I struggle to weigh up. His record suggests he is more of a horse for the spring with wins coming from January to April. He is likely to require this run but if able to replicate either of his Betfred Bowl or Gold Cup runs then he could go fairly close under Richie McLernon. Colin Tizzard has talked up the chances of Cue Card, who has had his problems in the past and due to that it does leave the question regarding trust. His best form came back in 2013 on soft ground when winning the Ascot Chase, the Ryanair and Betfair Chase. He is the likeliest front-runner and that could play to his strengths on this ground; if given a soft lead then he could be hard to peg back.
Advice: Menorah (13/2 each-way)
The Sodexo Gold Cup sees two returning winners in Houblon Des Obeaux and What A Warrior. The latter won it last year and is prominent in the betting for this renewal. However at this stage he had already had a run under his belt, which isn’t the case this year. He has proven himself and he is versatile tactically however I feel there is value elsewhere.
Alan King is having a good time of things of late, with a 27% strike rate, and you tend to know that his horses will be ready first time up. He is responsible for Ned Stark who heads the betting. He was a winner of the Grade 2 Towton Novices’ Chase in January just prevailing over Kaki De La Pree. After that he was eighth in a Grade 3 Handicap Chase at the Festival for which he has been dropped 2lb. Still lightly raced and could have more to offer this campaign.
There are two that look to offer some value to take against the field. Firstly is Paul Nicholls’ Virak. He is only a six-year-old and I am expecting to see more from him throughout this year. He’s been impressive over the larger obstacles in smaller fields. The fact he won fresh at Fontwell last October in a three-runner race suggests he does go well fresh, which is a boost after 210-days off. The only slight concern maybe the good ground with most of his best form coming with cut in it. Overall he’s run with credit in some nice races and his win at Doncaster in December received a boost as Wakanda won at Wetherby.
Le Reve is the other one that I feel is slightly overpriced in the market. Lucy Wadham is another trainer on the hot list having had four winners from 11 starters (36% strike rate). A further positive is that he won after a 246-day absence last year therefore coming here fresh isn’t a worry. He ended last season with two placed efforts in two Grade 3 chases; one over 3m5f so does stay. His best form comes at Sandown, so the Ascot track shouldn’t be a problem as both are right-handed. He may need to find a bit more but he could still be progressive early on this season and may be worth catching early.
Jamie Snowden’s Present View is one with fitness on his side after featuring at Chepstow 20-days ago finishing fourth of nine. However he made a few jumping errors that day and in January at Cheltenham soon weakened in the closing stages, which raise a few stamina doubts, so for me it is best worth looking elsewhere.
Advice: Virak (9/1 each-way)
Le Reve (12/1 each-way)
Good Luck & Happy Halloween!