Happy New Year one and all. We welcomed in 2016 with some very good action yesterday at Cheltenham where Camping Ground and Village Vic were two impressive winners.
For this year I’m aiming to blog more often and fingers crossed we’ll both reap the rewards.
The Boxing Day blog saw some success with Cue Card leaving it late to win the King George at 4/1. Unfortunately yesterday there was the sad news of the passing of his owner Bob Bishop.
Also at Kempton Tea For Two was a winner over fences in good style and at Wolverhampton Dougan was only second but has again come out and won since. The latter is definitely one to carry forward as he looks relatively well-handicapped.
Only four meetings today with Sandown the stand out with the Tolworth Hurdle the feature, which looks disappointing on paper. So on to the racing!
An early start with the first race on the card north of the border. Lake View Lad and Huehuecoytle both take up a large percentage of the market but I’m taking them both on. The former was a faller on his hurdles debut at Carlisle well the latter for the in-form Keith Dalgleish yard was second on bottomless ground at Sedgefield where the form probably wasn’t the strongest. It would be Huehuecoytle of the pair that would take most interest but there is one worth taking a chance on debut.
The Dutchman has his first run for Sandy Thomson after joining from the Irish point-to-point scene. His last race was nearly a year ago but it is that run that gives me the belief he could stake a claim in this contest. He was beaten by 1l bu Clondaw Cian, who has since moved to Suzy Smith winning twice and finishing fourth in a Grade 2 Novices’ Hurdle. If that form stands up then at the prices he looks too big and should handle this heavy ground with both point-to-point starts coming on similar ground.
Mount Beckham has had plenty of chances in Ireland but looks a danger based on his run at Leopardstown behind Heck Thomas. The trainer Miss Cannon has booked Andrew Lynch to take the ride suggesting they mean business with this son of Desert King.
Advice: The Dutchman (7/1 each-way)
This nine-runner Handicap Chase looks an intriguing race on paper where you could argue a case for plenty of these.
Pearls Legend is fairly consistent and won at Cheltenham three weeks ago. He asserted himself well in the closing stages to beat Going Concern and suggested that he won it a bit cosily. A 6lb rise may not stop him if he’s in a similar vein of form. Arthur’s Oak was another winner last time out and was victorious at Haydock on heavy ground. The eight-year-old was able to dictate from the front that day and scored comfortably by 17l. The handicapper has responded with a 17l hike in the weights. If you take form literally then you’ll see that Pearls Legend got the better of Arthur’s Oak back in March. That day they were both on the same mark off 117 and today again they are on the same mark – this time 139.
Grey Gold needed a career best effort last time to win at Newbury but he showed there’s life still in him yet. He’s up another 6lb and carries top weight, which could be too much for this good looking grey at 11-years-old. Barrakilla probably needed the run at Taunton last time to blow away the cobwebs however has something to prove over this 2m trip and in time could be one to follow in a big Handicap Chase, especially off this sort of mark.
The pick though is Micky Hammond’s Just Cameron. The nine-year-old proved himself to be a lovely fluent jumper last year in Novice Chase and could have a good season ahead of him. This is his first run for 247-days, which may be a slight concern but he has won fresh previously and represents a yard in a bit of form at the moment. He wasn’t beaten by far when taking on Un De Sceaux in the Grade 1 Novice Chase and has form against Duke Of Navan, which looks useful in the book. If fully tuned up he could be over priced.
Advice: Just Cameron (7/1 each-way)
The last race on the Sandown card is a competitive Handicap Hurdle where the unexposed See The Rock heads the market.
This Jonjo O’Neill horse has only had three starts over obstacles and was a winner by a narrow margin two starts ago at Market Rasen. He only has to carry 10st here and Richard Johnson gets takes over in the reigns, which makes him an interesting proposition despite being out of the handicap. The horse he beat at Market Rasen was Final Nudge, who has since finished second in a Grade 2 Novice Hurdle, which could show some good signs here.
Melodic Rendezvous is back in handicap company, so this looks more realistic, and should relish conditions on this heavy ground. Back in this sort of race could see him make his presence felt and should be able to shoulder top weight. Cardinal Palace went down by a short head at Chepstow in a Grade 2 Novices’ Hurdle last time. Ruby Walsh is down to take the ride, which catches the eye and so is the drop down in trip. However the biggest concern is the ground.
Rayvin Black won this race last year for Oliver Sherwood off a mark of 119. He’s now rated 137 and may need a soft lead if seen to his best. He was second to Ebony Express in the Grade 3 Imperial Cup in March and I’m sticking with that form here.
Dr Richard Newland’s charge is one of the outsiders of the field. His recent form may not look great but he’s been pitched into some good quality races being beaten by Old Guard in November and then Lil Rockerfeller over course and distance last month. We saw Lil Rockerfeller yesterday chase home the smart-looking Camping Ground. As pointed out he won the Imperial Cup over course and distance; he is racing off a 4lb higher mark here and should have a strong pace to aim at. On top of that is the fact he is proven on heavy ground therefore could run his race and get involved at a big price.
Advice: Ebony Express (14/1 each-way)
The Tolworth Hurdle (14:25 Sandown) is a no bet race for me. There are just five runners with Yorkhill the odds-on favourite for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh. He won his Maiden Hurdle well at Punchestown but some of those races in Ireland lack depth but he has the room for improvement. O O Seven has strong form in the book after winning here four weeks ago beating stablemate Premier Bond, who has won since. On the ratings Welsh Shadow needs to find more on ratings but was a good second to Yanworth two starts ago. The form of the Skelton yard would be a slight concern. Agrapart is in my tracker and could be open to further progress. He could take up the running for Lizzie Kelly and could be difficult to pass if settling better than he did at Aintree.