There is some decent racing on today with Cheltenham pointers, as ever at this time of the year. Plus two valuable handicap chases to cast the eye over.
Last weekend we started with a winner in Yala Enki, who was put up at 7/2, and Billy Dutton rewarded each-way backers when finishing second at Ascot after being strongly supported in the market. He was advised at 12/1 but went off and returned 6/1.
Today we have the Grade 3 Betbright Chase and the Eider Chase to mull over from Kempton and Newcastle respectively.
A three-runner Novices’ Chase is a strange place to start but there is a point I’ll make for the future.
Seeyouatmidnight is a short odds-on price for this contest where he has to beat a horse rated 21lb inferior, which he should do head in chest. He won a Grade 2 race at Cheltenham when last seen and the horse he beat that day has since won a race at the same level since. For me he is another Cheltenham project where he is 12/1 best price for the RSA Chase.
Advice: Seeyouatmidnight – RSA Chase (12/1 Each-Way)
Just a quick word on this Adonis Juvenile Hurdle, which has Grade 2 status, where Gibralfaro is the favourite and definitely the one to beat. Alan King’s charge has won both starts for the yard since moving from France. He has a course win, which came on debut, and his most recent win at Ascot was franked when the second Connetable came out to win a Listed race at Sandown.
Three French bred newcomers are unknown quantities and they are Khezerabad, Pilansberg and Zubayr. Paul Nicholls saddles the latter two of those three but most of the talk this week has focused on Zubayr. The trio would have to be very good to beat Gibralfaro on their debuts and would become live Triumph contenders if they did so.
The one that could prove overpriced is Wolfcatcher. He won on stable debut for John Ferguson at Market Rasen before going down by a narrow margin over the same track and trip when beaten by a useful sort in Kasakh Noir, who may be underestimated. Coming to this Kempton course could suit him better than Market Rasen, as he is a naturally speedy type.
Advice: Wolfcatcher without the favourite (13/2 – Paddy Power)
The four-mile Eider Chase is the jumps feature of the Newcastle season and we see three previous winners of this race line-up in the field of 17.
Wyck Hill won the race in 2014 and is back on the same mark as that day. However he is now a 12-year-old and hasn’t been since for 322-days, so is likely to need this run. Portrait King was victorious in 2012. He’s now in the care of Patrick Griffin but he hasn’t run with much sparkle since falling when going well in the Grand National. Milborough aims to defend his crown but the ten-year-old is higher in the weights and has been well beaten on his four starts since then.
There are two that I’m looking at for this test of stamina. Firstly Phillip Hobbs’ Woodford County is one that has showed some useful form in staying races. He was third in this last year before going on to finish third in the Midlands Grand National. In December he a slog of a 3m7f contest at Exeter. He did disappoint when beaten by 22l in the Welsh Grand National but this was one of his targets for the season. The nine-year-old will need to put in a career best off this mark but he has stamina and looks well weighted.
I’m quite interested by is Cork Citizen. David Pipe won this back in 2008 with Comply Or Die before going onto win the Grand National. This eight-year-old has only had one start for the yard when running with encouragement on desperate ground at Taunton at the beginning of the month. His mark looks fair on what he achieved that day and with the 5lb claim of David Noonan he could is a fascinating runner. When trained by Eugene O’Sullivan in Ireland he won a point-to-point over 3m4f and has a profile that suggests he should see out the trip. He race lazily at times at Taunton but stayed on well to nearly grab Sonny The One close home. It’s worth mentioning that Pipe has a 21% strike rate when saddling runners at this track (3-14).
Lackamon can race lazily but Danny Cook gave him a fantastic ride when he ran down Alto Des Mottes last time to win the North Yorkshire Grand National. If on a going day he could be a contender. Rocking Blues looks well ahead of his mark on the basis of his second consecutive win nine-days ago. He’s a lightly raced 11-year-old but this race has more depth than either of the two he’s won. Plus he is yet to race over 3m, so stamina is taken on trust.
Advice: Woodford County (12/1 Each-Way)
Cork Citizen (14/1 Each-Way)
The Grade 2 Dovecote Novices’ Hurdle has only five-runner and is a race where I’m getting another favourite to go in.
Winter Escape is two from two and Alan King’s charge can extend his run to three wins here. Both of his wins have come at Doncaster and he looked fairly smart last time – he cruised around tracking the leader Bantam and jumped slickly. With more potential improvement to come he looks the most likely winner here. Keeping an eye towards Cheltenham I have had a small stakes each-way bet on him for the Supreme, which he is currently best priced at 25/1.
Tactically you’d expect Paul Nicholls’ Marracudja to take the field along with Winter Escape stalking him around.
If you fancied a forecast or bet without the favourite then Welsh Shadow would be the one. His form looks rock solid. He was second to Yanworth on his hurdling debut before going on to win a Listed race at Haydock next time out. In his latest effort 56-days ago he finished fourth behind Yorkhill in the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle where the second and third have since strengthened the form by winning; even the horse that pulled up in that race has won since.
Advice: Winter Escape to beat Welsh Shadow (forecast)
Welsh Shadow without the favourite (6/4 – Paddy Power)
Last year’s Betbright Chase was won by Rocky Creek in a season where Paul Nicholls dominated the Saturday proceedings. The Ditcheat handler saddles the ten-year-old plus two stablemates in today’s renewal.
However I’m willing to take all three on. Rocky Creek was disappointing when a well beaten fourth at Newbury last time but Nicholls has reached for the first-time blinkers to go with the tongue-tie that wasn’t on the last day. Virak always runs well but has found winning difficult of late albeit when bumping into the progressive Wakanda. He is on to consider for a place. Ruben Cotter hasn’t been seen for 323-days but don’t let the absence put you off. He won fresh in March last year at this track however he is 8lb higher in a much deeper race.
A solid bet looks to be Le Reve, who followed Rocky Creek home last year. Lucy Wadham’s runner is a bit of a cliff horse of mine and he returned to the winners enclosure last time when winning at Sandown. The blinkers are retained, as is Harry Skelton in the saddle. He is on a career high mark but his love for this track should help him. His figures around this track are one win and two seconds from three starts and he has a good record in the month of February. In terms of weights it is similar to last year with Rocky Creek but if this son of Milan can get into a nice rhythm then he could look a decent bet.
Ziga Boy comes here on the back of a double at Doncaster, including the SkyBet Chase when trainer Alan King had an across the card five-timer. The change of track plus his rising mark could be his undoing in this contest. Tenor Nivernais has placed on his last three runs in Graded company however he is 20lb higher than his last win and there are a few stamina doubts. Thomas Brown has to be respected. He comes here as a novice only having had three starts over the larger obstacles – winning two. He bolted up last time out in a weaker race than this but remains unexposed over fences. Harry Fry and Noel Fehily won this race with Opening Batsman three years ago.
Theatre Guide is another worth considering. His runs this campaign have been encouraging with a third to the progressive Wakanda on his seasonal debut before finishing second in the Hennessy. Last time out he ran was a distant third but the top-class pair of Smad Place and Many Clouds. He has the stamina in abundance and if they go off too quickly it’ll suit this nine-year-old. His last win, of sorts, came here in a Graduation Chase when dead-heating with Fox Appeal in 2014 – Annacotty was in third. Colin Tizzard’s yard is in good form currently and I wouldn’t be surprised to see that form continue here but let’s hope it doesn’t peak too soon!
Advice: Le Reve (9/1 Each-Way)
Theatre Guide (9/1 Each-Way)