Friday, October 30, 2015

The Charlie Hall Chase 2015

Personally I've never felt the Charlie Hall a particularly lucky race; out of interest I looked up the blog's selections for this Wetherby showpiece from 2006 onwards.

The list makes for slightly better reading than I'd anticipated - seven selections, two winners and a profit of 3.5 points:

2006 No selection;
2007 State Of Play 15/8f, Second;
2008 State Of Play 5/2f, Wins;
2009 Ollie Magern 85/40, Third;
2010 Nacarat 6/1, Wins;
2011 Time For Rupert 11/8f, Second;
2012 Planet Of Sound 5/1, Fifth;
2013 Benefficient 8/1, Fourth;
2014 No selection.

Seven go to post for this year's renewal which has a particularly open feel to it. In the past ten years the favourite has obliged on three occasions but only two have carried 11-10 to victory - Our Vic (2006) and Menorah (2014). In the same time period no horse older than nine has won.  

On official ratings Dynaste looks something of a shoo-in in receipt of ten pounds from the likes of Many Clouds, Menorah and Sam Winner.

Of course, that's only half the story. I've had my fingers burned more than once with David Pipe's charge in the past; the grey is the only one in the field to come to this with a recent run under the belt but, that said, it was a poor effort over hurdles in France. His optimum trip is probably around two and a half miles, a comment that also applies to market rival Cue Card.

Colin Tizzard's charge had his stamina limitations ruthlessly exposed in the 2013 running of the King George at Kempton when he was outstayed by Silviniaco Conti (Dynaste well beaten in fourth). He missed Cheltenham in March and underwent 'corrective surgery on a small wind problem' before finishing behind Don Cossack at Aintree and Punchestown, sporting first-time cheekpieces and a tongue-tie in Ireland. The cheekpieces are omitted tomorrow.

The arrival of the rain will inconvenience Holywell more than most. I bet this one each-way in the Gold Cup where he ran a fine race to finish fourth on ground officially described as soft.

Grand National winner Many Clouds and Sam Winner are likely to relish underfoot conditions - the former has the Hennessy as his target.

Ballynagour's head second to Silviniaco Conti in the Betfred Bowl at Aintree in April gives him every chance but I've never been convinced by Menorah's jumping.

Had the rain stayed away, Holywell was to be the selection but the runners obliged to concede weight now have to do so on soft ground.

I'll side with Cue Card, hoping the breathing operation in the spring has helped the cause; the stable won the opener on today's card with Royal Vacation.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Brief notes from Ludlow's second October meeting 2015

I've only just returned home after a day's racing at Ludlow on Thursday so unfortunately I haven't had time to study form for Cheltenham's Saturday card.

Nonetheless I'll be interested to see how Michael Scudamore's Grand Annual winner Next Sensation fares in the opener while Parlour Games, second in the Neptune at the Festival, tries his hand over the larger obstacles at 4.30.

In recent years Johns Spirit has become something of a standing dish at the Costwolds track but connections have re-routed their charge to Aintree for Sunday's Old Roan Chase - it's difficult to see that particular venue playing to his strengths.

I include some brief notes from Thursday's meeting in Shropshire; three winners meant we walked away with a reasonable profit but we benefitted from a huge slice of luck in the finale - details below.

The official going was recorded as good; the day before saw some considerable rainfall.

In the opener Red Hammer, a 105,000 euros purchase from France, was sent off the 8/13 favourite. When push cam to shove, Nicky Henderson's charge found disappointingly little and was beaten some 22 lengths behind 16/1 chance Wolf Of Windlesham. I watched this race from the stand roof; the gent standing next to me had obtained 22/1 about the winner. The filly Fast Scat (33/1) did not handle the preliminaries well, looked as though she would plant herself at the start and then took a strong hold in rear. By the fourth flight she had started to work her way through the field and led after the sixth. The winner passed her coming to the penultimate flight.

An impressive performance from Leaderofthedance (5/2) in the mares' novices' hurdle. She made all and had her rivals in trouble coming off the home bend. There was a quick flash of the tail after the last but she ran on well to the line. Fizzy Dancer looked slow going to post and was slower still at the obstacles - she was practically beaten after the first flight and showed flashes of temperament during the race. 

Arzal (4/9f) brought the best form to the table for the novice chase at 3.10; he got the job done but it looked pretty hairy at times. He went to post like a bullet and set off in the same vein; going forward he will need to settle better. Sam Twiston-Davies carried our money on Lyric Street; this one attempted to keep tabs on the runaway leader but went quickly backwards four out and came home in his own time. Murrayana won a handicap hurdle here back in April so you could see why connections opted to start his chasing career at this venue; he jumped very badly left at several flights.

Kim Bailey's Ascotdeux Nellerie (8/11f) was the wager in the 3.45. In receipt of seven pounds from nearest market rival Angus Glens, he came away after the last to collect the spoils but it wasn't all plain-sailing and there were a couple of occasions during the race where he had to be ridden to hold his position. We had a saver on Golden Heritage (5/1) - his Sedgefield run looked too bad to be true, having previously come to grief behind Roadie Joe (wins Persian War) when running well. Bang there three out, Golden Heritage faded into third but this looked a better effort.

The handicap chase at 4.15 didn't look the best of races beforehand. Racing from the front Butlergrove King (15/8f) got into a decent rhythm early on and came home a deserved winner. I'd identified Kasbaldi and Victor Leudorum as potential wagers - the former was declared a non-runner so the latter carried the money and started to go backwards after the tenth. There were bits and pieces for Charlie Mann's charge - I briefly saw 8/1, obtained 7s and he was generally a 5/1 chance just before the off.

The two market leaders both unseated in the amateur riders' chase which left the door open for twelve-year-old Cool Bob (7/1) to win for the first time in 57 attempts... My wife had selected this one; needless to say I had no money on.

The opening shows for the finale looked distorted - 5/4 Makethedifference, 5/1 the field. We played Breaking Bits and eventual winner Watt Broderick but that's only half the story. It's not every day of the week you see a three-year-old running in a handicap hurdle - Impulsive American had taken a crashing fall at Huntingdon the last time and came into this sporting first-time cheekpieces. The aids certainly seemed to have done the trick as David Pipe's charge cruised to the front off the home turn and was seven lengths to the good coming to the final flight. A terrible mistake at the last allowed Watt Broderick his chance and he duly took it. Talking with a layer afterwards, he told me that 'I was a lucky boy' and that he'd backed the Pipe horse himself.

Marvellous stuff - a fine afternoon's sport in glorious autumnal sunshine.

Going forward, I'll monitor a tip I received in the evening for Henry Daly's Tara Mist.

To finish, a story that has slipped under my radar - owners Paul and Clare Rooney have moved their entire string from Donald McCain's yard.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Lazing on a Sunday afternoon...

Ever so slowly the National Hunt season is clicking into gear.

Tony McCoy retired in April but Richard Johnson didn't - earlier this afternoon 'Dickie' recorded his 100th winner this term aboard He's A Bully at Wincanton.

There are jumps cards at Stratford, Market Rasen and Ffos Las tomorrow but Kempton's card on Sunday is the highlight.

The New One returns to action in the Listed Hurdle at 4.25 and he'll be long odds on to repeat his victory of a year ago.

I backed him against Faugheen for the Champion Hurdle in March but he was something of a disappointment in fifth, beaten over eight lengths. He's certainly not the biggest of individuals but I'm wondering whether connections will opt to go down the novice chase route at some point.

A quick word for Stephanie Frances in this race - she finished ahead of Bantam (second), Midnight Jazz (third) and Quiet Candid (fifth) in a mares' novices' listed hurdle at Cheltenham on her penultimate start - the named trio renew rivalry in Stratford's opener tomorrow with Bantam weighted to confirm placings.

Despite carrying a penalty Oceane is likely to prove popular in the opening juvenile hurdle at 2.15. Rated 88 on the Flat, she caught the eye on her hurdling debut at Fontwell, jumping neatly and drawing away from her rivals after the last.

Looking for some value, the Listed novices' hurdle at 3.20 has caught my attention.

John Ferguson's Maputo is rated 138 and sets a high standard having won three on the bounce. There's no obvious reason why he shouldn't confirm Huntingdon form with Regulation although this one obliged at odds of 9/4 at Wincanton today and may not take up Sunday's engagement.

Both San Benedeto and Midnight Shot have made all to win in the past and may well be keen to 'get on with things' on their seasonal debuts which could play into the hands of Swansea Mile.

Dan Skelton's charge faces no easy task conceding weight all round but on his first run in this country three weeks ago the gelding finished two and a quarter lengths third behind Cloonacool in a listed handicap hurdle at Market Rasen. That effort looks all the more noteworthy as the form book records Swansea Mile 'clipped heels and stumbled badly after 3 out' yet was 'pressing for 2nd flat'.

To me it looks the best form on offer. That said, we can assume John Ferguson will know what's required as Maputo's stablemate Broughton finished a neck behind Swansea Mile in fourth (and then went out to win a Class 2 handicap hurdle at Chepstow last Sunday). 

Plenty of ifs and buts; I'll take an interest in Swansea Mile provided he's priced up 4/1 or bigger.

Friday, October 09, 2015

A chance at Chepstow

Tomorrow Wales face Australia at Twickenham in the Rugby World Cup while the Welsh football team travel to Zenica requiring just one point against Bosnia-Herzegovina to ensure a place in the finals of a major tournament for the first time since 1958.

Small wonder then that Chepstow's weekend cards have passed under the radar.

For many in years gone by, this meet signified the start of the National Hunt season 'proper'.

Philip Hobbs' Sausalito Sunrise goes in Saturday's feature chase at 5.05. On his seasonal debut last year the gelding won the novice chase on this card (Sego Success fourth) but was subsequently beaten twice by David Pipe's Kings Palace. A strapping course and distance winner, he would probably benefit from further rain but hails from a yard with a 38.46% win strike rate this month and is priced up 4/1 favourite this evening.

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls saddles Cowards Close, an unexposed type who has done most of his winning on right-handed tracks . Quoting from The Guardian's horse by horse guide to the stable:

'Chasing has been the making of this horse, who won the Royal Artillery Gold Cup at Sandown in February. He’s got loads of ability but he’s quite fragile and he hated the soft ground at Sandown that day. He had a few minor problems after that, so he didn’t run again but he’ll be ready in October to run at Chepstow or Cheltenham. If we can keep him sound, he’s definitely handicapped to win.'

Of the thirteen declared just four have seen a racecourse in the past two months - Standing Ovation (winner of a Listed chase at Uttoxeter on his penultimate start), Buachaill Alainn (winner of a Class 3 chase at Worcester in August), Garrahalish (third behind Dursey Sound at Warwick eighteen days ago) and Terminal (pulled up in Dursey Sound's Warwick race); those runners may have a fitness edge.

I was tempted by the Nicholls horse but the 6/1 available is eclipsed by the 14/1 Coral offer about Peter Bowen's course and distance winner Buachaill Alainn; I'll take an each-way interest and hope the step up in class doesn't prove his undoing.

Sunday's card at the Welsh track should see Emerging Talent take the Persian War Novices' Hurdle at 4.30 while Sire De Grugy didn't made the final declarations for the feature chase at 3.55 but Colin Tizzard's Third Intention stands his ground.

A quick footnote to finish - I shall watch Arco (Mr Ross Turner up, claiming seven) with some interest in tomorrow's concluding bumper at Hexham. Writing in the Weekender, handler Philip Kirby explains:

'She was as wild as a bear to break, but hats off to Ross Turner who has put hours in on her and has helped her to mature so much. She is a nice sort...I would love Ross to be able to ride her after he made her what she is.'

Good luck to the both of them!