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Friday 24 October 2014

Old Roan Chase Preview

The final Group 1 race of the season, the Racing Post Trophy, takes place at Doncaster on Saturday but, given the high percentage of winning favourites in recent years, we’ve decided to look a little further afield for this week’s selections. Over at Aintree, the Betfred Monet’s Garden Old Roan Chase features a dozen runners, only two of whom have run recently, so it’s the sort of race that could throw up a surprise winner.

Viva Colonia (33/1) is 4lb out of the handicap proper but, even so, is still only 4lb higher in the weights than when third, beaten 2½ lengths, in this race last year. That form entitles him, once again, to beat the fourth, Mr Moonshine, the sixth, Wishfull Thinking, and the seventh, Edgardo Sol and he should be fairly straight, having had a spin on the Flat at Newcastle earlier this month. He hasn’t won for a while and a drop of rain probably wouldn’t hurt his chance, but that’s all factored into his price and his chance is, perhaps, not quite as forlorn as the bookmakers would have you believe.

Fellow ‘rag’ Lucky William (25/1) was a Grade 1 winner over fences at Punchestown at the end of the 2011/12 season, but wasn’t seen again until finishing last of eight, beaten 65 lengths, behind Simenon, over hurdles at Tipperary in July. Thomas Cooper’s 10-year-old got no further than the third fence when sent back over the larger obstacles in the Grade 2 PWC Champion Chase at Punchestown three weeks ago, but it’s interesting that connections are persevering with him and he’s a rare runner on this side of the Irish Sea for the Co. Kerry trainer.

Bold Sir Brian (20/1) was mooted as a possible Cheltenham Gold Cup contender after winning the Sportingbet Future Stars Chase at Sandown during the 2012/13 season, but his form tailed off afterwards and he returns from an absence of 554 days. He’s clearly had his problems, but he’s dropped 6lb in the weights and it’s worth remembering that subsequent Hennessy Gold Cup winner Triolo D’Alene (rec. 2lb) could finish only third, beaten 19 lengths, at Sandown. Obviously, the case for him is by no means watertight, but he’s won after a break several times in the past and it’s probably too soon to be writing him off just yet.

The Old Roan Chase promises, as usual, to be a fascinating and informative contest, but our three against the field this week are, in no particular order, Viva Colonia (33/1 generally available), Lucky William (25/1 generally available) and Bold Sir Brian (a standout 20/1 with Paddy Power. If those three happen to fill the first places, it might be a little while until you hear from us again! Good luck!!

Thursday 16 October 2014

Balmoral Handicap Preview

QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot is typically more about quality than quantity. However, the last race on Saturday’s card, the Balmoral Handicap, has a maximum field size of 30 and provides us with another opportunity to unearth, or at least try to unearth, a long-priced winner.

Hawkeyethenoo (33/1) won over 1 mile 100 yards at Beverley as a three-year-old, when in the care of Michael Easterby, but has not been tried over further than 7 furlongs in the five years since his transfer to Jim Goldie. However, the eight-year-old has suggested on recent starts – particularly his penultimate start, over 7 furlongs, at Ascot – that a step up in distance could be what he needs at this stage of his career. He’s only won once with ‘soft’ in the going description, but has run well enough on soft going to suggest that testing underfoot conditions at the Berkshire track won’t hinder his chance. From a handicapping perspective, he’s 4lb lower in the weights than when edging out Imperial Guest in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood two seasons ago, so a belated return to the winners’ enclosure at Ascot may not be entirely out of the question.

Farlow (50/1) is by the top-class Australian sprinter Exceed And Excel, but nevertheless has some decent form over a mile, including on soft going, and may have been underestimated by the bookmakers. Richard Fahey’s six-year-old is just 1lb higher in the weights than when finishing fourth, beaten 3½ lengths, behind Brae Hill in the William Hill Spring Mile at Doncaster in March and ran his best race for a while when third, over 7 furlongs, at Ayr nine days ago. He’s the least fancied of three entries from Richard Fahey’s Musley Bank yard but, thankfully, he doesn’t know that and he could go well at extravagant odds.

German import Empire Storm (33/1) ran his best race since joining Michael Attwater when second in the Totepool Challenge Cup, over 7 furlongs, at Ascot two weeks ago and is another who looks overpriced in the ante post market. His third, beaten 2¼ lengths, behind Custom Cut in a Listed race, over 1 mile 67, at Windsor in July makes good reading in light of the subsequent exploits of David O’Meara’s gelding and, although 2lb higher in the weights this time, looks far from impossibly handicapped. A testing mile on heavy or soft going should play to his strengths and, although he hasn’t won for over two years, it’s surprising that he’s such a big price.

Anyway, for richer for poorer, our three against the field this week are, in no particular order, Hawkeyethenoo (33/1 generally available), Farlow (50/1 with Coral) and Empire Storm (33/1 generally available). Of course, if you’re in search of even bigger prices, it may be worth having a dabble on Betfair, or the Tote, on Saturday. Good luck!

Thursday 9 October 2014

Cesarewitch Preview

Two favourites, Detroit City in 2006 and Darley Sun in 2009, have won the Cesarewitch in the last ten years, but winners at 66/1 (twice), 50/1, 25/1 and 16/1 (twice) in the same period suggest that an extravagant starting price is not, necessarily, an obstacle to victory.
As usual, the prestigious staying handicap has attracted a bevy of interesting contenders, but we’ve highlighted just a few that took our eye.

The one that immediately leaps off the page is Waterclock (50/1), who finished second, beaten 3 lengths, behind Scatter Dice in this race last year and, in so doing, fared by far the best of those ridden prominently. The Notnowcato gelding showed next to nothing on his first four starts for Jedd O’Keefe, having been transferred from Roger Charlton in April, but hinted at a revival when fourth, beaten 9¼ lengths, behind the progressive Moscato at Newcastle last month. Obviously, backing him requires a leap of faith, but he is clearly a talented stayer on his day and merits serious consideration, off a 6lb lower mark than last year, if the Middleham Moor trainer has him back to anything like his best.

Speaking of leaps of faith, Very Good Day (50/1) also has the form to figure prominently if you’re prepared to look back far enough. The Sinndar gelding ran just once for Mick Channon last season, finishing down the field in the Chester Cup, and it was a similar story on his first run for Richard Fahey, in the Group 2 Doncaster Cup, last month. He was clearly way out of his depth on the latter occasion, but happily bowled along at the head of affairs until weakening quickly in the closing stages. Back in a handicap, with a recent run under his belt and 1lb lower in the weights than when second, beaten 1½ lengths, at York two seasons ago, he’s another who could belie generous odds.

Jonny Delta (50/1) is officially 1lb out of the handicap, but is due to be ridden by talented apprentice Joey Haynes, who can ride at 7st 9lb and should be able to claim all of his 3lb allowance. Jim Goldie’s 7-year-old finished a never nearer seventh, beaten 6 lengths, in this race last year, despite racing from 3lb out of the handicap and being denied a clear run in the final quarter of a mile. The Sulamani gelding ran his best race of the season when stepped up to beyond 2 miles for the first time since when beaten just half a length, over 2 mile 1½ furlongs, at Ayr last time and appears to have been trained with this race in mind. A line through the winner at Ayr, Nashville, gives him a little to find with Rhombus but, at more than three times the price, Jonny Delta looks far from a forlorn hope.

In summary, our three against the field for this week are, in order of preference, Jonny Delta (50/1 with Bet365, Sky Bet, Boylesports, Betvictor, Paddy Power and Stan James, Waterclock (50/1 with William Hill) and Very Good Day (50/1 with Betvictor, Stan James and William Hill. Good luck!

Thursday 2 October 2014

Totepool Challenge Cup Preview

The Totepool Challenge Cup, run over the straight 7 furlongs at Ascot, is invariably about as competitive as they come, so it’s slightly surprising that the race has only thrown up two winners at ‘silly’ prices – Candidato Boy at 50/1 in 2007 and Advanced at 33/1 in 2009 – in the last ten years. However, the prospect of unseasonably fast ground creates further complication for connections alike so, as usual, we’ve put up two or three runners who could go well at generous odds.

Eastern Impact (20/1) is a horse we’ve followed with some interest this season, but Richard Fahey’s three-year-old finished stone cold last, and a long last at that, on his first attempt against his elders in the Ayr Gold Cup two weeks ago. That run was, frankly, too bad to be true and, provided he’s recovered from whatever was ailing him at Ayr, he looks well worth another chance. He finished strongly to win a similar grade handicap, over 6 furlongs, on the July Course at Newmarket on his previous start, despite being hampered and denied a clear run in the closing stages, so he looks far from impossibly handicapped off a 5lb higher mark. The step up to 7 furlongs represents a step into the unknown, especially on a testing track such as Ascot, but his pedigree and his style of racing suggest an extra furlong may well be within his compass.

We’re also fans of Heavy Metal (20/1), although it would be fair to say that Mark Johnston’s four-year-old hasn’t cut much ice since just being touched off, over a mile, a Goodwood four starts ago. However, his previous winning form over 7 furlongs, including over course and distance in July, suggests that he’s feasibly weighted off a handicap mark of 98 and he could go close if back to anything approaching his best. He’s won on good to firm, good and good to soft going, so he should be suited by underfoot conditions whatever the weather in the South East and looks one for our shortlist.

Last, but hopefully not least, Sirius Prospect (25/1) also has winning form over 7 furlongs on a variety of ground and is only 1lb higher in the weights than when winning over a mile at Kempton last November. The Gone West gelding has run creditably in defeat on his last three starts, including at Newbury last month, when returning from a break, and may be ready to strike at the sixth time of asking this season. He won five times over shorter as a three-year-old, but 7 furlongs or a mile suits him better these days, so the uphill climb from the top of the home straight to the furlong marker at Ascot should be ideal.

In summary, our three against the field this week are, in no particular order, Eastern Impact (20/1 with William Hill), Heavy Metal (20/1 generally) and Sirius Prospect (25/1 generally).