Good morning all,
I'm catching up with the racing from over the Christmas period (slowly but surely!) and there's quite a few that catch the eye. A couple might well have Cheltenham targets, but there are a few others that ought to be winning in midweek races too, so there's something for everyone.
Plus a big-priced selection from Uttoxeter.
Sidewaysinmilan (trained by Rosemary Gasson, ran Boxing Day, Huntingdon)
Sidewaysinmilan had shown a useful level of form in a couple of novice hurdles before going handicapping off a mark of 106 here, and I thought he looked well enough treated for his handicap debut here. He gave me plenty of hope as he travelled up well behind the leaders with four to jump, but by the time they turned for home it was clear he was going to struggle to get home in the tiring ground, and he faded to finish sixth.
I still think there’s races in him, possibly at shorter and definitely once he gets better ground again, so stick him in trackers and wait for the spring.
Thelasthighking (Nigel Twiston-Davies, ran Boxing Day, Fontwell)
After running too free and finding himself outclassed behind Constitution Hill at Sandown last time, Thelasthighking found himself in calmer waters here and after settling a lot better, he was able to finish his race off and show some ability.
I really like him physically and he’s clearly a long-term project, as fences will be the making of him, but now he’s on the right track, there should be an ordinary novice to be won with him. I’d expect a slight step up in trip next time, given the way he finished off here.
Sayar (Nick Kent, ran Boxing Day, Market Rasen)
Ran no sort of race at Leicester in November but he was missing the headgear that seems essential to his chance that day, and with the cheekpieces re-equipped today ran a much better race, going with plenty of enthusiasm from the front and trying to nick the race turning in, only to find a couple too good for him. He’s only had a handful of handicap starts and if they can find the right race for him – ideally one where he can dominate lesser opposition from the get-go – he ought to be up to winning sooner rather than later.
The Changing Man (Colin Tizzard, ran 27th, Chepstow)
I’d seen him finish off reasonably well on his hurdling debut at Huntingdon and was interested, with handicaps in mind, to see how he got on here; after unsurprisingly finding himself outpaced for much of the 2m contest, he ran on in pleasing fashion once the race was over. He’s still learning the job and on breeding, is going to want 2m4f as a minimum, so handicaps over that trip and further are what’s going to be required – and ideally, you’d like the Tizzards to be back in form again. (Didn’t last that long, did it?)
Before Midnight (San Thomas, ran Boxing Day, Kempton)
Yes, he finished last of four behind Shishkin in the Desert Orchid but that didn’t look likely at one stage – far from it, he had both Greanateen and Shishkin himself at it for a few strides turning in – but he paid the price for actually trying to win the race and weakened out of it late after running a better race than his finishing position suggested.
The question will be what, if anything, the handicapper does here, as you can argue he could give him an extra 2 or 3lb for this, but as long as he doesn’t go mad, then he goes to the top of my Grand Annual list after this. He beat Sky Pirate at Cheltenham with an attacking front-running ride back in October on good ground (it was on the quick side, the time was under standard) and there’s every chance he’ll face something similar come March.
Unexpected Depth (Oliver Kiernan, 28th Dec, Leopardstown)
Finished midfield in the Pertemps Qualifier, having been placed in the same race last year, but whereas then he came into the race off the back of a win earlier in the month, this time around he was making his seasonal debut. Held up out the back, he made his ground up in the final mile but did so widest of all, and he covered a lot more ground than the winner. Not given a hard time after the last by his very inexperienced pilot, he’s shaped as if he retains his ability here, and will be of more interest next time.
On to today, and it'll be heavy ground at Warwick, and some last-man-standing contests look likely. The opener at 12.00 looks a wide-open affair, but there's a couple I like in R Bernard and Shutthegate.
Sam Allwood’s unexposed R Bernard has shown little so far, but there was a hint at Hereford on his second start that, as his pedigree suggests somewhat, that stamina is going to be his long suit and given this could well turn out to be such a contest, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see a big leap forward today.
Shutthegate was another to hint at ability in a couple of his novice hurdle starts, and in truth he probably showed a bit too much of his hand, and started out life on a mark a bit too high. After a few moderate (yet still hinting at ability) starts, he’s now 21lb lower after just a handful of starts and given he’s shown some of his better form on heavy ground, and indeed after a break, he’s another of some interest if a huge price here.
Today's selection – Shutthegate (e/w) 12.00 Warwick
Good luck with all your bets today,