Inside today’s main piece I continue my look ahead to the weekend’s big race action. Today’s it’s the turn of Newcastle and the Fighting Fifth Hurdle and the Rehearsal Chase. Plus, there’s a Thursday selection.
Besides Newbury there’s a valuable card at Newcastle where its ‘Fighting Fifth’ Day. The feature race of a is the Grade 1 Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle (2:10). I have only been to Newcastle racecourse once and it was to this meeting in 2013. And I have to say it wasn’t a bad day.
In addition to the Fighting Fifth the other highlight of an eight race card at Newcastle is the Betfair Exchange Rehearsal Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) (3:25). Fifteen were left in the race at Monday’s final confirmation so we should see a decent enough line-up, especially of the ground is on the slow side. More on that race later.
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Anyone Remember The Triple Crown of Hurdling?
Back in the day there used to be something called the ‘Triple Crown of Hurdling’ which was awarded to a horse that won the Fighting Fifth, The Christmas Hurdle at Kempton and the Champion Hurdle in the same season.
Only one horse the Sir Michael Stoute trained Kribensis in 1989-90 ever won this Triple Crown. Although Punjabi (2008-2009) came close. He won the Fighting Fifth and the Champion Hurdle but fell two out in the Christmas Hurdle. The following year Go Native won the Fighting Fifth and the Christmas Hurdle but made a mistake at the second in the Champion Hurdle and could never get competitive after.
Between 2006 to 2010, the World Bet Exchange (WBX) who sponsored the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at the time put up a £1,000,000 bonus for any horse that won the hurdling Triple Crown. That’s something that sport should revisit. At least it might get connections to run their horses in these big races before Cheltenham. The thought of that sort of money would surely be too tempting to ignore.
It should be no excuses ground at Newcastle
The going at Newcastle was being described as soft, good to soft in places on Monday. There’s not a huge amount of rain forecast for the rest of the week, but I would be surprised if there wasn’t soft in the going description come Saturday. Over to you Mr Henderson.
Looking Ahead To The Weekend – Part 2
Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle (Grade 1) – Newcastle
Epatante who won the race in 2020 and dead headed with Not So Sleepy last year is due to make her seasonal return. The mare is the most likely winner but the softer the ground the more vulnerable she would be. Stablemate Constitution Hill who missed Ascot last Saturday due to quick ground has entry and might well run if the ground has soft in the going description. If he does the Newcastle racegoers are in for a treat. He had been available at 2/1 with Coral & Ladbrokes on Monday for the race which was very tempting. Those odds are going to look the bet of the season if he starts. Personally, I will believe he’s runner when he atually lines up before the race.
Besides the Henderson pair just four others were left in the race on Monday. The small field is to be expected and indicative of the small pool of high class 2m hurdlers in this country.
Not So Sleepy is an enigmatic 10-year-old but he was a going day when dead heating with Epatante 12 months ago and when 3rd of 21 in the Cesarewitch on the flat last month. On slow ground and no Constitution Hill I wouldn’t be surprised if he went close again. He was a shade big at 8/1 before the news that Constitution Hill seems a likely runner.
Gordon Elliott could bring over the improving 4-year-old Pied Piper who has race fitness on his side and remains progressive. Tommy’s Oscar who has been running over fences this season could also run and the popular 7-year-old would have decent chance if Constitution Hill doesn’t run.
Betfair Exchange Rehearsal Handicap Chase – Newcastle
I haven’t looked at the races trends in too much detail. However. looking at the last 12 renewals which contain 12 winners from 117 runners 35 placed. One trend stands out. Class has come to the fore with horses carrying 10-10 to 11-12 producing – 12 winners from 67 bets +98.25 26 placed with the top weight being 4 winners from 13 bets 31% +13.5 8 placed 62%.
That’s it for me as far are the trends are concerned. Sometimes you can tie yourself up knots looking at the trends and I think this one of these races.
L'Homme Presse who missed Ascot last Saturday on account of the ground could run here under top weight. If he was to run the Cheltenham Festival Grade 1 winning novice chaser would start favourite. His trainer Venetia Williams who also has Fanion D'Estruval among the entries is 1-4 3 placed with her runners in the race since 2015.
Happygolucky wasn’t among the entries for the Coral Gold Cup, but he has been left in here. The 8-year-old hasn’t been since winning the valuable 3m 1f handicap chase on Grand National Day last year. He would be returning from a 595-day absence if he was to run but is only 2lb higher than when winning at Aintree and is 2-2 when returning from a 121-day break. Soft ground is ideal for him and he’s a horse I like.
Improving handicap chaser Into Overdrive is bidding for a five timer and although he’s 6lb higher than when winning at Wetherby last month. There’s likely more to come from the 7-year-old returned to an extended 2m 7f. Last year’s winner Aye Right is 6lb higher this time around but made a solid return to action when a 4 ½ length 2nd of 10 to the progressive Sounds Russian at Kelso last month.
Given the record of top weights then you will have to fancy Grade 1 winning novice L’Homme Presse if he runs. If he’s to be up to winning a Gold Cup, he would surely have to win this. Last year’s winner Aye Right jumps well and will make them all go. If Happygolucky has retained most of his ability after a long absence, then he won’t be far away. I would like to see Kim Bailey have a winner before Saturday, but Happygolucky is a horse I like. Into Overdrive is progressing well and is at the right end of the handicap.
Trainers with horses in first time headgear update:
For anyone interested on how these trainer micro angles have fared since I published them. They have produced 2 winners from 12 bets 17%, 5 placed 42% and you had backed them all you would have made a £25 profit to a £1 level stake. Very much early days but a promising enough start. I will report back with updated results early in the New Year.
Newbury Trainer Pointers:
If you’re looking for a Newbury trainer angle here are a couple that could be worth looking at.
Philp Hobbs – Novice Hurdles – 5 winners from 13 runners 38% +60.17 6 placed 46%
Nicky Henderson – Maiden Hurdles – 7 winners from 11 runners 64% +12.01 8 placed 73%
It’s jumping all the way today with fixtures at Taunton, Lingfield, Kelso and Thurles.
Folly Gate is an eighteen race maiden, including 0-8 over fences, but did come within a short head of breaking his maiden tag at Ffos Las two starts back. Was said to be unsuited by soft ground back at that venue last time. He’s got to be respected back on good ground in the 2m 2f handicap chase. (3:20). Yard in excellent form and he can be considered.
The Taunton feature race is the Bet At racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle (2:50). Irish Hill was beaten just head at Fontwell 9-days ago. A previous course winner he can race off the same mark as last time and shouldn’t be far away.
Itso Fury has started the season well winning at Warwick & Ludlow. The 5-year-old is progressive and looks on a good mark for his handicap hurdle debut. Yard won race 12 months and can do so again.
Love Actually showed once again her liking for the track when winning over C&D 14-days ago. Now 2-2 over C&D and can’t be discounted once more even though up in class and 3lb higher than last time.
Ben Pauling yard remains in great form and his runner Mucho Mas must be respected in the Novices' Handicap Chase (2:35). The top-weight has finished runner-up on his last two starts. The most recent of them on chase debut/seasonal return when a neck 2nd of 11 at Bangor last month. Open to further improvement over fences and, although he’s up 2lb, can surely win over fences.
On a moderate looking day. Its hard to find a solid betting opportunity. I like Itso Fury at Taunton and I think we’ll see a better run from Folly Gate on good ground at the same venue. Mucho Mas will win a race over fences and hopefully it will be this afternoon. He’s the pick but not a confident one.
2:35 – Mucho Mas – 100/30 @ Bet365.
Good luck with your Thursday bets.