Good morning all,
We have something special to look forward to at the Weekend. On Friday we have the start of the two-day Newbury Winter Carnival. The feature race of the two days is of course the Ladbrokes Trophy (3:00) on Saturday.
There’s also a good card on the Friday. Where the Grade 2 Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle (3.00) could see the returning Paisley Park take on last year’s Stayers Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar and the upcoming young staying hurdles McFabulous and Thyme Hill.
Newcastle hosts a good card on Saturday with Champion Hurdle winner Epatante likely to make her seasonal return in the Grade 1 Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle (2:05) and there’s also the Listed Rehearsal Handicap Chase (3:15).
If that feast of high class jumps racing wasn’t enough for you, then you have Day 2 The Fairyhouse Winter Festival on Sunday which includes three Grade 1 races and two valuable competitive handicaps.
Inside today’s main piece I am looking at Saturday’s Ladbroke Trophy and the return of crowds to English racecourses. Plus, I have a selection from Wetherby.
Crowds are back on track
Against the odds the government announced on Monday that crowds would be allowed back at sporting events from next Wednesday. They would be limited to 4,000 in Tier 1, 2,000 in Tier 2 but none in those areas who find themselves in Tier 3.
On one level it’s good news. As is that fact that betting shops will be allowed to open with them being classed as non-essential retail. There will of course restrictions. For example, there won’t be any live sport in the shops and you won’t be able to sit down either. Still it’s good news for racing finances that they will be open again.
We will know on Thursday which tiers English racecourses will be placed. Now there are more questions than answers. Will the Tiers be at a county level or a regional level? Depending which one the government go with will be very important for the courses.
I’m trying not get to carried away for the moment. We have had false dawns before. The Prime Minister may have signalled that sporting events would be allowed spectators but remember that the Doncaster spectator pilot was cancelled by the local authority.
There is a good chance that on Wednesday when the latest National Lockdown is lifted there could be some sort crowd at Ludlow, Lingfield. Although it seems likely that Haydock will continue to race behind closed doors. Given Haydock is in the North West it seems likely they will end up in Tier 3.
There’s also the possibility that some of the smaller independent racecourses, at least the short term, may decide to continue to race BCD’s due to the costs attached with hosting a small number of spectators.
Looking ahead to the weekend
Unlike last weekend. There doesn’t look to be much in the way of rain between now and Friday. The going is good to soft at Newbury and I don’t see it being any easier than that. Newcastle is being described as good and again if the forecast is correct it looks Newcastle will race on a sound surface on Saturday.
The bookies have already priced up ten of the weekend races, including the four being covered by ITV on Friday. More on those tomorrow.
Ladbrokes Trophy Chase (Handicap) (Grade 3) – 3m 2f
Let’s get started. Apart from the Grand National. The Ladbrokes Trophy or as many old timers still call it the Hennessey Gold Cup is the best handicap chase of the season. It normally pits the old established handicap chasers with the up and coming second season young guns.
You can make a case for most of the 19 runners declared at the five-day stage.
Aye Right looks a solid
Aye Right, third to Cyrname in the Charlie Hall Chase is vying for ante post favouritism with Cheltenham Festival Handicap Chase winner and last year’s runner-up The Conditional. Vinndication, trained by Kim Bailey, runner up in the Charlie Hall makes up the three at the head of the betting.
Of the three I like the claims of Aye Right most. A former useful staying handicap hurdler the 7-year-old is already a better chaser than a hurdle. A prominent race he just jump’s and gallops which is what you need in a race like this. Provided the going isn’t too quick he looks on a good mark, just 4lb higher than last time.
A win for Aye Right would be a good news story for the sport given Harriet Graham only trains a small number of horses in the Scottish Borders.
The drying ground brings plenty more into the mix.
Kildisart was runner-up to The Conditional at Cheltenham and is weighted to finish ahead of that one on Saturday. He’s had a good prep over hurdles at Wetherby and will be suited by the good to soft ground
Potterman has been doing well over the summer and was beaten just a short head in a driving finish in the Badger Beers Trophy at Wincanton. He can race of the same mark here and is 5lb well in but can he replicate that form on good to soft. All the 7-year-old’s best performances have come on genuinely good ground.
Mister Malarky was a good 6th in this race 12 months ago. He’s another well suited to decent ground as he showed when winning at Kempton (good to soft) back in February off 3lb lower.
Secret Investor beat Potterman by 7 lengths at Chepstow on his seasonal return last month. The better the ground the better his chance and his last five form figures on good are 41121. Likely to take his chance if it's genuinely good ground.
Cloth Cap could come here or wait for next week's Becher Chase at Aintree. He goes well on good ground and lacks little in terms of stamina, was an excellent 3rd of 23 in the 2019 Scottish Grand National on just his fourth start over fences. Not disgraced on his four starts last season, all on soft ground. A good third behind Frodon at Cheltenham on his seasonal return. The 8-year-old sneaks in at the bottom of the weights and has only 10-0 to carry.
I will continue my look at the weekend's action in tomorrow’s column.
Coming to three out I thought Cyrus Keep was coming to win in his race yesterday. The first-time blinkers certainly helped him travel better through his race than at Wetherby. Sadly, he had no more to give coming to the last. Maybe the headgear worked too well and he raced too strongly?
I have had a look at three races on the Wetherby card and here are my thoughts.
12:50 – Funambule Sivola, trained by Venetia Williams, showed modest ability over hurdles last season. Capable of doing better over fences and has had wind-op since his last run in March. Had form on good/good to soft when racing in France.
2:25 – Improving handicap chaser Billingsley is a non-runner due to the drying ground. Philip Hobbs saddled last years race winner and he runs Smarty Wild here. A four-time winner over hurdles. The 6-year-old shaped with promise when 3rd of 7 at Ascot on his debut over fences and with normal improvement he shouldn’t be far away off what looks a competitive mark.
Some Reign looked set for victory when falling at the last over C&D 26-days ago. The 9-year-old goes well on good / good to soft and provided his confidence hasn't been dented by that fall can can gain compensation here off a 2lb higher mark.
Previous C&D winner Ballyvic Boru was the one to take advantage of Some Reign’s mishap. However, he looked held at the time and meets his old rival on 2lb worse terms today. He’s another who will be suited by the drying ground though.
3:30 – Olly Murphy has the likely favourite in bumper debutant Chosen Port. The 4-year-old won on an Irish Point before being sold for £115,000. By Well Chosen she’s a full sister to Burtons Well and a half-sister to Burton Point and is bred to win races over jumps.
Somerset based trainer Jack Barber has his first runner at Wetherby in the second division of the bumper. Electric Anna shaped with promise on her bumper debut when 2nd of 12 at Taunton last month. She can win races on the evidence of that run and could take advantage should Chosen Point need the experience.
2:25 – Some Reign – 100/30 @ Coral & Ladbrokes.
Good luck with your Wednesday bets.
John Burke is the tipster behind the long standing Victor Value service you can join him here – https://victorvalue.uk