Good morning all,
Storm Ciara wreaked havoc across Britain on Sunday. With no racing either side of the Irish Sea. It doesn't look too good today either. Catterick has already been called off and Plumpton faces a morning inspection to see if racing can go ahead at the Sussex venue.
The weekend’s action wasn’t up to the level of the previous week’s but there was plenty of interesting takeaways.
My weekly look back at the racing contains three takeaways from the weekend racing. There’s also look forward to Saturday’s Grand National Trial at Haydock. Oh, and there’s a Monday selection, weather permitting, at Wolverhampton.
Have a great week and enjoy the read.
Twelve months ago, Newbury’s Betfair Hurdle card was cancelled due to the equine flu outbreak that had bought British racing to a halt.
Thankfully, no such problems this year or with the weather. In fact, it was blue skies and winter sunshine that welcomed racegoers to Newbury.
Altior and Native River were the headline acts at Newbury, with both horses having their final runs before next months Cheltenham Festival.
Altior’s Back on Track
Altior is back on course for next month's Champion Chase and a mouth-watering class with Defi Du Seuil and Chacun Pour Soi.
Saturday’s win in the Game Spirit divided bookmaker opinion. Some cut him into ante post favourite for Cheltenham while others have him second favourite just behind Defi De Seuil.
It was a typical Altior performance. Hitting a flat spot coming to the second last, looking in a bit of trouble, before finishing off his race strongly to win a shade comfortably at the line.
There was plenty to like about the way the 10-year-old responded to a tap after the last to quicken past Sceau Royal and Dynamite Dollars.
Given he hasn’t the most ideal preparation since finishing runner-up to Cyrname at Ascot, it was a perfectly acceptable effort and I’m sure trainer Nicky Henderson will have left something to work on.
If Altior is to win another Champion Chase he’s probably going to have put in a career best to best but given how the Cheltenham hill suits him, who’s to say he can’t produce it.
It all depends on how far back he is at the last. If he’s within three or four lengths of the leaders he will probably win, as no horse will be finishing off as strongly.
A Dynamite Return
Third home Dynamite Dollars was returning from a 378-day absence. He looked in need of the run but ran a race full of promise going forward.
The 7-year-old jumped well but didn’t have the change of gear to cope with the winner on the run in.
If he comes out of the race well, he deserves to take his place in the Champion Chase and has a much better chance than his 33/1 odds imply.
River on Course for Cup
Native River was expected to win the Denman Chase and he did so with a minimum of fuss.
Making all he only had to be shaken up three out to run the finish out of his rivals.
He goes to the Gold Cup in good heart.
Three miles, on good ground, and on a flat track like Newbury is a bare minimum for the 10-year-old. He will improve for the return to further but surely it would need to come up heavy for him to regain his Gold Cup crown.
I suspect the connections of Al Boum Photo, Santini and Delta Work didn’t lose any sleep on Saturday night.
Now a general 10/1 for the Gold Cup. Those odds don’t excite me unless the mud was to be flying.
Native River looks a Grand National winner in waiting. Trainer Colin Tizzard would be happy to go to Aintree, but it looks the owners will take some persuading to take that route.
Nicholls Lands Betfair Hurdle
Pic D’Orhy gave trainer Paul Nicholls a second win in the Betfair Hurdle.
The eventual winner could be seen travelling strongly in the straight but there were plenty in with a chance coming to the last.
Leader Lightly Squeeze was about to be challenged by Ciel De Neige when falling at the last. If he had stood up, he would have played a part in the finish. Mack The Man was just behind and well in contention when brought down, as was Harambe who suffered the same fate.
Favourite Ciel de Neige was left in the lead and looked set to win but was headed by Pic D’Orhy in the final 100yds. If he hadn’t had shifted right on the run for home he might have held on, given there was only ½ length between the pair at the finish. with the first six home separated by just two lengths.
Pic D’Orhy was giving weight to all those who finished around him, so it was a good weight carrying performance. And he clearly improved for the good ground.
Where Next For Pic?
Where next for the 5-year-old? The race was run in a good time, so the form looks reliable and, on the figures, he doesn’t have much to find with the leading fancies in an open looking Champion Hurdle.
He would need to be supplemented for the race and connections didn’t seem to be thinking about going for Cheltenham after the race. They seem minded to save the horse for going next season. He could make up into a high class top novice chaser next season.
Before all that it will be interesting to see where connections go with the horse this season. On goodish ground he would be worth a go in the Champion Hurdle.
Tamaroc Du Mathan like the winner trained by Paul Nicholls, ran an eye-catching race to finish 5th.
The 5-year-old had been well beaten on his handicap debut. However, that run had come on heavy ground and he appreciated the return to a sounder surface on Saturday.
Despite a small rise in the weights for this effort he should remain on a competitive mark for handicap hurdles.
Shishkin New Supreme Favourite
I don’t often mention Huntingdon in the Monday column. However, on Thursday Shishkin landed the Listed Sidney Banks Novices’ Hurdle. The bookies reacted to his win by making him favourite for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
As good as his win was, his form isn’t at the level to warrant him being ahead of the likes of Asterion Forlonge in the ante post betting. I’m not saying he can’t win a Supreme, he just shouldn’t be favourite on what he’s achieved so far.
Shishkin also has one very big stat to overcome if he’s to win at Cheltenham. No horse using Huntingdon for their final start has won at the festival in the past ten years – 0 winners from 88 runners 10 placed.
Unibet Grand National Trial Handicap Chase (Grade 3) – 3m 4 ½ f
Haydock stages Saturday’s big race; The Grand National Trial. Looking at the trends, which contain 10 winners from 126 runners 30 placed.
Age: 8yo to 9yo – 7 winners from 60 runners 16 placed;
Odds SP: 11/1 & bigger – 1 winner from 60 runners 5 placed;
Official Rating: 138 to 149 – 8 winners from 62 runners 16 placed;
Last Time Out Placing: 1st or 2nd – 7 winners from 51 runners 19 placed;
Handicap Chase Wins: 1 or 2 – 9 winners from 55 runners 18 placed.
A few interesting trends there. Paul Nicholls will be searching for big race success and he could run ante-post favourite Truckers Lodge.
Truckers Lodge was second in the Welsh Grand National on his last start and ticks all bar one of the above trends, he’s yet to win a handicap chase and such horses are – 0 winners from 26 runners 3 placed in the past ten years.
Trends are there to be broken and on the plus side, the 8-year-old's only had the four starts over fences and remains an up and coming staying handicap chaser.
Geronimo, third in the Peter Marsh at the last meeting should be suited by the step up to 3m 4f 1/2 f. The 9-year-old remains progressive and gets a handy 12lb from winner Vintage Clouds. At 16/1 with Bet365 he looks capable getting into the money again.
If you want my ante post selections for the race you can join me here.
A rare Monday winner last week, as Hot Hot Hot landed some nice bets in winning at Wolverhampton. I know from your comments, some of you were on at bigger odds than the returned SP of 8/1.
I’m off to Wolverhampton again for today’s selection.
8:10 – Encoded isn't a win machine, just one success from 28 starts, but she hasn’t run too badly on her last two starts, here and last time at Newcastle. Can’t afford to be as slowly away as she has been on either of her last two runs. If she can break on level terms, and they go a decent pace, she's got each way claims.
Encoded – each way
Until next week