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November Meeting Review

Morning all,

Plenty of drama and good performances at Cheltenham’s November meeting. Although yesterday’s card was blighted by small fields. We do need some serious rain and the sooner the better and the near-term weather forecast isn’t indicating much of the wet stuff.

Saturday was a good day if you have been following my trackers horses with Midnight Shadow winning the Paddy Power (more on that one later) and Gowel Road also winning one of the handicap hurdles.

Inside today’s you can read my thoughts on the Cheltenham action. Plus, Monday's selection which comes from Plumpton.

Welcome change of luck for the Skelton’s

The meeting didn’t get off to the best of starts for Dan & Harry Skelton. On Friday the highly regarded My Drago slipped and fell two out on his chasing debut. However, things changed on Saturday as Third Time Lucki made it 2-2 over fences when winning the Grade 2 novices’ chase. The 6-year-old jumped his three rival’s silly for most of the race and went clear four out. Captain Tom Cat who had been outpaced was staying and in with a chance when falling at the last. Would he have caught the winner on the run in? Well, the leader was tiring after the last so who knows. My gut feeling is that he would have held on.


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Third Time Lucki is an exciting novice chaser who goes well on good ground. I will be surprised if there is a better British 2m novice chaser come the Cheltenham Festival. Can he beat the best of the Irish though?

Sunday was even better for the Skelton’s as they had a big race double. First, Nube Negra won the Grade 2 Shloer Chase. Politologue set a good pace out in front which suited the Skelton horse but on good ground Nube Negra had too much pace for the long-time leader and ran out a comfortable six length winner with Champion Chase winner Put The Kettle On back in third. The runner-up ran well on his seasonal reappearance but won’t find it easy in Grade 1 company at 2m. The third needed a stronger stamina test and softer ground than she faced yesterday.

Nube Negra looks set for the Tingle Creek at Sandown and provided the ground isn’t soft should go well. There’s no reason why he won’t go well again in next year’s Champion Chase, finished runner-up last year but with the likes of Shishkin, Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi waiting in the wings the two-mile chase division looks much stronger than the last season's.

West Cork gave the Skelton’s a big race double when landing the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle 35 minutes later. The 7-year-old defied a 621-day absence to hold off a strong challenge by Adagio after the last. It was a great training achievement but as I said in Wednesday’s race preview the Skelton yard can place a horse to success in handicap hurdles at Cheltenham.

Chasing the Shadow

Saturday’s Paddy Power Handicap Chase looked a cracker on paper and despite the good ground nineteen horses still met the starter.

The race turned out to be a winning one for the North as the Sue Smith trained Midnight Shadow overcame a final fence error to hold off the well fancied Protektorat & Lalor by a diminishing ¾ length.

They went off quick from the off with last year’s winner Coole Cody disputing the lead over the first couple of fences before going to the front. He was just about to be challenged by Midnight Shadow when falling two out. Up until that point he had jumped well and given the winner’s mistake at the last may well have won. Hopefully he will be none the worse for his fall and he will be back here for next month’s Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.

Protektorat ran a great race under top-weight. He was doing his best work at the finish and didn’t help his cause by hanging left from two out. He needs further than 2m 4f on the evidence of this run. The same comment can be applied to the well handicapped Lalor who was another to be doing his best work late on.

In truth few got into the race from behind. The strong gallop set by Coole Cody got plenty of the field out of their comfort zone and the field was quickly strung out. The winner was always prominent, just behind the long-time leader. Unlike some of his rivals he had the pace to hold a good position and his jumping was sound up until the final fence. But for his error at the last he would have probably have run out a more comfortable winner.

The final 100yds were a painful watch for myself and Victor Value subscribers but Midnight Shadow held on to give us another big Saturday handicap win after Farhan in last week’s November Handicap. It could be a step up to three mile and a tilt at the King George at Kempton next for the 8-year-old. That will ask another question of him and on the face of it looks a big ask but why not give it a go. He’s a good jumper and travels well and on a decent surface should stay the distance.

In tomorrow's column I'll have a few eyecatcher's from Cheltenham.

Monday racing

There are just two meetings today at Leicester and Plumpton. It’s really not the best of days for punting to be honest and I have struggled to find any of interest.

Plumpton

2:45 – Glasha’s Peak is a tentative pick in this 2m 4 ½ f handicap hurdle. The Philip Hobbs trained mare ran with plenty encouragement on her first start for six months over C&D two weeks ago. She seemed to be still going well when brought down four out. The 7-year-old has only had five starts over hurdles but has shown enough to think there is a race like this in her. At 7/2 or bigger I would be more interested.

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Glasha's Peak

Good luck with your Monday bets.

John


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