Inside today’s main piece I’m looking back at the best of Saturday’s action.
Haydock Highlights: Royale Pagaille Springs Surprise in Grade 1 Betfair Chase, Outstaying Bravemansgame
In an unexpected turn of events, Venetia Williams' course specialist, Royale Pagaille, emerged triumphant in this year's Grade 1 Betfair Chase, overshadowing favorite Bravemansgame and last year's winner Protektorat.
Royale Pagaille, beaten only once in four starts here, showcased his prowess on his seasonal return, reinforcing his status as a force to be reckoned in staying chases on soft ground.
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Protektorat's overeagerness in the lead and sizable jumps proved detrimental as he quickly faded five out. This paved the way for a head-to-head battle between Bravemansgame and Royale Pagaille in the straight. Ultimately, Royale Pagaille's superior stamina prevailed, securing a convincing victory as Bravemansgame struggled to keep up in the closing stages.
There were no real excuses for Bravemansgame. The drying ground should have suited him, but he barely stays 3m 1f. Despite this underwhelming performance his potential for a back-to-back success in the King George VI Chase at Kempton should not be hastily dismissed. The track and a return to 3m will play to his strengths more than the extended 3m 1f here. However, this less-than-ideal preparation does raise questions about his readiness for the big Boxing Day highlight.
Grey Dawning's Impressive Victory in Graduation Chase
In a dynamic performance at Haydock, Grey Dawning showcased an assertive display of jumping skills to secure the Graduation Chase (2m 5 ½ f). This win paid a good compliment to Stay Away Fay, who had previously beaten the winner on his chase debut at Exeter. However, Grey Dawning has evidently progressed since that initial run, displaying the potential to claim more victories over the larger obstacles, particularly on soft ground.
Willie Mullins' will be satisfied with runner-up Gaillard Du Mesnil's seasonal return, considering that the 7-year-old would have found the distance to be on the short side. The performance suggests promise for the season ahead, with expectations that a return to longer distances will better suit Gaillard Du Mesnil.
Apple Way, a Grade 1 Novices' Hurdle (3m ½ f) winner at Aintree in April, also found the distance a shorter than ideal on her chase debut. She remains a mare to watch as she adapts to the chase discipline.
Irish Domination in Betfair ‘Serial Winners' Stayers' Handicap Hurdle as Slate Lane Prevails
In a display of Irish dominance, favourite Slate Lane emerged triumphant in the Betfair “Serial Winners” Stayers' Handicap Hurdle, proving too strong for Fine Margin on the run in.
Despite his early eagerness he maintained a lead from the first and showcased remarkable resilience to secure victory. With a 14lb increase for his previous win, the 5-year-old highlighted his well-handicapped status off a mark of 127.
Slate Lane has won a big prize here and he’s still a novice, so the 5-year-old has got plenty of options going forward including races like the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The well-fancied Crambo made a striking move from out of the pack to secure a commendable third place. Despite appearing to have been set a challenging task by his jockey. He finished his race off strongly, leaving the impression that a stiffer 3m will suit him more.
Ascot Highlights: Boothill Lands Back to Back Jim Barry Hurst Park Handicap Chases
Boothill defied top weight of 12-0 to win the Jim Barry Hurst Park Handicap Chase. That was a third C&D success for the 8-year-old, but he might have been a lucky winner. Saint Segal was a length in front when falling at the last and still looked full of running when coming down.
Boothill who travelled powerfully through the race was running on empty at the finish and just managed to hold off Frere D'Armes by ½ length. The runner-up was slightly hampered by Saint Segal’s fall and might have been a bit unlucky.
The least said about Shishkin the better. He didn’t look to keen before and refused to race. After all the drama at the start of the Grade 2 1965 Chase. Pic D'Orhy emerged as the comfortable and uncontested winner, turning the race into an anticlimax.
Punchestown Highlights: State Man Cruises to Back-to-Back Morgiana Hurdle Wins
State Man the top 2m hurdler in Ireland, effortlessly secured consecutive Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle wins. While the race provided no new insights into the winner's capabilities due to the limited competition, it marked a smooth return to action for the impressive hurdler.
Favori De Champdou Triumphs in Florida Pearl Novices' Chase, Despite Unsatisfactory Contest
Favori De Champdou claimed victory in the Grade 2 Florida Pearl Novices' Chase, shedding his maiden tag on his second attempt over fences. Although the race appeared competitive on paper, it proved unsatisfactory, with Churchstonewarrior unseating his rider early on and Affordable Fury showing signs of trouble after a seemingly problematic encounter with a rival.
Flooring Porter, despite leading, struggled with poor jumping, ultimately yielding second place to Sandor Clegane. I doubt we’ll see him going right handed again. It seemed a bizarre decision by connections to come here given we know going this way around doesn’t suit him.
Favori De Champdou is a real galloper and he jumped better than his rivals on the day and ran out a worthy winner.
Gaelic Warrior Dominates Punchestown Beginners Chase in Winning Debut Over Fences
High-class staying hurdler Gaelic Warrior effortlessly made a successful chase debut in the beginners chase (2m 3f) at Punchestown. Despite facing what looked like a competitive field of novice chasers on paper, Gaelic Warrior strolled to victory, showcasing his dominance even with some novicey jumping. His debut over the larger obstacles places him as a top contender in the novice chase division this season.
Kempton and Ludlow provide Monday’s action. The most valuable race is at Kempton and the Racing TV Mares' Hurdle (2:35). There’s £14,238 on offer to the winner but only five line-up and its an unappealing race to me. I do have a few of interest at both tracks.
It could be Ladies Day at Kempton. Besides the Mares race it’s a couple women trained runners that I like in the final two races.
Gloire D'athon's Redemption Bid: Can Sarah Humphrey's Runner Shine on Kempton's Good Ground?
3:05 – Gloire D'athon has run poorly on both starts since winning at Uttoxeter in May. Soft ground was probably against him at Market Rasen, and he shaped like something was amiss at Newbury 18 day’s ago. Clearly comes with a few risks attached after his latest run. However, the return to good ground looks a plus as the 7-year-old’s form figures on his last five starts on good are 21121 and trainer Sarah Humphrey is 3-10 with her runners in the past 14 days. Grounds for optimism although he does face a solid favourite in Thelasthighking who was 2nd of 7 here on seasonal return last month.
Elizabeth Gale Aims for Tapley Double
3:15 – Tapley won a C&D handicap hurdle two weeks ago under today’s jockey Elizabeth Gale. The Suzy Smith trained 6-year-old got a 6lb rise in the weights for that win but he shouldn’t be far away in the lucky last.
Trainer Henry Daly likes to have a winner at his local track, and I like three of his runners on the Ludlow card.
1:05 – Tony Martin brings over Alphonse Le Grande from Ireland for this 2m handicap hurdle which is a concern. However, I’m going with Little Pi who posted a career best on RPR’s when a 9 ½ length 4th of 16 to Asian Spice at Exeter 17 days ago. The winner went in again at that venue on Sunday as did the runner-up, so the form looks solid for the class. Little Pi looks to be going the right way and his trainer is 2-3 with its runners in the past 14 days.
Braganza Bay's Challenge: Henry Daly Aims for Another Win at Ludlow
1:40 – Braganza Bay jumped soundly to make a winning chase debut at Hereford last month. A 7lb rise in the weights shouldn’t stop the 6-year-old given the ease of his Hereford win but the big question is. Can he back it up? Which he tended not to do over hurdles. If he does, he should win again.
2:15 – Henry Daly saddled the winner of this handicap hurdle in 2020 and he could saddle another with Duke Of Moravia. The 5-year-old likely needed his first run for 7 months when a 26 length 5th of 12 at Chepstow 27 days ago. Stamina for 3m must be proven and he has been a beaten favourite on his last three starts which suggests connections have a well-treated horse when it all clicks.
Venetia Williams' Desque De L'Isle Faces Tough Test Against Not Available
2:50 – You wouldn’t want to lay a Venetia Williams handicap chaser at present and her runner Desque De L'Isle has strong claims in this two mile handicap chase. The 10 year-old won this corresponding race 12 months ago and followed up over C&D in December. He’s now 3lb lower than for the latter success and you can see why he’s the bookies early bird favourite. I’m going to take him on though with another previous C&D winner in Not Available. The 8-year-old won twice earlier in the year and although he’s been well beaten on both hurdles starts since his return from a summer break the return to fences should see him in a better light and the yard’s form is very encouraging.
3:20 – Henry Daly saddled the winner of this mares novices’ handicap hurdle last year and he could do so again with Minniemum. The mare ran better on her seasonal return than her 6 ¼ lengths 5th of 7 at Hereford last month suggests and she seems likely to be in the shake up with Alice Stevens taking off a handy 5lb.
I'm crossing my fingers for a winner from these contenders, but honestly, none of them stand out as super strong picks. If I had to choose, I might lean towards Gloire D'athon at Kempton and Not Available at Ludlow. There's a bit of uncertainty with Gloire D'athon, but the odds at 16/1 with Bet365 are tempting, at least if you can snag that price. If you can't the 13/2 about Not Available look to my eyes fair enough.
3:05 – Gloire D'athon – 16/1 @ Bet365.
In Tuesday’s column I will be looking back at Galopin Des Champ’s comeback and Sunday and there will be two future winners for the tracker.
Good luck with your Monday bets.