Inside today’s main piece I’m looking back at Saturday’s big race action. Plus. you can read my thoughts on Monday’s jumps card at Kempton.
The stars of the winter game are returning to action.
On Thursday it was Allaho who made a winning return on the Clonmel Oil Chase. He only had two rivals to beat, and he won as he should have on ratings. His jumping was rusty as you might expect given, he was returning from 561 day absence but at least he proved his well-being.
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On Saturday it was the return to action of Gerri Colombe in Saturday’s Grade 1 Champion Chase at Down Royal.
Down Royal: Gerri Passes First Test
You could have made a case for all four of the runners and the race produced a wonderful finish. Conflated, Envoi Allen & Gerri Colombe all had chances coming to the last. When last year’s winner Envoi Allen headed long time leader Conflated at the final fence it looked like he had the race won. However, he was just outstayed on the run in by a rallying Gerri Colombe. Three mileson heavy (on times it was heavy) is the upper limit of Envoi Allen’s stamina and he was just done by a much stronger stayer on the day.
Gerri Colombe had been outpaced coming to two out, but he’s got stamina in abundance and it’s that won him the race. He passed his first test outside of novice company with Saturday’s win. He’s now firmly on course for Cheltenham Gold Cup and soft ground and 3m 2f will suit him much better than 3m at Down Royal.
Whether he will have the speed to win a Gold Cup am not so sure and will probably need soft ground to do so. He’s got the look of a real staying type like Native River and that one did win a Gold Cup.
The 4/1 available for Gerri Colombe for the Gold Cup doesn’t make much appeal to me though. Indeed, it makes the 20/1 available about The Real Whacker look more attractive after all he did beat Gerri Colombe in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at the Festival in March.
If the Aintree action was unsatisfying at least we had some good action at Wincanton. The course configuration means there less likely to be troubled by low sun. Not that it mattered as it was cloudy at the track on Saturday.
Paul Nicholls had four winners at last year’s meeting and equalled that score this year. He won the first three races on the card, and he also won the two Graded races.
Knappers Hill might not be the biggest, but you couldn’t fail but to impressed by his nimble jumping to win the Grade 2 “Rising Stars” Novices' Chase. We already knew the 7-year-old had a good engine but his jumping technique for a novice. He should take a high order in the novice chase division this winter.
The final Nicholls winner was Rubaud in the Grade 2 Elite Hurdle in what looked a dreadful race for the grade. The 1/3 favourite comfortably saw off his three rivals to land £32,692 for connections.
Jockey Harry Cobden managed to pinch four or five lengths at the start on the winner and that was that.
I doubt you’ll see a less exciting race all season than this year’s Elite Hurdle.
Anthony Honeyball had four of the 11 runners in Saturday’s Badger Beer Handicap Chase. I said in Thursday’s preview that I thought one of his runners Blackjack Magic was overpriced and so it proved.
A progressive staying handicap chaser at the end of last season. He was starting the campaign off what looked a good mark and so it proved.
Always up in a prominent position and in a good jumping rhythm. He took it up at the 13th and coming two out just two were in with a chance. Threeunderthrufive came to challenge the winner but to his credit Blackjack Magic stuck his down after the last and found plenty for pressure to hold off the eventual runner-up. He’s going the right way and is at the right end of the handicap so could win another nice pot on testing ground this winter.
There was no to be no fairytale win for last year’s winner Frodon. Off the same mark as 12 months previously he couldn’t live with Blackjack Magic and stablemate Threeunderthrufive in the home straight and merely plugged on to finish third.
Gesskille Has His Moment in The Aintree Sun
Both the Chair and the water jump were omitted due to low sun so it wasn’t the jumping test it could have been.
The first race over the National fences since last year’s Grand National wasn’t much of a spectacle with just ten going to post for the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase.
Gesskille runner-up 12 months ago went one place better in this year's race. He disputed the lead with last year’s third Percussion and the pair were first and second throughout the race. Coming to the last he faced several challenger's. However, he always looked like he would hold them off on the long run in.
Percussion probably found the 2m 5f trip and on the short side but stayed on to finish runner-up. He’ll be back for next months Becher Chase over 3m 2f and that trip will suit him better. He was third in that race last year, but I don’t think he’ll want the ground as testing as it was on Saturday. He won’t face the winner in the Becher and provided the ground isn’t heavy I can see him going close.
The third home Frero Banbou seem to take the big fences. He travelled much better through the race than he had been doing last season and came to challenge at the last. However, he didn’t see out the race as the two who finished in front of him.
Nassalam was doing his best work at the finish to snatch fourth from Fantastic Lady close to home. He’s on a mark he can win off when all the cards fall right. Fantastic Lady probably didn’t really appreciate the heavy ground and needed her seasonal return here, so this was a solid effort.
There wasn’t a cloud in the sky at Aintree on Saturday. That should be good news. Sadly, not the appearance of sun means the return of flat racing at Aintree.
Just like at the previous meeting Saturday’s Grand Sefton meeting was ruined by low sun. The whole situation is becoming tedious and the late decision to omit obstacles is short-changing punters who’ve had an ante post bet.
It’s unacceptable and it’s going to lead to punters deciding to swerve the jumps action if the sun is out. Why spend time studying the form when the complexion of the race is going to totally change.
Despite making a small profit on the day it was frustrating and ultimately unfulfilling Saturday. Unfulfilling due to events at Aintree. Frustrating for different reasons.
Hopefully some of you got on Blackjack Magic for Wincanton’s Badger Beer Handicap Chase. In Thursday’s preview I said this of Blackjack Magic
“The 16/1 available with William Hill makes plenty of appeal each way”.
I missed those odds and only managed to get on at 9/1. Even worse I talked myself out of bet on light weight Good Luck Charm in the mares’ handicap hurdle later the Wincanton card. ☹.
I could have taken the 22/1 but I didn’t. It was a classic case of me bottling it as I thought I must have read the race wrongly. Funnily enough if she had been 16/1, I would have backed her. Thankfully Blackjack Magic saved the day, so no damage done.
Even more importantly those who took out the November pass offer from the Victor Value service made a tidy profit on the week.
Kempton is Monday’s feature meeting. Rain was forecast for early Monday morning with mostly dry day after.
1:15 – Both Richhill and King’s Threshold have the scope to win races over fences this winter and I wouldn’t be surprised if either was to win on chase debut. Preference though is for Stroll On By who goes well on a sound surface and made a winning chase debut at Exeter 20 days ago. He’s already a better chaser than hurdler and is capable of better.
2:25 – Hatcher, a formerly smart chaser, isn’t the horse he once was and is on losing run that goes back to July 2021. But he’s become a well handicapped horse and if even on the best of last year’s runs looks on a good mark. Danny Kirwan isn’t one to trust and doesn’t find much off the bridle. However, he’s a good jumper of a fence and is handicapped to win on a going day.
3:00 – Irish Hill racked up a hat-trick of handicap hurdles win before struggling in valuable handicaps at the Cheltenham & Aintree Festivals. Returns from more wind surgery and should go well. Dargiannini looked progressive when winning handicap hurdles at Uttoxeter and Newbury early in the year. Struggled in valuable handicaps on his last two starts at Aintree and Haydock probably didn’t stay 3m at Haydock. Could be set for a big run if ready for his first run for 184 days.
3:30 – Petticoat Lucy, a winner over hurdles, has won both starts over fences at Newton Abbot in May and at Exeter 20 days ago. Up 6lb for her latest success but likely remains head of the handicapper and is the one to beat.
4:00 – Angel’s Dream got off the mark at the third attempt when beating eight rivals at Plumpton novice in May. There should be more to come from her in handicap company.
A decent Kempton card with several that interest me.
Stroll On By, Petticoat Lady and Angel’s Dream have good chances in their respective races. At the prices I’m just siding with Dargiannini as today's selection. Although I have to say I'm hoping for a bit better than 4/1.
It’s one of those days when I'll be waiting to see what I odds I can get before pushing the bet button on any of the four.
3:00 – Dargiannini.
Good luck with your Monday bets.