If there's one month in the year that I don’t like its January. The Christmas and New Year festivities are behind and all we have to look forward to is miserable weather and some of the shortest days of the year.
It probably doesn’t help that the racing isn’t that great at this time of year either. From the Paddy Power meeting through to all the Christmas action. The big races just keep coming. Sadly, that’s not really the case this month
This weekend the big races are at Sandown. Where its Tolworth Hurdle Day. Besides the Grade 1 Unibet Tolworth Novices' Hurdle (2:25). We also have the final of the 2021 Veterans Chase Series (3:00). The ITV cameras are covering four races from Sandown and four from Wincanton as part of an eight-race programme.
Inside today’s main piece I’m looking ahead to Sandown and the Veterans' Series Final. Plus, there’s a selection from Kempton’s tea time card.
Something For The Weekend
Just nine were declared at Monday’s confirmation stage for Saturday’s feature race the Tolworth Hurdle. They include the exciting Nicky Henderson trained novice hurdler Constitution Hill. Who is a best priced 4/9 with SkyBet to follow up last months C&D racecourse debut success!
It's a shame that Grade 1 races like the Tolworth Hurdle are seen as merely as a trial for the Supreme at the festival. The jumps season now revolves around those four days in March. Now don’t get me wrong I love Cheltenham Festival. However, its not long ago when the winter jumps season wasn’t all geared to the festival. It used to be the case that trainers & owners wanted to win a race like the Imperial Cup at Sandown. Now they would rather wait a few days and go for the County Hurdle.
The flat season doesn’t revolve around Royal Ascot and the winter jumps season shouldn’t revolve around four days in March. It shouldn’t but it will, sadly.
Sandown – Veterans' Series Final
It’s just over seven years since the BHA announced the creation of Veterans’ Chase Series with a final at Sandown. The series was designed for 10-year-old-plus Chasers who might have found winning chances limited in other valuable races. Since the first race run in 2016 it has become a post-Christmas highlight for many racing fans, myself included. A race at the right time and right place in the racing calendar.
Seventeen old favourites were left in the race at Monday’s final confirmation stage. Here’s the five on my betting shortlist with the best prices available at the time of writing.
Aso, trained by Venetia Williams, was a 3 ¾ length 2nd of 11 to Blaklion in veterans handicap at Haydock last time. The 12-year-old has top weight to carry but does have a touch of class. Yard won this in 2019.
Evan Williams saddled the winner in 2018 and has also had a third & fourth in the race. He could saddle Prime Venture. Respected on his 8-length 5th of 18 in last seasons’ Welsh Grand National. Was found to have bled when pulling up last time on his seasonal return.
Red Infantry was successful in the Grimethorpe Handicap Chase at Doncaster in March, off his present mark. The 11-year-old solid 9 ¼ lengths 4th of 10 to Highland Hunter in Betfair London National at Sandown last time. Must be considered and each way contender.
Sir Ivan was a 2 ¼ length 3rd of 15 in last year’s race. He finished a respectable 6 ½ lengths 4th of 11 to Final Nudge in veterans chase at Warwick last time. Now 5lb higher than 12 months ago but he’s respected.
Wishing And Hoping, a multiple winning hunter chaser and in points. The 12-year-old won his first race under rules outside of hunter chases for four years when making all in a handicap chase at Aintree (good) two starts back. Pulled up in the Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase last time but this is more his level.
Aso – 3/1 – William Hill & Ladbrokes.
Wishing And Hoping – 10/1 @ Bet365 (13/2 @ Ladbrokes).
Sir Ivan – 11/1 @ William Hill.
Red Infantry – 14/1 @ William Hill.
Prime Venture – 20/1 @ William Hill.
In Thursday’s column and without a trace of irony given my earlier comments about festival. I shall begin my “Path to Cheltenham” which will be a regular Thursday feature for the next nine weeks.
All-weather racing dominates today with fixtures this afternoon at Wolverhampton and Dundalk. There’s also a tea time card at Kempton. The sole jumps meeting is at Ffos Las. I’m off to Kempton for one today.
4:30 – I was hoping that Small Print would be a bigger price here. She looked better suited by the step up to 7f at Lingfield last month and makes her handicap debut off what looks a workable mark.
6:00 – Bobby On The Beat got off the mark at the 18th attempt when winning a 6f maiden here two starts back. That was just the 4-year-old’s third start since joining the Phil McEntee yard. Not disgraced when a 4 lengths 9th of 11 at Wolverhampton last time. He didn’t get the best of runs when making effort 1f out that day. Dropped 2lb since his last run. He stays 7f and granted a better passage is entitled to go close here.
6:00 – Bobby On The Beat
Good luck with your Wednesday bets.