Inside today’s main piece I look ahead to a Saturday packed with returning stars and thrilling races.
Guess who's back?
Constitution Hill takes in Newcastle's BetMGM Fighting Fifth Hurdle at 1.55, aiming for that impressive eighth consecutive victory. Just five were left in the race at Monday’s final confirmation stage and barring a mishap Constitution Hill will win. It’s an appealing betting race but it’s another chance to watch one of the best jumps horses you’re ever likely to see in action.
Shishkin's Weighty Challenge
Besides Constitution Hill stablemate Shishkin has redemption on his mind after last weekend's s-disgrace at Ascot, where he refused to race in the 1965 Chase. Nicky Henderson could throw him into the Rehearsal Chase at 3.05, as he needs to get a prep into his star chaser before the King George VI Chase at Kempton.
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If Shishkin does line up, he would be giving 21lb plus to all his rivals. Give the conditions of the race mean that the bottom weight will carry 10-2, just two of the 16 remaining entries Gal Law and Datsalrightgino wouldn’t be out of the handicap to varying degrees.
Last year another classy top-weight L’Homme Presse gave weight away to win the race on his seasonal return. Can Shishkin do the same? Well, given his antics at the start last Saturday it will be a brave punter who takes the likely short odds.
Fingers crossed both Newcastle and Newbury can race on Saturday. The first serious frosts of the winter have arrived and the worst of them is forecast for Friday night.
The big race action doesn’t end on Saturday. There are three Grade 1 races at Fairyhouse on Sunday. One of Constitution Hill’s Champion Hurdle rivals Impaire Et Passe is set to return in the Hatton's Grace Hurdle. The other two Grade 1’s on the card are the Drinmore Novice Chase and the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.
Newbury Coral Gold Cup Meeting
Digging into Horseracebase.com we can see that five trainers have dominated at this meeting since 2017.
It's a rare occurrence to see the top five winning trainers all being profitable, but that's the case here. Together, they've secured 55% of wins from just 27% of the total runners at the meeting.
Nicky Henderson leads the table in terms of winners, and both he, along with Paul Nicholls and Dan Skelton, have proven profitable to follow, whether at ISP or BFSP.
However, my attention is drawn particularly to Venetia Williams and Ben Pauling figures. Williams has excelled in November with her handicap chasers. On the other hand, Pauling, despite a quieter month, has shown signs in the last week that his runners are gearing up for success.
Coral Gold Cup Showdown
Twenty three contenders were still in the mix at Monday’s final confirmation stage. All the big players in the ante post betting have held their ground. The bookies can't decide between Complete Unknown, Paul Nicholls' seven-year-old, and Mahler Mission, the Colin Parker Chase runner-up from John McConnell's stable who are the 7/1 joint favourites.
It's shaping up to be a competitive renewal but looking at the entries not the classiest of renewals. If top weight Ahoy Senor does run, he’s conceding 12lb and more to his rivals and only two of the present entries are set to carry 11-0. If he doesn’t run either Stolen Silver or Midnight River will carry top weight which tells you plenty about the direction this one great race is heading. I suppose it’s not so surprising given that most of the top chasers are trained in Ireland and the top Irish trainers don’t really target this race with their better horses.
From Hennessy to Coral Gold Cup:
The Hennessy Gold Cup, now known as the Coral Gold Cup, holds a revered status among National Hunt fans. Its inaugural race in 1957, was won by Mandarin subsequently honoured with a race bearing his name at Newbury.
The historical significance of the event is underscored by early triumphs, notably the legendary Arkle's consecutive wins in 1964 and 1965. Transitioning into the modern era, this top-tier staying handicap chase has served as a pivotal platform for elite chasers.
Over the past 15 years alone, the Ladbrokes Trophy has been won by notable champions, including three Gold Cup winners: Denman (2007 & 2009), Bobs Worth (2012), and Native River (2016). The list of winners further extends to a Grand National victor Many Clouds in 2014.
The race roll of honour has made it a key race when it comes to assessing the outcomes of other high quality chases throughout the rest of the jumps season.
Trends and Insights
Taking a quick delve into the trend all the last 15 winners shared the following traits:
Odds SP: 33/1 or less
Runs in Career: 9 to 24
Number of Runners in Last Race: Between 5 and 16.
Interestingly the clear favourite with the above traits is 5 winners from 7 runners 71% +17.25, 6 placed since 2008.
Clear Favourites are 5 winners from 14 runners 36% +10.25, 6 placed.
Monbeg Genius: A Strong Contender for Coral Gold Cup Glory
Monbeg Genius stands out as my preferred choice. His notable performance when a 2 ½ length of 23 in the Ultima Handicap at the Cheltenham Festival, arguably represents the pinnacle of handicap chase form available. While his seasonal reappearance at Ascot, where he pulled up after a mistake, may not have been an ideal preparation, it is noteworthy that he was not unduly pressured that day, aligning with the strategic plan in place since March.
Having claimed victory in the previous year's renewal, Dan Skelton positions Midnight River as a formidable contender for another race success. A recent outing over hurdles at Wetherby last month should put him spot on fitness wise. Some ease in the ground suits the 8-year-old and if get;s it shouldn’t be far away.
The Irish contingent brings forth strong contenders in Mahler Mission and Stumptown. Mahler Mission's potential victory in the National Hunt Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival was thwarted by a fall two from the finish. I think he’s probably well treated horse of a mark 151. Concerns arise, however, regarding trainer John McConnell's form, with a notable 40-day gap and 48 runners since his last success. Stumptown, while needing improvement in his jumping based on the Kerry National performance, is expected to fare well on quicker ground. His neck 2nd of 23 in the Kim Muir Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival is strong form. The reputation of the yard's runners commands respect, particularly when on British soil.
Complete Unknown: Ante Post Favourite Facing Ground Preference Dilemma
Joint ante-post favourite, Complete Unknown, faces a dilemma regarding good ground, as the current conditions may not align with the softer ground the horse typically favours. That all said he’s progressive and as a second season chaser a goof profile for the race.
The Sam Thomas dup of, Our Power and Stolen Silver, both present credible claims, although it is speculated that only one of them will run. Notably, both horses are adaptable to the likely going.
Ga Law and Datsalrightgino emerge as contenders. However, they both also have entries in Saturday’s Rehearsal Chase. Datsalrightgino seems the likeliest of the pair to run here with Ga Law heading to Newcastle.
Bill Baxter is an improving handicap chaser, as he demonstrated when winning the Topham Chase at Aintree in April. Whilst there’s potential for further progression at 3m+ exists, he’s another who probably wouldn’t want the ground to quicken up too much more. He also holds a Rehearsal entry.
Coral Gold Cup Verdict:
Monbeg Genius continues to head my list of preferred contenders, although I have yet to place a bet on him. While I hold a favourable opinion of Bill Baxter, the prospect of quick ground raises concerns. That's a potential issue shared with Midnight River. Mahler Mission exhibits commendable credentials, yet apprehensions linger regarding the current form of the trainer. Both Our Power and Stolen Silver secure spots on the shortlist, as neither is expected to be unsettled by the progressively drying ground.
Thursday's Racing Promises Intrigue and Redemption
The spotlight falls on the Listed Make Your Best Bet At BetVictor Chase (12:40), the most lucrative race on Thursday with a prize of €15,340 for the victor. Despite five entries from Willie Mullins, the race promises more intrigue than anticipated.
Racing this side of the Irish Sea offers moderate fare, with fixtures at Taunton, Musselburgh, and Lingfield, weather permitting.
12:40 – Make Your Best Bet At BetVictor Chase (Listed Race) – 2m 6f
Janidil, runner-up to Allaho three weeks ago, holds race fitness but must concede weight to his eight rivals. Haut En Couleurs leads the bookies' early odds and Paul Townend is on the saddle. Capodanno returns after a Grand National exit. James Du Berlais should benefit from the drop back to 2m 6f on his return, and Classic Getaway won first time up last season and has scope for potential improvement.
French Dynamite, a class act on his day, as he showed when a 5 ¾ length 4th of 8 in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. A reproduction of that run would see him on the premises on his return to action.
Farouk D'alene aims for redemption after a mishap atbe first in the Troytown Handicap Chase. That was his first run since coming down at the second last in last years Brown Advisory Novices' Chase. He'd looked booked for an honourable second behind L'Homme Presse that day. If none the worse for his latest mishap I can see him going well.
1:35 – Autumn Return, a consistent hurdler, seeks victory after a solid return to action at Kelso. She looked in need of a return to 2m 4f last time and will take the beating.
2:45 – Magna Sam is a perfect 3-3 at Musselburgh and goes well fresh. First run since finishing a 8 ¾ length 5th of 18 in the Scottish Grand National. Must have a big chance now dropped in class.
1:35 – Bobolot. promising on chase début over C&D last time and the first time blinkers replace cheekpieces. Looks to have a good chance off his present mark if the change of headgear has the desired effect. Felton Bellevue looks to bounce back from a low-key return but will benefit from better ground. The 8-year-old produced one of his best performances over fences when a head 2nd of 12 over C&D in February and is now 7lb lower.
2:00 – Decorated looked a progressive handicap hurdler when winning over C&D in March. Needs to bounce back from a poor return to action at Wetherby but should get an uncontested lead and in the mix if back to last season's best.
3:10 – Gyllen will be sharper for his recent stable debut and isn't handicapped out of this. A more solid contender is likely favourite Sailed Away. The 5-year-old is just 1lb higher than when a 2 ½ length 2nd of 8 at Fakenham (2m) on handicap hurdle debut 17 days ago. The step up to 2m 3f should suit and he's a strong contender for a tard among the winners.
I have several of interest this afternoon but I'm going to take a chance with one in the feature race at Thurles.
12:40 – Farouk D'alene – 15/2 @ Coral & Ladbrokes.
Good luck with your Thursday bets.