Good morning all,
It’s that time in the week when my thoughts turn to the upcoming weekend action.
ITV are televising nine races on Saturday and its jumps action all the way. There are four races from Wetherby, where the feature race is the Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase, and four potentially competitive handicaps at Ascot. As a bonus they will also be showing the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Champion Chase from Down Royal.
The going is good to soft at Wetherby and also good to soft at Ascot. There looks like there will be showers at both venues between now and race day and maybe some more prolonged rain at Wetherby on Thursday. It’s probably best to work on the assumption that the going will be on the soft side of good on Saturday at best.
The bookmakers have priced up seven of this Saturday's races and over the next two days I’m going to look at some of them.
Inside the main piece you find my thoughts on three races. Plus, I have selection running today at Punchestown.
Let’s begin with the weekend’s biggest race this side of the Irish Sea; the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby.
bet365 Charlie Hall Chase (Grade 2) (GBB Race) (Class 1) – 3m
Last weekend it looked like Paul Nicholls was going to aim Cyrname at the Charlie Hall and another try left-handed. He’s still a best priced 15/8 for the race but it looks like he could make his return at Ascot, carrying top-weight in the 3m handicap chase at 3:40 on Saturday.
High class staying hurdler Sam Spinner won all three starts over fences last season, including two here. He wasn’t seen out after winning a Grade 2 novices chase at Doncaster last December. No issues with ground for him and he's a fascinating runner. But, does he have the experience for a race like this?
Ballyoptic won this 12 months ago and put in career best on RPR’s when carrying top-weight to victory in an Ascot handicap in February. The softer the ground the better for him and although he had the benefit of a run 12 months ago, he’s won fresh in the past.
Defintely Red won this in 2018 and looks set to make his seasonal reappearance here and has to be respected.
If Nicholls doesn’t run Cyrname he could saddle Black Corton who's another contender. Like his stablemate he’s also got an entry in the Ascot race. The same applies to the Kim Bailey trained Vinndication who won on his seasonal reappearance last season.
Blacklion was runner-up to Bristol De Mai in 2017. He’s having his first start for Dan Skelton and first run since February 2019. Has won fresh in the past and is another well suited to the mud.
Gordon Elliott has three entries and he could bring over recent Punchestown Grade 3 winner The Storyteller.
Even if Cyrname doesn’t run it looks a good renewal of the race.
bet365 Mares' Hurdle (Listed Race) – 2m
Verdana Blue heads the market 13/8 with Coral and Ladbrokes. However, I can’t see her running if its soft ground
Stormy Ireland finished runner-up to Eldorado Allen over fences on her first start for Paul Nicholls, since switching from Willie Mullins. She handles soft ground well and will likely go off a short-priced favourite should Verdana Blue not run.
For me it looks worth taking on the front pair here with something each way.
Harry Fry saddled the 2015 winner and he has been aiming Whitehotchillifili at this race since the summer. The 6-year-old won two of her four starts over hurdles last season, both on heavy ground, and wasn’t disgraced when 6th of 22 in the Mares Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Miah Grace was an improving novice hurdler last season winning three of her five starts. Not given a hard race on her seasonal return, in a handicap hurdle, over C&D 17-days ago. She will be sharper here and is another with place claims.
bet365 Hurdle (Grade 2) (Registered as the West Yorkshire Hurdle) – 3m
Shock 50/1 Stayers Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar looks set for his seasonal return but will have to give a 6lb penalty away to his rivals here.
Thyme Hill brings Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle form into the race. He was only beaten 1 ½ lengths at Cheltenham and if he hadn’t been tightened up at the last may well have gone onto win. He won the Persian War Novices Hurdle at Chepstow on his return to action last season and has won twice on soft ground, so underfoot conditions won’t hold any terrors for the 6-year-old who’s open to further improvement this season. A worthy favourite, although the form of the Philip Hobbs yard would be a worry.
Roksana won the Mares Hurdle at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, although she benefitted from the fall of Benie Des Dieux at the last and then went on to finish runner-up in a Grade 1 at Aintree on her next start. Not up to that level of form on her four starts last season but could easily bounce back this season. Has tended to need her first run in previous seasons.
Next Destination is another switcher from Willie Mullins to Paul Nicholls. The 8-year-old hasn’t raced since beating Delta Work in a 3m Grade 1 novices’ hurdle at the 2018 Punchestown Festival. It would be a hell of a training performance to get him to win a race like this off an absence of 920-days though.
Given doubts about running plans and the going, it’s probably wise to proceed with caution if you’re thinking of punting at this stage at Wetherby.
I will have a look at a couple of the Ascot races in tomorrow’s column.
Yesterday’s selection Miss Amelia ran out a comfortable winner at Bangor. There are several that interest me today.
Orin Swift caught the eye when runner-up at Haydock two starts back but only beat one home when behind one of today’s rivals Land Of Winter at Goodwood 17-days ago. You couldn’t blame the track for that poor run, as he’s got form at Goodwood in the past. It must have been the heavy ground although he’s got good form on soft. A previous C&D winner if you forgive that run, he looks a bit of value in the 2:50.
Kabrit is a ten-race maiden over hurdles. He’s produced plenty of decent efforts over 2m on good ground and last time out was a staying on 3rd of 12 over an extended 2m 5f at Hereford 15-days ago. Looked slow at Hereford and takes a step up to 3m in the handicap hurdle (2:40). A combination of a further step up in trip and first-time hood could be the key here.
Sunrise Lady got off the mark at the tenth attempt over fences here two weeks ago. The mare got into a good jumping rhythm from the off. Down 2f in distance today but It’s hard to see a 9lb rise in the weight stopping her if in the same mood today.
2:55 – Sunrise Lady – 3/1 @ Paddy Power & Betfair Sportsbook.
Good luck with your Wednesday bets.
John Burke is the tipster behind the long standing Victor Value service you can join him here – https://victorvalue.uk