Horse Racing 12th December, 2015 – Cheltenham & Doncaster

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The weather caused havoc to the racing last week, with the going becoming far worse than expected overnight. All the racing at Sandown and Aintree became real slogs, with some confusing results, although Sire De Grugy winning the Tingle Creek was a nice return to form for the star. Sure, he wasn’t winning by a distance, but winning the Tingle Creek always takes some doing. So well done to connections with that. We only got the one winner in the shape of Don Poli last week, although Ballyheigue Bay almost copped at a tasty 20/1, finishing 3rd by just over 3 lengths, much to my dismay. So we ended up with a loss of -4.8 units, taking us to a profit of +12,43 units.

We’re at the home of National Hunt racing on the 12th of December, with Channel Four racing coming to us from Cheltenham with some key races for the Cheltenham Festival on the card. We’ve also got a couple of races from Doncaster, and it’s good to see the jumps there after the glut of flat racing we had from towards the end of the flat racing season. So we’ve got six races in total live on Channel Four Racing, with four coming from Cheltenham, and two from Doncaster to get our teeth into.

As ever, I want to remind you that our friends at Bet365 will give you the best price on every horse race shown live on Channel Four if you back it from 10am on the day of the race. That means you should wait until 10am Saturday and get the best price, as they will match their competitors. What could be better than best prices? Well, if you back a winner at 4/1 or more at Bet365 on any of the Channel Four races, you get a free bet that matches your stake on the winner for the next Channel Four race. So, back a winner of the 1:50 at Cheltenham for up to £50 and get free bet of up to £50 on the 2:05 at Sandown.

1:50 Cheltenham

First race of the day, and it’s a tough one to start off with, the Caviar Gold Cup, which is a handicap chase over 2 miles 4 furlongs. But with the ground being so testing, it could be one for the stayers more than the middle-distances horses.

Annacotty is going to be the popular selection having won the Paddy Power Gold Cup over course and distance a month ago, but a 5lb rise in the weights isn’t ideal when the ground is becoming more and more testing

Sound Investment ran a huge race to finish just over a length behind Annacotty, lugging round top weight. He’s gone up a few pounds for that run, but he’s weighted to get even closer to Annacotty. But again, that weight could just be killer in the conditions.

Village Vic looks interesting right at the bottom of the handicap, with Richard Johnson on-board. And you can’t go wrong with the Philip Hobbs yard, especially in these big races. However, it’s a huge step up in class, and there looks to be at least one that looks better handicapped.

Yes, that one is Champagne West who is making his seasonal bow and is also running in his first handicap chase, so it’ll be interesting to find out how the handicapper has him. He looks to be, on form with Ptit Zig, to be a few pounds well in, and if that’s the case, considering he’s nicely in the middle of the handicap, he could hack up here and prove a real blot to the handicapper. He also went well at this meeting last year, winning over course and distance. In fact, he goes exceptionally well at Cheltenham, which is a huge plus. Again, it’s Philip Hobbs, and Tom O’Brien should give Champagne West a good ride.

2:05 Doncaster

A 2 mile juvenile hurdle is our first race from Doncaster, and we’ve got six runners going to post.

Old Fashion and Consortium can confidently be ruled out here, as neither have shown they can do the business over hurdles.

Now, there is an interesting race on the flat in York in which Who Dares Wins beat Sir Chauvelin. Yes, it was on the flat, but it would look like Who Dares wins has the flat speed over Sir Chauvelin. Who Dares Wins also beat Fouburg in both their first and only start over hurdles. So all signs point to Who Dares Wins, although Fouburg doesn’t have the penalty to contend with, so might turn the tables on his conqueror.

However, Robertstown looks an interesting recruit to hurdles for John Ferguson. His last run on the flat was in a valuable handicap in Naas, he’s also won in tacky, soft ground in Ireland, so he won’t mind the rain that’s lashed down in Doncaster.

2:25 Cheltenham

Another hot little novice hurdle back at Cheltenham over 3 miles, and some impressive looking sorts in this small field of seven.

Ennistown has been running well in lesser company, winning and placing consistently. However, firmer ground might be required, and maybe a slightly weaker field.

It’s really the same for Final Nudge. He has a level, and this might not be it. He ran in the Grand Sefton Novice Hurdle at Aintree in April and was pulled up, so he’s not really the sort for the top level.

It’s hard to make heads or tails of Justanother Muddle’s form, as the majority has come in bumper races. However, he won last time out, although over a far shorter distance than today’s race. He might progress from that, but it’s really hard to recommend him on the bare bones of his form.

Ballycross and West Approach, although receiving an allowance, they don’t seem to have the class or form for this race and should only be picking up minor money.

Net Work Rouge has won well at Worcester an Warwick, and the distance shouldn’t be a problem. The only concern is the ground, as he didn’t hand the soft going on the flat, so it might not be to his liking over the timber.

Unowhatimeanharry (NAP) looks the very strong pick here. He’s won at Cheltenham, albeit over a shorter trip, and he’s run well at Exeter over a similar distance in horrible ground, so the rain shouldn’t be a problem. He’s the top horse on ratings and just has a bit too much on paper at least for this field. He’ll go off short enough, but he is the class act.

2:40 Doncaster

A six runner novice chase over 3 miles is our feature race at Doncaster, and it’s another hot little race, with some decent novice chasers going to post.

Coologue looks to have the beating of Smooth Slipper in their last meeting, but the distance is a bit of an unknown factor for both of them, which puts me off Coologue, given how testing this race is going to be. Coologue is the top horse in ratings, but until he really proves he can handle the trip and the going, it’s best to just watch him and see how he goes.

River Maigue is a decent enough hurdler, but might just find this a bit tough, as well as the fact connections have had him over fences and hurdles of late, and hes’ not excelled over either.

Weather Babe is of some interest, but might just need that firmer summer ground to get the best out of her. However, she’s one to keep an eye on in the spring if her form holds up, as she’s done the business in good company, and if it wasn’t for the ground bringing up questions, she could be a real threat.

But this is a two horse race on paper. It’s A Close Call won convincingly at Chepstow on his only start over fences, and he won his last race over hurdles handily enough. He didn’t race much over hurdles, so this change to chasing was quick. He’s had one race on heavy going, which he didn’t take to at all and finished a distance back at Wincanton. So, for me, the selection here has to be
Southfield Royale (NB), who won well at Wetherby last time out over 3 miles in soft, which is a huge positive.

3:00 Cheltenham

The International Hurdle is the feature race of the day, and we have some smart horses taking to post in this 2 mile six runner race.

All eyes will be on this year’s Triumph Hurdle winner Peace and Co, who is undefeated over hurdles and has two wins at Cheltenham. He has the beating of Old Guard on Triumph form, as well as Hargam. That’s all there is to say, really. As long as Peace and Co is fit for this, he should really win, as he doesn’t mind the ground, the course or small fields. He’ll go off odds-on, but what do you expect for one of the classiest youngsters in training?

15:35 Cheltenham

The last race of the day, 11 runners going to post for this handicap hurdle over 2 miles 4 furlongs.

Blue Buttons is in decent form, but his need to go right last time out was a bit strange. However, course and distance, as well as the going shouldn’t be a problem and if he can get his jumping back on track, he’ll go well. However, he’s not weighted to beat The Govaness, who has course and distance form here. And, in turn, The Govaness is not weighted to get the better of Broxbourne this time. That being said, all three of them at the top of the handicap just doesn’t appeal, as we know their ability.

Rons Dream winning at Cheltenham last time out is a huge plus here, and although he’s been put up the handicap, it was a good win, and he looks a real staying hurdle in the making, which is going to be a benefit in this race. That being said, it’s a wide-open race, and you can make a case for many, so although Rons Dream is the choice, the handicapper seems to have this one quite tight. What it will boil down to is who handles the testing ground the best, as they could end up quite strung out.

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