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Last week was a frustrating week for us. A couple of winners, which was nice, but then we also had three second places at far nicer prices than our winners. The most frustrating of all was noting that Village Vic was looking good in the handicap but plumping for Champagne West on his handicap debut, only for Village Vic to get up thanks to Richard Johnson somehow making the 10 stone weight. Still, these things happen, and if that or Ron’s Dream would have copped, we’d have been laughing right now. We ended up with a loss of -0.9 units, taking us to a profit of +11.53 units. It was a good day of racing, though, and it’s a bit confusing in terms of Peace and Co’s run. Did he need the run? Was he unfit? Does he need a breathing operation? Is he still on track to put in a good showing at the Champion Hurdle? We’ll find out over the next month or so, I guess.
The 19th of December sees racing coming from the south of England and the north west of England, with Ascot being the main meeting, while we also have racing from Haydock to fill our stockings. The feature race for the day is the Long Walk Hurdle from Ascot, which is going to give us a lot of pointers for the World Hurdle at Cheltenham in March, so get the notebooks out in preparation for it.
Before we g on, fans of the column will know that I have to direct you towards 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 Ascot for up to £50 and get free bet of up to £50 on the 2:05 at Haydock.
A 2 mile 2 furlong handicap chase to start the day and we have ten runners going to post for the race. While not the classiest race of the day by a long way, it’s a nice open race to get us started for the day.
The race kind of revolves around La Vaticane yet again. The problem we have here is that David Pipe’s horses are still not firing in all cylinders, and as much as the horse is held in high regard, the thing is we can’t be backing Pipe’s horses until he gets some more success under his belt.
Mountain King, the top weight, hasn’t exactly been setting the world alight over fences, winning once at Perth in what wasn’t exactly the hottest race in the world. He doesn’t look to be that well in under the weight, and I wouldn’t be rushing to back him at the price. The Hobbs and Johnson combination are going well, but it just doesn’t appeal to me.
Marcilhac appeals on form, but then he hasn’t had a run for almost two years. It doesn’t look a tough race for him to win, and Venetia Williams is undoubtedly in good form at the moment, but he might just be needing this run in a race where there are a few runners that could go well.
Mon Successeur really appeals on form, and should, in theory, be a lot shorter. However, Paul Nicholls’ runners are going through such a bad patch at the moment that it’s virtually unbackable. Having watched his runners during the week, they just seems to be running out of steam a few furlongs from home, and in this ground it’s just not great. Once the Nicholls runners get back on track, Mon Successeur will be one to watch.
Preference is for Ultragold who is having his second run for his new yard. He was travelling well at Cheltenham last time out when he fell, and if he can put in a good run of jumping, he’s weighted exceptionally well and should take this without too much of a problem.
The first race from Haydock is a 2m 2 furlong handicap hurdle, with 7 runners going to post.
It’s a hot little race, and Three Faces West sits at the top of the handicap. He won at Haydock last time out, is from a good in-form yard and should go well. However, he’s at the top of the handicap, lugging 11st 12lbs around and there are horses further down the handicap that should go better.
Baby King won at Haydock last time out, but was hard pushed in a fast run race. He should go OK here again, and might just need the extra couple of furlongs, but his previous runs don’t suggest that he might be going to be setting the world alight.
Baby Bach had a good win at Newcastle last time out, but it’s a step up in class and although he won by lengths, he needs to show that he can cope in this class before we look at backing him.
The preference here is for Montdragon who’s second behind Laurium looks the best form on show here. He unseated last time out, but should still come on for this run and will be hard to beat.
The feature race of the day, and it’s a tasty race. We’ve got the usual suspects coming into this races and no doubt we’ll see several of them lining up for the World Hurdle at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival.
Thistlecrack came out at Newbury and routed the field, beating Deputy Dan by seven lengths. The win was impressive, he looked good, and the benefit of the run is going to help him. However, Cole Harden and Whisper did look like they needed the run and disappointed back down the field. Thistlecrack is definitely going to be tough to beat, but there are a few in the race that might just be smarter and will be just as ready for this as Thistlecrack.
Saphir Du Rheu will be all the rage here, finishing second in last year’s World Hurdle and should have been closer. He leads the way on ratings, has had the benefit of a prep run and, sure, looks the class act of the race. However, we go back to how poorly Paul Nicholls’ horses are running, and in what is going to be a tough race, you need to be on top form, as there are several in the field that are going to push him hard.
Last year’s winner, Reve De Sivola, will be all set for a good run here. He’s had the benefit of a run, likes the course and is only 1lb behind Saphir Du Rheu on official weights. Saphir Du Rheu beat Reve De Sivola by a neck in January, but we getting 4lbs. This time, on level weights, and with the Paul Nicholls runners not going great, we’re going for Nick Williams’ charge.
A 2m 7 furlong handicap chase here, and usually we’d be looking for something near the bottom or the middle of the handicap here, but in this case, all those runners seem to have several question marks over them in terms of class and ability.
Seventh Sky chased home Conygree on the Gold Cup winner’s seasonal reappearance. He didn’t get close to him, in all fairness, but it was a decent enough run considering the gulf in class. However, top weight, he’s not exactly a stand-out performer in this field.
Final Assault has some good form in the bag and his fourth in the Eider Chase last time out looks good. He has 3lbs off his back thanks to jockey Derek Fox. However, it does appear like the handicapper has caught up with him after some recent exploits.
Spookydooky also has some good form in the bag, beating Warrior’s Tale last time out. Warrior’s Tale disappointed last time out during the week, and it kind of put a big hole in Spookydooky’s form. However, there’s no denying that he’s looking progressive.
However, I’m liking the look of Sun Cloud, whose second behind Vieux Lion Rouge looks solid, after Vieux Lion Rouge went and ran a big race at Cheltenham last time out, although he unseated close to home in a far better race. It’s going to be a real slog of a race which should suit Sun Cloud down to the ground.
The Silver Cup Handicap Chase is next, a 3 mile handicap with 14 runners declared. It’s a real tough race to puzzle out, with a lot of high-class handicappers in the field to whet our appetite.
Virak and Wakanda reoppose each other after the Eider Chase at Newcastle, with Wakanda weighted to get the better of Virak still. Wakanda’s form has been looking good, and there’s no doubt he’s a quality handicapper in the making. However, it’s a tough race, and this is a real step up in class, as we’ve got some of the best handicappers in National Hunt racing opposing him here.
Ma Filleule has been campaigning over hurdles at the start of the season, and now she’s back over fences, she starts to look far more appealing. However, again, carrying 11st 11lbs is a tough ask, and while she is better than Virak, and is getting weight, there are better handicapped horses in this race. Look for her later in the season to pick up a few nice prizes.
The Young Master appeals, although his one run this season he unseated at the first, so he’ll not have had a chance to get a decent run under his belt, so maybe wait until he completes to get stuck into him. He’s a real class act, but he might just not be ready for this race.
While it’s not the most shocking pick, Pendra has the stand out form at Ascot and potentially looks well handicapped still based on that performance. Double Ross has come out and ran fine in better races, so has kept the form looking solid. He’s got a few more races in him yet until the handicapper catches up with him.
Final race of the day, it’s The Ladbroke, a handicap hurdle over 2 miles and we have 21 runners going to post.
With so many runners, I’ll not bore you with a big write up. And I have to be honest, there are a lot of horses in with a real chance here. Sternrubin each-way is the play here. He has good form under Lil Rockerfeller from back in April over course and distance, and really appeals at the weights. We’ve got the in-form combination of Hobbs and Johnson again, and the Champion Jockey elect should have enough to guide Sternrubin home in first, if not into the top four for a place.