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Doing the Racing Preview posts, I like to mention what, if anything, we learned from last week’s racing, but I’m sort of struggling this week. With Cheltenham a month away, there were few clues given over the day’s racing. The Betfair Chase didn’t give too much away, with Houblon Des Obeaux hacking up in less than ideal conditions. The Game Spirit Chase proved that last year’s Champion Chase form is horrible, with Top Gamble landing a gamble and easily defeating Dodging Bullets. And L’Ami Serge got spanked, causing all sorts of chaos in the ante-post markets. But speaking of ante-post markets, there is one piece of news that will really affect the Cheltenham Festival landscape. Faugheen, the ante-post favourite for the 2016 Champion Hurdle will miss the race after picking up an injury. That now leaves stablemate Annie Power as the 3-1 favourite for the race, but there will be hundreds if not thousands of punters who will be fuming, having seen Faugheen as the banker of the meeting. Of course, the mare is yet to be supplemented for the race, but given a run, in what looks a weak renewal of the race now, that 3-1 could be ridiculously generous come the off.
Now, last week wasn’t the greatest of weeks, it has to be said. But you know me by now, I’ll take the rough with the smooth. We couldn’t get a winner last week, giving us a loss of -6 units and after having double-figure profits, we go back down to +5.94 units. Frustrating, yes, but we’ll soldier on and get back on track with out free Channel Four Racing tips.
And before we get down to the free tips for the televised races from Ascot, Haydock and Wincanton, all live on Channel Four Racing, I have to promote our favourite bookie at the Sports Betting Tips offices. The team 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.
Our first race is a the day is a six-runner novice chase over 3 miles. The Reynoldstown Novice Chase is usually a stepping stone to success, and you have to be a class act to win it. Staying the trip, especially on this soft ground is going to be important. While Ascot isn’t the stiffest track in the world, they’re going to need a fine set of lungs to get round, and their jumping has to be sound, too.
Drumacoo comes into the race with one win out of one over fences, and had also won his last two races over hurdles. Now, he wasn’t fancied to win his race at Huntingdon last time out, but he did in in great style by 38 lengths from a well-fancied even money favourite. The trip won’t be a problem, and if there’s a lot of market support for Drumacoo, it’s worth noting. However, no market support last time and a huge step up in class means it’s a bit of a swerve from me.
For me, this is a two-way battle that might just come down to allowances. Onenightinvienna was unlucky not to win last time out at Kempton, and found the classy Blacklion just a bit too good the time previous. Of course, the Philip Hobbs connection also helps. However, he’s giving 4lbs away to the one that really catches my eye, Vyta Du Roc. Vyta Du Roc will love the trip and has very impressive form over hurdles, finishing behind Thistlecrack at Aintree last year. This trip is made for him, and this step up in trip after two races over middle distances is going to play right into his hands, along with that 4lb allowance.
Six runners declared for the Rendlesham Hurdle over 2m 6f. It’s another hot little race, with some familiar names lining up before they take their bows at either Cheltenham or Aintree.
It’s really a three-horse race on paper, and I’m sure the bookies would tend to agree. First up, we have Reve De Sivola. He put Deputy Dan in his place at Cheltenham in July, beating him by 8 lengths, but that was off level weights. Is there life in the old dog yet? I’m just not too sure. 11 years old is plenty old enough with some younger options in the field.
And speaking of Deputy Dan, he’s looked decent this season, always finding Thistlecrack too good. It’s a sign that come the start of the Ryanair World Hurdle in March, he’ll not be close to the head of the market. Still, this race is winnable now that he’s getting 8lbs from Reve De Sivola. However, he just always seems to find one or two too good at this level, and our selection should be that one.
At Fishers Cross, for me, is the obvious selection here. Sure, fifth in this race last year isn’t great, but he came back with a solid performance in the World Hurlde and has had a good prep run in Galway before heading over here. He’s also getting weight from Reve De Sivola, which can no doubt help, and if he can run up to 2015 World Hurdle form, he’ll win this at a canter.
Next up, another small field, this time five runners for the Listed handicap over 3 miles. Again, due to the ground, this lot are going to need to have buckets of stamina and class.
The interesting runner in this field is Spookydooky, purely on a form line through Cloudy Too, who beat the classy Virak by 15 lengths at Haydock at the end of January. If Spookydooky continues on the same path as Cloudy Too, this handicap mark could look like a major blot, and he could be 10lbs well in potentially. Of course, it’s all hearsay, but it’s a lenient mark nonetheless. However, the winner of that race, Seventh Sky, disappointed, so that race starts to confuse a bit if you look at it too hard.
Sausalito Sunsire disappointed last time out, and this mark doesn’t look great for him, especially considering how tacky the ground is going to be. Sure, he’s got good form in the bag, but there are signs that there are more negatives than positives going for him.
Vieux Lion Rouge also looks interesting, and this relative youngster will relish the trip. In fact, the longer the better, and he’ll no doubt be produced late to get past all the tired legs in the field. He’s off a fair handicap mark, too, which also suggests he’ll be there come the finish. Given the fact this will be a real test of stamina, we have to go with the selection we know will relish the test.
Speaking of Cloudy Too, he lines up as the top weight in the next race, a 3m 4f Grand National trial. Top weight in a Grand National trial in a decent field like this is never easy, but then Cloudy Too won well last time out, and likes it here. However, the mark is horrible, and if he wins here, the head of the Grand National market surely beckons.
Gas Line Boy is 4lbs better off than when he finished fourth in this race last year. He looked handy enough last time out before falling, and should give a decent enough account of himself. That being said, he’s still not that well-in on the handicap, and there are better choices elsewhere.
Rigadin De Beauchene will give a good account, too, although he was pulled up in this race last year. He was unlucky to be hampered by a loose horse last time out at Warwick, and he looks in good nick. However, too many question marks over his head to put too much faith in him.
Instead, we’re going to go with last year’s second place, Harry The Viking who has gone up in the weights by only 4lbs since then. He foud Rigadin De Beauchene too good last time out, but he likes it here, he’s near the bottom of the handicap, and Sandy Thomson’s horses are going well as of late.
A 2m 3f handicap hurdle coming up next from Ascot, and we have a decent-sized field for the first time today. 11 runners have been declared, so we’ve got a bit of searching to do to find the winner in amongst the pack.
Cotillion looks in good nick at the bottom of the handicap, and with Archie Bellamy taking 7lbs off his back, he has to be on everyone’s shortlist. However, he’s not got ahead that often in his 10 years and time waits for no horse. With such a young and classy field, the race might be a tough ask for him. However, he might just be one to watch should he make the one of the big handicaps at Cheltenham, as this could be a winning mark.
Debdebdeb is taking a step up in class here, and the win last time out over Harley Rebel actually reads quite well. She’s handicapped relatively well, and again, with an allowance, this time from Bridget Andrews (5lbs), she might be there come the finish.
However, Montdragon looks to be on an upward curve and could still be ahead of the handicapper. With Different Gravey skewing the handicap, it’s a good chance for Montdragon to keep the winning ways going, and with Josh Moore taking the ride, we’re more than happy.
The Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle is up next, our only race of the day live on Channel Four from Wincanton. Run over two miles, we have a field of four declared for the race.
But this is all about Irving, who finished second in a tougher race last year. Sure, he’s got a penalty, but it’s a weak enough field and if he’s recovered after a couple of months off, he should hack up here.
Last race of the day, and it’s nice that we don’t have a 20-runner cavalry charge handicap to get stuck into. Instead, the Grade 1 Ascot Chase over 2m 5f, with some of the sport’s finest chasers finishes off the live coverage on Channel Four Racing. Seriously, isn’t it a welcome change from the usual pick ’em?
Dynaste is a class act, but seems to have lost his way this season. If he can repeat his form of years past, he’ll take some beating, but he’s not been at the races this season, and has disappointed in fields almost as tough as this.
What Silviniaco Conte will turn up? Sure, we know he likes flat tracks, we know he hates Cheltenham, but this season he’s just been a bit all over the place, tending to find one too good. This isn’t an easy option for him to take up, especially when you consider his best days seem to be behind him.
Instead, Ma Filleule, who has had a nice build-up this season is the preferred option, especially with a 7lb allowance from the boys. With a few runs over hurdles to freshen her up, Ma Filleule won first time out over fences this season, jumped nicely and just looks to be in good nick. Yes, she was second in this race last year, but she’s a year better and has had a really nice build-up to this race. She’ll be heading to the Ryanair Chase again, for sure, and if she can beat the boys here, it’ll give Nicky Henderson some added confidence heading to the Cheltenham Festival, where she’ll be hoping to go one better than her second last year.