Horse Racing 3rd December: Aintree and Sandown

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Last week, Thistlecrack continued his winning start over fences as he won comfortably at Newbury. It was nothing more than a public schooling, if we’re being honest, but he did it well and solidified his place at the front of the Gold Cup market. He’ll be heading for the King George now and if he hacks up there, expect his price to be scythed by the bookies. Of course, he still has a lot to answer for on his run at Cheltenham if he’s going to win the Gold Cup, but he looks in decent nick as he is on route for the big one in March. Elsewhere, last week wasn’t too informative when it comes to Cheltenham Festival clues, but this weekend we do have at least one race which will hopefully unlock some answers, especially to the Queen Mother Chase in four months’ time with the running of the Tingle Creek at Sandown, one of those races I really do love – it evokes memories of watching Moscow Flyer duel with Azertyuiop and Well Chief, memories that bring a smile to my face.

Today, as well as the Tingle Creek meeting at Sandown, we have racing from Aintree, where we’ll have the Grand Sefton, which might just start to point us in the right direction come April and the Grand National meeting . It’s two exceptionally stacked cards of racing live on Channel 4, as we start into the last month of coverage on the broadcaster before live horse racing moves to ITV. Interestingly, Channel 4 have announced they’re going to sign off four days early from their coverage, with their last meeting being the Welsh National meeting from Chepstow. So, don’t forget that the live horse racing moves to ITV in the New Year, and also don’t forget that at our friends over at Bet365, you will get best price on all Channel Four races, if you back a winner at 4/1 or better, you get a risk free bet for the same stake. But what’s even better is that Bet365 do Best Odds Guaranteed Plus, so not only do you get the best odds, but they will boost that even further. Take a price of 3/1 and the horse wins at 4/1? Bet365 will pay you 9/2!

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1:35 Aintree

Our first race of the day is the Becher Handicap Chase from Aintree, and we start off with a real stinker to try and pick the winner from. Naturally, The Young Master will be all the rage after a fantastic end to his season, but he seems to be high enough up in the handicap that there should be a few better off than him in this race. Last year’s winner Highland Lodge will also have supporters, and even last year’s second, Dare to Endevaour. However, I’m looking right to the bottom of the weights and I’m going to throw my support behind Cogry. Cogry was unlucky last time out, going well before being brought down, and fell at the first in his seasonal reappearance.

1:55 Sandown

The big novice chase of the day, and while on paper the race looks interesting, with all four runners having won lsat time out, this is definitely all about Altior, last seasons’ Supreme novice Hurdle winner. Altior is undefeated over obstacles and with a 63 length win last time out over Black Corton, he’s coming into this race in good form. Charbel was 5th behind Altior in the Supreme novice and will need to find a lot to turn the tables on the odds-on favourite. Marracudja and Max Ward will need to put in a life’s best performance to get a sniff at this.

2:10 Aintree

Next up, a 2m 4f handicap hurdle from Aintree with 9 runner declared. Debece looks good on paper, but seems more of a plodder and could do with even further than today’s distance. Still, there’s a good chance for Debece at the bottom of the handicap. Leoncavallo, 5th in last season’s Triumph Hurdle, would most likely hack up on level weights, but he’s handicapped to the hilt here, and the handicapper is taking no chances with him. Instead, Hunters Hoof appeals, after a drop down in the weights. Hunters Hoof has won over the course before, and should go very well here again after a spell in the wilderness.

2:25 Sandown

2 miles and 10 runners for the next handicap hurdle from Sandown. Zubayr is interesting, after having a good run out last time, before falling at the last behind Sceau Royal. However, the handicapper is taking no chances here, and is lumping Zubayr with the top weight here on a rating of 144. Indietir is obviously an interesting recruit from France, but the ground at Sandown might not be soft enough to see the best from Dan Skelton’s number one choice in this race. Instead, I’m looking at Consul De Thaix as the real blot on the handicapper’s paper. Consul De Thaix finished ahead of Zubayr in the Triumph Hurdle, although it was for the minor places, but still, eight lengths is eight lengths. I think Consul De Thaix is better than the 132 rating he’s been given, and Nick Henderson will have him prepped for this.

2:40 Aintree

Quite an interesting race over 3 miles here, as we see only five runners declared, but they are, for the most part, stalwarts of the racing scene. Many Clouds hasn’t had a prep race for this, but should go well under Leighton Aspell. The Grand National winner might need a bit longer, but is going to be well fancied, and rightly so. Irish Cavalier should also go well, but has already had a few tough races this season and this isn’t going to be any easier. Instead, Minella Rocco is the pick. Minella Rocco has the benefit of a prep and although is 7lbs being 7lbs behind Many Clouds on ratings, is receiving 5lbs and with the benefit of that run at Cheltenham should turn around the ratings.

3:00 Sandown

The race of the day, and amazingly it’s quite wide open. Un De Sceaux is the horse to beat, of course, but Sire De Grugy, Ar Mad and God’s Own all have good cases to win this. Un De Sceaux sets the standard on ratings, but seemed to lose his way, especially in the bigger races towards the end of the season. Of course, second in the Champion Chase is nothing to be sad about, but he’s coming up for nine and time might not be on his side. Sire De Grugy has won it before and actually seemed to turn back the clock last time out, but again, age isn’t on his side. Instead, I’m loving Ar Mad, whose only defeat came in his first outing over fences. He won the Henry VIII Novice Chase at this meeting last year by 10 lengths from the classy Bristol De Mai and then had two other classy wins over the bigger obstacles. So we know he goes well over course and distance, and the Moore family know what it takes to win here, as they have done with Sire De Grugy.

3:15 Aintree

The Grand Sefton, over 2m 5f is a cracking way to finish the day’s racinfg from Aintree, but it’s a tricky puzzle to work out. As De Mee appealed last time out, but disappointed, and this doesn’t look like the best race to try and nab and get confidence back, especially as As De Mee hasn’t got the greatest form round here. Troika Steppes looks potentially well-handicapped, but this is a true test against better opposition and there might be an easier race for Troika Steppes to win than this. Instead, La Vaticane has all the hallmarks of another David Pipe winner. It was a good reappearance last time out, and he needed it and should be all the better for it. He’s running off a good weight here, and is still lightly raced in Britain, after disappointing last season considering all the hype, so this is a good chance to start the season off with a bang.

3:30 Sandown

Last race of the day is a 13-runner handicap chase, so, as always, a fun race to try and get a last winner on Channel 4 Racing. Jimmy The Jetplane’s numbers look good, but always seems to find one too good, and that’s usually in lesser races than this, too. Five In A Row has the same issue, but this looks more like the profile of winner. However, Conas Taoi is the one that stands out, after a nice lung-opener last time out. The 3m 4f will be right up his street, and at the bottom of the weights on 10st 3lbs, and with Charlie Deutsch’s 5lb claim, Conas Taoi is carrying next to nothing around this long-distance race.

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