The National Hunt season really started last week. Yes, summer jumps, blah, blah, blah, but it was Charlie Hall Chase day, which is the start of it for most of us jumps racing fans. And it wasn’t a bad start to the season, really. Don Cossack looked the part over at Down Royal. Yes, his odds were totally prohibitive, but it’s always nice to see one of the Gold Cup big guns looking the part. He’s going to be a real threat, although you still have to wonder if his jumping might let him down at Chelteham again. Still, we’ll hopefully get an answer to that question later on in the year. Other than the obvious winner in Don Cossack, the free horse racing tips had two winners, I finally got on the board after hitting the post several times with Don Cossack, then followed it up with Nabucco and then Pendra. Their prices were 2/11, 7/2 and 11/2. So last week’s profits were a decent enough 4.18 units, which takes us into a profit of +27.23 units, after seven weeks of free horse racing tips. I hope you’ve been sticking with the tips, because to a £10 stake, we’re now £273.23 in profit, which is pretty nice, especially with Christmas looming.
Followers of the free horse racing tips know that I’ll be looking at the live horse racing on Channel Four on Saturday, which is a combination of flat racing and National Hunt racing. Yes, I prefer National Hunt racing, and at this stage of the years, flat racing is pretty poor, but I won’t complain too much, since it’s still horse racing, and we are getting more and more racing over the jumps on Channel Four, so it’s not all bad. Just wait until you see my rant about the Winter Derby once the time come! Anyway, we’ve got racing from Doncaster, Wincanton and Aintree live on Channel Four this week, and there are one or two big names in the world of National Hunt racing scheduled to line up, which is always exciting to see.
Speaking of exciting, I also want to remind you that our great 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 Donacster for up to £50 and get free bet of up to £50 on the 2:05 at Wincanton!
The first race of the day is one of those 22-runner 7 furlong handicaps that you know I just love so much. It’s also named in tribute to jockey Hayley Turner, who is retiring at the grand old age of 31. Turner’s mount in this race is Hillbilly Boy, and he might actually go well, as the Ayr Silver Cup, in which he finished third, has form that is working out reasonably well. However, he’s been finding it hard to get his nose in front this year, after a big run of results at the start of 2014. He looks to be still a bit too high in the handicap.
Predominance looks interesting based on his only two starts, but the race he won doesn’t have a great line of form coming out of it. Sure, he did more than that was needed to win, but finishing second last time out isn’t justifying too much confidence. I also think the handicapper might just have him pegged right, maybe even a little on the high side for now.
Adams’s Ale is being stepped up in trip after finishing close behind Easy Road a fortnight ago. However, he’s never won over 7 furlongs, and although he tends to do his best work late on, it might just be a little too far. Still, worth watching for any market support.
However, Bertiewhittle catches the eye, especially with Edward Greatrex’s 5lb claim to come off. He’s gone well over course and distance previously, getting within a length of Furlow who heads the weights. He’s weighted to finishing beside him this time out, but with the 5lb claim, and the fact Greatrex is a talented apprentice, he’s got to go well. Softening ground will also suit. In a messy race at the end of the season, Bertiewhittle might just prove the solution here.
A 3 mile 1 furlong handicap to kick off the jumps action, and it’s a nice little race, actually, to get us underway.
Benvolio is Paul Nicholls’ runner, who finished 4th in this race last year (fifth past the post) and he might just be needing this run. In the same race last year, Alfie Spinner finished 3rd (fourth past the post), and is running off a 5lb light mark, but is 1lb out of the handicap. Still, he’s quite interesting given his run here last year. However, 1 win out of 23 over fences doesn’t give him too much hope. Still, a shot at the minor places might just be in order.
Carole’s Destrier has been running and winning in better company than this, but is handicapped accordingly. However, the ground will suit, and the trip isn’t a concern. However, there might just be one or two handicapped better.
Doing Fine appeals at the weights. He’s weighted to reverse the form with Drop Out Joe on their last run, and he was entered in some big races at the end of last season. The run last time out will do as a lung-opener, and the distance is going to suit. But it’s a tough little race to work out.
Wentworth Stakes is next, a 6 furlong Listed race, and it looks wide open on paper.
Iveagh Gardens sets the standard big time here, with the form line through Found, who beat Golden Horn in the Breeders’ Cup Turf last weekend reading like the form from heaven. Now, that win at the Curragh in May was on heavy ground, and basically, if the ground stays soft or gets softer, Iveagh Garden is going to be hard to beat. She’ll eat up the soft ground and has been lightly raced this year, with her return at Leopardstown not a bad effort.
Golden Steps comes out of handicaps, but still has a bit to go in a field of this quality. It’s the opposite for Lightning Moon, the best horse on ratings, who is coming out of Group company to try and get back into form at a lower level. But there’s just something that looks regressive in this four year-old and I wouldn’t be rushing to back him.
But we’re going to have a little bit of a punt here on Spring Fling, who is making her first start on turf this season, with one run on the all-weather earlier in the year. She finished a game neck behind Lightning Moon last year at Salisbury, and while Lightning Moon went on to bigger and better races, she just plied her trade a couple of times before being put away. It would be a huge upset here, but she’ll appreciate the step up in trip, and the entry just looks interesting enough to warrant a wager at an undoubtedly big price.
Te Betfred Hurdle poses a lot of questions, with two big guns making their return to racing. Bob’s Worth has been out for almost 200 days, while Simonsig hasn’t been seen since winning the Arkle in 2013. Let’s be clear that this is essentially a prep run for both of them.
Royal Boy has some very solid form, winning the Tolworth Hurdle, but that was his last outing and it was 665 days ago. Again, maybe a prep run for something bigger.
Basically, all signs here point to Purple Bay (NAP) the winner of this race last year. He’s under a penalty, sure, but on official ratings, he should have them all covered. He finished second to Faugheen in the Christmas Hurdle in his last appearance, and being 8 lengths behind the Champion Hurdle winner is not a bad result, to be fair. Most of the field in this race should go on to win some big prizes this year, and this is clearly not the aim for a couple in the field, namely the star chasers.
A Listed fillies stakes is the penultimate race from Doncaster, and it’s another competitive affair.
Pandora’s a nice, lightly raced filly, and her fourth in the Musidora at York earlier in the year reads quite nicely. She’s getting a three year-old allowance, and should go well. The only concern is that she’s not got ahead since her first outing. She could prove tricky to win with.
Blue Waltz sets the standard on ratings, but the win two races ago isn’t reading too well in terms of form. Sure, it’s over course and distance, but the second has gone on to disappoint since. But there is a line of form from Blue Waltz that is very interesting, and it’s from last time out at the start of October. Brandybend finishing third behind Chain Of Daisies reads very nicely, when you consider she finished 8 lengths or so ahead of Blue Waltz. She’s lightly raced and looks to be improving, as she closed the gap on Crystal Zvezda since they last met in May. So she should go well at a value price.
A nine-runner handicap chase to get our teeth into now.
Basically, Pepite Rose could be thrown in here, if his form behind Menorah and Al Ferof is anything to go by. It’s far and above the best form of the race, and he could be well-wighted by several pounds here. There’s a few unknown quantities in the race, but it doesn’t look a tough race to win at all. With the best form on offer, Pepite Rose off the top weight shouldn’t find it too much of a burden at all.
The Elite Hurdle next, Wincanton’s race of the day, a Grade 2 handicap, with eight runners declared.
Like the previous race, I think we could have one thrown in at the weights here, Francis of Assisi, for the in-form John Ferguson stable. Three wins from three runs over hurdles, and his last win over Ch’Tibello looks good, with Ch’tibello finishing second to the handy looking Altior last weekend at Ascot. Soft ground won’t be a problem, having won on it on the flat in Ireland.
However, there’s an awful lot to like about Paul Nicholls’ All Yours (NB). He beat Devilment in his last race, although back in April at Aintree. Devilement has since come out and won impressively at Cheltenham a couple of weeks ago in what looks a hot race. His fifth in the Fred Winter before that look good, too, and there’s just something likeable about this horse. I’m taking hmi to get home ahead of the improving Francis of Assisi.
Last race of the day and it’s the November Handicap. It’s a horrible race to sort out, to be honest. 1 mile 4 furlongs and 23 runners to work out. With the ground looking like it’s going to be churned up by the time 3:30 comes around, we’re going to look a bit further down the handicap, see if we can find an unexposed bolter to get our money on. Although Litigant does set a pretty good standard, the weight is just too much of an issue here.
Green Light looks a solid choice after his run last time out at Doncaster, finishing third behind Argus. There’s a lot to like with how he ran on, and with a light weight to carry, he should go well, especially with 5lbs off his back thanks to the claim of Patrick O’Donnell.