National Hunt takes cranks up another gear this weekend on both sides of the Irish Sea. The Betfair Chase takes centre stage and the potential rematch of Might Bite and Native River.
The purpose of this blog is to find winners however given it will go live on Wednesday for the full weekend the likelihood is races won’t yet be priced and horses will either run in different races over the weekend or not at all.
Let’s start on Thursday at Thurles were we have full declarations.
Los Alamos should keep improving for Joseph O’Brien – he is the highest rated in this field and acts on the ground. This promising bumper horse has more to offer and will likely finish up the season rated significantly higher than 116. The son of Galileo is well treated in this race even though he is giving weight and the fact he turns out so quickly after running on Saturday shows he is rude health.
On Saturday at Gowran Park we see a newcomer in the colours of Gigginstown Stud in the form of Falco De Candale Aa – a four year old out of Walk in the Park; connections seem to have found a soft touch here to get this exciting recruit off to a winning start in the Ladbrokes Novice Hurdle (13:10).
Last Goodbye is entered in both the Talbot Hotel Carlow Chase (14:20) and Troytown handicap at Navan on Sunday, I would be hoping Liz Doyle chooses to go to Gowarn as this looks an easier touch, running off a 7lb lower mark in Ireland based on his tenth at the Cheltenham festival last year. He has won four times after a sixty day plus break, only failing three times (second to Disko, fifth at Cheltenham festival and midfield in Troytown were it I likely the trip is just too long).
Onto Sunday and an excellent Navan card, in the Monksfield Novice Hurdle (13:00) Rhinestone looks the one to be with here. Commander of Fleet is entered but given he had a tough race recently means he is unlikely to appear. Felix Desjy was ultra-disappointing in a similar contest recently, while Monbeg Worldwide looks to need a significantly longer trip. Rhinestone scrambled home in a maiden hurdle, but the step up in trip and softer going should suit. He was a smart bumper horse last year finishing ninth in the Cheltenham Champion Bumper and was a close second behind top performer Blackbow. He is a smart prospect who will be contending in all the major novices later in the year.
Later in the card top Arkle contender Paloma Blue makes his chase debut in a weak contest. Unlikely to be a betting proposition but hopeful we see a contender to take on Lalor and the rest of the UK contenders.
The feature Ladbroke Troytown H’cap over three miles, Gordon Elliot has nearly 40% of the entries, so whatever he enters must have an excellent chance. The two of his I have pencilled in at this stage are Dounikos – top novice from last year and more than likely to be challenging at the top table this season. He looks dangerous off 150 and if the rain keeps falling Poormans Hill right down the bottom of the weights. Current favourite Pairofbrowneyes must have a strong hand to play. Willie Mullins has turned him inside out and was backed like defeat was out of the question in the Irish National before coming down too early to say if he would have been involved and then when winning at the Punchestown festival as he liked.
It doesn’t get easier in the Proudstown Hurdle, Diamond Cauchois had a leisurely stroll in the Up the Yard challenge at Punchestown last Saturday, and if that was a day out for this he would have a chance off top weight. He would need it bottomless. De Name Escapes Me finally fulfilled some potential when winning last time out and now with that winning feeling could prove he is extremely well handicapped off 138. On a similar mark is an interesting horse that has moved from Willie Mullins to Gordon Elliot after been purchased over the summer by Qatar racing. Carter McKay was a top bumper horse and ran well in a Cheltenham Festival handicap. Well enough to suggest he could be well handicapped. This may well be a let us see what we have run before targeting the major festivals. NB Carter McKay is also entered over fences this weekend.
Bets of the Irish
Los Alamos 13:35 Thurles Thursday
Falco De Candale Aa 13:10 Gowran Park
Last Goodbye 14:20 Gowarn Park Saturday
Rhinestone 13:00 Navan Sunday
Troytown 1 Dounikos 2 Pairofbrowneyes 3 Poormans Hill
Proudstown 1 De Name Escapes Me 2 Carter McKay 3 Diamond Cauchois
Over in the UK we have two excellent Ascot cards and the aforementioned Betfair Chase from Haydock.
Starting with the first race at Ascot, Tindle Newspapers Novices Chase (13:00) Onefortheroadtom and Moon Racer are interesting entrants to the chasing the game. The former had a light hurdle campaign which ended in an excellent sixth in the Ballymore at Cheltenham. Going forward he looks the one to have the most potential. Moon Racer on the other hand is already qualified for the Pertemps Final and that could be his main season aim, but is another intriguing recruit to chasing. He also has an entry in a three mile hurdle at Haydock on Friday. The one who should take all the beating is Wenyerreadyfreddie who made a mockery of his handicap mark when bolting up over this course. With the benefit of experience should take some beating here.
The next two novice hurdles on the card are not betting races, but they should be watched and re watched as if the entries turn into declarations a plethora of winners will come from these races. The likes of Danny Kirwan, Champagne Platinum, Geordie B, Seddon, The Big Bite, Time to Move On, Thomas Darby and Didtheyleaveuotto and I may not have mentioned the winner. These races should give us a fair indication of what we are dealing with for the early season graded novice hurdles.
In the final contest on Friday’s card, Jolly’s Cracked It is an intriguing runner for Harry Fry, with Noel Fehily already jocked up. He runs off a lower mark than when winning the Ladbroke here in 2015, the concern however has to be what ability he retains after not having a run since December 2016. However connections have prevailed with him and he is potentially an unexposed nine year old. If double figure odds available he will have to be a bet.
Moving onto the Saturday cards, at Ascot we see the return of mare’s novice heroine Laurina in the Coral Hurdle, she is an exciting prospect and with Willie Mullins seemingly having an endless string of talented mares she could potentially rock up in the Champion Hurdle. Saturday will be the acid test for that. The most likely winner if Laurina falters is If The Cap Fits. I was mightily impressed by his reappearance defeat to Veranda Blue. She was hard fit and If The Cap Fits was still a little novice and Noel Fehily looked after him on the home straight. I’d be confident he will step forward greatly from that.
In the Christy 1965 Chase we have mouth-watering rematch between Min and his conquer from Aintree; Politolouge. The later been set goals of King George and Gold Cup, this is a nice starting point for him and if fully wound up will be hard to stop. I am yet to be convinced Min wants a trip this far. Charbel blows hot and cold so the main danger could come from Ireland in the form of Shattered Love. She hacked up in the JLT last season and was then asked to dance one dance to many. Her reappearance behind Snow Falcon at Down Royal was more than satisfactory and she will have improved no end for that. At the current prices she would be the one for me but she is double entered so will wait until declarations.
The main selection on the Ascot card is Ozzie The Oscar in the Gerard Bertrand Hurst Park Handicap Chase. He ran a belter in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter, only failing to hold off the admirable Gods Own. This is slightly calmer waters and if continuing the progression he has shown over the summer months will take all the beating.
Over at Haydock the Betfair Chase is not a betting race for me. From a value side I can’t see why Might Bite is Evens and Native River 11/4 – that gap is too wide given on official ratings Might Bite has 4lbs to find and Native Rivers record fresh. This Gold Cup rematch could set us up for the remainder of the season with both camps targeting the King George.
The top two could scare off the potential opposition and in reality there isn’t on good ground that can get close to them. Last year’s winner, Bristol De Mai is the exception is the rain really gets into the turf and we all know how Haydock can get.
Elsewhere on the card Zerachiel interests me in the Betfair Each Way Edge Handicap Chase (12:40). He won with consummate ease last time out over course and distance. An 11lb rise will make things harder but he is coming into peak age so there is no real limit over this sort of marathon trip.
Dan Skelton has proved himself to a master at finding the key to horses and if he can work his magic with Aux Ptits Soins then the Queen herself should knight him. The former Coral Cup winner is a fascinating runner on his first run in nearly six hundred days in the Betfair Exchange Stayers Handicap Hurdle. Given this is only his eight run in his life the potential for 146 to be lenient is clear and is worth chancing at a massive price.
Wenyerreadyfreddie 13:00 Ascot Friday
Jolly’s Cracked It 15:50 Ascot Friday
Shattered Love 14:05 Ascot Saturday (with a run)
Ozzie The Oscar 15:15 Ascot Saturday
Zerachiel 12:40 Haydock Saturday
Aux Ptits Soins 14:25 Haydock Saturday