WEEK ONE couldn’t have gone much better, other than perhaps Let’s Dance standing up and winning the Listed Mares Hurdle at Punchestown last Saturday. In the scheme of things though it wasn’t a complete catastrophe as “Stable Star” Elgin (100 points) ran a cracking race to win Sunday’s bonus race, the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle. That resulted in 100 points and it showed that targeting the bonus races is key to this competition. Not only do you get double points, but the bonus races also offer points for second and third, so they offer a safety net. The other bonus race at the weekend was the BetVictor Handicap Chase in which Kylemore Lough went off a well-backed favourite. It wasn’t to be though as he raced a little keenly early and then left his back legs in the water jump. Although he did well to stand up, it was game over and he faded before being pulled up before two out.
Other runners to score points at the weekend were Faugheen (30 points) who won the Grade 1 Morgiana, Fox Norton (30 points) who took the Grade 2 Shloer Chase and Thomas Campbell (15 points) who won a Listed Handicap Hurdle and may be out again this weekend under a penalty. With four of the six runners this weekend winning and a total of 175 points it left team CLT Racing in 23rd place in the overall standings, 85 points adrift of the leader. This is a marathon, not a sprint though.
With Sizing John a non-runner in the Betfair Chase, he can be transferred out for Defi Du Seuil who takes up an engagement in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot – In effect that uses up a free transfer for November and either Douvan (Tingle Creek, Paddy Power Chase) or Sizing John (John Durkan, King George) can be transferred back in during December to join Buveur D’Air (Fighting Fifth, Christmas Hurdle) as the yards Elite horses.
In regards to the main horses, Last weeks winner Thomas Campbell has been switched out as he doesn’t take up his engagement in the Betfair Stayers Hurdle under a penalty, as have Let’s Dance and Kylemore Lough. Fox Norton, Faugheen and Elgin hold their places.
The trio have been replaced by San Benedeto, Singlefarmpayment and Cue Card, who runs in the feature Betfair Chase at Haydock today (bonus race). Travelling well at Wetherby before coming to grief four out, he is the class horse here and bids to win the race for the fourth time in five attempts. Both Bristol De Mai and Outlander are big dangers on their day, but with points covering first to third he shouldn’t leave empty-handed. Bristol De Mai also runs for the stable after being included for week one. If there are any chinks in Cue Card he can pick up on them.
San Benedeto has been included this week and runs at Ascot in a valuable Handicap Chase. He followed Politologue home in a Grade 2 Handicap last time on ground that wouldn’t have suited. With Sire De Grugy lining up he gets in with a nice racing weight and with Bryony Frost onboard she takes a further 5lb off his back. He has won and run well on the course previously and should have a favourites chance of taking this 30pt race.
The third inclusion for this week is Singlefarmpayment who will fulfil an engagement in the Ladbrokes Trophy Handicap Chase next week. He wouldn’t want the ground too soft but is just 5lb higher than when beaten a short-head at the Festival and he ran an encouraging race at Cheltenham last time out in a competitive race to hopefully put him right for it. It is a competitive race, but with it also being a bonus race there will be points from first down to third.
Elsewhere this weekend, Top Notch (Ascot) and Samcro (Navan) will bid to build on last weeks good start by the stable and Unowhatimeanharry will take up an engagement in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury next Friday.
Top Notch has a favourites chance in the Christy 1965 Chase (30pts) at Ascot. The run behind Unowhatimeanharry at Aintree is expected to bring him on and he is expected to get the better of Smad Place who has to give him 3lb.
Samcro has looked a really exciting prospect and jumped for fun on his hurdles debut. He won’t have an issue with the step up in trip and is 1/3fav to take the Grade 3 Monksfield Novices Hurdle (20pts).
In the Long Distance Hurdle (25pts) next Friday, Unowhatimeanharry is expected to continue his dominance in the staying hurdle division although he will have to deal with Thistlecrack who returns here from injury before he takes aim at the King George VI Chase at Kempton over Christmas. It won’t be completely straightforward but he comes into this race off a win and will be fit enough against a rival who has been off the track with a tendon issue.