Week TWO was one that saw Team CLT Racing make the top 5 on the overall leaderboard with “Stable Star” Bristol De Mai running away with Saturday’s Betfair Chase for a 100 point scoop. On top of that, Cue Card grabbed second in the bonus race (25 points) and Top Notch took the Grade 2 Christy 1965 Chase at Ascot (30 points). On Sunday, the impressive Samcro added to the tally by winning the Monksfield Novices Hurdle at Navan (20pts). Defeats for Defi Du Seuil, San Benedeto at Ascot and Unowhatimeanharry, who disappointed today in the Long Distance Hurdle meant no further points were gained. It still meant a healthy weekly total of 175 and a running total of 350 points, just 55 points of the pace.
This week looks a very difficult week to build on that start with competitive action at both Newbury and Fairyhouse. Importantly, there are two bonus races this weekend, the Fighting Fifth Hurdle (50pts) at Newcastle and the Ladbrokes Trophy Handicap Chase (50pts) at Newbury. Buveur D’Air kicks off his season in the Grade 1 feature up north where he will go off strong odds-on. It looks a penalty kick for last years Champion Hurdler and he is nominated as this week’s “Stable Star”. The other bonus race is a much more competitive affair. Singlefarmpayment was transferred in last weekend and he heads to Newbury as one of the leading contenders. I was very happy with his run at Cheltenham behind Cogry, who he re-opposes here (now 5lb better off) and although he may prefer slightly less testing ground he has a live chance on the form of his previous two runs.
The three to get the cut this week are Cue Card, Bristol De Mai and San Benedeto. Cue Card had a very hard race at Haydock and he is unlikely to be out again anytime soon, especially with the King George VI Chase at Kempton now being ruled out. If he is to win at Grade 1 level again it could be in the Ascot Chase next February, although he would need to show some form between now and then. Bristol De Mai was very impressive last weekend but his next target is the King George and it is still looking a competitive affair with Might Bite and Sizing John likely opposition. If anything happens to that pair then he could be transferred back in. The final one transferred out is San Benedeto, who may be a little exposed from a handicapping point of view now. He had conditions to suit at Ascot and let down the Politologue form from the Haldon Gold Cup.
The first replacement going in for this weekend is High Bridge, who takes up an engagement at Newbury in the Gerry Fielden Handicap Hurdle (25pts), a race for second season novices. His form behind Elgin and Limited Reserve looks extremely strong, with both winning valuable races next time out. Jockey Alex Ferguson takes off a very useful 7lbs and trainer Ben Pauling’s horses have been in very good form the last few weeks. He does have strong opposition from Charli Parcs and Mount Mews but the weight he gets from them should benefit him on a track he has won on twice.
The other two to get the call up run at Fairyhouse on Sunday. The first is Nichols Canyon who runs in the Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace Hurdle (30pts) over two and a half miles. He seems to have better form going right-handed and will appreciate the softer ground more so than his market rival Apple’s Jade, whose last two defeats came in testing ground. On top of that, Willie Mullins charge has won on his seasonal debut for the last three years. Despite having to give the mare 7lbs he looks the one to beat in what looks like a two-horse race on paper. Finally, Death Duty completes this weekend’s line up and he tackles five others in the Grade 1 Drinmore Novices Chase (30 pts). He has bundles of raw ability and showed that on chase debut when getting in close at the last and being headed. On the run-in he picked up well and managed to win a shade cosily. He looked much better next time out beating Woodland Opera, who has since come out and won a Grade 2. He looks solid.
Here is hoping the good run continues…..