Week THREE was a little underwhelming with Singlefarmpayment falling in the Ladbroke Trophy Handicap Chase after travelling into the race nicely. It has to be argued that he wouldn’t have trouble the front two, but being a bonus race he could have potentially picked up points for third. His fall resulted in a frustrating duck egg! On top of that Nichols Canyon was put to bed with minimal fuss by Apple’s Jade in the Hatton’s Grace on the Sunday. It had always looked like a two-horse race but the mare never really looked in any danger and won as she liked….. Another “zero point”.
It wasn’t all bad news though as Buveur D’Air carted his way around in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle (100pts) to win the bonus race as he liked. Down at Newbury High Bridge won a competitive renewal of the Gerry Fielden Handicap Hurdle (25pts) and on the Sunday, Death Duty took the Grade 1 Drinmore Novices Chase at Fairyhouse (30pts) in impressive style to continue his unbeaten record over fences. It meant just 155pts for the week and a total of 505 points, meaning CLT Racing dropped down to 16th place in the overall standings. With the competition leader on 570 ground has to be made this week.
Luckily, Top Notch is making a quick reappearance after his Ascot win and is a hot favourite to take the Peterborough Chase (30pts) at Huntingdon on Sunday. He wasn’t a long-term prospect originally but was kept in the line-up due to having this engagement being mentioned as his next port of call. He does have a 6lb penalty but enjoys going right-handed and likes soft ground. I am hoping the weather (frost) doesn’t claim the fixture.
With Douvan out of the Tingle Creek Chase it brings news two-fold. Firstly, Schloer Chase winner Fox Norton goes into the race as a red-hot odds-on favourite and should take all the beating. He gets further than two miles but has the speed for the distance so this race looks tailor-made with the stiff finish. With the Tingle Creek (50pts) also being made a Bonus race he is selected as this week’s “Stable Star”. Secondly, with Douvan being an Elite horse, it reduces the number of chances he could run this month (likely to reappear in the Paddy Power Chase at Christmas). For that reason, Sizing John has come back in as he is taking in the John Durkan Memorial Chase (50pts) this weekend (another bonus race) and could then head to the King George VI Chase or Lexus Chase over Christmas. He takes the place of the very disappointing Defi Du Seuil.
With the John Durkan being a bonus race I have also taken the decision to include Djakadam who has won the past two renewals. Only a short head separated Sizing John and himself in the Punchestown Gold Cup last season and I am of the opinion he may be a slightly better horse over this intermediate trip. With points for second and third to be claimed, he has a winning chance and looks a better option than a selection in either of the two valuable handicap chases over the Grand National fences at Aintree, where there are just points for first. To try to keep the stable balanced in terms of hurdlers/chasers he takes the place of Singlefarmpayment who could come back in if targeted at another valuable handicap chase (Welsh Grand National?).
There is also a good valuable card on at Cork in Ireland on Sunday where Un De Sceaux makes his seasonal reappearance. The Grade 2 Hilly Way Chase (30pts) has always looked the target and the opposition looks limited. He does have to give 8lb away to Ballyoisin but soft ground over two miles is his optimum conditions and he will be hard to beat. He takes the place of last week’s Gerry Fielden winner High Bridge who still looks well handicapped to win off of a new handicap mark of 148.
For the third and final transfer I have played it a little more safely (hopefully) but chucking in Shattered Love who runs in the Grade 3 EBF Mares Novices Chase (20pts). She does have to give 4lbs to her rivals but her form where she finished in front of Presenting Percy was made to look very strong when that rival won a competitive handicap off top weight and a rating of 145 – Now rated 157. On ratings, she has around 14-20lbs in hand of her main rival Billy’s Hope who won nicely enough last time but looks limited. She takes the place of Nichols Canyon who will be difficult to place now.
With six runners hitting the racecourse this weekend there should be plenty of points garnered. There are just two more weeks after this to get transfers in for a busy Christmas period though so tactics will be vital, especially with there being valuable prizes on offer at Cheltenham and Doncaster next weekend.