National Hunt

Stable Stars 2017/18 – Part 15

Week THIRTEEN saw the stable drop a few positions but make ground up on the overall leader (Now just 165pts behind). The trio of victories from Altior (25pts), Saint Calvados (20pts) and Native River (25pts) made up for the disappointing run of Jenkins and the missed opportunity of putting in Kalashnikov. Still, it goes to show how easy it could be to make ground up with the right selections at this stage of the competition.

With the Grade 1 Ascot Chase (50pts) a bonus race this weekend, opinion is bound to be divided with Top Notch and Waiting Patiently sharing favouritism. Most stables towards the top of the table are likely to have both running for them but the deciding factor will be the “stable star” choice. Both will be running for the stable this weekend and I have sided with Waiting Patiently, rightly or wrongly. His form against the likes of God’s Own, Politologue and Josses Hill the deciding factor. With just five runs over fences, he could still be on the upward curve, whereas Top Notch lacks a little more size and, although impressive in his runs to date, may just be holding his level of form. That said, Top Notch does come back in this week at the expense of Jenkins to pick up any pieces.

Over at Haydock there is another bonus race with the Grand National Trial (50pts) attracting this year’s ante-post Grand National favourite Blaklion. He was second in the race last year giving 6lb to Vieux Lion Rouge and being a previous RSA Chase winner he should be able to give 13lb and 17lb to The Dutchman and Wild West Wind who are improving handicappers. He comes in for Native River and should at least grab some points if not all.

Finally, there were plenty of options to score good points. There was a competitive 30pt race at Ascot where Gold Present was going to line up (he is now a non-runner) and over at Wincanton, Ch’tibello looks a solid selection in the Kingwell Hurdle, which is another 30pt race. Both do look beatable though and so a chance has been taken on Dieg Man in the Ascot Spring Garden Show Handicap Hurdle (25pts). He comes in for Getabird and is a horse that I thought could be a Lanzarote Hurdle type after seeing his Novice Hurdle wins. His mark of 130 still looks lenient and he could be heading towards either the Coral Cup or the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys race at the Festival after victory here – he looks to just have consistent sort Kildisart to beat.

Until next time…..

National Hunt

Grand National Weights Revealed!

On Tuesday, the weights for the 2018 Randox Health Aintree Grand National were revealed, with Definitly Red topping the list with his rating of 165 (2lb lower than his official handicap mark). The next six in the line up – Bristol De Mai and Edwulf (164), Outlander (163), Minella Rocco (162) and Blaklion (161) all pretty much run off of their official marks, with just Bristol De Mai getting in just 1lb lower.

Of those mentioned, Blaklion would be the most interesting as he has already beaten Definitly Red once this season giving him 4lb and he would be in receipt of 4lb this time (Has also beaten him giving 7lb in a 3m Grade 2 Novice Chase). His record over these fences is pretty smart too, with his fourth in last years National as an eight-year-old being followed up with an impressive display in this season’s Becher Chase. He gets just a 6lb rise for that and will run in the Grand National Trial at Haydock this weekend, a race he finished second in off of top weight last year. If he runs well or wins at Haydock, his price will surely contract further from the current 10/1 as he’ll effectively be “well in”. He hit the front far too soon last year and if held on to longer the 2016 RSA Chase winner could be a class above these.

Minella Rocco would be an interesting contender if his jumping held up. He is very much a spring horse and the better ground at Aintree could see him improve bundles on his four runs this term.  Of those four races, his best performance came when he finished fourth in the Grade 1 Christmas Chase on yielding ground behind Gold Cup contender Road To Respect. A winner of the National Hunt Chase and runner-up in the following years Gold Cup, he arguably has the strongest form of all entered and is a best priced 25/1.

Of those rated in the 150s, the 2016 runner-up The Last Samuri (159) 20/1, Ladbroke Trophy winner Total Recall (156) 12/1, Noble Endeavour (154) 33/1 and last years runner-up Cause Of Causes (153) 20/1 are all of obvious interest. The first and last mentioned have been there and done it over course and distance and the other pair have solid handicap chase form. This has likely been the plan for all four and they have been campaigned appropriately throughout the season.

Despite news breaking in the week that Total Recall would be heading to the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival first, he would still need to be considered with his chance dependent on how hard a race he has.

Vicente (151) got no further than the first in this last year, but again, looks like he has been campaigned with this in mind. As a dual Scottish Grand National Winner, he is a proven sort on decent ground and if putting it all together on the big stage he would have serious claims. He is prone to a few jumping mistakes but at around 33/1 he is certainly worth taking a chance with just 5lb higher than his second Scottish National win.

Last year’s eighth, Regal Encore (150) 66/1, comes here racing from the same mark as last year and could improve on it without winning. He gets 9lb more from Blaklion and an extra 3lb from Cause Of Causes and given a slightly more positive ride he could easily be on the premises at a big price as he fits a lot of the required criteria. The same sort of thing can be said for last year’s sixth Vieux Lion Rouge (150) 40/1, who also finished seventh the year before. He has a good record around these fences and has only had twelve runs over fences so could still improve now that he is a nine-year-old and back on decent ground. He was well beaten by Blaklion in the Becher Chase in December but that was on heavy ground and the stable had been relatively quiet.

Seeyouatmidnight (149) 33/1 is lightly raced for a ten-year-old and has just eight starts over fences, but they include a win over both Blaklion at Cheltenham (Grade 2 Dipper Novices Chase) and Bristol De Mai at Carlisle (Listed Intermediate Chase). He is yet to be seen out this season so a prep race would ideally be needed for him to be considered but his third in the Scottish Grand National answers a few questions regarding whether he would stay the trip. A slight concern would be that all of his wins have come where he “Made All” or pushed the pace which is difficult in a race of this nature. He gets in with a fantastic weight compared to what he has achieved so far though.

A progressive type that has been bought by Trevor Hemmings specifically for this is Warrior’s Tale (149) 50/1. His last two runs behind Wakanda and Gold Present read very well and he has a good profile for this. His stamina needs to be confirmed but on his last two efforts, it doesn’t look as if he is lacking in that department. He could turn up at Kempton next weekend or head to the Festival for one of the three-mile-plus handicaps where he would likely have a fantastic chance.

There are then quite a few who should just squeeze in and get a run including Gas Line Boy (148) 33/1, Pleasant Company (148) 40/1, The Dutchman (148) 33/1, Saint Are (147) 50/1, Vyta Du Roc (147) 33/1, Carole’s Destrier (147) 66/1 and Raz De Maree (146) 50/1.

Of that bunch, Gas Line Boy may be twelve but he has run three solid efforts in a row and they have been his best runs to date. He has plenty of form over the fences, including a fifth in this last year and he won this season’s Grand Sefton Chase over two miles five furlongs. The trip may just stretch him but he will likely run his race after a nice break. Vyta Du Roc looks to be Nicky Henderson’s best chance this year but he can race a little lazily and if he gets too far behind early on he will find it difficult. He is an out-and-out stayer though and that long run-in will be where he puts in all of his best work.

The rest may need a little bit of luck to get a run, but of those lurking just outside, Abolitionist (146) 33/1 would look to hold a huge chance. His third to Our Duke in the Irish Grand National and second to Empire Of Dirt in the Troytown Handicap Chase read very well and he has joined Grand National-winning trainer, Dr Richard Newland. Ideally, he would need to make an appearance over the next week or so just to blow away any cobwebs as he hasn’t run since August. Off a potential light weight of 10st 4lb he would be very interesting if getting to take his chance – he needs at least 11 to come out.

Recommended Bets:

Blaklion @ 10/1 (Bet365) 5pts WIN (1/4 1-2-3-4-5) NRNB (BOG)
Abolitionist @ 20/1 (Bet365) 5pts EW (1/4 1-2-3-4-5) NRNB (BOG)
Noble Endeavour @ 25/1 (Bet365) 2pts EW (1/4 1-2-3-4-5) NRNB (BOG)
Cause Of Causes @ 20/1 (Bet365) 2pts EW (1/4 1-2-3-4-5) NRNB (BOG)

The following horses meet certain criteria of previous winners and will be narrowed down come race day for combination tricasts:

(5) Minella Rocco 20/1
(6) Blaklion 10/1
(9) The Last Samuri 20/1
(10) Mala Beach 40/1
(13) Total Recall 12/1
(16) Noble Endeavour 33/1
(19) Cause Of Causes 20/1
(21) Carlingford Lough 66/1
(26) Vicente 33/1
(29) Regal Encore 66/1
(37) Warrior’s Tale 50/1
(40) Gas Line Boy 33/1
(41) Pleasant Company 40/1
(44) Saint Are 50/1
(46) Vyta Du Roc 33/1
(47) Carole’s Destrier 66/1
(50) Raz De Maree 50/1
(51) Abolitionist 20/1

Plenty of horses make the grade at this point, although thirty-three of the fifty-one have been crossed off. Still, it suggests that it is looking like a very good renewal this year and others will be dependent on race day conditions.

National Hunt

Stable Stars 2017/18 – Part 14

Week TWELVE wasn’t as disappointing as expected after missing the transfer window and not selecting a “Stable Star”. In all, just 50pts were dropped as Faugheen (Potential Stable Star) only managed to finish second behind Supasundae in the Irish Champion Hurdle (Bonus Race) and Outlander was just charged down at the line by Edwulf in the Irish Gold Cup (Bonus Race). Both Sutton Manor and Mind’s Eye failed to land a blow in their engagements.

Of those that did race, Buveur D’Air (15pts) won the Contenders Hurdle at Sandown as he liked. That sets him up nicely for the Champion Hurdle and he is likely to have a racecourse gallop beforehand instead of taking in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.

Over in Ireland, Defi Du Seuil (0pts) finished unplaced in the Irish Champion Hurdle behind Supasundae and Faugheen (25pts). It wasn’t all bad news in Ireland though as Min (30pts) won the Grade 2 Dublin Chase in good style and Footpad (30pts) was just as impressive beating Petit Mouchoir in the Irish Arkle – The runner-up came out of that with plenty of credit, finishing so close to the eventual winner after banking a few fences. New superstar on the block Samcro (30pts) also did the business dropped in trip in the Deloitte Novices’ Hurdle and easily looked like the best novice hurdler to have appeared this season. All three are now likely to head straight to Cheltenham, fingers crossed they all get there in one piece.
In midweek Warren Greatrex looked to win the Sidney Banks Novices’ Hurdle for the third time in as many years with Western Ryder (0pts) but the plan didn’t come off. It was a chance to make up some small points but failed to pay dividends.

In regards to this week, Western Ryder is the first to get the cut and he is replaced by Gold Cup hopeful Native River (Pictured) who runs in the Grade 2 Denman Chase (25pts). He is three from four at Newbury, including his victory in this race last year. Both the opposition have questions to answer (Cloudy Dream – Stamina, Saphir Du Rheu – Fitness) and if he is to be a Gold Cup contender he needs to be winning this nicely. Next up, Faugheen gets the boot over Finian’s Oscar who has had an indifferent campaign. He will be given a wind operation and could then be found a small novice chase before heading to the Festival. Faugheen, on the other hand, won’t be seen before Cheltenham so is replaced with Saint Calvados, who heads to Warwick for the Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase (20pts). He gets a very useful 7lb allowance from North Hill Harvey, who will be a tough nut to crack, but his good jumping (touch wood) and front-running style around here will make him hard to catch. The Betfair Hurdle (50pts) is the big Bonus Race this week so it makes sense to captain the choice with points for the first three home. Jenkins has already done well for the stable so he comes back in with just a 5lb penalty to carry. He is officially 3lb well in and the drop back to 2 miles for this free going sort will play to his strengths. It’s a tough race to weigh up with plenty of unexposed types but he was considered Grade 1 class and with headgear on nothing has got past him yet. James Bowen takes off another 3lb so fingers are crossed he runs a good race. I am slightly concerned that this will be his third race in just five weeks but he comes in to replace L’Ami Serge.

Finally, we are still able to make an “Elite” transfer this month so Defi Du Seuil comes out and Altior, who reappears in the Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase (25pts) comes in. He is a class act, and despite missing most of the season after having a wind operation he should be winning this cosily. Politologue is his main danger but I haven’t been his biggest fan as he has only beaten the likes of Vaniteux and San Benedeto. Arguably, he did beat Fox Norton in the Tingle Creek but that rival has disappointed since and is not an out-and-out two-mile chaser. Taking on Altior is going to be a different level and I expect the Henderson horse to come home well on top.

The expectation isn’t to make up much ground this week but more to consolidate a top 100 position. Transfers will need to be rather tactical leading up to the Festival but there is still plenty of time between then and now to gain valuable points…..

National Hunt

Stable Stars 2017/18 – Part 11

Week NINE saw three of the stable’s four runners winning with Waiting Patiently, Invitation Only and Getabird all doing the business, with Diese Des Bieffes only managing fifth in the week’s bonus race as “Stable Star”.

Firstly, Waiting Patiently was very impressive winning the Listed Chase (20pts) at Kempton and will now likely step up in class at Ascot in the Grade 1 Ascot Chase, a race he looks to have a very good chance in. That will likely be a hot contest but he is now unbeaten in five starts over fences and will hold his place in the line-up.

As will Getabird, who won the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novices Hurdle (20pts) at Punchestown. He could come back out in a few weeks time for either the Grade 1 Deloitte Novice’s Hurdle, or the Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Novice’s Hurdle at Leopardstown’s Dublin Winter Festival, depending on how he comes out of this and whether the race may come too soon with Cheltenham in mind.

Earlier on the same card Invitation Only took his record over fences to two wins from three runs in the Grade 3 Novice Chase (20pts). His only defeat to date came in a soft fall behind Monalee first time out and he too could be heading to the Dublin Winter Festival with the Grade 1 Flogas Novice’s Chase a potential target. That said, it is likely to be a pretty hot race with the likes of Monalee, Al Boum Photo and Sutton Place all potentially heading that way. With that in mind, he comes out and La Bague Au Roi comes in. She runs in the Grade 2 Warfield Mares Hurdle (25pts) at Ascot where she has to give just 4lb to her rivals where she is 12lb clear on ratings. Over a trip that is just short of three miles she looks very much the one to beat on her Kempton Listed win where she beat both Jer’s Girl and Midnight Tour.

The next to make way this week is Diese Des Bieffes (0pts), which means Un De Sceaux comes back in for one of this week’s Bonus Races, the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase (50pts). Two miles and a furlong on soft ground are right up his street, and with no real opposition in a race he has won for the previous two years (once at Ascot and the other rescheduled at Cheltenham) he looks a good thing for full points. He’s a very short price to make it three out of three and with that in mind he will also be this week’s “Stable Star”.

Finally, there is a second bonus race at Ascot with the Grade 3 Ascot Spring Garden Holloways Handicap Hurdle (50pts) needing to be targeted to make up vital ground. It is interesting that Nicky Henderson lets Jenkins take his chance just seven days after he won at Kempton where he pulled quite hard in first-time blinkers. He has gone up 11lb for that victory and will be running over an extra three and a half furlongs which might not be ideal, but Sean Bowen takes off a very useful 5lb and he didn’t look to be stopping near the line last time out. He is still lightly raced over hurdles with that last run being just his sixth and he has always been well-regarded so is risked to repeat last weeks victory. He comes in for the juvenile hurdler We Have A Dream.

I have a good feeling about this week…..