The Saturday Focus – Ladbrokes Trophy

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

The Ladbrokes Trophy (nee Hennessy Gold Cup) is a race that I have so many great memories of. One of my favourite ever racehorses Smad Place won this in 2015 with a scintillating victory. Native River took top honours in 2016, going clear from four out. Last year’s race was the last race I got to watch with my Grandad, who laughed at me as I screamed The Conditional home to finish second at 20/1. The Ladbrokes Trophy is a race that promises a lot – and then delivers!

The Ladbrokes Trophy is a three mile two contest over twenty one fences – including four open ditches and the famous water jump in the shadow of the stands down the straight, now standing empty in these twisted Covid times. The ground will be good and eighteen horses go to post.

This race was inaugurated in 1957 and it was won by Mandarin, who was an appropriate winner as he was owned by Peggy Hennessy, a member of the family who founded Hennessy, the company who sponsored the race until 2016. Mandarin was ridden by Willie Robinson, who is the winning-most jockey in the race with additional wins on Mill House in 1963 and Mn Of The West in 1968. In this year’s renewal, if Tom Scudamore wins on Cloth Cap, he will equal the tally of Robinson after successes on Maddison Du Berlais in 2008 and Sizing Tennessee in 2018.   

Admittedly, my excitement and anticipation for this race has dimmed slightly for this after the awful news that both RSA winner Topofthegame and last year’s winner De Rasher Counter have both been ruled out for the rest of the season due to injuries. I wish them both a speedy recovery! However, the race has attracted a brilliant field of horses, creating a really competitive race.

Looking at some of the trends in this race, one of the interesting ones is age. The most common age of a winner is seven or eight. Fourteen of the winners since 1980 were seven and nine were eight. The seven-year-old runners are as follows: Vinndication, Aye Right, Mister Malarky, Two For Gold, Danny Whizzbang, The Hollow Ginge, Potterman and Ardlethen. The eight year olds are Secret Investor, Kildisart, The Conditional and Cloth Cap. There is a really close split between whether winners carrying 11st or higher fair against those carrying less. Since 1980, horses carrying 11st or more have won nineteen times and those carrying less won twenty-one renewals. The only rules out five of the aforementioned horses. Looking a bit more recently, eight of the last seventeen renewals have been won by horses coming from the yards of Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson or Colin Tizzard. When applying that criteria to the remaining seven and eight year olds, it leaves just one horse – Paul Nicholls’ Danny Whizzbang.

Danny Whizzbang is one off two runners for Nicholls and, on jockey bookings, is the second string. He came from the brilliant Colin Bowe point-to-point establishment in Ireland, for whom he won a PTP by two and a half lengths. He ran out a tough victory on his first start for his new yard at Hereford and he followed that up with a five length victory in a novice hurdle at Exeter. Last season, he began his chasing career in the John Francome Novices Chase (Grade Two), which was excellent. Next time, he finished third to Slate House and Black Op at Kempton and was then twenty-three lengths behind Copperhead and Two For Gold in a grade to novices chase at Sandown on bottomless ground. His return to action was in the Badger Beers Chase and he finished seventh, beaten thirty-one lengths. Alarmingly, he bled from his nose that day which is worrying and will have contributed to the below par performance.

Secret Investor (JTW Equine Images)

His stablemate Secret Investor is a really interesting runner in the race. He started out last season over at Down Royal for the Daily Mirror Chase, where he came second before finishing a disappointing tenth in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. In February, he followed in a previous winner of this, Native River, in the Denman (a two times winner of this race) Chase here at Newbury. After that, he had a wind-op and returned at Chepstow in early October to win the race named after Native River, beating Potterman. He’s yet to tackle a trip as far as this but he is a three mile point-to-point winner and will love the good ground.

Potterman subsequently finished second in the Badger Beers, which Danny Whizzbang came seventh in. That was an extremely gutsy, well-fought second place. In 2019, this horse did the majority of his racing between May and September because he obviously relishes good ground. He followed in Vinndiction and Regal Encore in the Sodexo Gold Cup, coming fifth, before having a break and returning in July. He is on an unchanged mark after the Wincanton run and can’t be ignored from the yard that sent out Smad Place to win in 2015.

Potterman (JTW Equine Images)

One of the ‘talking horses’ is Aye Right because of the lovely story connecting him to the north and how his trainer has only eight horses in her yard. He has won seven of his nineteen races and had his first chase start in a Doncaster grade two last December. He unseated his jockey in a crazy incident. (See tweet below and marvel at how Joe Colliver managed to stay on Sam Spinner!) He won a two-runner event next time before really out-running his 100/1 odds to be fifth in the RSA. He has ran twice this season, finishing to subsequent Old Roan winner Nuts Well and then coming third to Cyrname and Vinndication in the Charlie Hall Chase with La Bague Au Roi fifth and Ballyoptic pulled up. He’s an exciting second season novice on the up.

The Charlie Hall Chase was a very good race and Vinndication ran extremely well, especially after nearly going straight through the first. I’m a big fan of this horse but his jumping at the recent ‘Gallops Morning’ for this meeting was awful to be rather blunt. He ran right-handed for his first seven starts, six of which he won and then the seventh was in the Scilly Isle finishing third. He jumped severely right in the schooling session and at Wetherby he was jumping slowly. You just can’t do that in such a competitive handicap off 11st11. However, when he is on song, his jumping can be amazing and he can be very dominant, like he was in the Sodexo Gold Cup when he beat Regal Encore and Potterman. On his only other start of last campaign, he was a brilliant fourth in the Ultima, which The Conditional won, Kildisart came second in and Mister Malarky pulled up in. I don’t think the trip will be a problem after he stayed on in the Charlie Hall and, with cheekpieces on, hopefully his jumping will be a little bit sharper.

The Ultima could be a good line into this race with The Conditional, Kildisart and Mister Malarky all running in it along with Vinndication. I was there to watch the Ultima and, whilst my attention was on Mulcahys Hill, it didn’t pass me by that The Conditional stayed on brilliantly to win. He was quite a surprising winner of a good handicap chase at Cheltenham’s opening meeting of the season last year, after he came over from Martin Hassett’s yard. Next time, he ran in this race and a crashing jump at the last didn’t help his cause and he galloped on very well to only be beaten one and a half lengths, which was an agonising defeat. He didn’t get the trip on the ground at Warwick in the Classic Chase (I was there) before going to the Ultima. He has only gone up 15lbs since joining David Bridgewater and he has not yet reached his ceiling.

Kildisart (JTW Equine Images)

Kildisart carried 11st3 and The Conditional had 10st6 on his back. This time the former has 11st5 and the latter has 10st11. I think Kildisart has had an ideal prep for this, over hurdles in the West Yorkshire Hurdle when he came third, which should put him spot on. In April 2019, this horse won the Betway Handicap Chase (Grade Three) at the Aintree Grand National by five lengths with Mister Malarky second. He’s 7lbs higher than then; he should love the ground and I think he has a good chance. His form interlocks with Mister Malarky’s on a few occasions after that run at Aintree. In February 2020, Mister Malarky won a grade three at Kempton, with Kildisart three lengths behind. In the Ultima, he was pulled up. He went to Ascot on seasonal reappearance and just didn’t feature at all. Regal Encore won that race. He has been given blinkers to try and revitalise him.

Regal Encore is a grand old horse. No horse over the age of ten has won this so, at the age of twelve, the odds are somewhat against him – but he doesn’t know that. He won a listed handicap chase at Ascot in December and returned to that course with a third in a very good race, in behind Ballyoptic. After wind surgery this summer, he reappeared at Ascot and ran an amazing race to win by over a length. His trainer Anthony Honeyball has done a great job with him and it would be great to see him run well in this.

Ballyoptic (JTW Equine Images)

Ballyoptic had a great season last year. He started out in the Native River Handicap Chase and then he won the Charlie Hall. After two less good runs, he won the listed Swinley Chase by over eight lengths. He was going to take the same route through the Chepstow but the ground was unsuitable. He went to the Charlie Hall Chase and pulled up, out-paced for a long way. He has top weight which won’t make things easy for him. La Bague Au Roi came a very gallant fifth in the Charlie Hall. It was a good return to graded form. She was sensational in the 2018/19 season with a grade two win at Newbury, grade one win at Kempton and grade one win at Leopardstown. She didn’t look like herself last season and, on this good ground, I don’t think we can discount her.

Two For Gold (JTW Equine Images)

Two For Gold is an interesting runner. He has only raced twelve times and won seven of them. He ran his chase debut in November, winning well, and again at Kelso. I was there when he won at Warwick and he was so game! Next time, he went to Ascot on bottomless ground, finishing second, sandwiched between Copperhead and Danny Whizzbang. He went to Wetherby in a listed chase on reappearance, coming second after making the running. He could be used to tailor this race to suit his stablemate Vinndication but he has solid claims on his own. I’ve mentioned Danny Whizzbang already so let’s talk about Copperhead. This horse looks like a proper chaser. Last season, he won his second chase start in a handicap chase at Wincanton by four lengths and then in the Mandarin Handicap Chase over this trip too. He wasn’t campaigned like a novice chaser until he ran in the Reynoldstown in February, which he won by seventeen lengths. His season ended with a fall in the RSA and his reappearance was too bad to be true. Over hurdles, it looked like he hated it an he was pulled up.

Black Op and Ardlethen both went to Carlsile for their reappearance with seven and a half lengths splitting them, when down the field, off equal weights. Black Op was a sensational hurdler, coming second to Samcro in the Ballymore and he is a grade one winner, a title he earned by winning the Mersey Novices Hurdle at the Aintree Grand National meeting. He ran in one chase in the following December, following in Topofthegame and Defi Du Seuil. They tried him in a grade two but he followed in those horses again. They reverted back to hurdles with him but without success. He returned to fences with a win at Stratford and he was beaten by good horses in two more starts. He was behind Imperial Aura, who has gone on to win a grade two, at Carlisle and I get the impression Black Op is a horse with a lot of talent but rarely shows it. He faces a new trip in this. Ardlethen doesn’t have a glossy resume to his name but he is a three times winner from eleven starts. His last win was over three miles on chasing debut in October 2019 he has a little bit to find behind Danny Whizzbang and Two For Gold but he only carries 10st2.

Also at the bottom of the handicap is Cloth Cap, who gets cheekpieces for the first time. He won two chases in November 2018 and then he came third over four miles in the Scottish National so he’ll absolutely stay. He is a very consistent horse and, last time, he was a very good third over three miles one in a competitive handicap around Cheltenham and, whilst the margin he was beaten by was large, he looked ready to win again. So did Beware The Bear when he ran all over Santini in a racecourse gallop at Newbury. In 2019, this horse won the Ultima and it is slightly interesting that Nico De Boinville rides for Ben Pauling instead of his boss. We haven’t seen him for a long time. The Hollow Ginge is going to be the outsider and he has a bit to find with these horses. It is a new task for him.

After all that, I haven’t really come to a rock-solid conclusion. I’m going to go with KILDISART. This gelding had an ideal preparation for the race with his run in the West Yorkshire Hurdle and he should be suited to this, especially as he will love the ground. Danny Whizzbang is my ‘trends’ horse but he isn’t the most reliable and the bleeding last time worries me. I am increasingly interested in Cloth Cap for Trevor Hemmings and I expect The Conditional to run well again. It is just such a competitive race!!!

Your Thoughts

I posed the question of who is going to win the Ladbrokes Trophy to my followers and the vast expanse of horses mentioned really reflects the nature of the race!

As always, get involved with the conversation on my Twitter page! 🙂

The Saturday Focus – Small Fields Galore

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

Haydock and, especially, Ascot’s cards this Saturday are littered with small field races. Ascot holds two grade twos, which have attracted four and three runners apiece, and Haydock’s feature is the first grade one of the season, the Betfair Chase, where five high-class horses head to post.

It is slightly disappointing to see that these graded races end up with only a handful of runners taking their chance. So, why is this? Surely trainers and owners want to win these coveted graded races, so why aren’t they running their horses?

The National Hunt season is a long old season. It takes a strong and durable horse to keep running regularly and successfully from October to April. During the current time of the year, the weather takes a turn, which leads to strenuous going conditions. The ground looks like it will be soft at Ascot and the same at Haydock. This weekend comes at a slightly awkward time. There is only a month (roughly) to go until the post-Christmas big races (where has this year gone??) so many of the horses who are targeting those races won’t be seen until then.

It appears to be quite a controversial thing but, whether we like it or not (I do), all roads lead to March and the pinnacle four-days of National Hunt Racing – the Cheltenham Festival.

I saw a lot of people grumbling that Santini was having a racecourse gallop instead of a race. He strutted his stuff at the Ladbrokes Trophy Gallops Morning earlier this week along with a host of other talented horses. Santini ran twice last season before his brilliant second in the Gold Cup. He comes across as a horse that doesn’t need to be ran every other week to get and stay fit. Al Boum Photo, who won the Gold Cup, only ran once in a season before both of his wins in the prestigious race.

But, is this really good for the sport? Obviously, as a racing fan, I would love to see these horses out more than two or three times a season. However, that just isn’t practical. The trainers know way more about what is best for their horses than we do so, if what they judge to be the best way to get the horses to their peak fitness is less actual racing, then so be it – just appreciate it when they do grace the turf.

Lostintranslation (JTW Equine Images)

I personally love a small field event when the it is full of so much quality as the grade one Betfair Chase (3:00 Haydock) is. Five horses go to post for the first leg of the National Hunt Triple Crown. The runners are Bellshill, Bristol De Mai, Clan Des Obeaux, Keeper Hill and Lostintranslation. In my opinion, the only horse capable of winning the ‘Triple Crown’ from this line-up is Lostintrnslation. He won this twelve months ago and finished third in the Gold Cup. Between those races, he pulled up in the King George at Kempton and required a wind-op. He is only eight years old coming into his third season chasing. As he has gained experience, he has got better and he was such a lovely story connected to him. ‘Minions’ was one of the owners’ son’s favourite films. He sadly passed away a few years ago and this horse runs in the colours of the ‘Minions’ (yellow with blue braces) in memory of him.

Clan Des Obeaux (JTW Equine Images)

I would’ve said Clan Des Obeaux as a ‘Triple Crown’ contender but I doubt we’ll be seeing the dual King George winner at Cheltenham anymore as he plainly doesn’t like the track. Two years ago, this horse started out in this race, before taking top honours at Kempton. He followed that up with a win at Ascot and came fifth at Cheltenham in the Gold Cup. Last season, he went over to Down Royal and came second so it appears he’s one of those horses who need their first run. That is probably why Lostintranslation and Bristol De Mai are ahead of him in the market. On achievements, he’s the best horse in the race.

However, Bristol De Mai, without a doubt, the best horse at Haydock. He has won four times and his only defeat over this course and distance was in this race twelve months ago. Joint favourite with Lostintranslation, he was beaten one and a half lengths and his jumping was a little chancey at a few. He ran twice after this: at Cheltenham in the Cotswold Chase when he finished second and then he came ninth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He seemed to hit fences when push came to shove last season. I think jumping will be really important in this race as there is very little between the top three in the market.

You can’t fully discount the other two, though. Bellshill was a very good horse for Willie Mullins and had his last run for them, second in grade three, in February. Dave Armstrong now owns this eleven-time winner and he runs for Sandy Thomson. He’s an exciting ride for Ryan Mania and, if this horse has retained any of the form from when he won a grade one at Leopardstown in February 2019, beating top horses Road To Respect, The Storyteller and Outlander, he has to be bang there. He may just need his first run of the year. Keeper Hill ran a blinder to be fourth in a really strong Charlie Hall Chase. He steps up fractionally in trip for this. He’s a grade two novice chase winner and has earned some good form over both types of obstacles. He might not quite be up to the standard of some of these but he has had the benefit of a run. Best wishes to Adrian Heskin, who should’ve been riding this horse but has sadly broken his arm!

This race always looks an exciting treat and I’m going to side with LOSTINTRANSLATION to try and make it back-to-back wins.

Real Steel (JTW Equine Image)

Over at Ascot, Real Steel makes his highly anticipated (by me) debut for Paul Nicholls in the Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase (Grade Two) (2:05 Ascot). I’ve been so excited to see him back on the racetrack. He’s got some really strong form in Ireland. Last season alone, he won two grade twos, by fourteen lengths each time. His run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup was brilliant, way better than the 6th place number suggests. He drops down five furlongs in trip to two miles five for this race, which is a trip he has won over twice before. Hopefully he is fit enough for first time out to win this competitive race.

Real Steel’s biggest rival is Imperial Aura. This horse has had just ten starts to date but has made a huge impact. He began chasing with just five starts under his belt and it started ideally in what turned out to be a walkover. He was second in two good chases before he won impressively in the Northern Trust at the Cheltenham Festival. I was there and the elation on his groom’s face was just wonderful. He made a perfect start this season in the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle. His yard is in absolute brilliant form and I think he’ll be very hard to beat and an exciting horse going forward.

Itchy Feet had his first chase start at Leicester in last December, which he won by twenty-six lengths. Then, in February, he won the grade one Scilly Isles by three lengths. In the Marsh Novices Chase, he unseated at the sixth fence when a 7/2 shot. He came third in the Old Roan on his reappearance, which he seemed to need because, on form, he should’ve won. The yard’s form is still a little bit of a concern.

Black Corton is Real Steel’s stablemate. He has made a lovely partnership with Bryony Frost over the past few years. He hasn’t won since last April and his return start in a handicap wasn’t amazing. He’s dropping back to a more appropriate trip that may show him in a better light.

I am going to stay loyal to my 20 To Watch horse REAL STEEL and side with him for this race. Imperial Aura is going to be tough to beat but both horses have huge futures.

The last race I’m going to look at is the Coral Hurdle (Grade Two) (2:40 Ascot). A tiny field of three runners (Call Me Lord, Laurina and Song For Someone) go to post but it is fascinating little contest. Literally any of this trio could win. Laurina is an interesting runner. She is part of the cohort of Sullivan Bloodstock horses that moved to Paul Nicholls from Willie Mullins. She started her career as a bit of winning machine and, after coming fourth in the Champion Hurdle, she went chasing, upped in trip. Her first start over fences was awesome but she pulled up on her next two outings, a shadow of the horse she once was. She bled badly on the first occasion and showed signs of discomfort next time. In February, she reverted back to hurdles and came third in a race she should’ve won, if she was in tip-top form. She has had a wind-op and hopefully the change of scenery has done her the world of good.

Call Me Lord won the International Hurdle last season after coming second in this race on his seasonal reappearance. He has already had one run so far this year, which was at Aintree when he was beaten four and three quarter lengths. He always seems to benefit from his first run of the campaign. I don’t think he’s quite as good as Laurina when she is at peak fitness and Song For Someone is a really exciting five year old, who was brilliant over hurdles last season. He won first time out at Fontwell before finishing third off top weight, even though he was only four, in a listed handicap. Next time, he was beaten a length by Thomas Derby, who was a place ahead of Call Me Lord last time out, and Song For Someone boosted that form with a grade two win at Kempton.

I’m going to side with the progressive SONG FOR SOMEONE.

Selections

Betfair Chase – Lostintranslation

1965 Chase – Real Steel

Coral Hurdle – Song For Someone

The Saturday Focus – Paddy Power Gold Cup Handicap Chase

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

For this week’s Saturday Focus, my attention is fixed on the Paddy Power Gold Cup (14:15 Cheltenham). Seventeen runners go to post for this grade three handicap chase over two miles and four furlongs. This is one of the best handicaps at this time of the year and it promises to be a great race.

Five of these runners ran in this race last season. Happy Diva won the race, showing an amazing attitude. That was on her second start of the season, as this will be. She was just beaten a head in mares’ listed chase and then followed in Domaine De L’Isle at Ascot in January. At the Cheltenham Festival, she was only beaten one and a quarter lengths by Simply The Betts off equal weights, with Spiritofthegames and Kauto Riko in behind and Siruh Du Lac falling. This time, 6lbs splits Simply The Betts so you can’t discount Happy Diva at all, especially when you think that Simply The Betts is one of the favourites. He had a sensational season in 2019/20. He won two class three chases and then followed in Commanche Run on Boxing Day. He won a good chase at Cheltenham in January , beating the Northern Trust winner Imperial Aura and subsequent winners On The Slopes, Garo De Juilley, Sully D’oc Aa and Court Master. At the Cheltenham Festival, he was so impressive in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate. He tried so hard and it is good to see Gavin Sheehan back from injury to ride this horse. He’s rated 157 with just reason.

Brelan D’As ran Happy Diva to a neck in last year’s renewal. He has only been seen once since, when finishing eighth in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup, with Spritiofthegames finishing second. Jonjo O’Neill Jr is a notable booking for Paul Nicholls and JP McManus. Saint Sonnet is Brelan D’As’ stablemate and is one of the interesting, unexposed runners. He has had just two runs in the UK after much success in France. His first start was at Catterick, by just under four lengths, in February. Connections then threw him in at the deep end at Cheltenham in March, when he finished seventh in the Marsh. If the scheduled rain does fall, he’ll appreciate it. Spiritofthegames might not. His last win was at Chepstow in a listed novices’ chase. At the 2019 Festival, he was a really good third to Siruh Du Lac. He pulled up in behind Happy Diva last November and has struggled to figure in races since. He’s on a decent mark of 148.

Siruh Du Lac pulled up in this last year and I am really interested in him because he has moved to David Pipe from Nick Williams. He had an exceptional 2018/19 season, beginning his winning sequence off a mark of 123. Two wins later, off 134, he managed to win a grade three over course and distance in January and then followed that up in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate at the Festival. He was put up 9lbs for that and was seen twice last season but didn’t complete on either occasion. Tom Scudamore gave him a positive mention after he won the Cross Country Chase on the first day of this meeting on Kingswell Theatre. Micheal Nolan finished second on Beau De Brizais, who gave him a great spin and could be very good over those obstacles in future. Nolan rides Pinson De Rheu for Alexandra Dunn in this. The son of Al Namix comes over from France and he is five from thirty three over there, earning over €200,000 in prizemoney. He is round about 100/1 but that is probably because of the yard he comes from but good on them for being brave with him. He stays further than this and has form in class one company.

A similar sentiment can be given to Domaine De L’Isle. This horse is part of my 20 To Watch for this year. He’s currently 50/1 for this race and I genuinely think he has a chance. He obtained a hattrick of victories over fences last season, over two miles three and a half and further. He finished off in a hot race against good horses at Ascot and retuned in behind Does He Know, who won a grade two on the opening day of this meeting, over hurdles. He will have needed that run and the softer the better for this horse. Coole Cody is another runner I have had my eye on lately. This son of Dubai Destination made his fences bow in August at Newton Abbot and won by ten lengths. Next time, he came second to Solider Of Love, who won lots of races over the summer, and ahead of recent Taunton scorer Irish Prophecy. Last time, he ran a really good race when second to Southfield Stone at Cheltenham last time out and I think he’s tailor made for this kind of race with just 10st5 on his back.

Slate House (JTW Equine Images)

Sky Pirate has bottom weight at 10st2 with Johnny Burke on board. This horse ran for the first time in over 300 days with a good second when fitness was probably what held him back. He hasn’t won since June 2017 in a handicap, meaning he’s still a maiden over fences. Last November, he was a good second to some smart horses but I think he’d need to improve to feature. The Russian Doyen was in good form at the start of 2019. In January, he won well at Newbury and followed it up with a brilliant fourth in the listed novices handicap chase over this sort of trip. On his sole start last season, he pulled up lame at Aintree. He showed no ill effects from that when reappearing at Fontwell, staying on well. He has only raced twelve times and has good form. His stablemate Slate House will be a shorter price – as he’s a grade one winner! The race in question was the Kauto Star Novices Chase at Kempton in December. He lost his way in two starts after that and makes a return to handicap company. I think he’d have won this race last season if he hadn’t have fallen and hopefully he can recapture some of that form. On official ratings, he the fifth best horse in the line-up.

Kauto Riko and Fidux will be big prices. The latter was only beaten three and a quarter lengths in the Peterborough Chase last time but was last in a grade two last time. He was then second in a listed chase over three miles and well-beaten in behind Simply The Betts at the Festival. He has had wind-op since then. Fidux is ridden by Tom Bellamy, who won this with Splash Of Ginge in 2017. He has been running all though the summer and managed to win by a head last time. He’s been put up 4lbs for that but Alan King’s runners are going well.

Mister Fisher (JTW Equine Images)

The last three runners to mention are arguably the classiest in the line-up – Al Dancer, Mister Fisher and Aso. I have to address the old boy Aso, who has top weight, first. In 2019, he came second in the Ryanair. Since then, he was third in the Charlie Hall Chase. And then fifth in the Peterborough Chase with Kauto Riko ahead. He then came fourth in the King George and seventh in this season’s Ryanair. He’s a sensational horse and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ran very well. Al Dancer and Mister Fisher’s form is intertwined. Al Dancer won on debut and then was second to Put The Kettle On, fourth to Global Citizen and then second, beaten a length, by Mister Fisher. They raced off equal weights that day but Mister Fisher carries 1lbs more in this. After that, he was fifth in the Arkle and won over this trip, beating subsequent winner master Tommytucker. Mister Fisher went down a different path. He was second on fences bow and then won at Cheltenham in December. He dropped back to two miles for the race at Doncaster, before going to the Marsh. He finished fourth at 7/1, with Saint Sonnet, who is one of his market rivals, in seventh. I think Mister Fisher will go off favourite.

Overall, I am going to side with SIMPLY THE BETTS. This gelding showed such an excellent attitude to win at Cheltenham. I think he has a great chance, especially as he jumps well. I really want Domaine De L’Isle to run a good race. I think he’s a ridiculous price and probably has been a bit forgotten about. Sean Bowen is riding well at the minute. I like Coole Cody at a big price too. He looks like he’ll be suited to this test. Siruh Du Lac and Happy Diva can’t be discounted.

Rest Of The Card

12:30- JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle

DUFFLE COAT for Ireland is my idea of the winner in this. This gelding was an excellent winner at Wetherby last time. He’s penalised from that but looks the standout runner.

13:05- South West Syndicate Handicap Chase (Conditional Jockeys’ And Amateur Riders’ Race)

I’m going to go for PETITE POWER in this. I was there when he ran an amazing race at Warwick in the Classic Chase and he is 4lbs lower than that great performance. He has ran poorly on two starts since but this trip is better for him.

13:50- From The Horse’s Mouth Podcast Novices’ Chase (Grade 2)

FUSIL RAFFLES always promised a lot as a hurdler and he has made a perfect start to his chasing career. His first start over the bigger obstacles when he won by four lengths, beating Gumball. He then put even more daylight between himself and his rivals last time over course and distance. The Irish raider Zarkareva gets weight from the boys and could be one to keep an eye on.

14:50- Paddy Power Games Handicap Hurdle (listed)

TEA CLIPPER is only five years old and has only ran five times too. The first three starts were all winners and then he just ran into one next time. On seasonal reappearance, I was so impressed with his Chepstow grade three win. he has been pushed up 7lbs for that win but I think he is still well treated.

Kepagge (JTW Equine Images)

15:25- Paddy Power First Millionaire Qualifier Intermediate Handicap Hurdle

Kepagge is one of my 20 To Watch and he won on debut in a national hunt flat race. He made his hurdles debut at Leicester and Tom Scudamore did well to stay on. Last time out, he won by nine lengths. With just three runs under his belt, it is impressive that he has managed to get a rating of 137, especially as CAPTAIN TOM CAT has some excellent form to his name and won his last three, including here at Cheltenham last time, but only has a mark of 127. He looks well handicapped with a good claimer taking off 7lbs.

15:55- Karndean Design Flooring Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race

I was really impressed with ELLE EST BELLE’s impressive victory at Aintree last time. She beat a previous winner and comes from a good yard. At a bigger price, Jersey Lady made a winning debut at Ludlow and is a half sister to Willie Mullins’ Burrows Saint, who is a very good horse.

Your Thoughts On The Big Races

This week I posed the question to my followers, “Who wins the Paddy Power Gold Cup?” Here are what some of you think and, as always, head over to my twitter page to join in on the converation!

Cheltenham November Meeting Day One Preview

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

We have a brilliant three days in store with racing from Cheltenham and this six race card looks very good. The fourth race on the card is over the unique cross-country fences and Tiger Roll, the Grand National winner, comes over from Ireland to run here and Easysland, who won the Cross Country race at the Festival, travels over from France. It will be a very exciting, early-season clash!

13:15 Cheltenham – Markel Insurance Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle

David Pipe won this last year and he has Induno in this year’s renewal. This horse hasn’t been seen for 323 days and his last run was coming third at 8/13. Previous to this, he won a NH Flat race and then a novices’ hurdle. Talented conditional Fergus Gilliard takes the ride. I think Daniel Sansom is a good jockey and rides Playa Blanca. This five year old has ran fifteen times and had a hattrick of wins during March and then returned with a comfortable success at Kelso in October. Eight days ago, he was second in a similar race to a well-fancied rival. He’s 4lbs higher than his last winning mark at joint top weight. Ben Jones has ridden the horse a few times but rides Silent Assailant for Emma Lavelle. This horse hasn’t been seen for 272 days and hasn’t won a race. He was well-beaten on debut and then came fourth at Doncaster. He did run for another 375 days but stayed on to be fourth. He added another fourth to his form figures next time over three miles. This is over two miles five and his older sister is a dual winner over this kind of trip and is a point to point winner.

Playa Blanca (JTW Equine Images)

Presenting Yeats is a whole stone out of the handicap with Harry Kimber taking off a further 5lbs. This won by a neck at Stratford in August in a NH Flat race. Since then, he’s been well-beaten on four tries over obstacles but his dam did win four races over hurdles. TANGO BOY beat a horse I like on debut but wasn’t seen for a while before his hurdles debut, with a tongue tie on. Subsequently, he was second at Catterick then second over three miles in handicap company, proving he’ll stay this trip. Harry Reed is riding very well at the minute.

Ballywood (JTW Equine Images)

13:50 Cheltenham – Mucking Brilliant Paddy Power Handicap Chase

Magic Saint will likely head the market and he’s number one on the racecard. He was a four time winner in France and has won twice in the UK from ten starts for Paul Nicholls. He was sixth in the Old Roan when last seen and he may have just needed the run off a break. On The Slopes probably needed the run in a handicap over course and distance last month with Beat The Judge two places ahead and Ballywood and Azzuri in behind. On The Slopes won two good races at Kempton last season. From them, he looks a smart horse. Ballywood has had two starts so far this season and, in the first one, he was second to BEAT THE JUDGE. This horse has been busy over the summer. He was third in a novice chase before winning a novice chase at Newton Abbot. Fifty days later, he won really well at Fontwell before getting beaten eight and three quarter lengths in a really good race. He runs off the same mark as he did then. I think he’ll run well here Azzuri hasn’t won since April 2019 when he won a listed race at Ayr. He’s been well-beaten in all of the starts since. Born Survivor is the first string Dan Skelton runner. He has ran twice in 2020, coming fourth in the Silviniaco Conti at Kempton but then ninth in a listed handicap chase. He’s still 5lbs higher than his last winning mark.

Fanion D’Estruval won three races in France before coming to Venetia Williams’ yard. He won by six lengths easily to a horse who has won subsequently, making him seem a really exciting horse. Connections decided to send him to a grade two novices chase and he finished fifth, a run nothing like his first one in England. It’ll be interesting to see how he runs. Eamon An Cnoic hasn’t won since February 2019. At the backend of that year, he ran two good races but that’s the only ones for a while. Full Glass completes the line-up. This horse is a two times winner in France before coming to Alan King. He was unsuccessful for them and went back to France. Now, he has joined A Sadik’s yard and is only seven so he may have something in the locker.

Southfield Stone (the grey) (JTW Equine Images)

14:25 Cheltenham – Sss Super Alloys Supports Racing Welfare Novices’ Chase

A small but select field go to post for this race. Number one SOUTHFIELD STONE was a really lovely winner at Cheltenham at the October Meeting. He’d already won a chase before that but put in some lovely jumps. He’s a grade two winner over hurdles and, with Paul Nicholls’ horses running well, you absolutely can’t discount him. He has 11st10 to carry. Protektorat was a smart hurdler, winning a listed race and he placed in a grade two. he won on his first attempt over fences, making all and winning comfortably. He seemed a neat jumper and has the making of a good chaser for a yard in-form. Mossy Fen won a point to point in 2019 and started his hurdle career later that year. He’s a three times winner including a grade two. He was fifth in the Ballymore, which is great form. He ran novicey at Cheltenham on his first chase start, which was kind of disappointing. He’ll have learnt a lot from that. Sam Twiston-Davies is in good form. Paint The Dream will be an outsider. He never runs a bad race but is yet to win a race over the big obstacles. In early October, he was second in a listed race and then second in a beginners chase.

15:00 Cheltenham – Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase  

What an exciting race! These Cross Country races are always a spectacle but this looks better as Tiger Roll, Easysland and Potters Corner all line up. Tiger Roll is obviously the much-loved Grand National winner. He has won over this course and distance twice and has the heart of a lion as the saying goes. However, his most recent start over jumps was in the Cross Country Race at the Festival where he raced off equal weights with Easysland. EASYSLAND demolished his competition with a slick seventeen length victory and gets 3lbs from Tiger Roll in this race. The only chink in Easysland’s armour could be his jumping as on occasion it is a bit chancy but I can’t see past him. Potters Corner (the Virtual Grand National Winner) was last seen winning the Welsh National over three miles six and a half and he’s a previous winner of the Midland’s National. This will be his first try over these abnormal fences but he’s trained in a unique environment and I look forward to seeing how well he can run.

Vino Royale is Easysland’s stablemate. He’s five from twenty under rules and won over three miles five on his previous start. Last time out, he came second over an Italian Cross Country course. However, he’s fallen six times, which is alarming. He’s only five with a tiny weight. I think King’s Temptation is the value runner in the race. He has been in really good form over the summer with three wins at Uttoxeter. Last time, he was pulled up and the trainer couldn’t offer an explanation other than the ground wasn’t right. All of his best form has come on good ground and he looked excellent schooling. I think he should stay the trip and Kielan Woods is riding very well at the minute and he has plenty of experience hunting. I picked Kielan as my jockey to follow for the season. Check out Kielan and King’s Temptation flying in this tweet below from Ben Case…

Little Bruce won’t have any worries about the trip as he won at three miles six in the North Yorkshire Grand National and was only beaten nineteen lengths over four miles one in the Edinburgh National. His reappearance was by no means sensational. Beau De Brizais is quite a consistent runner. All of his best form has come on goodish ground and he managed to get round the Scottish Grand National over four miles so there might be some stamina there. Kingswell Theatre has ran seven times over this course and distance and won his second attempt in November 2017, when making all. Vivas completes the line-up. He has never won over anything further than two miles four but he has Charlie Deutsch on board who rides these fences well.

Wild Romance amongst horses at Chepstow (JTW Equine Images)

15:35 Cheltenham – Ballymore Novices Hurdle (Grade Two) (Registered as The Hyde Novices’ Hurdle)

Kim Bailey and David Bass took top honours in the Badger Beers at Wincanton last week and they have DOES HE KNOW favourite for this race. It took him three tries to win over hurdles but he did so very impressively at Ludlow, beating a horse who has placed twice since. Last time, he won impressively over course and distance. He jumped left a little bit but it was overall a professional performance. Two of the other runners won last time too – Grand Mogul and Wild Romance. The latter is the only mare in the race and finished third in a three mile point to point. Early in October, she won a mares’ novices’ hurdle well, showing a good attitude. That was her sole start and the other runners are a bit more experienced. Grand Mogul won a NH Flat race for Gordon Elliot but moved to Nicky Henderson and ran very poor races on both starts last season. Last time, he completely put that behind him to win at Chepstow. Related to grade three winner Brahma Bull, he’s from a great yard but I’m not sure he is the most reliable horse.

The Grand Visir is a Royal Ascot winner and ultra-consistent on the flat. He has ran in three hurdle races and he’s a quirky horse. Fergal O’Brien recently had his fiftieth winner of the season and has Polish in this. He won over hurdles in February and was a decent third at this track in October but didn’t jump well. Petrastar, an ex-flat horse, was three from three before last time. That race was the Persian War when he finished last despite leading the field keenly. He steps up in trip and his jockey Kielan Woods had a 20/1 winner on Thursday. Ballymillsy is yet to win but was third to smart Threeunderthrufive at Lingfield last time out.

Petrastar (JTW Equine Images)

16:05 Cheltenham – Valda Energy Novices’ Handicap Hurdle

Princess T and Panic Attack are the only two mares in the race. The latter won a listed bumper at Market Rasen on her first start but ran poorly in the Champion Bumper. On hurdles bow, she was beaten thirteen lengths but won well last time. She’s a capable mare. Princess T has been very consistent in her last four runs, winning twice. The form of the most recent win was rubber stamped when Kannapolis hacked up at Warwick. Harry Reed takes off a handy 3lbs. A claimer in good form, Max Kendrick, rides The Bees Knees. He has won his past two races and the one in September has been boosted with Celestial Force running well. Three times subsequently. One True King has 12st top weight. He won at Uttoxeter by nearly four lengths, making all, in October and followed that up with a second over course and distance. He looks a smart horse but the weight is the issue. Leroy Leroy carries 11st12. He won by eight lengths at Southwell and then again by three quarters of a length. he hung a bit but he’s quite experienced. Art Approval, on the other hand, has had just two starts and both were seconds. The latter was over course and distance and he was hampered. PERCY’S WORD was a winner on the flat over two miles and made a nice hurdles debut to be second to a well-regarded horse. 634 days later, he was second at Perth and then third at Bangor. He’s about 12/1 and with the Skelton runners going well, he’s one to keep an eye on.

The Saturday Focus – Badger Beers Silver Trophy Handicap Chase

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

Whenever I think of Wincanton Racecourse, I immediately associate it with Paul Nicholls. He has an amazing record at this track – 403 winners at the course from 1432 runners, a 28% strike rate. Last season, he had fifteen winners at the course and looks to have plenty of great chances this Saturday. His horse Cyrname stole the show last week in the Charlie Hall Chase, proving the doubters wrong and me right after I tipped him up in my first ‘Saturday Focus’ article last week.

Paul Nicholls has three runners in the Badger Beers Silver Trophy Handicap Chase (Listed), which is raced over three miles and one furlong. Present Man is such a likeable horse and was successful in this race in 2017 and 2018. This ten-year-old won by two and a half lengths in 2018. He hadn’t been seen for eleven months (since pulling up in this last year) when he made his seasonal bow off a mark of 144, winning a Chepstow Veterans Chase. It was a hard-fought victory under 11st9 and he has never won off a mark this high. However, he’s obviously feeling well in himself and another bold bid can be expected.

The other Nicholls runners are a few years younger than Present Man with Danny Whizzbang aged seven and My Way aged six. The former has graced the racetrack just five times. His first two races were over hurdles, which he won well, but they decided to step him up to fences last season. On fences debut in November, he managed to win the grade two John Francome Novices Chase on his first start. He ran in a grade one over Christmas and was well-beaten then dropped down in grade to run at Ascot in the grade two Reynoldstown Novices Chase. That was over a trip just short of three miles and he didn’t quite last home on the bottomless ground and ended up last of three finishers. The ground is going to be good and, after a wind operation, I think he’ll handle this trip. So do a lot of people though, as he’s favourite. My Way is the biggest price of the trio – but that’s only at about 9/1! The son of Martaline doesn’t win very regularly and, in fact, he only won his first race last time out – at the twelfth attempt. It was over two miles six and he managed to win by two lengths. Stamina is the slight concern.

Paul Nicholls has taken the last three renewals of this race and Colin Tizzard won it in the previous year, 2016. This time around, he has Sizing At Midnight in the race. Tizzard’s horses aren’t firing as much as they normally do but he has had two winners since the start of the month. This gelding won very well on good ground over three miles two in August and then again at Ffos Las. Last time, he was beaten three and a quarter lengths by Kitty’s Light. 11lbs splits these two horses on official ratings with Sizing At Midnight carrying 10st13 and Kitty’s Light carrying 10st2 along with Jack Tudor’s 5lbs claim. This gelding is by Nathaniel (my stallion to watch for this National Hunt season) and is just four years of age. It is not typical to see four-year-olds in this kind of race. It wasn’t until his fifth start that he actually won, which was his first one over fences. It was on good ground over two miles four and a half furlongs and he did it easily. Next time, he ran against older horses and was beaten by a horse whose yard was in good form at that time. In September, Chritian Williams’ charge won at Warwick over three miles and then at Exeter he smoothly won again. I’m excited to see what he can do in this race.  

Dan Skelton’s yard is going well at the minute and their stable star Allmankind made a really pleasing chasing debut at Warwick on Friday. He looks to be a horse with a huge future with his four-year-old allowance. They have two runners in this race – Cobra De Mai and Supremely Lucky. Bridget Andrew rode a good winner on ITV last week and rides Cobra De Mai in this. His last win came in April 2019 over three mile two on good ground off a mark of 142. He has been running poorly ever since but he has slipped to a mark of 142 and gets blinkers. Amateur jockey Tristan Durrell rides Supremely Lucky. This horse is extremely consistent. He is still a maiden over fences but has been second on all three starts, which were all last season. He’s related to a dual chase winner but will be one of the outsiders.

The same can be said for Erick Le Rouge and Coo Star Sivola, who run for wife and husband Jane Williams and Nick Williams respectively. Erick Le Rouge is a ‘cliff horse’ for me. He was a good winner on chase debut. Next time, he was fifth with El Presente fourth. He has had one try at three miles and was only seventh so that is a worry. It is so good to see Utima winner Coo Star Sivola back out. His win was a superb run but he has lost his was subsequently. He was last seen pulling up in the 2019 Ultima 606 days ago and we haven’t seen him since. Obviously, fitness could be an issue.

Potterman (BY JTW EQUINE IMAGES)

El Presente carries 2lbs more than Erick Le Rouge. The former won in July by seventeen lengths. Next time, he followed in Potterman and was left a little bit one-paced. However, next time he won over three miles, beating Irish Prophecy on good to firm ground. Then, he stepped up a furlong in trip to win at Hereford. It is hard to know if he has reached his ceiling yet as he’s only ran thirteen times and won four races. Kim Bailey’s horses are running really well. Irish Prophecy won over two miles four in July and has been running consistently well, bar one blip, since. His best form is on ground with good in the description. Both El Presente and Irish Prophecy have to get past Potterman though. This horse was beaten a long way over two miles five but, next time, he was beaten fifteen lengths at Bangor. His win at Market Rasen over three miles was good and he came second to Secret Investor last time out, with Some Chaos two and a half lengths behind. I’ve seen that a few people like this horse but I’m not particularly convinced by him. However, Some Chaos boosted the form by winning the Edinburgh Gin Chase. He stayed the three miles two well and that has put him on a career high mark of 142.

The Beautiful Champagne Court (By JTW EQUINE IMAGES)

Just A Sting is horse who is often well-fancied for these kinds of races. He was 5/1 for this race last year and finished fourth, beaten seven lengths. Next time, he won on heavy ground and then never figured in the Kim Muir. He does go well fresh but he is 1lbs higher than his last winning mark. Finally, Champagne Court is looking to build on a ninth placed finish in a Pertemps Qualifier two weeks ago. This son of Court Cave came eighth in the Ultima but earlier in the season he managed to win at Sandown and Plumpton. His best form has come on softish ground.

In conclusion, I am going to side with KITTY’S LIGHT. This unexposed four-year-old has made a delightful start to fences. He’s by Nathaniel, who is making himself into a top dual-purpose stallion, and his young jockey is extremely talented. His trainer Christian Williams won this in 2004, the year I was born, so he knows what it takes from a horse to win this kind of race. I also like El Presente to run a good race. He’s been running very well lately and will relish the trip and ground.

Present Man (By JTW EQUINE IMAGES)

Huge thank you to the brilliant JTW Equine Images for supplying the photos once again!

Your Take On The Race

I asked my Twitter followers what their thoughts were on this race and I have linked a few of their replied below. Do you agree? Who are you siding with? Head over to my Twitter page to join in the conversation and let me know what you think of the race – and my article!