Wednesday. The sad death of Alan Potts, just three months after the death of his wife, has thrown into doubt the participation of Finians Oscar and Fox Norton this weekend. However, it seems at the time of writing that his Irish runners on Thursday will take part (Beyond the Law and Magic of Light at Clonmel).
However, as is so often the case at this time of year, there is still much to be excited about. Before it starts Yanworth took a soft fall at Exeter today. There’s nothing to take from that. He jumped well and just knuckled over.
I’ll be updating this page as the declarations come through.
Thursday. It’s great news that the Potts horses are running.
Friday. Well, I thought that Movewiththetimes was all over the winner of the Steel Plate and Sections but the resolve of Finians Oscar was mightily impressive and he’s got to be in the list for the spring features. Very sorry to see Counter Shy pulled up sharply with what turned out to be a fatal injury in running, doing what he was trained to do. A great shame. Another shame, but far less serious, was the fall of Auvergnat in the Cross Country when going well. I’m happy to put that down as a one off and will continue supporting him in these races. By the way, here’s a really good Youtube channel where you can watch the race alongside the Betfair market in running: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtNHoP6Axxj5DwSpvFCAEhg Really informative. So, on to Saturday’s great card (see below).
12.40 Amateurs’ Handicap Chase Class 3 3m1f
As ever, the focus should be on the top amateur riders so that means that attention is drawn to Kim Bailey’s Dueling Banjos (6/1) with Jamie Codd and Donald McCain’s What Happens Now* (7/1) with Derek O’Connor. Both have strong form and my preference is for the latter. Pickamix (a shortening 9/1) is another to look out for.
1.15 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Class 3 2m
This one depends on what view you take about Counter Shy’s** (9/2) last two runs. The win at Worcester was impressive, but he was 14/1, and the second at Uttoxeter was respectable, beating much touted Cause Toujours. The breeding is excellent (by Galileo out of a Flemensfirth mare) and I’m content to take the view that this 4-y-o will be one of Jonjo/J P’s progressive prospects. I think that the selection of this race for the next outing is significant. Another to look out for each way is the Skeltons’ 5-y-o Or de Vassy.
1.50 Handicap Chase Class 2 2m
I’ve watched and liked Exitas’ last two outings but I think that the improving Kapstadt* (7/2) is the one to go for in this one. He’s been campaigned through the summer and should be race fit.
2.25 Novices’ Chase Class 2 2m4f
The Steel Plate and Sections Chase is a long established feature of this meeting. The last five winners are O O Seven, More of That, Champagne West, Taquin du Seuil and Dynaste. I’m very confident that Finians Oscar**** (10/11) will prove to be good value at a shade of odds on. Some cribbed his run at Chepstow but I think that he should comfortably see off his three opponents, giving 8lb.
3.00 Cross Country Handicap Chase Class 2 3m6f
I love cross country races, although my preference is for the real challenges in France and Ireland. One of the main benefits is to see familiar contenders over a few seasons. Although I’m a big fan of Cause of Causes, surely this is just an early season marker. Urgent de Gregaine was all over the winner of the Pardubice until the last couple of furlongs and will treat the Cheltenham fences as a doddle in comparison. As usual I can’t have Cantlow so that leaves me with another regular selection, Auvergnat*** (11/4) who, as a cross country specialist at just seven, can come to dominate this division.
3.35 Novices’ Hurdle Grade 2 2m5f
This is a great finale for the first day, a Grade 2 featuring the first and third in the (real) season opener Persian War at Chepstow. However, I’m opposing both (Poetic Rhythm and Vision des Flos) and going with Momella** (9/2), just ahead of Calett Mad for a decently priced winner to round off the card.
12.40 Triumph Hurdle Trial Grade 2 2m
This is a real trial, as much as it can be at this time of year. Gumball for Hobbs/Johnson, at slight odds on is the current favourite for the real thing but I’m much more interested in the Henderson/Geraghty/J P combination in the shape of a full sister to Apples Jade, Apple’s Shakira*** at a highly appealing 13/8 (Lads, much shorter elsewhere). Purchased from the excellent Emmanuel Clayeux, with only one previous (easy first of 11) run at Vichy, she could be a top prospect. It would be good to see JP have a new real contender after the sad loss of Counter Shy on Friday.
1.15 Novices’ Chase Class 2 3m
This is a genuine trial for the RSA, notwithstanding the small field. Ballyoptic has shown that he is a good jumper, whereas West Approach is yet to prove similar ability. The latter won at Ffos Las and I’m perhaps unfairly biased against form from from that course. As previously advised, I’m a big fan of the outsider of the three Black Corton**** at an appealing 9/2. This is undoubtedly the biggest challenge yet in the current run but course and distance recent form and five wins from the last six outings can’t be ignored. This one has the same frame as Politilogue last season and, as I’ve also commented previously, Bryony Frost on board is a plus.
1.50 BetVictor Handicap Chase Grade 3 3m3f
Well, we have to start with the Gold Cup second, Minella Rocco. Was it the best Gold Cup in recent years? – of course not, so treat it with caution. He impresses me as a fragile but very capable horse, not to be counted on though. Three Faces West has had a long lay off – why? Not for today. Premier Bond runs when he wants to and, in my view, this race does not suit. Doing Fine and Benbens tend to make up the numbers. Shotgun Paddy is, frankly, shot. So, by the well worn process of elimination that leaves me with, unusually for me, Fergal O’Brien’s Perfect Candidate*, at a decent 10/1. Probably an each way at that price but nonetheless my idea of this winner. Will have been targeted for this, unlike some of the others.
2.25 BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase Grade 3 2m 4f
The Mackeson! Notwithstanding its many changes of name this has been a great race and this year’s renewal is no exception. They’re not the greatest bunch of 2m 4f chasers but, my goodness, they’re very well matched and this has been the hardest pick. The last five winners are, in order, Taquin du Seuil, Annacotty, Caid du Berlais, Johns Spirit and Al Ferof. Who will follow that decent bunch? Favourite Kylemore Lough is the Timeform selection but I can’t have him after his last season 2554 form. I’m a real fan of Le Prezien, just beaten here by Foxtail Hill last time out. However, this is a race for a coming horse and that one is targeted for this race rather than later opportunities, Tully East**, at a highly appealing 8/1. He knows how to win at Cheltenham (Close Brothers’ Novices’ Chase at the Festival) and had a nice pipe opener with a “not knocked about” hurdle race at Punchestown on 18 October.
3.00 Handicap Hurdle Class 1 3m 1f
This is the betting race of the day. It includes my outsiders in previous selections, Connetable and Soletatentif (see previous posts) but this is all about Festival serious candidate Thomas Campbell***** (13/8). I can’t believe that he’s odds against in this field and my bet is on already. Surely this one will be odds on at the off?
3.30 Intermediate Handicap Hurdle Class 3 2m 5f
Let’s be honest – this is a poor race. I have no view.
4.00 Bumper Class 1 2m
It’s likely to be an interesting race, but the recent renewals have tended to throw up long odds winners. One to watch and then follow.
2.20 Listed Hurdle 2m2f
Let’s Dance is the one to watch out for in this one.
Early views are that, with the benefit of decs, I’m looking forward to Capitaine in the Cheltenham Arkle Trial (won’t win the real thing), Fox Norton in the Schloer, Ivanovich Gorbatov in the Greatwood, Slate House in the Supreme Trial and, of course, Faugheen in the Morgiana.