I was not too far off the mark today (Friday), as you can see here and particularly pleased with Willoughby Court’s win. We would have had a nice big race double were it not for the remarkable performance of Beer Goggles, defeating Unowhatimeanharry. It was clear from some way out that Thistlecrack was not going to be the winner. Now, if you’re a small scale trainer and you get hammered for schooling in public, are you entitled to be somewhat miffed by the “not knocked about” performance of Thistlecrack who, according to the trainer, is now nicely primed for the King George? Yesterday, I quoted the trainer saying that this was his “racecourse gallop”. Hmm. As it happens, I take the view that his fifth of six revealed that he is not at all “nicely primed”. Both trainer and assistant (Colin and Joe) were keen to emphasise that he was race fit. I suggest that you have a look at the last three furlongs (courtesy of ITV) and tell me that he wasn’t gently treated when obviously not going to win.
On to a great Saturday and the best pre Boxing/St Stephen’s Day December cards.
Newbury (chase good to soft, soft in places; hurdles soft, good to soft in places)
12:10 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (Listed) 2m and a bit
Cap Soleil**** (2/5) is dominant in this field and will surely see off Dame Rose. She is one of the top prospects for the season and will surely be a player if correctly entered next March. Not a betting proposition at the price unless you want to play with big money.
12:45 John Francome Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) 2m 7 1/2 f
I can’t believe that my favourite pair of the season so far, Black Corton*** (a great 13/8) and Bryony Frost, are back out again for a potential six timer in a Grade 2. Paul Nicholls did say that he might as well keep going with him until he hits the wall, but this looks like another winnable race. He’s tough as teak and this placing has turned out to be a great opportunity to add to that excellent record. I think that this is my bet of the day because there’s a good case for saying that he should be odds on against a poor field for a Grade 2.
13:20 Peter O’Sullevan Handicap Chase (Class 2) 2m 6f and a bit
I could tell why I think that lots of these won’t win and, after reflection, Gold Present probably should win this but I can’t put him forward as a selection, particularly after Tully East’s failure last time out (2nd to the latter in the Close Brothers Novices’ Chase at the Festival). One to watch and take ideas from.
13:50 Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) 2m 4 1/2f
This is another where I don’t have strong view. I might just have a little dabble with Coeur de Lion* for a place at 9/1 because the trip might suit.
14:25 Gerry Fielden (Lads) Hurdle (Class 1) 2m and a bit
Now, thank goodness, it’s time to take a view again! Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of Charli Parcs***** at an excellent 3/1. He didn’t’t deliver when push came to shove last season but I think that he absolutely oozes class and can start this season in the same way he did last. Absolute bet of the day (sorry, yes, I now that’s the second one), in the hope that he’s summered well and will now become a serious candidate at the top level.
15:00 The Hennessy (aka the Ladbrokes Trophy) (Grade 3) 3m 2f
All the talk is about WP’s Munster National winner Total Recall who has a serious weight increase here. Paul Ferguson and other equally highly respected analysts see this as one for Singlefarmpayment. However, I think that this is the time for American** (6/1) to make the breakthrough to the top level, with course and ground to suit. Whisper (8/1) is respected and A Genie In Abottle (10/1) is good value for a place (especially with the big race offers for extra places).
15:35 Handicap Chase (Class 2) 2m and a bit
I quite like (no more than that) Baby King* to take this at an appealing 4/1.
Well, this is always that strange day when perhaps the biggest favourite for the ante post Cheltenham market runs in the north east.
Buveur d’Air doesn’t face any serious opponents in the Fighting Fifth and the 2/9 reflects that. Given the weather this week, I see that as the most likely opponent (soft, heavy in places).
3.20 Rehearsal Chase (Class 1) 2m 7 1/2f
I must be getting old because I’ve thought in recent years that this was never the same after relocating and I see that this was back in 2005 (from Chepstow). I always remembered it as a slog and it could well be again. However, this features another horse who I think has lots more to come in the shape of Beware The Bear*** who I think is very well priced in this one at 3/1.
Having now measured it all, the bet of the day is a double: Black Corton and Charli Parcs. Bet placed for a £98.40 return to a £10 stake.
By the way, Sunday is probably an even better day for Festival prospects, including in Ireland, Meri Devie (surely at last!)