Thursday 16th March

A fair few bets for Thursday, but hopefully we can get a nice return on them.
1.30 – Turners Novice Chase

Hard to know exactly what to make of the race without knowing the exact ground. The suggestion is that it will be soft which would be a concern for Banbridge who was smashed by Mighty Potter at Fairyhouse and while he has arguably improved again since then, who says Mighty Potter hasn’t? I am a big fan of horses who will race up with the pace and get into a good rhythm over this course and distance which is exactly what I expect Mighty Potter to do. Therefore I am not convinced at all that the form will be reversed.

The danger therefore could turn out to be Appreciate It. Finished just behind Banbridge in the Irish Arkle whose form has been franked. The soft ground would pose no problems at all whilst he is a classy horse having finished runner up in the Champion Bumper and winning the Supreme. Had his problems but form has seen him run consistently this year whilst the step up in trip can bring about further as Champion Bumper and Supreme performers tend to do better at a longer trip. The problem is Mighty Potter sets a very strong standard with even his grade 1 win at Fairyhouse getting franked with Gaillard Du Mesnil winning the NH Chase on Tuesday. Will need to jump which is the situation in any novice chase at Cheltenham but if he does I don’t see him getting beat.

Taking an interest in those at bigger prices then I do like Stage Star who was an impressive winner of a handicap last time out. Done little wrong barring blowing out when 2/7 on good ground, not handling the faster conditions. Course and distance winner who will have no problem with the easing ground. However, I am not a fan of horses going from handicap company into grade 1 races such as this and while they can run well they invariably rarely win. Has an each way chance of picking up a place but can’t fancy him for the win. I can’t bet against Mighty Potter in this.

Advised bets:
No Bet Advised

2.10 – Pertemps Network Final

Everyone criticises this handicap and don’t believe it should be there, but then without the uniqueness of conditions then it is just a staying handicap open to everyone. I like the fact they have tightened up the conditions so they have to finish first 4 in a qualifier as opposed to first 6 as it used to be. Make the horses run better to get in! It will be interesting to see if this has any effect on the record of qualifying winners in the race as they have a very poor strike rate in the race. However, with horses having to run better to get in then we may well see more winners doing the double. With that in mind I haven’t ruled out any horses who had won like I may of done in the past.
Looking at past winners then 9 of the last 10 have been rated 138 or higher whilst the last 11 winners were all aged 8 or younger, this isn’t a race for the older regressive handicappers. Saying that, you do want a bit of experience with the last 10 all having at least 6 runs over hurdles with a maximum of 14. The last 4 have had 9, 14, 10 & 14 starts coming in so it does look a tougher ask these days for the very lightly raced. Finally, only one winner this century had not run in the calendar year so those have been ruled out also.

This leaves me a shortlist of 7 horses, topped by Maxxum who has been many peoples fancy for the race. Gone up from a rating of 99 at the start of the season to 138 following two easy wins including the qualifier by 16 lengths. The UK handicapper has increased him a further 7lb not making his task any easier following what looked a flat run last time when ridden by a 7lb claimer. However, Davy Russell now takes over in the saddle and Elliott has a fantastic record in the race, you can’t ignore his chances albeit he has gone up a lot in the weights.

Walking On Air is another that won last time in a qualifier for this. Was a comfy winner and only got a 5lb rise in the weights. However, the runner up has let the form down since and all his runs have come on good to soft or faster so no idea how he will handle softer conditions. Always been well thought of having been talked up initially for the Supreme last year but now a single figure price so happy to let it go. Good Time Jonny looks a plot job for the shrewd Tony Martin yard. Qualified with 3rd behind Maxxum, beaten 16 ½ lengths but gets a 19lb weight swing when accounting for the jockey claim as he only has a 4lb rise for the British mark. A strong stayer, he was 9th in the Albert Bartlett last year and 9th in the Champion Bumper of 2020 so has experience of the track. Didn’t stand a chance dropped back to 2m last time when behind Gaelic Warrior, it should of provided a good prep for this assignment. His record in handicaps of 11 runners or more reads 3161130 with the 0 coming last time out over 2m and the 6th in a Cheltenham handicap over 2m 5f on good ground. This looks as though it has been the target once qualified whilst Irish horses have a fantastic record in the race having won 6 of the last 7. He has to be considered.

The Bosses Oscar was 2nd in this race in 2021 when runner up to Mrs Millner off a mark of 151 less the handy 7lb claim he had from Jordan Gainford. Pulled up in the Coral Cup last year but had no form going into the race having pulled up on his two previous starts before. Better form this time round after a confidence boosting win in the summer at Limerick before given a winter break to return at Musselburgh and qualify for this with a third place finish on good ground, looking outpaced before running on again at the finish to guarantee his place. Whilst not raced on soft ground much lately he has plenty of form going back on it to think it won’t be an issue. Will come here fresh after a light campaign, he also seems to act well for inexperienced riders as his record when ridden by a non-professional reads 12P3, the pulled up being the Coral Cup last year as explained earlier. The booking of amateur turned claimer Ben Harvey looks eye-catching as a promising talent worth his 5lb claim. He has a shout. That Musselburgh race could prove a good guide here as I also like the chances of the horse that finished in front of The Bosses Oscar in Coltor for Roger Fell. 5th in the Fred Winter in 2021 when trained by Dermot Weld, he has some solid form both over jumps and on the flat. Was staying on in that race at Musselburgh, though I am not convinced that soft ground will suit the horse, preferring faster conditions I feel.

Looking at bets then Maxxum seems short considering how much weight and improvement he has to show, especially on the back of winning a qualifier from which those horses have such a poor record. I have been caught out by horses in this race who win to get in and I feel they have too much weight (Presenting Percy in 2017 who I went off despite having backed at 25/1 ante post). At the prices then I will take two in Good Time Jonny and The Bosses Oscar. Conditions of the race will suit and neither should be far away. If the ground was to dry out then Coltor would come into play as well.

Advised bets:
1pt e/w – The Bosses Oscar @ 10/1 (General – 6 places)
0.5pt e/w – Good Time Jonny @ 10/1 (General – 6 places)

2.50 – Ryanair Chase

Like I said before this race revolves around which Shishkin turns up. At his best like last time and I don’t think he will be beat as nothing in the race is up to his standard. Blue Lord is probably next best but not fully convinced that he will want this trip on this ground, though you can see why Mullins left him out of the Champion Chase in the end! Assuming they go a good pace which looks likely then I think he will be struggling at the finish as you invariably want a horse that stays well. This generally goes to horses who don’t quite see out the three miles rather those who look a little outpaced over 2m. I put up Envoi Allen ante post and he is still a similar price. The concern has to be his jumping as he struggled at Kempton on tacky ground and this may not be any better. He will really need to hold it together. However, De Bromhead has his yard in great shape and it would be no surprise if he bounced back (It would also be a positive to the chances of A Plus Tard who is in a very similar situation).

Fury Road is one who is a concern on the ground having twice been pulled when conditions have been soft including at the Festival last year (Though that was horrendous). Did race and finish 3rd to Conflated on soft at Leopardstown in the Savills chase which was no disgrace so maybe he handles things better now? Janadil will have no problems with conditions and finished 2nd to Allaho last year under similar. A repeat of that would probably be enough to see him pick up second though his hold up style isn’t suited to this track and distance so looks limited from a win perspective. I don’t think French Dynamite wants soft ground either, nor Ga Law, whilst Chacun Pour Soi would be a doubtful stayer in the conditions. So, it could be worth chancing a small bet on Hitman for Paul Nicholls. Another to come and fail in the King George though there was excuses having bled from the nose. He easily won the Graduation Chase on soft ground at Haydock over 2m 5 1/2f and though it wasn’t the strongest of contests he still got an RPR of 165 for it. Slightly disappointing last time at Newbury, it was on good ground which may not of been ideal and was still a fair prep having come off the back of the run in the King George when bled. His record in grade 1s reads 2F322P so is fair but does find one too good normally. Whilst he is still only a 7yo and room for improvement, he now looks fair e/w value at a big price of 28/1. There is the option of betting the 12/1 e/w in without Shishkin market if you believe he will run his race and win, however, I prefer to play the forecasts as cover bets for small stakes along with the main bet on Hitman.

Advised bets:
0.75pt e/w – Envoi Allen @ 12/1 (Skybet, Coral and Unibet – 3 places) Already advised
0.75pt e/w – Hitman @ 28/1 (General – 3 places)
1pt Fc – Shishkin/Janadil
0.25pt Fc – Shishkin/Hitman

3.30 – Stayers Hurdle

Stayers Hurdle

We have gone from wondering if Shishkin can put in another big performance in less than a month (Though probably doesn’t need to be at his best to win) to whether Blazing Khal can do something similar. Admittedly he has a little over a months rest but then he was making his seasonal debut after more than a year off the track! I doubt he would get away with not being at his best either!! He looks a potential star for who soft ground will be no issue and does look a strong stayer. Not fully tested at the trip either, certainly not at the highest level. All this fuss about whether he would make the race or not you just can’t tell whether is genuine or for show! At the prices I am inclined to be against him albeit I need him to win to pay for Cheltenham for me! Teahupoo has gone favourite and I can understand why after his form was franked by the win of Honeysuckle in the Mares Hurdle. She won a slowly run Galmoy over 3m in her supposed favoured soft conditions. It’s interesting as before the rain connections were saying that she wasn’t ground dependant, it was just a case of her being outpaced on the faster ground over 2m. Now they are saying she has got her ground! It does throw a potential spanner in the works however as I am expecting the race to be run at a good clip and will really test if she gets the trip on this ground. I am favouring she will but in a competitive race I wouldn’t want to get too involved at her price. Interestingly, another to find their form boosted by the win of Honeysuckle was Klassical Dream who only went down a neck to Teahupoo in the Hattons Grace. Not been seen since which isn’t unusual for a horse with a very good record when fresh. There is a little doubt as to how well he stays this trip but then we haven’t seen him in a strongly run race when coming in fresh. Surprised at how much of a price disparity there is between the pair considering how little there was between them at Fairyhouse. Not the most reliable but I can’t resist some kind of saver on the horse at his price.

Flooring Porter has been well backed to make it a hat trick of wins in this race which is perhaps unsurprising given conditions though I would be surprised if he got an uncontested lead with Dashel Drasher lining up. His two RPRs this year have been the two lowest he has produced since getting beat in a handicap back in October 2020. With that in mind then it is hard to be confident here. Home By The Lee would make more appealing claims having took his form to another level this season. Will have no problem with the ground and seemed to appreciate being ridden more prominently. Does get a little outpaced in his races before staying on. Was only 6th in the race last year but that was after an aborted chase campaign. Been all about the Stayers hurdle this year and he has benefitted from so. He has a solid chance in the race without being anything special.

I put up Henri Le Farceur for this race as an ante post bet and he is still around the same price. Probably worth a small bet if not backed it yet as he will love the soft conditions and he had produced far more in France than what Gold Tweet had done prior to his run and win in the Cleeve hurdle. He needs to improve but you can find doubts about all this field to be fair so if capable of finding a same level of improvement as Gold Tweet then he wouldn’t be without a chance. Certainly you wouldn’t think they would supplement him and send him over if they didn’t believe he had a chance!

Advised bets:
0.25pt e/w – Henri Le Farceur @ 33/1 (Skybet and William Hill – 3 places) Already advised
1pt win – Klassical Dream @ 9/1 (Bet365, Hills)

4.10 – Plate Handicap Chase

Run over 2m 4 1/2f, it is a race where horses have struggled to carry weight. Possibly because we are seeing more unexposed horses coming through off lower ratings that are favoured over slightly more exposed but are not good enough for the Ryanair. No horse has carried more than 11st 4lb to win in the last ten years with the highest rated being 149 and the lowest at 136, though the last 9 winners have been rated in the 140s so that is where I have focussed. Once more I have taken out the older horses, with those aged 10+ having 1 win and 8 placed from 59 to try in last 10 years (The exception coming last year! More of him later as a real trends buster in the race). Only 2 of the last 19 winners failed to run in the calendar year whilst only one of the last 9 winners had raced more than 11 times over fences (Last Year).

In the end I am down to a nice shortlist of just four horses. First up is Il Ridoto for Paul Nicholls. Course and distance winner when winning a decent handicap here at the end of January, which has often been a good guide for this race. Led for a lot of the way benefitting from first time cheekpieces which really did the trick. Up 8lb and that may not of been the strongest race but he does have a lot of positives going into this. The runner up in fact from that race reopposes here on 2lb better terms which don’t look enough for Fugitif to overturn their positions all be it was only a length between them. As you can see there isn’t much between the pair and they have the form over course and distance, but I will always side with the horse who won as they could have more to come.

Datsalrightgino is an interesting novice who has plenty of experience having raced 6 times this year. His form here when second to Stage Star could get a boost if that horse was to run well in the Turners Chase first up. However, is up 7lb from that run behind Stage Star so would need to improve if he was to land this I feel. Possible though as cheekpieces are introduced on the horse and we have already discussed how they helped Il Ridoto. Novices have a great record in this with 4 of the last 6 in their novice campaign. The last horse on my list is War Lord who is well handicapped on his best form when you consider he was 4th in the hot Arkle from last year but hasn’t seemed at his best this season. Bounced back to form with a second place last time but he is a hold up horse who isn’t a guaranteed stayer so doesn’t has the right profile of the type of horse I am looking for.

Advised bets:
1pt win – Il Ridoto @ 9/1 (888sport)
0.75pt e/w – Datsalrightgino @ 11/1 (Bet365 – 6 places)

Advised bets:
No Bet Advised

4.50 – Mares Novice Hurdle

Luccia will be a hot favourite for this especially after Ashroe Diamond, the ante post second favourite, wasn’t declared for the race. She is a standout on RPRs and understandably is favourite though soft ground could be a concern. She hasn’t raced on it since her bumper days with both jumping efforts coming on good ground. She is quite a strong runner in a race in which Henderson is 0/11 with 2 placed since its inception. There are potentially vulnerabilities about her on the ground and also the fact this race invariably goes to a hold up mare who is brought late for their challenge due to how fast they tend to go early. This still plays into the hands of Magical Zoe who I put up before. She will be held up patiently and come fast and late like she was in a grade 3 when last seen. That was on soft ground so has no issues there. For the De Bromhead yard who have targeted her at the race named in honour of their son who passed away so it would be a very poignant winner. This year seems to be the year we are getting all of these types of stories so who am I to say it can’t happen.

The race does have a habit of throwing up places at big prices (and even the big priced winner) so it is worth looking down the list at those at the bigger odds. There are a couple that catch my eye. First is The Model Kingdom who finished 3rd to Magical Zoe. Been kept on the go all through winter, she was last seen in the Moscow Flyer when beaten just over 6 lengths by Impaire En Passe who has obviously franked that form in good style. That was on heavy ground so would have no issues with conditions here. Seemed at her best when held up this year, she just lacks the pace for faster ground at 2m. However, a strongly run race would bring her right into it and I expect her to be seeing the race out well. She is a big price for the experience she has and although she isn’t a world beater, she is capable of a good finish here. The other is Mullenbeg who I backed last time and vowed not to back again! She is a dodgepot who looked around last time and didn’t seem to want to go past the winner when it looked like she would. I notice that the hood she used to wear in the past has been reinstated and she does look the ideal type who will sit out the back and come through on the bridle. Whether she wins is another matter whilst the soft ground is also a concern with all her hurdling form on good to soft or better. She does have some form on soft from her bumper days to give hope. The booking of Harry Cobden looks significant (He won the only time her rode her before) so I can’t pass her up at a big price to run a big race. Hopefully one of the two I have selected at big prices can manage to get at least a place for a small profit there.

Advised bets:
1pt e/w – Magical Zoe @ 10/1 (General – 3 places) Already advised
0.5pt e/w – The Model Kingdom @ 33/1 (Coral, Boyles – 4 places)
0.5pt e/w – Mullenbeg @ 40/1 (Skybet – 5 places)

5.30 – Kim Muir Handicap Chase

Usual story. 9yo+ horses are 2/103 in last ten years with 11 placed. Terrible record and so happy to discount them. Now winner has been rated lower than 134 has won the race in the last 11 years, though Chambard was rated 134 last year (Was actually rated 129 but came in with a 5lb penalty for a win 11 days prior). 8 of the last 10 winners had ran now more than 10 times over fences including the last 6. 9 of the last 11 winners had run in the calendar year.

All in all my shortlist was down to a manageable 5. That does include the current favourite Stumptown who has been well supported for this race off a mark of 135. However, his two wins have come on much better ground and he has no form on soft which would be a big concern. His mark still could be lenient as he comes up on RPRs well whilst he seemed to see the 3m trip out well last time. These amateurs do tend to go at a fair lick, especially with a full field of 24 declared. You have to strongly fancy the winner being a horse who has been ridden patiently and this horse has been keen and raced prominently to win the last twice. At its price I have to let it go.
I’ve not had many strong handicap fancies this week but one of them is definitely Dunboyne who has found the ground come good for him. Ridden patiently in the Thyestes when just getting outbattled by the well handicapped Carefully Selected at the finish. The form of which has been franked by the 4th and 5th both winning since. The horse is a real mudlark with 6 of his top 8 RPRs coming on soft or worse ground including top 4. He has an Irish rating of 138 so the British handicapper has been lenient I feel in just a 3lb rise especially considering how the form is turning out. Has the assistance of Jamie Codd in the saddle who has won this race 4 times in the last 14 years. My only concern is he disappointed in the Pertemps last year when a fancied 7/1 shot never getting in the race, but then had gone in on the back of a poor display on faster ground. No such concern with form this time. Given a good round of jumping he will take some beating.

The other three on my list are 20/1 and above. First is Lord Accord who ran in the Cleeve hurdle last time as a prep it seems for this. Interesting idea though the ground has really gone for him having been pulled when due to race on soft before and has shocking form figures when he does run on it. Annual Invictus hasn’t ran in a chase for almost a year which has meant he has preserved his mark but you wonder if that has been the plan all season whilst soft ground is again a worry for him. His last 4 wins have all come on good ground. The final horse on my list does have a squeak in Fontaine Collonges for Venetia Williams who you would expect would enjoy the softer conditions. Won a decent handicap at Haydock back in November off a mark of 132 before a creditable 4th at Kempton to Remastered when looking a little outpaced on the faster track. Flopped in the Grand National trial at Haydock when favourite having found the drying ground go against her. Softer conditions here will be ideal along with the stamina test this is likely to bring. Can race prominent but then was held up last time in the Grand National trial so they may choose to do something similar here especially if the early pace is strong. Good experienced jockey is booked for the ride, the yard won this last year with a big price and so shouldn’t be discounted here from running a big race.

Advised bets:
1.5pt e/w – Dunboyne @ 8/1 (Bet365 – 6 places)
0.5pt e/w – Fontaine Collonges @ 25/1 (Bet365 – 6 places)