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After an enjoyable couple of days racing at Cheltenham it will be a case of watching Aintree from home today where the focal point of a competitive card is the Grade 2 Monet’s Garden Old Roan Chase at 3.30. The full weekend race previews for the Jumps Season Service and All-Inclusive Service will start at Cheltenham on November 12th but here’s my in-a-nutshell thoughts about each contender:
Wishfull Thinking – Bolted up off the same mark in last year’s race and Hobbs surely must know that this race and the Peterborough (which he also won last year) are his only two realistic chances of a victory this season so he should have him ready, it’s just whether now being a 12-year-old has withered his powers and can he really be in as good order as he was on this day last season?
Rajdhani Express – Appeared to be trained with the spring in mind last season (u.r early on in this race last year) which culminated in a 10l win in the Topham but I like the way that Henderson has started this season compared to last doubtless helped by his new sand gallop so I expect him to be a deal sharper - it’s just he’ll need to be a mid-160s horse to win this off 160 and don’t think he’s quite that good.
Johns Spirit – Runs here rather than at Cheltenham yesterday as they shortened the distance of that race which he had won for the last two years and if the Paddy Power Gold Cup is the plan again, then he won’t be too far off peak fitness but Prestbury Park does bring out the best of him and I would be concerned that he can put up a career best, which he may need to off 157 if he is going to win, first time out away from Cheltenham (beaten 19+ all three runs at Aintree).
Sound Investment – His eighth over hurdles at Chepstow 15 days was very much a prep for this race and he was previously seen winning the Greatwood Gold Cup at Newbury off a 6lb lower mark than today but I didn’t think that was a particularly good renewal and he has got to improve again.
Splash Of Ginge – A tough-as-teak novice last season but who got well and truly outclassed against Grade 1 horses so I’m not sure there is bundles of improvement to come from him in his second season over fences and I also unsure whether it was as good a handicap chase that he won at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day off a 4lb lower mark than he races off today as it looked at the time but his trainer fares well in the better early-season prizes.
Duke Of Navan – I will be disappointed if he is not better than a 147-rated horse later this season and he is also open to improvement attempting this trip for the first time so he was the horse I was originally drawn to earlier in the week and then I discovered that, for a trainer who supposedly loves Aintree, Richards has only had five winners here in the last ten years (and four of those were with the same horse) but, that said, three of the stable's five course wins were in this race so he is likely to be well tuned up.
Buywise – From a stable that won the three big hurdle races at Chepstow two weeks ago, he disappointed when we last saw him in the staying handicap at the Grand National Meeting having caught the eye finishing strongly in a Cheltenham Festival handicap for the second year running so he is becoming somewhat of a ‘cliff horse’ for many. The fear, aside from his not-always-fluent jumping, is that a flat 2m4f might not suit as well as a stiffer test though a couple of front runners today should make this a good test that he will enjoy.
Lord Ben – I like Henry de Bromhead on his British raids plus front runners on the chase course at Aintree but his Galway Plate fifth (didn’t quite get home according to connections) who then went to make all at Listowel, is now aged ten having his 20th chase start and races off a career-high mark.
Brave Spartacus – Being beaten 24l in a maiden on the Flat last month is an interesting preparation but he has been well placed to win five of his 12 chase starts notably the Summer Plate at Market Rasen by 7l where he made all and jumped enthusiastically but he is likely to have Lord Ben pressing him for the lead this time.
Surf And Turf – One of my highlights of last season was seeing him win the Red Rum at 33/1 at the Grand National meeting over 2m (in fact one of my subscribers then bought him having had a good bet as a result!) but the longer trip combined with a couple of front runners to make it a good test means that he will have to stay very well. His disappointing last run which was over hurdles 99 days ago is easily forgiven and I'll be more interested in him again back over 2m (the 2m handicap chase on this day in which he was second last season has now been moved to November).
Le Bacardy – Dan Skelton (7 winners in the last 10 days) is close to the top of my list of trainers to follow in the next few weeks and his bottom weight is likely to be whizzed up to land this valuable prize but he does have stamina to prove and looks fairly well exposed taking on much better class opposition than when successful at Market Rasen in May. If backing him, you are basically backing the trainer.
In summary, very competitive with eight of the 12 contenders priced up at single-figure odds and nothing particularly shines out at those prices with the market looking to have it about right. Buywise and Duke Of Navan interest me most and I just favour Buywise (top price 6/1) dropping back down to 2m4f given the form of the stable and a couple of front runners should force a gallop that will suit this strong finisher. I see Duke Of Navan (top price 7/1) going best approaching the penultimate fence and then he is into unknown territory but, if he stays (and a flat track and good ground give him every chance), I rate him the main danger.
Ross Miles's NFL Week 7 preview is now uploaded in Sport and hopefully David Ferrer, Carl Redden's pre-tournament pick for ATP Vienna at 5/1, can take down the title for which he is a best priced 1/4 to beat Steve Johnson in today's final.