Weekend Race Previews uploaded - Ante Post Focus (Thyestes) uploaded - Cheltenham Festival Week 10 uploaded - General Sports (Sun) & Sunday Race Previews uploaded - General Sports (Sat) uploaded
Before I take a look at the best of the weekend racing, a note to say that I have uploaded the latest bi-weekly Cheltenham Ante-Post catch up this morning, Alan Potts gives an interesting French import running at Ascot tomorrow in Guest Contributions and five more trainers were added to Trainer Trends yesterday evening. Mike Henderson will be posting his daily thoughts on the European Darts Championship on Saturday and Sunday, Ross Miles’ Week 8 NFL preview will be going up on Saturday and also look out for the first of Paul Ferguson’s Novice Notebook monthly copy that will be uploaded this weekend.
It was disappointing not to see Irish Cavalier’s name amongst the decs for the Charlie Hall as this is the race that his stable have said since his Newton Abbot win was the next plan. I will be interested to hear why not. Maybe he is not 100% pleasing them as he was also not declared for Down Royal on the same afternoon for which he had an entry or maybe they had another look at the race after the five-day entries and it then dawned on them that the two former Ryanair winners, Cue Card and Dynaste (who both have something to prove right now), were well suited by the race conditions getting in unpenalised so they prefer to stick to handicaps for now. I don’t know. As such Menorah is my idea of the horse most likely to run up to his best if the ground doesn't turn soft, though it is interesting to see Holywell declared in blinkers as they are only usually utilised on him for the big days.
The West Yorkshire Hurdle sees Rock On Ruby attempting 3m for the first time. He was third favourite for the World Hurdle last season until a poor gallop ruled him out of the race but the likely favourite (3/1 best price currently) is no cert to last out the trip. It’s an interesting renewal also featuring the Cesarewitch winner, Grumeti, and The Druid’s Nephew who is prepping for the Hennessy but Aqalim looks on the big side at 6/1 given that he receives 8lb from Rock On Ruby and is officially 8lb his inferior and the Ferguson stable are going very well.
Over at Ascot, the £60K William Hill Handicap Hurdle features a horse that I have bigged up in the blog before in Cloonacool and he has had his chasing career put on hold as they felt after his last win at Market Rasen that there is still more to come over timber. He dossed in front that day so was value for more than the winning margin having travelled strongly into the race but Paddy Brennan (2-2 on him) is required for Cue Card so Josh Moore takes over again. Nabucco is favourite for John Ferguson and the one I fear most over last year’s very easy winner, Sign Of A Victory, who is 14lb higher this time.
What A Warrior was my selection last year in the Sodexo Gold Cup when he was wizzed up by Dan Skelton to make all and he returns off a 5lb higher mark taking on 14 rivals. Skelton commented in his stable tour feature earlier this week that What A Warrior would be “spot on”. A shame therefore that there isn’t one more runner for each-way purposes as he looks likely to go very well if the ground remains Good. Lost Legend looked on particularly good with terms winning by 10l at Bangor last time and he would be the other horse to interest me for Jonjo O’Neill whose Merry King finished second and third in this race for the last two years.
The JNWine Champion Chase has been a kind race to me with Roi De Mee and Road To Riches winning the last two years but Don Cossack looks a class above his three rivals and I won’t be taking on him on. He looked a monster in all runs bar the Ryanair last season (and that is what we will keep hearing this season when his name and the Gold Cup are discussed together) and his comeback run underlined to me that he is the alpha male of the staying chase division at present. The Grade 2 Powers Irish Whisky Chase sees Ptit Zig rather than Saphir Du Rheu attempt to give Paul Nicholls his seventh winner in eight years in this race but Clarcam and Shanahan’s Turn won’t make it easy for him.
Then we have the little matter of the Breeders’ Cup which starts 5 minutes into the Rugby World Cup Final coverage. I mentioned in Wednesday’s blog that it was unlikely I will have a bet this year with the two horses I was looking at earlier in the week (Hit It A Bomb on Friday) and Karakontie (on Saturday) both subsequently drawn high but now the rain has arrived I am tempted by the each-way claims at a double-figure price of Secret Gesture in the Filly And Mare Turf (6.40). She was harshly thrown out in the Beverley D in many people’s eyes and Ralph Beckett has gone local this time with Florent Geroux replacing Jamie Spencer. I recall her bolting up by 10l in the Lingfield Oaks Trial with plenty of give underfoot so, although she handles a quicker surface, we know she won’t be inconvenienced if it is real soft (calling it Soft at present). The favourite, Legatissimo, was disappointing the only time she encountered real soft ground (though it was yielding when she won a Group 1 last time), so I wouldn’t be rushing to take Evens if stays that way.