Not doing at all well this year, but at least we’ve got a couple of decent races to look at today, so let’s hope my luck changes!
Kempton 14.40 Listed Hcap Hurdle 256 (134) 21f gd – 15 Run (14 at best)
Last year – 256 (145) sf – 16 ran
William Henry 7/1 8-11-12 (145) by 0.75l from Spiritofthegames 16/1 6-11-1 (134)
Doux Pretender 6-11-0 (134)
15 Dec Gr 2 Hdl (180 u) 24f gd/sf Chelt 11/4 7l 5/8 off 134
towards rear, not fluent 5th, pushed along after 4 out, headway approaching 2 out, drifted left at last, kept on but never on terms
Pair of NHd wins to his credit, the latest over 21.5f at Ascot on his return in November; however, unable to manage the trip in better company at Cheltenham; drop back in distance should help, as will the drop into hcap company.
Plus: going (W); distance (W); trainer (14d); trainer (C); recent outing (28 days); career best lto; down in class;
Minus: class; course (?);
Verdict: (45) promising hurdler who looks to be on the upgrade, a contender.
Kloud Gate 7-11-3 (127)
14 Dec Cl 4 Nov Hcap Hd (40 d) 19.5f gd 12/1 F 7l 1/7 off 115
held up mid-division, headway before 3 out to tracked leaders, led before last, kept on strongly
Useful enough on the Flat, but looks as if hurdling may be his forte the way he has run away from his fields the last 2 starts at Leicester and Doncaster; admittedly that was much lower class than today, but he never looked troubled; up a further 12lbs today, but could possibly handle that.
Plus; going (W); distance (W); trainer (14d); recent form run (29 days); career best lto;
Minus: class (?); course; up 12lbs; up 3 classes;
Verdict: (39) fast improving hurdler and a potential contender.
Darling Maltaix 6-11-10 (134)
21 Dec Cl 3 Hcap Hurdle (70 d) 21.5f sf Ascot 9/1 4l 1/13 off 122
restrained in rear, smooth headway tracking leaders over 4f out, led on bit over 2f out, clear final furlong, kept on well
Has taken his time to get off the mark over hurdles, but a wind operation over the summer obviously helped; even so it took a rise to this trip at Ascot last month on his fourth race back before he struck under today’s rider; handicapper was impressed as he’s raised him 12lbs, but having got his head in front he may well go on to bigger and better things.
Plus: going (F); distance (W); trainer (14d); trainer (C); form run lto (28 days); career best lto;
Minus: class (?); course; up 12 lbs; up 2 classes;
Verdict: (38) looked the part at Ascot and could well improve again, a contender.
Lord Napier 6-11-6 (130)
22 Dec Gr 3 Hcap Hdl (860 u) 15.5f sf Ascot 28/1 8.75l 6/21 off 130
mid-division, outpaced 4 out, plugged on
Three times a winner at up to 20f over hurdles at lower levels last spring and then by no means disgraced when 6/16 in the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock in May; prices suggest he ran better than expected in his December outings at Wincanton and Ascot, and likely he’ll appreciate the step back up in trip.
Plus: class (F); going (F); distance (W); trainer (14d); trainer (C); form run lto (21 d); down in class;
Minus: course (?);
Verdict: (36) looks to be needing this step up in trip and a strong contender.
The market suggests that these are the only four we need consider and while I wouldn’t be that bold, 10 of the last 11 winners have started at 8/1 or less. So while I could make some sort of case for the likes of And The New having his first run after a wind operation, I shall desist and take my chances with the front quartet in the betting. There’s no doubt that Kloud Gate is a fast improving sort over hurdles, but this is a different class of opposition today and he looks a little short in price to me. Darling Maltaix is another that has had a wind operation over the summer, but while he did win at Ascot last month, the handicapper has noticed has noticed and he’s up 12lbs today. Thus I’m going for Doux Pretender from Lord Napier with And The New a possibility to fill out the frame.
Warwick 15.00 Gr 3 Hcap Chase 427 (158) 29f gd – 13 Run
Last year – 427 (139) sf – 13 ran
Milansbar 12/1 11-11-2 (134) by 12l from Cogry 14/1 9-11-8 (138)
Crosspark 14/1 8-11-6 (136) was 28l 4th
Cogry 10-10-10 (142)
14 Dec Gr 3 Hcap Chase (340 s) 26f gd Chelt 9/1 0.1l 1/9 off 139
led, not fluent 4 out, hard pressed from 2 out, headed towards finish, stayed on gamely to lead again last stride
Runner-up in last year’s renewal off a 4lbs lower mark, but will be better suited by the ground this time round and is in good form judging by his gallant fight back to win at Cheltenham last month in a career best; has been raised 3lbs, but Sam’s choice over stable companion Calett Mad.
Plus: class (W); going (W); distance (W); course (W); trainer (14d); trainer (C); form run lto (29 days); career best lto;
Minus: up 3lbs;
Verdict: (55) older than the average winner, but in good form and a contender in conditions that suit.
Calett Mad 7-10-13 (145)
09 Dec Cl 3 Hcap Chase (310 d) 32.5f gd/sf Kelso 100/30 F 0.4l 2/16 off 140
mid-division, mistake 2nd, took closer order 16th, led 19th, headed before 4 out, left 2nd when hampered 3 out, challenged next, ridden and every chance flat, kept on, held near finish
Returned to hurdles last season, but has looked in good nick since reverting to fences this term, running well in a pair of competitive Cheltenham chases before recording a career best to finish runner-up when favourite for the Borders National at Kelso last month; raised 5lbs for that, but as a 7yo still has scope for improvement over fences.
Plus: class (F); going (W); distance (F); trainer (14d); trainer (C); form run lto (34 days); career best lto;
Minus: course (?); up 5lbs; up 2 classes;
Verdict: (45) improving staying chaser and has to be considered a contender.
Step Back 9-11-3 (149)
13 Oct Cl 2 Hcap Chase (220 d) 23.5f gd Chep 8/1 24l 7/12 off 149
jumped right, prominent, led after 2nd, headed 13th, weakened 2 out
Lightly raced under NH rules but after winning a NCh at Fakenham in early April, romped home in a career best in first-time cheekpieces in the Bet365 at Sandown later in the month; raised 14lbs for that, but ran well enough on his return at Chepstow in mid-October before running out of gas; not seen since but sure to have come on for the run; did win P2P on gd but yet to run on better than gd/sf under NH rules.
Plus: class (W); going (W); distance (W); trainer (C);
Minus: course (?); 91-day break; up in class;
Verdict: (42) promising staying chaser and a contender.
Ibis Du Rheu 8-11-0 (146)
4 Dec Cl 2 Nov Chase (160 s) 25.5f gd Chelt 7/2 26l 2/4 off 147
chased leaders, left 2nd at the 2nd, closed after 11th, challenged 13th, led 14th, headed 16th, hit 4 out, struggling to go with winner after, not fluent and no impression 3 out
Cheltenham winner over hurdles at 2016 Festival but hasn’t fared as well over fences, only getting off the mark on his eighth start on his return in a Cl 2 Cheltenham novice in November; however, was soundly beaten in a similar event there the following month; tries a somewhat longer trip today, but suspect market position more due to trainer than form demonstrated to date.
Plus: going (W); distance (W); trainer (14d); trainer (C); recent outing (29 days); down 1lb;
Minus: class; course (?); up in class;
Verdict: (33) hard to consider him a contender on what he’s shown to date.
Duel At Dawn 9-10-5 (137)
22 Dec Cl 2 Hcap Chase (310 d) 23f hv Hayd 8/1 25l 7/11 off 139
led until 2nd, led 5th, headed 7th, led after 9th, headed 11th, lost place 4 out
Showed promise in his first season over fences before finding the demands of the 32f novice at the Festival in March too much for him and he was eventually PU; showed some promise in the Haydock mire on his return last month and likely will have come on for the race, plus cheekpieces refitted today.
Plus: class (F); going (W); distance (W); course (F); trainer (14d); trainer (C); recent outing (21 days);
Minus: up in class; only NCh win to date;
Verdict: (30) promising sort, but likely not the strongest contender here on what he’s shown to date.
Past results suggest that Irish or French bred chasers carrying 10-9 or more and having finished in the top 3 in their last completed start are the ones to seek out. Moreover, the last 12 winners had all run within 50 days and not contested more than 12 career chases. Those stats rather take care of last year’s winner Milansbar who runs off a 6lbs higher mark and has showed little since, plus is now a 12yo. Like Milansbar last year, Carole’s Destrier is another 11yo and was gaining his first win in 3 years when scoring at Newbury over the holidays, but he also is way too exposed over fences compared to past winners.
Of the less exposed sorts on my shortlist, I have to worry about the ability of both Ibis Du Rheu and Duel At Dawn and while either may prove me wrong, I think I’ll pass. That leaves the Twiston-Davies duo of Cogry and Calett Mad, and Bet365 winner Step Back. Statistically, Cogry is all wrong, but seems to have stepped up to the plate this year on better ground and is thus chosen to get the better of Step Back and his stable companion Calett Mad.
Any comments on today's racing. Please don't just put in selections ... please add some reason why you think a runner will win
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