The blog selection PLEIN POUVOIR was totally outclassed yesterday.
It turned-out to be a decent chase for the level, with Raymond showing that he had continued to improve from last season but, even with that improvement, he could not hold off the chase debutant ZARRAFAKT. Emma Lavelle certainly has her horses in the peak of form (she also had a winner with her other runner of the day, Penny Max, which was odds-on at 1/4) and she ended the day with form figures of 9 winners from her last 14 runners. ZARRAFAKT made several jumping errors during the race, and did not cleanly jump the last 2 fences but, even so, won in a canter just having to be shaken-up by jockey Sam Thomas after jumping the last fence. This performance suggests the horse is a OR140+ chaser.
There are two jump meetings today at Hexham and Warwick.
Much of the racing is poor at Warwick, even the class 4 h’cap chase at 1:30 which is the only race that I’ve examined this morning. This looks like one of the weakest class 4 chases’s that I’ve seen recently, and there are question marks over most, if not all, of the runners. As such, I won’t be recommending a wager on this race, but I am taken by the strike-rate of Twiston-Davies (NTD) at Warwick in chase races; 10 wins from 33 runners in past 5 seasons. He has FLEMISH INVADER in this race with Paddy Brennan riding (who has a 27% strike-rate in chase races for NTD). FLEMISH INVADER spent much of last season racing in much stronger races than this and was fairly consistent, if one-paced. As such, his rating remained on OR110. For his seasonal debut 41-days ago, he ran off OR104 in a class 4 chase over 23f and was unlucky not to win. Today’s trip (2m4f & 110yds) is more to his liking, and both times he’s won have been on similar going. He can get outpaced mid-race and has not shown the ability to recover if that happens, so current odds of 7/2 are not enough. I’d be looking for 5/1+ and if that’s available then he’s worth a small eachway wager.
At Hexham there is a good novice chase at 1:40 with several potential high class novices entered. I was very taken with the performances of BYGONES OF BRID last season as the horse did not stop improving after beating Ferdy Murphy’s Going Wrong at Newcastle in November and ended up rated OR142 as a hurdler when 4th in the Grade 2 novice hurdle at Aintree to Peddlers Cross. His trainer Karen McLintock has only had one other runner in a chase race, so I expect she has spent some considerable effort to make sure she’s not embarrassed today with this horse, who I think has a tremendous amount of potential. BYGONES OF BRID was easily the best of these over hurdles by about 20lb, so it all depends on how he takes to the jumps. The heavy going should not pose too much of a problem, but for the remainder of the card – because of the going – I’m giving it a miss.
Something for the weekend
There is some good racing this weekend at Haydock and Ascot on Saturday and Aintree on Sunday. In the Betfair Chase at Haydock, IMPERIAL COMMANDER is so far ahead of the others in the race on ratings that - in my opinion – he should start at odds of 2/5 as his only real possibility of defeat is if he falls or suffers some other mishap. It’s likely the going will prove too soft to see the best of Nacarat and he may not be in the 1st-3. I expect What a Friend to come 2nd, but for 3rd spot I was taken by the recent winning performance of MASSINI’S MAGUIRE (currently @ 20’s) who is expected to have come on a lot for that run and will be ridden with more confidence now that his stamina for 3-mile is proven.
Saturday’s Ascot Hurdle odds were put up yesterday afternoon, and ZAYNAR was a stand-out at 9/4; unfortunately as I write this those odds have gone and now he’s best-priced at 7/4. The one that I think could follow Zaynar home is ASHKAZAR, who was cruising LTO when approaching the 2nd-last in the Elite Hurdle. Unfortunately, he probably needed that run as he found little when asked that day. The 2m3f trip of the Ascot Hurdle and the likely going will be just right for this winner of the Imperial Cup and Kingwell hurdles, as will the strong pace that the race is likely to be run in. Again, when prices went up yesterday, 20/1 was available, and that has been taken in some places, but is still available with Hills and Corals.
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