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Saturday, 5 December 2015
The road to the Grand National starts here with the Becher Chase
We have 4 meetings at Aintree, Chepstow, Sandown amd Wetherby and, on such a days as this, we have plenty of targets to choose from and no need to chance our arm on speculative wagers. There are lots of runners from the alert list entered, so I'm not able to look at them all individually, and I'll only mention those in with a chance to preserve the list's integrity. I'm concentrating on the main meetings of Aintree and Sandown as there is nothing suitable at Wetherby, although there is a decent race worth looking at, at Chepstow.
First, yesterday's selection Umberto D'Olivate, was disappointing. I thought with the market strength we were going to get a strong run, but that did not materialise. However, readers of the blog should have been on the 8/1 winner Woodford County. He had already been a selection for the blog on his seasonal debut, but had travelled to Sedgefield (from Minehead in Somerset) for that run - and the journey was too long. The short trip to Exeter was much better for him, and it showed.
Aintree is my home town meeting (I was brought-up in Maghull just a few miles up the road from the course) and the feature race is the 3m2f Class 1 "Becher" handicap chase over the National fences. These fences are not as daunting as they used to be, and it is mainly the fierce pace at which these races are run-at which causes the most problems. Basically, if horses can get past the 3rd or 4th fence unscathed and with the pace, it will have a chance. I have 4 runners from the alert list in the race: Dolatulo, No Planning, Cowards Close, and Algernon Pazham and (by far) the one I'm most interested in is Algernon Pazham. Of the others; No Planning will likely find this trip too far; Cowards Close has been sold-out of Paul Nicholls stable (which would not have happened if he thought he could win with the horse), and Dolatulo did not run as tho' he liked these fences in the Grand National last April. The current fav is Goonyella, but he's not well handicapped, nor did he run well when in this race last year (behind when unseating). He's 13lb higher now on OR149, thanks to his good form in the Spring, and he doesn't inspire me. Thunder And Roses won the Irish Grand Nartional last April, but he loves Fairyhouse and his jumping isn't fluent enough to suggest he will do well here. He has to show he handles this course. We know Saint Are enjoys Aintree, as he was 3rd in this last year - but that was off OR127 and he runs off OR148 in this. I am really taken by Algernon Pazham and, with Ryan Hatch taking off 3lb with his claim, he could run these ragged. The 8/1 generally available, looks decent value.
Later in the afternoon, at 3:20pm, we have the 2m5f Grand Sefton handicap Chase over the National fences, and one that grabs me is from my alert list: Fago. He's had a couple of runs this season, and comes here race fit. His last run was over an inadequate trip of 2-mile, but this is more to his liking as he was going well in the Topham Chase (over the same trip, National fences) in April 2014 before falling at the 15th of 18 fences. He runs off a rating 1lb less than then, and this race looks made for him. Paul Nicholls loves having a winner at Aintree, and current odds of 12/1 look excellent as stablemate Rocky Creek will want another half mile, and Double Ross is one-paced off his current rating. Bennys Mist was 2nd in that April 2014 Topham Chase, but appears to have lost his love of the game this season. While Poole Master won this race last year, that was his 4th run of the season and his recent form isn't as good.
At Sandown, at 3:00pm, we have the 2-mile Tingle Creek Chase and (disappointingly) this looks one of the weakest renewals I can recall. I am not convinced that Vibrato Valtat is a grade 1 2-mile chaser, and the form of Simonsig's comeback race was dealt a blow last week. As such, the stand-out form line in the race is that of Special Tiara who won twice last season improving with every run, and who has had a "pipe-opener" already. Both last seasons wins were when going right-handed, and included a win at Sandown in April. With no worries over the ground or the track, and having top-class form, I advised those on the email list to take the odds of 5/1 last night and now they look very generous about the highest rated horse (on OR168) in the race, who is 7/2 at best this morning.
At Chepstow the Welsh National Trial handicap chase at 2:30pm over 3-mile looks weak, as 5 of the 9 runners are aged 9yo or older, and are well exposed. The heavy ground here will be a major problem, and I'm expecting this race to be won by one of the unexposed horses in the race, with my choice being the 8yo Top Wood who ran fairly consistently in his novice season. I think he will develop into a 140+ chaser this season (hence, he is on my alert list) and he should relish these testing conditions. Top-weight Benvolio does not seem to have recovered from his run when 2nd in the Welsh National last December. Theatrical Star is on a recovery mission after two poor runs in November. Victors Serenade can win off OR134, but he's pulled-up in 5 of his last 10 starts, winning 3 of the remainder, so it seems everything has to go right for him. As it is with Firebird Flyer, who is inconsistent but very useful on his day - a repeat of the form of his Ludlow in January would see him go close in this. Rebeccas Choice is too old at 12yo; Rigadin De Beauchene has gone at the game and who knows why he is the 4/1 fav. Who knows how Tour Des Champs will fare on his first run in 634 days. For me, the 9/2 about Top Wood is very generous.
This is a really busy day and I'm fairly confident about all my selections. With races over the National fences, there is always a possibility that events may take a hand (being brought down by another faller, loose horses, etc) so I will adjust my stakes accordingly.
Aintree 1:40pm ALGERNON PAZHAM, £5 eachway @ 8/1 (available generally)
Aintree 3:20pm FAGO, £3 eachway @ 12/1 (available generally)
Sandown 3:00pm SPECIAL TIARA, £5 win @ 5/1 (available generally at 5pm on Friday and advised to those on the email list)
Chepstow 2:30pm TOP WOOD, £4 eachway @ 9/2 (available generally)
ALGERNON PAZHAM / FAGO / TOP WOOD
in 3 x £1.50 eachway doubles AND a £1 eachway treble (£11 staked)
Total staked = £40