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Sunday, 30 October 2016
So close (from Junction Fourteen) but no cigar!
I did think then that our selection was about to be swamped but, no, he stayed-on in game style and held on the 2nd place. Hopefully, you all got on at odds of 18/1 at least (he was 20/1 with a lot of bookies from around 11am till 3pm) but he never looked like a long-shot to me. This trip (perhaps) just found Junction Fourteen out, and he might just be a "Bet Victor" Gold Cup (was the old Paddy Power) horse at Cheltenham on 12th November - if he were entered!
The winner Antony went on my alert list after winning his chase debut at Sandown last December when he looked to hold a lot of potential. Looking back, perhaps I underestimated that effort, but then he pulled-up NTO, found 2-miles too short at Kempton in March, and was 3rd behind Junction Fourteen at Sandown on 23April over 2m4f when he looked to be staying-on. I thought that Junction Fourteen held him on that form, but the step up to 3-mile benefited Antony more than Junction Fourteen and he was a 10lb better horse at this trip yesterday - something which even took his trainer Gary Moore by surprise judging by his reaction afterwards.
My other selection in the race, Tea For Two, sweated-up badly beforehand for his first run since February, and this was (remember) only his 4th chase race and the fastest ground he'd encountered as a chaser. He was bang there with 3 to jump, having jousted for the lead with Junction Fourteen throughout and it was probably a combination of the ground, the weight (he had 11st 12lb) and that it was his first run off a long break that did for him. I had this run about 9lb below his effort (when race-fit) in winning the old "Feltham" novice chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. He beat Southfield Royale that day - who ran 4th as the 5/1 fav for the 4-mile NH Chase at Cheltenham NTO - and Native River - who ran 2nd at 7/1 in the same race at Cheltenham, and then won the Grade 1 novice chase at Aintree ending-up rated OR 154 as a chaser (and I rate him a lot higher than that!). I'd have thought Tea For Two was perfect for the Hennessy Gold Cup to be run on 26th November, but he doesn't appear to be entered (yet).
My overall reading of this race was (in my opinion) just about spot on.
The fav Saphir Du Rheu was a false one, with his form of last season in no-way suggesting he was a handicap "blot". His trainer Paul Nicholls reckoned beforehand that the horse was "fat" and while he may come on for the run, he's never improved for racing before in his career and, judged on his effort yesterday, the handicapper has him about right at OR152 as a chaser. He may be improved should he drop down half-a-mile in trip for the renamed "BetVictor" Gold Cup on 12th November.
The 7yo A Good Skin looked to find the pace of this 3-mile trip too quick, and (as I wrote yesterday) I think he needs another quarter-mile or more. A very safe jumper of a fence, with a good cruising speed and a prominent runner to boot - he has "Grand National winner 2017" written all over him. Another to take out of the race was the 7yo Fourth Act (trained by man of the moment, Colin Tizzard) who was staying-on well in the final mile on his first attempt at a 3-mile trip. He will also appreciate softer ground, and he could be one to follow NTO if the word "soft" is in the going description.
Before I go on, there is no selection today as I looked at the Class 3, 3m2f handicap chase at Carlisle (we had the winner in the race last year, advised at 12/1 Vintage Star won with an SP of 7/2 ) and I cannot see anything winning this race other than Belmount or In The Rough, who are joint-favs at 9/2. Something may come out of the others in the race, for instance Kilbree Chief has potential as a marathon horse (and Carlisle is a stiff track), and the 7yo Askamore Darsi should come on a lot for his recent close 3rd to the 11yo Carrigdhoun; but the market looks about right to me.
The Charlie Hall Chase result was a strange one to decipher.
Irish Cavalier (who eventually won) took-up the lead too early at the 3rd-last fence and was running on empty for the last quarter-mile. He's not a Grade 1, 3-mile chaser and never will be having been well exposed at that grade in last years King George at Kempton (btn 39-lengths) and Cheltenham Gold Cup (btn 22 lengths). As such, to measure the worth of the form, I've looked to runner-up Menorah who at least we know stays 23f to the best of his ability, and has been running at his peak all summer, winning at 2m6f at Sandown in April, and running well over a trip beyond him in June. I've rated Menorah at 160, which puts Irish Cavalier at 157 and Cue Card on 158.
I cannot see either of Irish Cavalier or Menorah winning the Betfair Chase next month, and, unless there was a good excuse, I can't see Cue Card finding the 12lb of improvement from yesterdays run to win it either. I was happy with the performance of my selection VIRAK who gave his usual battling, game performance on ground that was much too quick for him. We will see a much better run on softer ground and Virak is one of a very strong hand of entries for the Hennessy Gold Cup for which he is available at 33/1. Although he was behind Blaklion (16/1 for the Hennessy) yesterday, Virak wasn't pushed hard in the final half-mile and I'm confident that he will turn the tables NTO.
Looking to the Betfair Chase (to be run at Haydock on 19th November), with Cue Card looking dodgy, and Coneygree only running if the rains come (and it will be his first run in 12 months), it may pay to take the odds on one of Willie Mullins horses Djakadam or Vautour at 7/1 and 12/1 with Paddy Power respectively. Should one of them make the trip over, and there is no reason why they shouldn't, I can them being under 3/1 on the day. The Betfair Chase betting market is on the verge of collapse, the Grade 1 staying chasers division has no depth, it is held together by if's and maybe's. When you think there are some who consider that Thistlecrack should go for the Betfair Chase - which would be only his 2nd chase race - that shows you how little depth there is. As such, I can see the canny Irishman Mullins, sending over one, or maybe two, of his stable stars to Haydock for this major prize - and with the £1 million bonus on offer it has to be VAUTOUR.