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Friday, 10 November 2017
Badger Ales Handicap Chase at Wincanton
A big Saturday of jump racing with meetings at Aintree, Wincanton and Kelso.
The Aintree meeting has some decent horses turning out, and what I've noticed in recent weeks is how much trainers are using 3-mile hurdle races to bring their handicap chasers to peak fitness without affecting their chase rating. The 3-mile handicap hurdle at 1:40pm has Vyta Du Roc, Earthmoves, and Bon Chic amongst the 10-runners and they all spent last season chasing. I expect Vyta Du Roc is under preparation for a run in the Ladbroke Gold Cup at Newbury on 2nd December, as he ran in a hurdle race at this meeting last season before going to Newbury .
This particular 3-mile hurdle race looks a bit weak and I am prepared to oppose the 5yo fav Louis' Vac Pouch as he's not yet raced over 3-miles. Winnintry was well beaten behind Beer Goggles LTO and although 10lb better-off for that race he does not look good enough. Beer Goggles has gone up 30lb in the handicap to OR152 since winning at Ayr in April and he was beaten over C&D in May off OR135. Forza Milan hasn't proven he has the stamina for this trip, and he was beaten LTO over 2m7f by HOLLY BUSH HENRY and it is this horse who looks the value. HOLLY BUSH HENRY won again at Plumpton off OR129, and I thought he was unlucky LTO at Cheltenham and I think he's worth another chance at Class 2 level.
The feature race at Wincanton is the Badger Handicap Chase over 3m1f being run at 3:35pm. This race looks wide-open with the current fav being the Paul Nicholls trained Present Man at 15/2 and he does not look good enough to me. Nicholls sends 3 horses for the race including Mr Mix and Southfield Theatre. Last year, Southfield Theatre looked poised to win when falling at the final fence. In his only other run after that, he did not show the same zip and so comes here off a 337-day break with fitness to prove. However, I do like MR MIX who has improved with each of his 4 runs as a chaser and looks a major player based on his LTO win on 29Oct here at Wincanton over 3m2f. Based on his hurdles form he looks weighted to beat the current 2nd fav Yala Enki, a horse who likes to dominate and when he does he's up to his rating of OR151. He may not get the free-reign he needs to win though and his trainer Venetia Williams also has Vic De Touzaine and he looks ahead of the handicapper on OR139, as the horse he beat LTO - Boric - then ran a cracker to be 2nd in the Durham National. The worry with Vic De Touzaine is the ground and it may be too quick for him unless it turns soft.
I think Southfield Royale has the potential to be at 150+ chaser but his two runs last season were well below that level and he needs to show he is a player again.
Fletchers Flyer is also ahead of the handicapper on OR143 but he only ran twice last season and the 9yo will almost certainly need this run - he probably has one good handicap win in him.
I cannot see Double Shuffle winning off OR151, or Theatre Guide winning off OR154.
At the odds I like MR MIX at 10/1 (available generally on Friday evening), and I can see there being a bit of a gamble on the horse in the morning and it would not surprise me to see him start the 5/1 fav. Younger horses have a good record in the race with 5 of the last 10 winners being 6yo or 7yo, and the longest odds winner in the past 10 years was Court By Surprise at 16/1 in 2014.
The ground at Wincanton is now officially soft and that puts VIC DE TOUZAINE firmly in the picture. As such, I have split my stake between the pair of MR MIX and VIC DE TOUZAINE.