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Wednesday, 12 December 2012
Here's hoping for the weekend
The advance going is Soft (good-to-soft in places) and that is unlikely to change. The feature race on Saturday is the Paul Stewart IronSpineCharity Challenge Gold Cup (handicap chase) over 2m5f of the New Course. This race has been dominated by the major stables of Henderson, Nicholls, Pipe and Hobbs in recent years, and I don't think it will be any different this year even if Alan King is sending the antepost fav Walkon. The softer the better, for Walkon, and I don't think he'll appreciate being raised 5lb in the handicap for this either. Behind him in 3rd LTO was Nadiya De La Vega and this horse is 3 from 3 on good-to-soft. He's also running off the same mark of OR145, so he has a 5lb pull with Walkon and he'll be racing on ground more to his liking. At 10/1 quarter-odds a place 1,2,3,4 he looks stonking value as I write. The only other horse that jumps out at me is Ghizao. Long-time readers of the blog will know my history with this horse who I was convinced would win the Arkle at the 2011 Cheltenham Festival. I still think he'd have gone close but for a bad error at the fence at the top-of-the-hill, and his subsequent Aintree 2nd (despite another error-strewn jumping performance) reinforced that belief. He was 6th of 16 in this race last year racing off OR154, and he looked capable of winning the race approaching the final fence but found nothing on the run-in. He's had a breathing operation since then, and his form in his latest run (3rd to Captain Chris at Ascot over 2m3f on heavy ground) suggests he's back to his best. As such, his OR155 rating could be lenient especially as he's won 5 times from 7 runs on good-to-soft or soft ground. At 16/1, he is another that I'd take an interest in before the day.
The International hurdle on Saturday looks a cracker of a race, with the 3 main participants - Rock On Ruby, Zarkandar, and Grandouet - separated by just 4lb on official ratings. Zarkandar gets a 4lb "pull" at the weights and that puts him firmly in the driving seat, especially as he's also had the benefit of a run going into this race. The meeting ends with the Relkeel hurdle over 2m4½f and Oscar Whisky should be hard to beat due to the race conditions as he's well-in at the weights. That said, I think Crack Away Jack is on a lenient rating of OR151, and in-receipt of 8lb from Oscar Whisky, he'll not be far away. I have been hoping Crack Away Jack would return to chasing as he runs off OR142 in that sphere and were he entered in the feature chase handicap on Saturday running off OR142, he would be a 2pt win "nap".
I'll be interested in Molotof if he goes to Doncaster on Saturday for the 3-mile novice chase. Later on the Doncaster card, I'll be hoping the 2m3f handicap cuts-up if my recent advised winner Lets Get Serious takes part. I think he looks a super prospect and could well end-up a 150+ chaser, but I'd like to see him facing less than 8 rivals in this race as it'll only be his 2nd chase and he may not enjoy the hurly-burly if there are 10+ runners in the race.
Friday's meeting at Cheltenham is similarly attractive. I enjoyed a good win on Sound Stage when he won the 2m5f handicap Chase just 2 years ago, and he returns for another attempt this week. Unfortunately, he does not look the horse he was then but I'm sure trainer Caroline Keevil will have his fit to do his best. There is a tremendous 3m1½f chase at 1:55 on Friday, and there are a number of horses entered which I have on my alert list, including Quartz De Thaix. Another is Bradley, who has only been raised 5lb for his recent brave 2nd at the previous Cheltenham meeting. There is also Wyck Hill, but he'll be racing from 5lb out of the handicap and I think he'll find an easier target than this.
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