A great day of racing and I have a stack of horse alert runners. Let's get stuck in...
The graduation chase at 12:55 has only 5 runners, but I've been waiting a long time for FILL THE POWER to return to the track. I reckon his OR129 rating is lenient (he was rated OR135 at one point last season) and the ground and trip should suit him.
The 1:30 has a couple of alert runners in COVERHOLDER and O'FAOLAINS BOY contesting this 2m5f novice chase. Of the pair, I favour O'Faolains Boy as he should improve for his chasing debut, but they both look to have a tough task with the topweight Taquin De Seuil.
The feature race at 3:15 - the class 1 (grade 2) Peter Marsh Handicap Chase over 3m1f has a number of runners from my alert list. KATENKO, VINTAGE STAR, MERRY KING, and SYDNEY PAGET. On heavy ground, this race will be gruelling, and you definitely need a horse that can stay the trip. This is a tricky race to assess. First, I'm discounting Sidney Paget as he's not at his best on heavy and is handicapped to the hilt on OR142. Yes, he's only a 7yo but he's had 9 chase runs now and plenty of opportunity to shine. Next is Merry King who I think is one-paced. The only chase race he's won was the only one he's run in with less than 10 runners (it was a class 4) and while he ran perhaps his best race at Haydock when btn a short-head on similar ground, he'll need to improve on that by 7lb to win this. The Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle on 30th November was a gruelling test, one from which the winner Hey Big Spender has not yet recovered (since PU twice). In 2nd that day was Vintage Star and a repeat of that effort should be good enough to win, but will he be capable? He's had a tough race since in the Welsh National when it looked like he didn't stay the trip as he was going like the winner 4-out but had nothing left over the final 3 fences. As an eachway proposition, his odds of 7/1 (Stan James quarter-odds a place) look useful. It is Katenko who is the enigma in this race. Last season, I rated his final run at 162 (RPR163) and that puts him right in the mix for this. Since then, he has had an attack of colic which ruled him out of a Cheltenham Gold Cup attempt last March. However, judged on his effort in the Hennessy Gold Cup on 30th Nov, he is over that. He was running exceptionally well, in a prominent position until falling at the 14th of 21 fences when his jockey asked him to put a short stride in. He was surely none the worse for that as he came out again the following week at Aintree, but I'm not sure what happened that day as a mile out he started to struggle. As such, I feel he still has to prove that he has the ability of last season, as it's one thing to run along with the pack for the first couple of miles, it is quite another to make a move when the chips are down in the final mile. Of the others, there is some support for Night Alliance but I reckon his win in the Tommy Whittle Chase was overrated - he's up 13lb for that and he'll be found out. The one horse with form that may surprise is The Minack who goes well when fresh so coming here off a 700-day break is no concern. If he's still as good as he was he'll be in the mix. Lastly, Wychwoods Brook tackles 3-mile for the first time and he could be the joker in the pack especially with his jockey claiming a 7lb allowance. A tricky race indeed.
I've had BOBCATBILLY on my alert list since he won at Ludlow in early December, but he may have been collared by the handicapper now; so something like Kingcora may be the sort of unexposed improving horse to trump him in the 1:15 over 2m3f.
In the Ascot 3:00 over 2m5f & 110 yards, I will be surprised if Renard can win off OR144. Unfortunately, I only recommended a wager on this horse when he ran at Cheltenham off OR129, and he won his next couple of races off OR127 and OR135 at odds of 7/4 and 7/1 respectively which justified my support of a 2pt wager for that Cheltenham race in December Other alert list runners in this race are BURY PARADE, GRANDIOSO, THEATRICAL STAR and WHAT A WARRIOR. I rate the Nicholls pair of Grandioso and Bury Parade fairly close, altho' Bury Parade has to repair the damage in confidence following his refusal to race LTO. As such, Harry Derham with his 5lb claim swings support to GRANDIOSO as Theatrical Star looks held by the handicapper, as does What A Warrior. Odds of 8/1 about GRANDIOSO look very attractive.
I cannot see SIRE DE GRUGY being beaten, even on heavy ground, by his rivals in this field and odds of 11/8 could seem a gift by 3:45pm.
ROUDOUDOUVILLE ran a great race over hurdles considering he;d been off the track nearly 2-years LTO. As such, I'm expecting a big run from this horse who was rated OR145 as a chaser in December 2011. Running off OR120, he should prove too strong for his 4 rivals in this hurdle race.
It is a very interesting day of racing and the heavy ground could mean a few upsets.
Haydock 3:25 VINTAGE STAR, £5 eachway & £5 win @ 7/1
Ascot 3:00 GRANDIOSO, £5 eachway & £5 win @ 7/1
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Saturday, 18 January 2014
Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock
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