Saturday brings us 3 jump meetings and my early perusal of the runners over Friday lunchtime suggested there may be a couple of wagers in the offing. The meetings are at Kempton, Newcastle and Chepstow, with the day’s feature race being the 3-mile Betbright Chase at Kempton.
Before that though, it was a disastrous display from the selection What A Good Night yesterday. The writing was on the wall before the race when he drifted in the betting from 7/1 to an SP of 16/1 – he was friendless in the ring! It was no surprise to see him soon struggling and being pulled-up; perhaps he should not have even started the race! This is one of the risks of writing a blog, as decisions have to be made hours before the race is run and without the benefit of paddock inspections.
Onto today, and it is Kempton’s meeting where we start looking at the racing, and the meeting opens with the 2-mile “Adonis” Juvenile hurdle which brings together some of the best 4yo hurdlers before they meet again in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. I’m not a great reader of juvenile hurdle form, but I do know that in recent years the best juveniles are found (usually) at the stables of Nicholls, King and Henderson. Given the class of this race, it is interesting that Henderson sends Khezerabad for his UK hurdling debut in this race; he must have shown a fair amount of ability at home.
The feature race of the meeting is at 3:35pm, and this Grade 3, Class 1 handicap chase looks a cracker on paper. I think Champagne West will have his stamina limitations exposed here, despite being potentially well-handicapped (he should run well in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham next month). While LTO winner Ziga Boy could be wanting a bit more of a stamina test than this, and the 8lb hike for that win to OR141 could prove too much. The novice Thomas Brown looks to have been thrown into the deep end in this race (it will be only his 4th chase race), and Theatre Guide has always struck me as a horse who wants a marathon trip, not just a bare 3-mile. I expect the ground to be too lively for Le Reve, and Tenor Nivernais was my selection in this race last year when running off OR135 (ran 6th, didn’t stay) so I can’t see him doing better running off OR152. Fox Appeal goes well right-handed, and he dead-heated with Theatre Guide here over 2m5f at level-weights. That form suggests he has a mountain to climb to beat Theatre Guide over this trip, as he’s giving that horse 11lb today. Which brings me to VIRAK, currently at best-odds of 14/1, who has not run a poor race all season, improving with every run – yet hasn’t managed to win. Paul Nicholls has his horses in rare form, and VIRAL showed in December at Ascot on good-to-soft that he goes well right-handed and has the speed to handle this quicker ground. Of Nicholls other entries, Rocky Creek won this last year but hasn’t looks the same horse this season; and Ruben Cotter has been off the track 323-days and winning this is a big ask. Roc D’Apsis on here at Kempton LTO, but that was over 2m5f and he has to prove he stays the 3-mile trip in what looks a strong handicap for stamina. For me, VIRAK at 16/1 looks good eachway value, and a repeat of his December form at Ascot should see him win this. I thought had VIRAK won LTO then he’d be a live Gold Cup candidate and I think he will be in the Gold Cup next season.
Last year, followers of the blog were on the winner of the Eider Chase at Newcastle; Milborough at 20/1. This is a race that can be easy to read as, being run over an extended 4-miles, the winner has to have an abundance of stamina. There are plenty in the race who are stamina laden, so I’m expecting this race to have plenty of finishers even though the ground is soft. I think the early fav Ballyculla will need luck on his side to win as he’s one-paced at the business end. Russe Blanc won the Warwick Classic over 3m5f LTO, but that race fell-apart and he would need the same to happen again, especially off a 10lb higher mark of OR139. Shotgun Paddy was the 11/2 fav for this last year off a 3lb higher mark, and meets most who ran in that race on better terms this time. His 3rd in the Welsh National last month shows he’s on a workable rating. Woodford County was 3rd in this race last year, but he was well beaten by Shotgun Paddy LTO in the Welsh National without any obvious excuse, and he will be worse off today by 3lbs. Even so, he will not be far away. Last year’s winner Milborough cannot be ignored, even though he’s a lot worse off this year, as he won the race so well. For me, the race is between Shotgun Paddy and Woodford County.
There is one other horse I am looking at today, FINAL ASSAULT who is 7/1 for the 4:35pm at Newcastle. He has plenty of talent, and I expect him to run well today.
Newcastle 2:50pm – SHOTGUN PADDY, £4 eachway @ 10/1 (quarter-odds a place 1,2,3,4)
Kempton 3:55pm – VIRAK, £4 eachway @ 16/1
Plus: £2 eachway double
Total staked £20