Odds for selections as at 11am on Saturday morning:
BALLYOPTIC is 15/2; BLACK CORTON is 13/2; and WHOLESTONE is 6/1 - all with Bet365 - I'm on with an eachway "patent" 3x doubles and a treble
We had no luck last Saturday, and a weekday wager on Friday didn't come off either. Sometimes the horses need a run under their belt before they come good, and at such times you have to follow the stables in form and follow the winners.
Saturday 31st brings us the first of the seasons decent races with the Charlie Hall Chase (Grade 2) at Wetherby at 3:20pm. There are 10 horses going to post, and the strong fav is the Paul Nicholls trained Cyrname, the highest rated chaser in training. It's a big field for this race, and that's almost certainly as just about everyone outside the Paul Nicholls stable reckons that Cyrname won't stay a yard beyond 2m6f given the way he ran in the 3-mile "King George" Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day 10 months ago. Now, it's not totally clear-cut as the 2nd-fav Vinndication needs to find about 7lb of improvement to win as the winner should top 160+ in taking this race, and both his runs last season fell short of that level of effort. Ballyoptic won this race last year, and then ran to a higher level when last seen winning at Ascot over 3-mile. Despite being 10yo, his is not a forloon hope and he wont be far away. To be honest, I think Sam Spinner has come to chasing too late to win this level of race, and Definitly Red is another who is past his best at 11yo. Nothing else in the race has any chance unless there is a multitude of fallers. At the odds, BALLYOPTIC looks fair value at 7/1 as we know he stays well, should run to the level of form required, and goes well fresh. But, be warned, you can never oppose Paul Nicholls lightly.
I think a better wager is in the 3-mile hurdle race at 2:45pm as I'm not convinced the mare Roksana is capable of staying 3-mile in this sort of race. Lisnagar Oscar has only once run a poor race over 3-mile, but he's not worthy of a 160 rating in my book. As for Next Generation who knows how much ability he retains after 920-days away due to injury? My money is on WHOLESTONE who was a top-class 3-mile hurdler till going chasing where he just wasn't good enough. He was 2nd in this race in 2017, and a repeat of that level of form should be good enough to win this. Again, nothing else in the race looks capable of winning a race of this level. I have already taken 10/1 on Friday morning about this horse and for me he should be the joint-fav at 3/1 with Lisnagar Oscar.
Possibly the best race of the day will be at Ascot, where a field of 14 go for the 3-mile Sodexo Chase. I think there are a couple we can discount quickly and they are Might Bite and Blaklion - horses generally don't come back from injury. The 10yo Walk In The Mill may be worth OR150 at Aintree, but away from the National fences he's no better than 140. Townshend may have won over C&D in January, but that was an amateur riders race, and he looks outclassed. Royal Encore had a cracking season last year, and was 2nd in this race, but this 12yo may have gone too much to the well. Django Django would be interesting if Jonjo O'Neill had booked another rider. I've nothing against Nick Schofield, but O'Neill hasn't given him a chase winner in 5 seasons. Surely, after 24 chase races, the 9yo Flying Angel is in the grip of the handicapper, and he's not won beyond 2m5f. Adrian Du Pont who I tipped in this race last year, is ridden by 5lb claimer Bryan Carver who isn't a bad lad but he will need to work hard to cajole this horse to win. For me, Militarian is going backwards and may find this race too tough. I'm not convinced about Whatmore, and I think his best trip is 2m4f anyway. Valtor has been done no favours by the handicapper, and while he won't be far away, I don't think he's good enough at 11yo. Mister Malarkey is an odd one; when he puts it together he's a good handicap chaser as he proved when winning over 3-mile at Kempton in February beating Black Corton who he meets in this race on 2lb worse terms. The problem is, when he's not in the mood, you may as well burn your money, and we won't know that until he starts running. So this race, in my opinion, is between BLACK CORTON and the current fav Commanche Red. We all know about Black Corton, he will have no problem in this race off 11st 12lb, but can he concede 11lb to the fav? For me, Commanche Red did nothing last season to justify a rating of OR150 over 3-mile, and he's not proven to act at this trip either. On form alone, the wager has to be BLACK CORTON.
All the best.