A welcome turnaround in form for us with 2 out of 3 winners yesterday in our Ladbrokes Winter Carnival preview, with Lostintranslation proving tough from the front and giving the Champion Bumper form another boost whilst Oldgrangewood took advantage of leniency from the handicapper to win the Open Handicap Chase, and looks an ideal candidate for similar handicap chases through the season.
We ere denied a treble, not by the mighty Thistlecrack, Colin’s Sister, or Wholestone, but Beer Goggles, shocking the Newbury crowd and the punters under a brilliant front running ride from Richard Johnson at 40/1, having seen off all comers including our choice Unkownwhatimeanharry, who had no excuses on the day having responded generously to the pressure of Barry Geraghty.
All credit to Richard Woollacott and connections for first of all running him in what would have been a four-runner race without him, and the improvement they have managed to coax out of him – listed as 42lbs before his shock win today – but the other story was Thistlecrack. He travelled well, albeit far too keen of a slow pace early, and when push came to shove the effects of what must have been a difficult recovery told quickly. Connections seemed unperturbed however, with Tom Scudamore telling the Racing Post that ‘he’d like to think he’ll improve an awful lot for that’ and Colin Tizzard telling reporters that he will go for the King George assuming soundness tomorrow. We will know how much ability he retains there, but his current price seems fair, and no more, based on the final makeup of the race.
Moving swiftly on, we have the Ladbrokes Trophy (3.00), better known as The Hennessy, and after a hugely encouraging performance from our ante post JLT choice Willoughby Court today, we have the first of our ante post conclusions with Whisper set to take his chance here. Our reasoning for backing Nicky Henderson’s charge for this over the summer is well known, with his novice chase form looking rock solid, and we have had a boost since with Clan Des Obeaux winning a good conditions chase at Haydock after being beaten snugly in a match at Kempton, and this test should see Whisper in his element today. The ground did not look overly testing here yesterday, and with no rain forecast, it should be fairly decent as a surface, which he should enjoy, and the 8/1 looks fair still although we have 16’s.
There’s no reason not to add to the portfolio, however, especially with some extraordinary place terms – SkyBet and William Hill are paying on the first seven places for a fifth the odds, and you can get 5 places with ¼ the odds to boot – and a recent race at Cheltenham looks like being a really strong trial for this event. Cogry was denied by neck in the Scottish National, but returned with a vengeance to take a valuable race at Cheltenham’s Showcase when he was front rank for most of the way round, and nothing could live with him up the hill as he pulled four lengths clear of Singlefarmpayment.
He went up 6lbs for that win, a lenient adjustment by the handicapper, and now Jamie Bargary comes on to take 3lbs of that off here. That and his Scottish National second are two of the strongest pieces of form in this race, this course is one that suits front runners and the ground and trip are ideal for him to show his best for an in form yard. 20/1 seems dismissive.
Singlefarmpayment was in rear for much of that contest, and moved through menacingly to try and challenge Cogry before he flew that day. Generally thought of as one of the best handicapped horses in training, he was beaten a head in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, when he found only Un Temps Pour Tout better than him and he’s just 5lbs higher now. He should have stripped fitter for that reappearance.
Total Recall was deeply impressive in the Munster National and will be a nuisance for Cogry on the front end, whilst American was just as impressive in taking a Listed chase at Warwick and then a Novices’ Handicap at Uttoxeter to boot and arguably is the biggest threat.
A Genie In A Bottle beat the Troytown Chase winner Mala Beach and did so well, making a mark of 152 look fair enough (Mala Beach won Troytown off 148), and he has big field experience, ought to enjoy the ground, and can go well. The value has gone regarding Vyta Du Roc, who should be spot on for this after a nice pipe opening reappearance at Aintree. His best form gives him every chance and the booking of Aidan Coleman catches the eye.
Coneygree’s early reappearance in the Charlie Hall was a disconcerting one, but he bounced back from a long absence to run a huge race in the Punchestown Gold Cup and if he is fit and well, then he will make his price look very foolish even off 165, and at the current price, many will be willing to take a chance on him.
Of the outsiders, Bobbyjo Chase winner Perfect Company is of interest, even on seasonal reappearance, and the veteran Double Ross, a five length third off just 2lbs higher in this last year. His reappearance fourth at Chepstow was not a bad effort and he unseated early last time so he can be forgiven.
Don’t forget Bryony Frost’s chances with Present Man who took the Badger Ales, but she could be on a winning note even before then given that she partners Black Corton in the Ladbrokes John Francome Novices’ Chase (12.45). Paul Nicholls’ charge made hay on the summer jumping circuit but he graduated to a higher level when winning an Intermediate Chase impressively at Newton Abbot, and then he trashed the useful past winner Fagan at Cheltenham in October.
He was the outside of three when back there to face the high class prospect Ballyoptic and West Approach, both previous winners, but he was extremely game down the straight and was the best on the day to win impressively there. It’s only 14 days since, but he’s won off such a short break before and on balance he sets a high standard over fences for all that Fountains Windfall and Sir Ivan have been very taking winners so far.
Wait For Me was going well when he fell in front last time but if putting in a clear round, is a contender.
The very same connections could have a wild day as Greatwood third Old Guard should go well in The Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle (1.50), but if Air Horse One gets this trip then he will surely take the beating.
Harry Fry’s rapidly progressive 6-year-old tanked through William Hill’s Listed handicap hurdle at Ascot, and was sent off around the beginning of the home turn on his seasonal reappearance, having been caught up the home straight and then pushed out of the three late on. The first two had previous runs in the book, and the form has worked out brilliantly since with Elgin taking the Greatwood, Limited Reserve bolting up at Haydock, and Verdana Blue (fifth winning impressively). This is a deep, deep race but if he strips fitter and stays this trip, hopefully under a more patient ride, he can go close and is worth backing.
A case can be made for all six of the runners in The Intermediate Hurdle (2.25) with the return of Charli Parcs a subject of fascination upon his return. However, he has a bit to prove after two disappointing runs in the Adonis (under pressure when falling) and the Triumph (found very little having travelled well). It’s notable that there’s just as much belief in him at Seven Barrows, but he comes here with plenty to prove.
In any case, he will have to run right to form if he’s to take today’s prize. High Bridge was one of the smarter novice hurdlers of last season, winning twice here in very smart style before finding the Supreme too much, but he’d looked grown up when third in the same Listed handicap hurdle that Air Force one ran in and the form has been proven tenfold.
Mount Mews is a major rival off the same mark, having finished third at Ayr on his reappearance, where he shaped well. Second to Pingshou at Aintree last season in the Top Novices’ Hurdle, he showed a lot of promise as a novice and should step forward, although Alex Ferguson does get to take off 7lbs from High Bridge.
Cosmeapolitan shrugged off a blunder 2 out to win on his one and only hurdling start over C&D last December, and has been kept going on the flat – and in good company too – although this is a whole lot harder. Amour De Nuit was a smooth winner at Kempton, and is blessed with a handy amount of speed for a race like this where you can’t discount Poppy Kay or Master Of Irony either.
At Newcastle, Buveur D’Air, our choice for the Champion Hurdle, reappears in the Fighting Fifth where he is a long odds on shot to beat 2014 and 2016 winner Irving and Fred Winter winner Flying Tiger. Mirsaale might fight Flying Tiger for third but Katgary is hopelessly outclassed against the best here.
In the Rehearsal, Beware The Bear is favourite to make a long trip north very worthwhile. He should go well too, having beaten Singlefarmpayment at Ascot last year and then followed up in good style at Newbury. He was disappointing at Cheltenham and Ayr when his jumping didn’t hold up though, and that must improve if he is to take this.
The one who makes appeal is Bishops Road, who was 10 lengths behind Bristol De Mai and Definitely Red in this last year, and is now 10lb lower here and with a good record when fresh. The gruelling nature of the Eider Chase will not be alien to him and he can go well.
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Advice – Newbury
12.45 – 2 pts win Black Corton (7/4 general)
1.50 – 1 pt win Air Horse One (7/2 general)
2.25 – 1 pt win High Bridge (11/4 general)
3.00 – 1 pt each/way Singlefarmpayment (13/2 SkyBet, Hills*, 7/1 Bet365, Paddy Power)
3.00 – 1 pt each/way Cogry (14/1 Sky Bet, Hills, 16/1 Bet365, Paddy Power)
*SkyBet and Hills are paying out seven places for 1/5 the odds
Advice – Newcastle
3.25 Newcastle – 1 pt each/way Bishops Road (*8/1 Sportingbet, 9/2 general)
At the time of writing – 9.05pm, Friday – Sportingbet were listed by The Racing Post as showing Bishops Road as an 8/1 shot, whilst all other sites were 9/2 or 4/1. If that was not an error, then he should be backed each/way, and if it was, then his worth a win bet.
1 pt each/way Whisper, 2017 Ladbrokes Trophy, 27th October (16/1 general)