After further overnight rain on, Thursday’s conditions were officially ‘soft, heavy in places’
TV coverage showed that the old course which had been used for the first two days was in a pretty bad state but the new course is now being used and until today had been untouched.
It may get a bit churned up after Thursday’s racing but at the moment there is only an early morning window with further rain forecast. Times in early races suggested that the ground (for now) may be slightly better than on the first two days.
It’s unlikely to dry out to any great degree and I think we can still expect Friday’s ground to be hard work with stamina and soft ground form remaining at a premium
Onto the races:
1.30 Triumph Hurdle 2ml 1 fur
Gumball was early ante post favourite for this race until comprehensively beaten by Apples Shakira in November on the course. The filly has been favourite ever since.
Gumball’s stable has been very out of form since and I wouldn’t take that form completely on face value. He did look to have Apples Shakira in trouble at one point but then found himself racing on much worse ground and finished the race absolutely legless.
He does add value to this race as is likely to be making it a good gallop with Sussex Ranger.
Apples Shakira is now 3 out of 3 on the course and proven on soft ground. She is the one to beat but my one small doubt is that she often seems to get outpaced coming down the hill before the uphill finish brings her into her element. Her chance has been improved for the smaller field this year to combat this.
The main Irish trial was won by Mr Adjudicator from Farclas. The time of that race compared very favourably to other races on the card won by Samcro and Supasundae suggesting the form was high level.
Mr Adjudicator looks a thoroughly professional type who has made the transition from flat racing well. Farclas is a different type who stood out in the paddock that day as a horse for the future. He may be able to find the improvement for this (Tiger Roll has beaten in same race for same connections before turning the form around here). If Farclas doesn’t win and retains his novice status this season he’s definitely one to keep on side of for next years Supreme!
Redicean has shown an impressive turn of foot in Kempton wins and trainer Alan King knows how to win this race. He does look the one in the race who might be best suited to a speed race and I’m not sure he will get his optimum conditions here
It’s very hard to rate Stormy Ireland on the back of one wide margin win against weak opposition and she appears plenty short enough in odds against more proven opponents at this level.
Sussex Ranger shouldn’t be discounted either with stamina being an asset. He probably pulled a bit too hard when beaten by We Had A Dream at Chepstow (winner injured and misses this). I’m just a little concerned he might not settle again here after doing similarly in his flat race prep at Kempton recently
Gordon Elliott and Jack Kennedy have won the opening races on both Wednesday and Thursday and as he’s such a nice type I’m erring on the side of Farclas to do the same on Friday
1pt ew Farclas 7/1 (888/Unibet paying 1/4 odds 123)
2.10 County Hcap Hurdle 2ml
A very competitive handicap as always with cases to be made for many
I’ll just throw up one big price here. William H Bonney looked the best horse in the race when 5th in the Greatwood Hurdle here in November on similar ground. He pulled a bit too hard that day but came to win the race until earlier exertions told close home
He hasn’t gone on from that but all his best form comes on this course and so I’m inclined to back him now he’s back here. He’s got a nice low weight and his mark as actually dropped since that notable effort
0.5pts ew William H Bonney 33/1 (Corals paying 1/4 odds 1234 – expect firms to offer extra places here later tonight)
2.50 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle 3ml
This race is actually the one I have been looking forward to most this week!
That’s because my favourite racehorse this year, Poetic Rhythm, is here and I think the race is made for him.
Take a look at the winner role call and you’ll see its one where hardened street fighters have a great record and ‘Gorgeous George’ as he is known at home has that quality in spades
He made hard work of winning in bad ground last time but was suffering from colic only 3 weeks previously and did amazingly well to win in the circumstances. His earlier close third on the course reads very well as was giving weight to two very useful sorts that day.
Three miles isn’t really proven but he’s always shaped like he can handle it.
Santini’s defeat of Black Op reads very well now after that one’s effort on Wednesday. He is probably the form choice here but doesn’t have the experience that is usually required for this race
I may be looking with rose-tinted glasses here but there’s only one horse for me in this race and I think he’s overpriced at double figure odds
1.5pts ew Poetic Rhythm 12/1 (Hills paying 1/5 odds 1234)
3.30 Gold Cup 3ml 2fur
There was already no shortage of a pace angle in this race before front-runner American was supplemented last week. With him, Might Bite, Native River and Our Duke all happy to be at the front of affairs there is going to be no hiding place for this year’s Gold Riband
Our Duke bounced back from a kissing spine problem earlier in the season to beat Wednesday’s impressive RSA winner Presenting Percy last time (giving him weight). His odds have predictably shortened since and his win in the Irish Grand National under top weight last season was some performance for a novice.
The downsides here are the occasional jumping blips (the other three front-runners may force him into mistakes as they are all very good in that department) and his lack of course experience.
Might Bite showed his quirks when nearly throwing away the RSA last year – without running all over the track he would have been a shorter price here after killing his rivals with an amazing pace set from the front throughout. The softer ground is his Achilles heel.
Native River was my selection last year but ultimately the quicker ground that day was against him and he could never shake off Sizing John who did him for finishing speed. He’s had a quieter preparation this time and looks to have his ideal conditions.
The likely killer pace up front here could set it up for one to stalk and pounce and if there is such a horse it is Definitly Red who might prosper here. He has course form, goes on the ground and stays very well. I’m not sure the stamina is there for Road To Respect to capitalise in the final stages and Minella Rocco just has too many jumping frailties for me.
Edwulf is another strong stayer but there has to be a question mark about him returning to the course after a bizarre incident here last year when his career looked to be over at the time.
Killultagh Vic’s fall last time doesn’t inspire confidence when he’ll need everything to work in that department when competing at this level
I’m going for Native River again simply because he I think he is the most solid of the main protagonists on this ground and am struggling to see him out of the frame again
2pts ew Native River 9/2 (Unibet/888 paying 1/4 odds 123)
4.10 Foxhunters Chase 3ml 2fur
I’m not a point to point form specialist so will leave this one for now with no selection
I have heard good words for Volnay De Thaix from that sphere but there are some stamina questions
Grand Vision’s jumping has been a joy to watch this season and I think he could put a few in trouble from the front here
4.50 Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle 2ml 4fur
This race had more entries than any other at the 5 day stage and there will be plots abounding.
As a former pupil of Martin Pipe, Gordon Elliott has long been trying to win it and finally did that last year. I doubt he will settle at that one win and is again well represented
No views at this stage – if that changes I will add something this evening
5.30 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Hcap 2ml
The getting out race (and a very good one for the blog last year!)
Another race named after a trainer and so I was an early bettor of Nicky Henderson’s Theinval here. He ran very well in the same race last year and his mark has skillfully been brought back to the same after down the field attempts over longer trips.
The fact he took part in a gallop with two stable stars in Buveur D’Air and Might Bite speaks volumes for me about how much this race means
The stumbling block is very much the ground as he’s a much better horse on a decent surface. He would be a confident pick despite the competitiveness of this race if the going here was what it was last year but on soft/heavy it’s going to be tough now
Last year’s winner Rock The World (worse off with Theinval) and his fancied stablemate Don’t Touch It are also ones that need a better surface.
I’m not sure what the stable have been doing with Vaniteux (once chasing up Douvan in Arkle before falling at the last) this season but he’s another potential plot – however he’s priced up already to allow for that
This could let in the novice North Hill Harvey who skipped the Arkle on Tuesday to run here.
Front runner Gino Trail is an admirable sort who will put them all to the sword from the front.
I prefer his stablemate Top Gamble if conditions persist. A strongly run 2 miles on deep ground and a stiff track appeal as this one’s optimum conditions. Davy Russell knows him well and it’s interesting to note that cheekpieces are now applied after a slightly sub-par effort last time out
He has dropped 10lb in the handicap than this time last year but I don’t think he has regressed to that degree and is nicely weighted now.
1pt ew Top Gamble 18/1 (Corals/Ladbrokes)
Thanks for reading once more and good luck for the final day