Halfway through the Festival now and we began with two well backed winning favourites for Ireland on Day 2. Backers of Monkfish at 1/4 (has there been such a low SP at the Festival?) might have had a few nervous moments st some fences though.
Chacun Pour Soi couldn’t continue the trend when facing a battle with the ultra tough mare Put The Kettle On. Sceau Royal might well gone close there but for nearly being brought down as the race was hotting up.
It was lovely to see Tiger Roll come back to form to win his 5th race at the Festival – but also sad that the owner has sulked and taken him out of the Grand National because he didn’t get the weight he wanted.
Day 3 thoughts:
1.20 Marsh Novices Chase
Another small field to start and in ENVOI ALLEN we have another short priced favourite. He’s unbeaten and twice already a winner at the festival. I can’t really oppose him (only potential negative being a recent stable change) but at least with 8 runners there is an each way angle. CHATHAM STREET LAD was very impressive on the course in a top handicap before Christmas and is the one I favour most to follow the favourite home
ASTERION FORLONGE caused carnage in the opening race last year. I don’t think anyone will want to be racing too close to him if he is still there coming down the hill in case his errant ways take over again
1.55 Pertemps Network Final
Another big field handicap and this race is always competitive. There is just one horse I have had in mind for this race for some time in SOUTHFIELD HARVEST. He comes from a successful family who tend to reach a mark of around 150+ and he looks to have been nicely teed up for this race off a mark of 138.
His brother Southfield Theatre was narrowly beaten in this race carrying 11st 11lb and like him the selection promises to be a thorough stayer. Paul Nicholls has been suggesting that soft ground will suit but with all the family preferring Good to Soft or better I am not too concerned about any drying ground. First time cheekpieces have also been notably applied for a race I think has been his aim all season.
CHAMPAGNE PLATINUM‘s eye-catching trial race last time was there for all to see and hasn’t been missed by the books with only around 6/1 being available – too short for me to back although it wouldn’t be a shock if he won
Of the big outsiders, KEEPER HILL is thoroughly exposed but he is consistent and the type to creep into the frame if extra places are available (he has performed well at a higher grade than this before)
Back SOUTHFIELD HARVEST each way taking 6 places or more if possible
(unfortunately Southfield Harvest became a Non Runner this evening – reported as lame)
For smaller stakes I would also take a little on KEEPER HILL at 33/1 or more each way with 6 places or more
2.30 Ryanair Chase
ALLAHO carries my Ante Post hopes here but I was having a minor heart attack yesterday morning when he drifted to an alarmingly high 25/1 on Exchanges. It seemed people were expecting him to be a non runner but the scare was unjustified and he is back sharing favouritism again
The problem for him though is he likes to race from the front. So do his two stablemates, MIN and MELON. MIN won this last year and is the choice of stable jockey Paul Townend – but he does have to bounce back from being Pulled Up in his last race.) Then we also have IMPERIAL AURA and DASHEL DRASHER who have shown their best from from the front. It would be lovely to know how the Mullins team in particularly plan to do this one as all 3 of theirs may sulk if they don’t get their way
In theory this should set it up for closers like MISTER FISHER and SAINT CALVADOS ( a reformed character now who also used to be a tearaway front runner)
Despite likely to get his ground, I still have a doubt that Mister Fisher is quite up to this level. I have no doubting that Saint Calvados is. He looked the best horse in the King George over Christmas until stamina took over on the longer 3 mile trip. He was just beaten by MIN in this race last year – but that one was able to control the race then in a way he might struggle to this time
DASHEL DRASHER would appear a big price for a horse who has already won a Grade 1 race this year. He is a very likeable front runner but all of his best form comes at Ascot which is a totally different type of course to this
FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES was just beaten by todays Champion Chase heroine Put The Kettle On in the Arkle last year. That form alone entitles him to plenty of respect and he seemed to be coming back to form last time. He is another who has run from the front before but most of his form comes at 2 miles so may have to be ridden with more restraint here
I will be cheering on ALLAHO but the way the race is likely to be won I think may suit
SAINT CALVADOS most. The performance of stablemate Rouge Vif today does give me some concern about stable form which prevents me from putting him up as a recommendation. I would love to know the inside line on how this race will be run from the 3 Mullins runners and without that I could easily have 6 or 7 on my shortlist here
Additional – Saint Calvados declared a Non Runner this evening due the going)
3.05 Stayers Hurdle
I was confidently expecting PAISLEY PARK to win this race last year but his disappointing run was subsequently found to be because of an irregular heartbeat. He has bounced back this year without looking quite so imperious.
A bit softer ground might have helped him here as there is a tendency for him to get outpaced in his races before his stamina kicks in
FLOORING PORTER is a strong challenger from Ireland but his wayward tendencies are definitely not going to be helped by having no running rail to race against here. He should ensure that this race is run at a decent pace though
It’s last years shock winner that I like most here – LISNAGAR OSCAR after his taking reappearance at Haydock after a wind op
Drying ground doesn’t worry me here as one of his most taking performances came on such a surface at Haydock as a novice
VINNDICATION is an interesting runner now back over hurdles. He definitely has the class to be a force in this division but for me his best form as always been at Right handed tracks and I would have rated his chances far more if this was at his beloved Ascot ( same applies to his good ground loving stablemate YOUNEVERCALL)
SIRE DU BERLAIS and THE STORYTELLER were 1-2 off high weights in the Pertemps last year. Both have yet to prove themselves at Grade 1 level over hurdles but at the latter has done that over fences. I would prefer him of the 2 under current ground conditions
FURY ROAD is another for the shortlist as he represents the strong Albert Bartlett form line from last season. That’s been advertised this year by Monkfish and Thyme Hill who would have been marginal favourite for hit but for an injury setback last week. He might have just needed it when beaten by BEACON EDGE last time over an inadequate trip
The last 3 mentioned all come from the same ‘Sneezy’ Foster stable but we can’t glean much from jockey bookings here as all our ridden by either retained or regulars who get on well with them
LISNAGAR OSCAR edges it for me marginally at the prices over THE STORYTELLER and FURY ROAD. All would appeal at odds of 10/1 or over with 4 places available (5 places even available here with Skybet and Bar One racing). I think the 2020/21 version of paisley park could be vulnerable in the quicker conditions here
4.10 Paddy Power Plate
MISTER WHITAKER has solid form in past festivals at this trip (3rd in this race last year) and was an early bet for me when odds were initially released at 25/1. That value has gone a bit now but I still cant see him being far away on ground that should suit. His Warwick reappearance after a long break looked a good pipe-opener for this where he wasn’t put in the race to win and ran on nicely at the end
The presence of THE SHUNTER in this race after having a multitude of entries has made a big change to . He has already won two very competitive hurdles this season and is equally adept over bigger fences. A 7lb claim from Jordan Gainford keeps him on a very attractive mark here
COOLE CODY is only 6lb higher than when winning the Paddy Power in November. He looed to need his last run and wouldn’t be out of this but I think a bit more juice in the ground would be needed for him
HAPPY DIVA was my selection in this race last year and ran a mighty race in 2nd (Mister Whitaker 3rd and only 1lb better off). I am surprised to see her in this race as I thought Friday’s Mares Chase was a better option but the drop in her mark to 145 may well have swayed the decision
She wasn’t in quite the same vein of form at the start of this year but she has been given a chance again here. Kerry Lee reported her gallops were in a bad state at the start of the year so I expect her to come on from here recent Warwick 3rd
Heart sometimes rules head with one of my favourite horses in training but I think the handicapper has given HAPPY DIVA another great chance here. Back her and MISTER WHITAKER each way. I will be very surprised if one/both not out of the frame with their previous records on the course
4.15 Mares Novice Hurdle
There was some good Irish money for GLENS OF ANTRIM last week. Her form doesn’t really merit her price but connections have to be respected and she should be improving.
HOOK UP’s last piece of form against the boys reads very well now but the drying ground is an unknown for her
TELMESOMETHINGGIRL has been a shortener in the betting today to continue the fine form of Henry De Bromhead /Rachael Blackmore this week. The form of her last run was boosted by HEAVEN HELP ME today but I do feel that one improved a lot from that Leopardstown run
I’m happy to side with the home team here and THE GLANCING QUEEN not she is back against her own sex. The ground was desperate at Exeter last time and I can excuse that defeat. Her hurdling technique has been very slick and her performances at this course before have always suggested she has a touch of class
THE GLANCING QUEEN appeals most for me at the current odds. Her sire Jeremy has thrown up a few winners already this week and the Good ground should hold no fears. She has drifted out to 12/1+today and 4 places and her course winning experience that makes most appeal
5.30 Kim Muir Challenge Cup
Another race that is normally for Amateur riders that has been totally changed by having professionals this year
When the entries came out SHANTOU FLYER was my early pick but a 4lb rise for his Wincanton 2nd in a fairly ordinary race was harsh to say the least. That could make the difference here despite him obviously liking this course from past effort s here.
I picked HOLD THE NOTE in another race last year but have found him an exasperating character since and I don’t think this trip is right for him over this course. I think he’ll be flagging up the hill
I’m going back to the Kerry lee stable and hope that Happy Diva’s run earlier will confirm that the stable are in form. STORM CONTROL didn’t stay a longer trip last time but won well over this course twice before. He idled badly in front on his last win but was value for far more than the winning distance. Expect him to be prominent throughout again.
Last year’s race form might also have some bearing with KILFILUM CROSS (2nd), PLAN OF ATTACK (4th) and DEISE ABA (5th) reopposing. Bear in mind there are no Amateurs on board this year and the ground is better. Of those three I prefer PLAN OF ATTACK who sports first time blinker tomorrow and the not invaluable services of Rachael Blackmore this time
STORM CONTROL ew (and maybe a double with Happy Diva earlier might be prudent in hope the stable are in the form I hope)
SHANTOU FLYER and PLAN OF ATTACK I can also see going close but as they are shorter prices provide marginally less value
Thanks for reading once more and good luck with whatever you back