When Will the Rains Come?
It was the weekend when the horse racing focus changed from the flat to the National hunt winter season. There was an excellent card at Ascot and at Wetherby we had Charlie Hall Day, with that race providing Cue Card with his seasonal reappearance.
This weekend’s racing was run on good ground and indeed at Ascot firm appeared in the going description. Despite the ground being very quick for this time of year the Ascot card held up in terms field sizes with the day’s two big handicaps both having 12 runners. The dry weather looks set to continue for at least another few days which will concern the management at Wincanton where on Saturday its Badger Ales Day. As much as I don’t want to see lots of rain our racecourses really do need it!
Before giving you this week’s eyecatchers, I will take a look at the winning return of Thistlecrack at Chepstow and the weekend’s big race action at Wetherby and Ascot. As a bit of an extra bonus see below for my idea of a value ante-post bet for next months Hennessey Gold Cup at Newbury.
Thistlecrack Makes Winning Return
Before examining the weekend action its’ worth looking at a novice chase ran at Chepstow on Tuesday. Last years World Hurdle winner Thistlecrack made a winning seasonal reappearance on his first start over the larger obstacles. He looked magnificent in the paddock and although he won’t have been 100% fit for the race even an 80% fit Thistlecrack would have been good enough. He travelled and jumped well through the race but there was a real overreaction from the bookies, for next years Cheltenham Gold Cup, on the back of the horse only winning a novice chase as he was entitled to do. I think it would be wise not to go to overboard about his chances in the ‘Blue Riband’ race until he has run against graded non novice chases. Still it was a nice introduction to fences by the Tizzard runner.
Cavalier Provides Curtis with Wetherby Surprise
The big race on Saturday was the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in which Cue Card made his seasonal reappearance and a race he had won last year. Going off the 8/11 favourite, the 10-year-old was carrying 10lb more than he did in the previous year’s race but still looked the most likely winner on ratings. Making his effort fairly early in the race and seemed to pay for that in the closing stages of the contest and he had to settle for 3rd at the finish. After the race his trainer seemed to suggest that he wished he hadn’t told jockey Paddy Brennan to kick on so early. Still it was a nice return to action by the horse and will have set him up for his ‘Gold Cup’ in the Betfair Chase next month. I doubt he will ever win a Gold Cup at Cheltenham but he will once again take the beating at Haydock. As for the winner Irish Cavalier, he travelled well for most of the race and looked the most likely winner even before he took up the running three out. The good ground was very much in the 7-year old’s favour but at least connections can now target the horses at the big graded races rather than have him lump big weights around in the big handicaps. Is he Gold Cup contender? Well he acts at the track well and if he gets good ground he can give it a good go but I am not sure he will stay the 3m 2f distance of the Gold Cup.
The other big race on Weatherby’s card the The West Yorkshire Hurdle was won by Silsol to continue Paul Nicholls great start to the season. The 7-year-old handles softer ground so this performance was a good one as he got the better of Native River at the final hurdle. The runner up was 2nd in the Four Miler at the Cheltenham Festival and was last seen winning a Grade 1 Novice Chase at Aintree in April. A return to chasing and easier ground will suit the 6 year old and he is now been aimed at the next months Hennessey Gold Cup and this was a good prep for a return to fences for yet another Tizzard staying chaser. The well backed favourite Ballyoptic came to grief at the last and although he had looked beaten when outpaced three out but he was staying on when he came down and might have still played a part in the finish.
Modus Bounces Back to Form for Nicholls
At Ascot the listed handicap hurdle was won by the Philip Hobbs trained Stenrubin who made it two from two over C&D with another excellent front running performance under top weight. The Paul Nicholls’s trained Modus was a shade unlucky as he was still last two out but was staying on strongly on the run in to finish 3rd and in a few more strides would have won the race. A bit of a ‘talking horse’ last year he has won fresh in the past and indeed won his first two starts over hurdles last November before he seemed to lose his way. Will he build on this run? That’s the question; if he does he could land a decent pot this winter with a return for the Ladbroke Hurdle over C&D in December a decent possibility.
The feature race on the Ascot card was the 3m Sodexo Gold Cup. The winner Antony trained by Gary Moore had been trained for this race since he made a winning seasonal reappearance at Fontwell. Was kept handy and in the race it proved difficult for those making their effort from the back. Lightly raced over fences there could be more to come from the six year old whose trainer felt he would do better with more ease in the ground. This was his first start over fences beyond 2m 5f so he remains unexposed over staying trips. The very well backed Saphir Du Rheu had dropped in the weights and came into the race looking a well handicapped horse. Couldn’t match the first two home in terms of pace but he was staying on well after the last and almost pipped Junction Fourteen for second at the post. The former top class hurdler didn’t seem a natural jumper of a fence last winter but jumped soundly enough here. Was 9/2 favourite for last years Hennessey Gold Cup but has a big weight to carry last year and could only finish 5th. Comes into this year’s renewal with a much lower rating and the 16/1 generally available looks a fair price for Newbury’s showpiece.
This Weeks Eyecatchers
Well it was nice to see Meandmyshadow winning at 8/1 at Newcastle for Eyecatcher Pro subscribers! The mare was added to the software on the morning of the race and is one of the many benefits of being part of the service.
Two for the tracker’s this week. The first is a two year old who could break his maiden tag on the all weather before the year is out but is mainly one for next year and the second eyecatcher is a handicap hurdlers from Wetherby and Ascot. I will also be completing my list of Horses to Follow exclusively for Eyecatcher Pro Subscribers.
Friday October 28th
Leshlaa – Saeed bin Suroor – The son of Street Cry clearly relished the quick underfoot conditions he faced here on his racecourse debut. Held up he made steady headway and came to challenge the eventual winner at the furlong mark and looked like he might go on to win but greenness probably prevented as he found the winner just that bit more streetwise in the final 100 yards. Still this was a good run with the future in mind as the first two pulled 5 lengths clear of the rest of the field. Two of his siblings won on the all weather so he looks likely to have a go on the synthetics to break his maiden tag. Probably won’t be much of a price if he turns up say for a Kempton maiden but such a race looks a formality if he can build on this good start to his racing career. On breeding he should stay a mile as a three year old.
Saturday October 29th
Very First Time – Tim Easterby – The four year old had stayed on to strongly for his rivals when winning a heavy ground novice hurdle at Newcastle in March. Was making his handicap hurdle debut here, weak in the market before the race he was never really competitive on his seasonal return but he was staying on steadily when the race was over, which will give connections some encouragement for the rest of the season. He has only has 7 career starts and I will be surprised if he can’t win a handicap hurdle up North in the coming months.
Modus – Paul Nicholls – Has only had six starts over hurdles and although he will go up for this excellent run he should remain on a workable mark. He clearly handles quick ground but it’s worth bearing in mind he is 3 wins from 4 runs when soft appears in the going description. He will now head for the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham’s Open Meeting but a return to Ascot for the Ladbroke Hurdle, just before Christmas also looks a decent end of year target for the gelding. Can win a decent handicap hurdle, I am sure of that, if building on this really encouraging first start to the season.
All that’s left is to wish you a profitable weeks betting.