Thankfully British horse racing resumed last Wednesday with a few minor restrictions. All horses must have been given a booster influenza vaccination within the last six months before they can race again.
That aside, it’s been business as usual, as horse racing bids to make up for lost time. There was plenty of high-quality racing on Saturday at both Ascot & Haydock. The former hosted a bumper nine-race card, which included the rescheduled Betfair Hurdle and the Denman Chase from last weekend’s cancelled Newbury card.
More on some of the best performances from Ascot in this week’s post. As well as look at another Cheltenham Festival, and a couple of interesting trainer stats.
Cyrname Master’s Rivals
There is no better sight in horse racing than a bold jumping front-running chaser in action. Well, Ascot racegoers were treated to such a performance on Saturday as Cyrname beat a high-class field of chasers to land the Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase by 17 lengths.
He clearly enjoys going right-handed, as the 7-year-old had done a similar demolition job to a field of good handicappers over C&D back in January.
I doubt there will be a more impressive winner of a chase this season then Cyrname but if there is, I can’t wait to see it.
He would be strong contender for the Ryanair Chase at next month’s Cheltenham Festival, but sadly he doesn’t like going left-handed. On the back of this win he was installed the 4/1 favourite for next season’s King George VI at Kempton.
The Clan Rallies
It turned out be a sensational Saturday for trainer Paul Nicholls at Ascot. Not only did Cyrname land the Ascot Chase for Nicholls, but King George VI winner Clan Des Obeaux was far too strong for his three rivals in the Denman Chase.
I am still unsure about his claims for the Gold Cup, but there is no doubt that the 7-year-old is going the right way and, in a season where plenty of his rivals will head to Cheltenham with questions to answer, he has to be considered a strong contender for jumps racing’s “Blue Riband” race.
He’s had the perfect preparation for the race. He’s a best priced 11/2 with William Hill, but as low as 9/2 with Ladbrokes & Coral.
Al Dances to Betfair Win
Paul Nicholls won five of the nine races on the card, but one race to elude the “Master Of Ditcheat” was the Betfair Hurdle. Nicholls saddled the well fancied Getaway Trump who finished his race well enough to take 4 th, and Mont Des Avaloirs who finished 7th.
The race was won by the well-handicapped Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Al Dancer. It was the trainer’s third win in the race in the past decade. All three of his winners were aged 5 or 6, and all of them were novices.
The winner is now as short as 4/1 for the Supreme Novices Hurdle at next month’s Cheltenham Festival on the back of this impressive win.
There was plenty to like about Al Dancer’s win, although I am not sure of the quality of the rivals he beat, given that the runner-up was sent off at 20/1, and third home was a 100/1 shot.
He certainly gives owner Dai Walters a strong hand in the race. He also owns the well fancied Angel’s Breath, and deserves his place in the betting.
Of the rest, Getaway Trump would have wanted a stronger gallop than he got and was putting in his best work at the finish.
Cheltenham Festival 2019
Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase
The third Cheltenham Festival race to come under the preview microscope is the Gold Cup. Here are the main contenders and their best odds at the time of writing:
Presenting Percy , last year’s RSA Novices Chase winner clearly likes the Cheltenham Festival as he also won the Pertemps Series Final in 2017.
The 8-year-old has had a rather unconventional route to the Gold Cup. He’s only run so far this season came when winning the Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park last month.
He’s yet to race over fences since last year’s RSA win, although he could turn out at Fairyhouse in the Bobbyjo Chase next weekend – 7/2.
Native River, last year’s winner will now head to Cheltenham without a prep run. Second to Bristol De Mai in the Betfair Chase on his seasonal reappearance, and third to Clan Des Obeaux in the King George VI.
The 9-year-old’s whole season has been geared, by trainer Colin Tizzard, to retaining his Gold Cup crown, so the lack of a recent run shouldn’t be a problem – 6/1
Clan Des Obeaux’s , win on Saturday has seen him challenge Native River for second spot in the ante-post betting. With some books he’s ahead of Tizzard runner.
I have my reservations about him. He didn’t beat any top horses in the Denman Chase, and there are still some doubts about his suitability for the track. Still it was hard not to be impressed by the way he travelled, and jumped, or the nice turn of foot he used to win his race -11/2
Willie Mullins has three potential contenders:
Kemboy, is the shortest of his runners in the betting. The 7-year-old has won both his starts this season, including the 3m Grade 1 Savills Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. He got a great ride from his jockey that day, who seized the initiative when he realised the early pace wasn’t a strong one. Taking it up after the 8th, he was never headed, and stayed-on too strongly for his rivals, beating Monalee by 7 ½ lengths.
He will need to improve to win a Gold Cup, but it’s possible he could have more in the locker given his age – 10/1
Bellshill, was only 4th to Kemboy at Leopardstown, beaten 9 lengths. That was his seasonal reappearance, and he boosted the form when beating Road To Respect by a short head, in the Irish Gold Cup at the Dublin Racing Festival.
The 9-year-old has yet to really fire on his three starts at Cheltenham, with his best run coming when a 10 length third to Might Bite in the 2017 RSA. A solid jumper, he’s a double Grade 1 winner over fences and, despite his Cheltenham record, shouldn’t be underestimated – 14/1
Al Boum Photo , is the third of the possible Mullins runners. The 7-year-old fell at the last, in last season’s RSA, but he looked booked for the places at best.
He then went on to land a Grade 1 at Fairyhouse, beating Shattered Love. Before running out at the last, in the Champion Novices Chase at Punchestown.
He was in the lead at the time, and looked the most likely winner. Just the one run this season, which was an impressive six length win in Tramore listed race on New Year’s Day.
He’s yet to run on going better than soft in his twelve-race career, so a good ground Gold Cup would be a bit of an unknown – 16/1
Of the rest, Colin Tizzard has Welsh Grand National winner and recent Cotswold Chase runner-up Elegant Escape. The 7-year-old was well beaten in last year’s RSA when 3rd to Presenting Percy, but he’s improving with experience. Although he will need to improve further to win a Gold Cup.
Has a similar profile to his stablemate Native River, and the quicker they go in a Gold Cup the better his chances are. He’s a best priced 25/1 with William Hill for the race.
Recent Thyestes winner, Invitation Only, is another with a chance of getting in the money should he run. The 8-year-old,like Elegant Escape, needs to find plenty more improvement to win a race like Gold Cup.
He was still travelling well when slipping-up on landing four out in last year’s JLT Novices Chase at the Festival,and but for that mishap would probably have gone close.
His best form has come with plenty of juice in the ground, and owners Andrea & Graham Wylie probably have a stronger win contender in Bellshill. He’s a best priced 20/1.
Gold Cup Verdict
Despite his unconventional run-up to the race, Presenting Percy remains the one they all have beat. Clan Des Obeaux comes into the race in great form and, if he handles the track, can win a Gold Cup.
It’s always tough win back-to-back Gold Cups, so Native River will have to be as good as he was last year, if not better. Of the Willie Mullins’ runners, Bellshill has been a bit underestimated by the betting public and looks the best from his yard.
Elegant Escape makes each-way appeal and could very well finish ahead of his stablemate.
This week I have three trainers whose runners will be worth noting until the end of the month. Two are for the jumps, and one for the all-weather. Starting with the two jumping trainers:
1. Henry Daly – A trainer who can usually be relied on to get a few winners in February, particularly his runners in chases or hurdles. Since 2015 he’s had 12 winners from 57 runners 21% -2.33 A/E 1.29 20 placed 35%. Those going off 9/1 & under have produced 12 winners from 37 runners +17.67 A/E 1.5 16 placed 43%. Last year he had5 winners from 10 runners 50% +13.75 A/E 2.44 6 placed 60% and he had a winner at Wincanton on Saturday.
2. Peter Bowen – Is another trainer whose handicap chasers and hurdlers have done well at this time of the season. Since 2015 he’s had 12 winners from 48 runners 25% +32.5 A/E 1.75 19 placed 40%. Those going off 12/1 & under do even better with 12 winners from 35 runners 34% +45.5 A/E 1.97 19 placed 54% (+57.55).
3. Ed Walker – A trainer for the all-weather at this time of year. Since the start of 2015 he’s had 14 winners from 40 runners 35% +20 A/E 1.68 23 placed 58% in February. You don’t need to ‘slice-n-dice’ his runners any further, as I think he can be followed blind. However, if you did, it could pay to concentrate on his runners in Class 5, 6 or 7 races that had 1+ runs in the previous 90-days. Such qualifiers produced 12 winners from 29 runners 41% +20.5 A/E 1.81 19 placed 66%, all of them were sent off 6/1 & under.
Hopefully, in the next week or so, there will be a few winners coming out of those three yards.
Until next week.
All the best,
for The Race Advisor