THE WEEK AHEAD
We only have two National Hunt meetings to preview this week so no surprise that entries from previous blogs are few and far between. Thankfully we have the big two-day meeting at Perth to look forward to for week 13 of my Summer Jumpers blog.
On the plus side, two of the four entries in the coming days appear to hold very strong claims in their respective races.
There are three horses entered with marks close to a stone higher than Francky Du Berlais; consequently, I will once again pass on him for Monday and hope to see him compete in a low grade handicap chase in the near future and when the Peter Bowen runners are back in the best of form.
If he happens to win at Worcester than good luck to him; however, he will not be carrying any of my money unless the race cuts up in dramatic fashion.
Majestic Touch would be making his chasing debut if lining up in the same race and would also have plenty to find with several potential rivals on official ratings.
These are just two of the reasons why I hope that Philip Hobbs will, instead, send Majestic Touch to Kelso to compete in the Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle at 6.15 on Wednesday.
I suspect he was disadvantaged by making up ground on a horse given a soft lead last time out. Hopefully the pace will be a strong one if he is kept to hurdles on Wednesday and, given this scenario, I will be hoping to see him remain competitive until the latter stages.
Nietzsche is entered in the opening contest on that Kelso card which is the Racing Reminiscence Days At Kelso Novices’ Chase. I remain of the view that he is not the best handicapped over fences; however, he still holds a strong chance in this novice chase.
Although he has a big weight to carry, I hope he will be suited to the slightly longer trip and, consequently, be staying on strongly at the death. His performance on Wednesday will also help his connections decide whether or not it is worth stepping him up again to race over an intermediate distance in the future.
I hope he wins well at Kelso and thereby increases the chances of opposing him in a handicap when he is trading short.
COURSE IN FOCUS: WORCESTER
I focussed on a few Dr Richard Newland horses in week four and I notice that he has five entries for Worcester on Monday. Of the five perhaps Jimmy Rabbitte is the least interesting as he is arguably the most exposed of the five potential runners.
That is not to say that he has the least chance of winning; it is more a case of having no edge with him. He will win in his turn and Monday could easily be a winning day for him. The other four entries, however, are more fascinating for a variety of reasons.
Dr Richard Newland has enjoyed a 28.47% strike rate in recent years with horses he has acquired from other trainers and which are making their debuts for him. Furthermore, in five of the last seven years you would have made a reasonable profit backing all ‘Newland debutants’ that had previously raced elsewhere.
Mr Muldoon has yet to compete under rules but ran with some promise for Joseph O’Shea in point to point contests in 2018. He will be making his debut for the Worcestershire trainer if taking his place in the line-up for the final race on the card on Monday – the Fifty More Years of Ucrete Maiden Hurdle.
The trainer’s record in non-handicap races at the course of 17/42 (40.48%) adds further encouragement to the claims of Mr Muldoon. At the early declaration stage there are five horses rated 110 or more entered in the 4.20; consequently, Mr Muldoon would not be my idea of Dr Newland’s best chance of a winner on Monday.
I will save the best until last so will first mention two more horses making their debuts for Newland having been switched from another yard.
On The Wild Side is entered in the bumper at 3.20 and would appear, on admittedly limited evidence, to hold a sound each-way chance. The final one of the three debutants is Included who is entered in the Beginners Chase at 2.20.
She has shown some promise in her four chases to date when under the care of Alastair Ralph. She has plenty to find on official ratings with half a dozen of her potential rivals so maybe will be of more interest when competing back in handicap company.
Given Dr Newlands record with ‘Trainer Switch’ debutants there must be a realistic chance that one or two of the three will perform well on Monday.
Of the three I thought that the bumper horse On The Wild Side had most in his favour; however, from a potential betting angle I will be most interested in the last of the five Newland horses to mention which is Theo who is entered in the 2.50 – the Redditch Ucrete Production Appreciation Handicap Chase.
He is three from three at Worcester and has two course and distance successes to his name including when winning this same race in 2018.
When he won here in August 2018, he was doing so off a break of 207 days so I would be surprised if he did not turn up on Monday fit and ready to perform close to his best.
I actually prefer to consider his claims when he is racing as a fresh horse. On his 2019 debut in March Theo ran to his absolute best when going down narrowly at Doncaster. My post-race notes for that day read:
“His jockey may feel he would have won here if he had ridden the horse before - I am not certain on that point. He was under pressure a long way from home and being chased along to keep up. He stayed on better than anything and may have been a tad unfortunate. He is one to watch closely in the short term providing he competes on decent ground”.
He followed up this narrow defeat with another top effort at the Cheltenham Festival when finishing a creditable sixth in the Grand Annual Chase.
Theo disappointed on his next and most recent outing when stepped up to compete over half a mile further. He should be much happier back over this circa two mile trip on Monday.
His performance at Doncaster certainly re-affirmed my view that he is at his best when competing on good ground and racing off a fast pace. If he gets both of these variables in his favour on Monday I will be disappointed if Theo does not run a big race.
The way he won the 2018 renewal of this contest off a mark of 130 would suggest that his current rating of 139 is unlikely to be the variable that stops him from being competitive again in 2019.
Theo has tended to be strong in the market when winning so I will be hoping to secure an early morning each way price (BOG) which might also offer the option of trading part of the bet out pre-race.
(ALL STATS COURTESY OF PROFORM RACING)
LOOKING BACK: VOLLAN A HORSE TO FOLLOW
At Uttoxeter on Wednesday the Alastair Ralph-trained Champagne Mist defied a long absence to take the Bob Barlow Big Birthday Bash Maiden Hurdle in fine style.
He out battled Mason Jar from the final hurdle to eventually win with something to spare. The runner-up was having his first start for the Dr Richard Newland yard and is likely to have improved on his previous best given such an interesting trainer switch.
On the same card the Charlie Longsdon-trained The Vollan took the White Hart Hotel Uttoxeter Handicap Hurdle by nine lengths over the same distance.
When comparing the two races side by side there was nothing between the two winners from the first hurdle until the second last; however, from thereon in The Vollan really ’asserted his authority’ over Champagne Mist.
He ‘drew well clear’ of the Alastair Ralph seven-year-old when comparing the finishing times of both victors. The Vollan has been raised to 125 after his success which will surely not be the variable, in itself, that will stop him from being competitive again next time.
He has now performed to a high level in each of his latest five starts and has developed into a particularly reliable performer.
As for Champagne Mist – I would not be too put off him by these time comparisons as he was returning to race after a 128-day break and this was also only his fifth race under rules; therefore he has plenty of potential to improve again.
In last week’s blog Nigel Hawke offered up Le Musee as one of his best two chances of the week. He also stated that he is a horse that needs things to go right for him.
Well, Le Musee certainly had plenty fall in his favour at Perth and, as a consequence, I would not be in a hurry to back him to follow up if he was starting as a short priced favourite next time.
The other horse Nigel was keen on was Guardia Top who ran with promise to finish second at Newton Abbot on Monday. Perhaps she was undone by her lack of experience; certainly her trainer thought this was a possibility prior to the race.
Either way she is a filly to watch closely in the coming weeks.
Gordon Elliott continued his superb record in non-handicap hurdle races at Perth when Carrie Des Champs took the opening race with plenty to spare.
Unfortunately, her extremely short price resulted in it being a watching race rather than a betting event; nevertheless, the angle of Gordon Elliott runners in non-handicap hurdle races at Perth is worth keeping in mind.
See The Sea’s bubble was well and truly burst when being firmly put in her place by Pacify who was simply in a different league. I know she lost ground by veering right as the tapes went up; nonetheless, the early pace was very slow and I doubt she had to expend too much energy to catch up with the leaders.
Unfortunately, the comprehensive nature of her defeat will make it far less likely that she will trade short and therefore offer the opportunity of opposing her in a handicap when taken on for the lead on another day.
The fact that Pacify was able to beat See The Sea easily despite her enjoying another untroubled lead augers well for his chances of remaining competitive when some of the better horses return in a few weeks.
Although I was not interested in having a bet in the second race on the Stratford card, I was also hoping to see Potterman win with plenty to spare.
Despite his three and a half-length success in the novice chase I remain fairly confident that he is badly handicapped off 139; consequently, I hope to benefit from this view if and when he competes in a handicap chase before the winter ground sets in.