Ante Post Clues
Venetia Williams has had an unusually strong start to jump season, aided by unseasonably soft ground that her horses customarily relish. Even so she must me raging at the switch of one of her stable stars Yala Enki to Paul Nicholls’ care having placed him to pick up over a quarter of a million pounds in prize money and having recorded a 25% strike rate with the gelding.
Though she can have done little more, it wouldn’t be an enormous surprise to see the Ditcheat maestro conjure a tiny bit of improvement from this admirable and reliable 9 year-old and with his seasonal debut likely to come in Saturday’s Ladbroke Trophy (Hennessy) now is the time to back him for his stated seasonal target, The Welsh National.
He made a bold effort to win the race last year under an attacking ride, picked up by Elegant Escape and Ramses De Teilee late on but stretching out the rest of the field like washing and showing he is ideally suited to the race. Those rivals have crept up the weights since but he remains just a pound higher and clearly has no problem lugging big weights in bad ground. His stablemate Truckers Lodge heads the market at this stage and has been supported, but by stark contrast he lacks class and a customarily decent effort on Saturday would surely see Yala Enki’s odds start tumbling for Chepstow.
Yala Enki to win the Welsh National – 14/1 with Bet365 – New Customers get up to £100 in Bet Credits
Finally something the get the teeth stuck into! Two small fields prevailed in the showpiece contests, but two seismic performances prevailed, the power may well have shifted in the staying chase division. Altior has always had a bit of personality about him and his jumping was not as slick as it can be at Ascot – I wonder if he thought he was in a piece of exercise given the single rival. It will be interesting to see which route he takes now, but I would be surprised to see him reverse form with the winner at Kempton on Boxing Day, Nico De Boinville was not harsh on him at all.
Lostintranslation emerges as a massive danger to both having taken down Bristol De Mai at his beloved Haydock. The ground was not soft enough for Bristol, but he still produced his running and the winner won with something to spare, this was a serious performance. Colin Tizzard is rarely inclined to overhype a horse and he has held the horse in such high regard for so long, this was a huge breakthrough on his first try at 3 miles, there is no reason he can’t improve further on this and if he does he will be very hard to beat on Boxing Day. Footpad’s impressive win in Ireland may have thrown him into the mix, but he surely can’t find the improvement needed to seriously threaten the principals – what a race this will be!
All Hail Caesar (R.Menzies) – Looks regressive on the face of it and appeared to offer next to nothing at Hexham on Wednesday, beaten nearly 50 lengths in a modest race. Here he had little chance of making up late ground on a horrible racing surface, possibly still feeling the effect of a hard race over c&d just 12 days previously. His very solid looking bumper form came on a much sounder surface. I will be looking out for this horse on handicap debut off what looks like a very inviting opening mark of 115 at a course offering better ground, perhaps at Catterick or Musselburgh, both tracks his trainer loves to target.
Winningtry (C.Grant) – Beaten 54 lengths into last of 8 on his debut for Chris Grant I doubt this horse will be entering many notebooks except ours, but I saw plenty of cause for optimism. Making his first start for over 2 years when under the care of Paul Nicholls, he was held up in an unchallenging last place he was readily outpaced but made ground turning in for the merest waft of Tommy Dowson’s reins. I believe he would have finished a clear 4th had he been ridden out and I will be hoping for a massive price on his next start on the basis of the raw form of this comeback.
Randy Pike (T.Easterby) – Injuries may well prevent this horse from realising his true ability, but he evidently retains his zest for racing as his 2 good wins in spring 2018 attest and made a great shape at Catterick on Friday returning from fully 18 months off the track in a very hot little novice chase for the grade. His jumping was assured for a first timer lacking racecourse experience and he appeared to be carrying plenty of condition but still stayed on pleasingly. If he can stay sound he will take plenty of beating off a mark of 118 – his best form has come on genuinely testing ground.
Honest Vic (H.Daly) – Haydock’s 3rd race on Saturday was a competitive affair, but a false gallop prevailed and the winner Bold Plan deserves enormous credit for overcoming a hold-up position to win readily. A few others in behind had no chance of figuring given their hold-up positions, including Honest Vic and I felt he stuck on really well into 4th despite never being asked for everything. He is a consistent type and seems to be less erratic than he once was – now effective both left and right-handed too he might have a very good winter ahead.
No fewer than 8 representatives to catch up on this week.
Thursday saw Baddesley Knight (C.Gordon) return at Wincanton in a decent little novice handicap chase. It looked a decent opportunity and he made no mistake, jumping with enormous enthusiasm and landing a few bets to win readily at a well backed 5/2. He can take higher order as a handicap chaser and remains on the radar with a 6lb rise looking generorus.
Friday’s opening novice chase at Ascot attracted just 4 runners but all brought classy from to the table from hurdling. First Flow (K.Bailey) looked much more professional over his fences than he had on seasonal debut at Uttoxeter, spread-eagling his classy rivals but probably playing into the hands of the classy Angel’s Breath. He won’t always be compelled to take on such high class rivals and he can surely make it third time lucky over fences with sights lowered a little. The Mighty Don (N.Gifford) was never going to feature down in trip and he can now go handicapping off a reasonable mark of 142 – both horses are superb jumpers and will win races this season.
In the closing contest I was very keen on the chances of Oakley (P.Hobbs) with his stable in roaring form and the market spoke strongly in his favour. He appeared primed to pick up the long-term leader late on but actually found less than hoped fading to a respectable and close-up third. There was nothing wrong with this, but I no longer feel he’s well treated and I’m dropping him off the list.
Midnight Shadow (Sue Smith) once again found a way to get beaten at Haydock in the graduation chase, looking the certain winner all the way up the home straight before finding a rejuvenated Keeper Hill staying on to mug him in the shadows of the post. If he was mine, I’d give him a couple of soft wins in bad company and bring him back for something like the Grand Annual – I still think he will make up into a serious chaser.
Rosy World (Suzy Smith) was well backed for the mares handicap hurdle at Ascot and travelled extremely strongly but a stop start gallop would not have suited and she lacked the gears late on. She is going to win a handicap off her current mark, but we may have to wait for a suitable war of attrition on bad ground to see it, I will persist with her.
Tedham (J O’Neill) & Lisnagar Oscar (R.Curtis) led the ante-post market for the big stayers handicap hurdle at Haydock on Saturday and perhaps both were a shade disappointing given that. Tedham stayed on for a never nearer 3rd given far too much to do by Nick Scholfield (a jockey riding with absolutely no conviction at present) and remains well handicapped while Lisnagar Oscar was very weak in the market on the day and produced a lifeless effort, I am concerned he may have a problem and he is jettisoned.