Cheltenham Race Preview, 24/10/2020

Saturday October 24th

Cheltenham 3.15
Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle Series Qualifier Class 2
2m7f208y – Going: Good – Over the Old Course – 18 runners

Only win last season when taking this race, pulling clear with Sunset Showdown from the last and typically resolute in beating him half a length; arguably a better run when 3rd, carrying 11-12, to Golan Fortune at the November meeting, pushed along and outpaced approaching 2 out, shuffled back to midfield, hard ridden home turn and looked held, stayed on approaching last, passed beaten ones, put under strong pressure, sustained effort and passed more rivals to take 3rd close home. In too deep in the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival on his last start but ran with credit, a bit to do under a ride approaching 2 out, not clear run approaching home turn, hard ridden, was bumped some 175 yards off last, put under pressure, carried head to one side and couldn’t go with leaders nearing last, well held run-in, beaten 8 lengths behind Lisnagar Oscar. With Jack Tudor taking 5 lbs off, he arguably has as much chance of winning this race again as he did last year
Honest Vic*
Two wins last season, at Market Rasen on reappearance and Kempton on Boxing Day, before acquitting himself well in Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival, tracked leaders, ridden into 3 out, within a length travelling comfortably approaching 2 out, pushed along after it, turned for home a length down under a ride, stayed on, every chance till faded nearing last, looked held jumping, driven, kept on, passed a beaten one after last, stayed on well but not quite get 4th, beaten just over 6 lengths behind Dame De Compagnie. Best work at the end of the Coral Cup, running as if he’ll stay 3m; bred to stay too (dam’s dam was the dam of Heathfield, who won over 3m6f), so a good chance on seasonal debut
Champagne Court*
In 2018/19 best run over hurdles when 3rd to Colonial Dreams at Sandown on the last day of the season, had nine in front of him and under pressure going to 2 out, doing his best work in the last 300 yards to get in the frame close home. Best run in four starts over fences last season when winning at Plumpton in November 2019, went on, flat-backed jump 6th, was joined 3 out, travelled much the best turning out of back straight, niggled along going to 2 out, pushed along on landing and found more to draw clear of Diable De Sivola by last; ran okay behind Imperial Aura in the novices’ handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival when last seen,  prominent, mistake 3 out, pushed along approaching home turn, faded approaching 2 out where bumped rival, well held last, kept on up the hill but lost 7th place post. This one’s dam’s dam is a full sister to Royal Athlete, so you’d think he’s sure to stay, and he’s well treated over hurdles to say the least
The Devils Drop
Completed a hattrick in Summer 2018 when last in action, defeating Demon D’Aunou at Southwell that August on most recent start, chased leader approaching 2nd, ridden into 3 out as pace increased, niggled along turning out of back straight, pushed along and disputed lead home turn, not going best approaching 2 out, the better jump there and led a neck between last 2, put under strong pressure, stayed on well approaching last, led a length and a half jumping and pecked on landing/stumbled slightly, ridden out, carried tail a little high but stayed on well. He’s well treated on that form; no certainty to be fit enough after 797 days off, but his trainer Alan King has won twice this year with horses who’ve been off for more than 740 days
Minella Warrior
After three wins over hurdles in 2018/19 – looking a strong stayer when taking a Class 2 handicap at Wetherby in March 2019 on the last of them – has been a disappointment over fences, beaten double digits in two starts this Summer, at Southwell in August on most recent outing pushed along and took little interest after 12th, lost ground on The Butcher Said gradually from 14th, well back 4 out and reminder, no impression from turn out of back straight. Well treated on back form over hurdles, but looks to be going the wrong way temperamentally and he could be best watched
Lock’s Corner
Completed a long-range four-timer – two hurdles, two chases, starting in October 2019 – when winning over 2m4f at Bangor on September 29th, nudged along after 6th, chased leader from 8th, ridden into 3 out, pushed along approaching home turn, stayed on under a ride and disputed lead approaching 2 out, definite lead approaching last, 3 lengths up jumping, ridden out, carried head a little to one side but extended lead run-in under a push, decisive with a bit in hand by 8 lengths from Pogue. Related on the dam’s side of his pedigree to useful staying hurdler Glacial Sunset, he should stay this longer trip and is a live contender
Ballon Onabudget
Been consistent over the Summer and posted a career-best to date when winning a Class 2 handicap hurdle at Newton Abbot on September 8th, mistakes 6th and 7th, niggled along 8th, pushed along before 9th, switched inner to middle of the track before mistake 3 out, reminders and apparently struggling, kept on in 5 lengths 6th on outer turning out of back straight, stayed on home turn but a bit to do, sustained effort and took 2nd 2 out, some 5 lengths down approaching last, much the better jump and instantly reduced the gap from around 4 lengths to upsides, swept by and drew clear last 50 yards. The win wouldn’t have happened if runner-up Story Of Friends, who reopposes, had got the last right, but best work at the end and might be on to run well again here, although tendency to race lazily is a worry
Raced lazily and seemed best on soft ground last season, although did get two wins. Good reappearance, and best to date, in Silver Trophy at Chepstow a fortnight ago, but still some negatives about it; prominent, a little slow 1st, ridden into 5th, mistake 6th and niggled along for a few strides, produced to challenge and moved comfortably approaching 3 out, quickly outpaced when shaken up and pushed along approaching 2 out, jumped it in 7 lengths 5th, put under pressure approaching omitted last, passed rivals 300 yards out, took 3rd under driving 200 yards out, no impression on 1st 2. On the one hand he travelled better than he did when winning last season; on the other, he quickly lost his chance when the winner Tea Clipper and others were asked for their efforts after the third last, so for me no winner in waiting. Pedigree is a mixed bag, and for me not certain to stay
Neville’s Cross
Two from two this season, those his only wins over hurdles to date; easily career best at Hereford 11 days ago, good ground and prominent 9th, travelled comfortably and tracked leaders when niggled along approaching 2 out, disputed lead jumping, ridden and definite lead approaching home turn, pushed along, found extra and was 5 lengths clear turning in, drew further clear under a push before and after last, continued to draw clear run-in, readily and decisive. Took that with something in hand, but it was an exposed 10 year-old in 2nd – Dadsintrouble – from whom he was getting 6 lbs, and nobody else gave their running; the horse doesn’t know that of course
Extended his superb record at Uttoxeter to five wins from six starts with a career-best performance to win there on October 4th, midfield 3rd, further headway and prominent approaching 8th, ridden into it, travelled comfortably and tracked leaders home turn, chased leader straightening, shaken up after 3 out, effort and led approaching 2 out, hard driven and stayed on in front approaching last, 1st 2 pulled clear, the better jump last, ridden out, stayed on well. Finding more than the irresolute West To The Bridge after the last, won by just over a length. No better way to see if he can win elsewhere – which he hasn’t yet – than trying him in a competitive Cheltenham handicap
Cotswold Way
Going the wrong way since last Autumn, he’s been returned to hurdles and tried in blinkers on his last two starts, still going in snatches in Silver Trophy at Chepstow a fortnight ago, midfield when mistake 4th, ridden into 5th and 6th, pushed along after 7th and again dropped rear, pushed along and still rear 3 out, outpaced under a ride approaching 2 out, well held when mistake, put under pressure, stayed on extended run-in and was closing strongly on the 5th last 100 yards. Looks to have ‘gone’ temperamentally; tries this trip for the first time but not certain to stay it – his four siblings are 0 from 10 over 3m or more
Over two years without a win, didn’t look like winning at any point behind Capone at Uttoxeter last time, dropped out last and detached, mistakes 1st, 4th and 5th, niggled along 6th, mistake 7th, hard ridden turning out of back straight, well back 3 out, reminder, no impression approaching 2 out, made no ground between last 2, picked off beaten ones nearing it, kept on run-in, was closing on 3rd last 100 yards but no change of getting the place, essentially made no contribution. He’s run 25 times right-handed and only won that way round – all five of his runs going left-handed have been either double-digit defeats or pulled up
Story Of Friends
Improved over the Summer, mostly over 3m2f at Newton Abbot, winning on September 1st – edged closer approaching home turn, drew upsides travelling best approaching 2 out, led jumping, quickly hard driven, stayed on well approaching last, clear and safe when mistake, pushed out, unchallenged from Glanvilles Guest – and should have followed up  a week later,  ridden into 4th, 8th and 9th, moved largely comfortably before mistake 3 out, switched round rivals approaching turn out of back straight, drew upsides leader and pair 2 lengths clear home turn, niggled along, sent on approaching 2 out and pushed along, clear 2 out, lugged left, hard ridden and stayed on to go 5 lengths clear, began to tire nearing last, no stride, mistake and stumbled on landing, lost all momentum and readily swamped by Ballon Onabudget last 50 yards, was being closed on by the 3rd last stride. Although he was tiring, with a good jump he’d most likely have held on; not yet exposed and being claimed off, could do something although he tends to hang
Kansas City Chief
Miles on the clock now; best run last season at Doncaster in February,  travelled best of the field approaching 3 out, mistake, shaken up, stayed on, narrow lead 2 out, hard driven, stayed on, rider pulled whip through to right hand approaching last, led a length and a half when jinked left and ran out last; was 6th to Sire Du Berlais in Pertemps Final in March but ended up a pacemaker, disputed lead 2 out, headed, at most nudged along approaching home turn, shaken up straightening, stayed on and still every chance till faded 175 yards off last, looked held jumping, driven, no more. Reappearance at Uttoxeter last month and well held behind Sirobbie, led, 2 lengths clear 3 out, hard ridden and headed approaching 2 out, put under pressure, lost considerable ground, got very tired and heavy-legged approaching last. Now 11 and not the force of old, here probably as a setter-upper
Not had many hurdle races; best run when winning at Kempton in January 2019, nudged along approaching 3 out where steadied into it, mistake and outpaced, closed on leader approaching home turn, pair clear, pushed along straightening with a length and a half to find, drew upsides 2 out, led between last 2, the better jump last, ridden out, stayed on well to assert run-in from Larkbarrow Lad. First run over hurdles since February 2019, tailed-off 9th to Sirobbie at Uttoxeter last month, prominent, mistake 6th, in close to 8th, tracked leaders again approaching 9th, niggled along after it, held place to home turn, soon more firmly ridden, lost place 3 out, dropped away quickly and well held approaching 2 out, tailed off between last 2. His Flat-mark has gone down 13 lbs in the last year and a half and he’s probably best watched
I’d Better Go Now
Progressing hurdler made a winning reappearance in Class 3 handicap at Perth last month, edging closer when mistake 3 out, niggled along home turn with 6 in front and around 6 lengths to find, stayed on under a push approaching 2 out, hard driven between last 2, stayed on well and made up 6 or 7 lengths to jump last upsides, led early on run-in, driven clear, all out last few strides but by then was 4 lengths up, workmanlike and decisive from Jack Devine. Tougher task here but unexposed
Goodbye Dancer
Would have gone close to following a win here in December but for falling on New Year’s Day, held up last, headway 3 out going well, nudged along with 4 lengths to find home turn, edged closer, travelled best approaching last, produced to challenge when fell, the race won by Skandiburg. Yet to hit form this season, at Southwell in July niggled along after 8th, kept on under a ride home turn, just about in touch with them when not fluent 2 out, outpaced between last 2 behind Rhythm Is A Dancer, and last time tailed off behind Yes No Maybe So at Uttoxeter, ridden along and going worst of the field after 9th, lost place and last turning out of back straight. ridden along to no avail home turn, weakened from 3 out. Soft or heavy going has been important to this one since 2015 and he hasn’t shown his form in October for as long as he’s raced
Runner-up three times from six runs in France over the Summer, best form behind King Of Run at Auteuil on September 1st, about 5 lengths down 2 out, put under pressure, switched wide approaching last, carried head to one side, in close to last, stayed on well under pressure last 200 yards, closed on those ahead, passed a few to take 2nd close home. Last out only a week ago at Auteuil and didn’t run so well, ear of leading group home turn some 6 lengths off leader, hard ridden and went middle approaching 2 out, put under pressure and one pace approaching last, looked held jumping, driven and no more run-in, 4th beaten 17 lengths behind Bahia Des Obeaux. Unproven at the trip and having never shown his best form when running less than 19 days after his latest run, not for me

Shortlist: Honest Vic, Champagne Court, Sirobbie

Cheltenham 3.50
Matchbook Betting Exchange Handicap Chase Class 2
3m1f – Going: Good – Over the Old Course – 11 runners

Lagged the top-class form he showed in 2018/19 last season, only success when beating Keeper Hill in Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton last January; the writing was on the wall in this year’s Ryanair Chase from before halfway, lost place and midfield 7th, improved position and prominent from 13th, niggled along approaching 3 out, hard ridden and outpaced approaching home turn, lost ground on those ahead approaching 2 out under a ride, well held approaching last, weakened up the hill and was being closed on by the 5th last 150 yards, beaten 15 lengths into 4th behind Min. Yet to win on the Old Course here (best effort on it his staying-on 2nd to Baron Alco in the 2018 Betvictor Gold Cup), likely to find this tough off 164; having said that he won off that rating in the 2018 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup
West Approach*
In this race last year ran 2nd to The Conditional; best two subsequent runs this season were at Cheltenham including the 3m3f chase on the Betvictor Gold Cup-undercard last November from Achille, going best home turn, niggled along approaching 2 out, soon ridden, disputed 2nd last under a ride, ridden, switched near side (stands’ side), ran on when in the clear to draw away, readily and decisive; in a stronger race in December over the Old Course needed a truckload of persuasion to do anything, pushed along at the top of the hill, in 7th with some 4 or 5 lengths to find under a push home turn, stayed on and closed on leaders approaching 2 out, carried head to one side, no extra approaching last, hard driven up the hill, stayed on last 150 yards, cloed on those ahead, took 3rd close home, not reach Cogry and Rock The Kasbah. Form tailed off last three starts, ending up back over hurdles and pulled up, having got tailed off by the second last, in the Stayers’ Hurdle when last seen. If consenting to put his best foot forward, chance off 147
Bob Mahler
Pulled up in this race last year behind The Conditional, but the heavy ground probably wasn’t ideal that time. The only place he looked like winning the Edinburgh National at Musselburgh was the post, even over the 4m1f of that race; in first-time blinkers, ran well in Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir at the Festival when last seen, disputed lead 19th, pushed along before mistake and pecked on landing 3 out, chased leader after, moved comfortably enough till pushed along approaching home turn, every chance straightening, one pace approaching 2 out, driven and no extra approaching last, driven and bumped eventual 4th 200 yards out, stayed on well final 150 yards and was closing strongly on the 2nd last strides, beaten just over three lengths behind Milan Native. With cheekpieces back on for this reappearance, might pick up some scraps at the end but an unlikely winner
Captain Chaos
Was having a nowhere-season, then blinkers were applied for the Classic Chase at Warwick and he was a different animal, still needing a forcing ride, and there were still odd mistakes, but he only gave best to Kimberlite Candy at the second last. In a less competitive race on unusually desperate conditions for the track, with the same tactics employed he took the Grimthorpe at Doncaster, officially by 54 lengths from Worthy Farm, none of the others giving their running. The blinkers are left off for this reappearance, and with a Cheltenham record comprising three double-digit defeats and a pulled-up (which came in this race last year), I fancy this won’t be happening
Has run in the last four renewals of this race, his record in it is F123. Followed up his good 3rd to The Conditional in last year’s running with a win from Rock The Kasbah in December, then arguably better form when 2nd here on New Year’s Day, led or disputed, dived at 9th, headed, lost a length or so when niggled along after 18th, lost place and midfield under a ride 4 out, struggling 3 out and put under pressure as became detached from main group, passed a beaten one but looked held approaching 2 out, took 4th last under a ride and stayed on well up the hill, took 2nd close home, no impression on Doing Fine. Where he was from the third last to the home turn is possibly the best reflection of his merit on the day as he didn’t hold his place up with the pace that time. Disappointed in Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival when last seen, headed 4th, gradually lost place, struggling and pushed along in midfield after 9th, weakened further, had dropped rear when abruptly pulled up before 11th. Wears a visor instead of cheekpieces; in his long career (this is his 44th race in seven years of racing) he’s been visored just once, and was 3rd over an inadequate 2m4f at Warwick in 2016. Hard to leave out given his ‘previous’
Cobra De Mai*
Blank season last term, arguably best run when 6th to The Conditional in Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March,  rear after 11th, mistake 13th, headway and midfield 17th, niggled along at the top of the hill, ridden into 3 out with quite a bit to do, hard ridden approaching home turn, passed a few but struggling to get on terms, not fluent 2 out, stayed on into 7th last, put under pressure, kept on, took 6th 125 yards out, no impression on those ahead. Inadequate trip and usual cheekpieces missing when only 7th to Imperial Presence over 2m5f at Fontwell on October 2nd on reappearance, vigorously pushed along starting final circuit, brushed 11th and pushed along away from it, lost place after 12th, mistake 3 out when held, lost further ground before 2 out, tailed off last. A course winner off 142 in April 2019 – up with the pace throughout when beating Rocky’s Treasure – he could easily be competitive here off 140 with the cheekpieces back on
Good mare who mixed chasing with hurdling last season; best chase run when winning Listed race at Warwick in December over 2m4f, moved into 2nd before 4 out, nudged along home turn, pushed along approaching 2 out, stayed on under a ride though hung right approaching last, the better jump and led, driven out, maintained clear lead, didn’t look to have a lot left last 150 yards but never in danger  – would have been interesting had Chilli Filli not blundered at the last and she didn’t look the most straightforward under pressure, but she won 5 lengths. Better piece of form over hurdles when she was 2nd in a Grade 2 at Ascot in January, niggled along 8th,  headway to chase winner approaching home turn and going comfortably, pushed along home turn, hung right approaching 2 out, not fluent there, hard driven approaching last, no impression on Magic Of Light, looked held last some 5 lengths down, kept on under pressure run-in, no more last 150 yards, was being closed on by the 3rd close home. Not strong at the end of either of those races – nor on her last start in Silver Plate at Kempton in which she was tailed off after weakening 2 out – she isn’t certain to stay (she shouldn’t on pedigree), however… she’s a course winner over hurdles, and she’s not out of the first three when racing in October, November and December
Progressing chaser who’s unbeaten when completing the course over fences with four chase wins (unseated on the other), and stepped up from Class 4 to Class 3 to make a winning reappearance at Bangor last month, tracked leaders from 11th, in close to 13th and 14th, disputed lead 4 out, led outright 3 out, travelled best approaching home turn, shaken up approaching 2 out, put under strong pressure and stayed on, wandered left approaching last, a length up when in close, driven out, all out, always finding enough to beat Captain Tommy a length. Wandered under pressure (jockey too aggressive) and didn’t really put it to bed until inside the last 100 yards, but unexposed, so even though the style marks were low, he’s not one to put to one side – that said the form of the Bangor race has had its knocks since, so no favourite’s chance
Cloth Cap
No wins since November 2018; best run last season when narrow 2nd to My Old Gold in small field at Doncaster in December, led 9th, reached for 10th, moved comfortably home turn, ridden into and blundered 4 out, pushed along, stayed on, led a length 3 out, put under pressure, 1st 2 pulled clear, the better jump 2 out, stayed on under strong pressure though wandered approaching last, was closed on 175 yards out, driven, stayed on, was closed on last 100 yards, headed two strides from the post and no extra – unlucky to be collared. Last seen when 8th to Milan Native in Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival, pushed along and not clear run after 18th, some ground 19th, pushed along in prominent to midfield-position approaching 3 out, ridden, stayed on approaching home turn, passed a few under a ride and turned for home in 6th some 3 lengths down, outpaced approaching 2 out, looked held between last 2, driven and no extra before last. On all of his seasonal debuts he’s been beaten double digits, suggesting this first run for 226 days won’t be the time to catch him 
Perfect Candidate
This 13 year-old has needed the trip to be 3m3f or more to win a race for the last three years, and won over 3m4f at Haydock last November; signed off for last season with a good 2nd to Christmas In April over 3m6f in Devon National at Exeter on heavy going, disputed lead approaching 16th, in close to 17th, hard ridden home turn, within a neck 4 out, driven, led 3 out, stayed on under pressure, hard ridden and led narrowly 2 out, sustained effort under strong pressure till headed nearing last, readily left behind run-in, got tired quickly, was at a virtual walk last 100 yards. Nothing like the force of old, and it speaks volumes that Paddy Brennan, who of course would get first call on most horses his great mate Fergal O’Brien runs, is riding Sensulano for Noel Williams, rather than this one
Infrequent winner; only success last season when beating Potterman at Warwick in September 2019; was a tailed-off 10th to The Conditional in Ultima Handicap Chase at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, detached last after 11th, blundered 12th. Sound reappearance when 2nd to Young Wolf over 3m1f100y at Warwick on September 22nd, headway 15th and went 3rd, mistakes 16th and 4 out, hit 3 out, niggled along, pushed along home turn and closed on leaders, carried head slightly to one side but led 2 out, put under pressure, stayed on but didn’t put it to bed, winner drew uspides last, driven and headed run-in, stuck to task but no extra last 150 yards, beaten just over a length. Doesn’t have a reputation for being strong at the finish, but that was one of his better runs; it was, however, another defeat over 3m+ (albeit not beaten far – other three outings over the distance were tailed-offs) and, in this better race, not likely to be doing anything from out of the weights

Shortlist: West Approach, Cobra De Mai

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