Friday October 25th
The form book says Al Dancer*, the Betfair Hurdle winner from last season, the race run at Ascot – always winning it when coming to take Magic Dancer’s measure from the home turn – but it’s a novice chase, and it’s not as simple as that. I personally prefer Getaway Trump**, a tall, deep-girthed chasing type who won at Sandown on the last day of last season in the valuable novices’ handicap hurdle, maintaining a 2-length lead all the way up the run-in; on looks, fences are emphatically what he needs. Caius Marcius has done well over the Summer, but it’s at this time of year that his form goes, while Not That Fuisse, over a stone behind all of these on official ratings, is outclassed.
Selection: GETAWAY TRUMP – Alternative: Al Dancer
I make this a competitive one, and not Wholestone all the way. Sure, he’s the best hurdler, but he lacked consistency last season, and although he had nothing to do at Perth on his chasing debut in September, for me he made a meal of doing it, jumping to the left and having more than one hairy moment. He can win this, but I wouldn’t want short odds. Preference is for Dinons**, who won a novice hurdle at this meeting last year with a ton in hand, and jumped well on his way to victory over fences at Limerick last time, not needing to be hard ridden at any point – that his third win over fences from five chase starts.
Of the others Aye Aye Charlie‘s chance is reliant on his form from 2018/19 rather than his form from last season (best when not beaten far behind Black Op in the Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in April 2019) and I prefer Minella Warrior*, on whom the jockey needed to get stuck in quite a long way out at Wetherby when he was last seen out, but he found plenty from the home turn to land a Class 2 handicap hurdle. Boyhood is as good over hurdles and jumped soundly when beating Truckers Lodge at Newton Abbot on his chasing debut in May, but he can race lazily, while I’m against Mulcahys Hill (twice reluctant to race last season, including in the National Hunt Chase at the Festival in which he was a faller), Rockpoint who doesn’t have a good record when fresh and looked ungenuine himself when he was last seen out, and Present Ranger who looks outclassed on his Market Rasen-win in August, under a strong ride from as far out as the third last.
Selection: DINONS – Alternative: Minella Warrior
Peter The Mayo Man
On debut for Skelton stable, may well have finished runner-up but for falling in handicap chase at Worcester last month behind Theo, took 3rd 8th but niggled along and had 4 lengths to find on 1st 2, stayed on and got to within 2 lengths home turn, not fluent 4 out and pushed along, little impression 3 out, stuck to task under a ride, hung left between last 2, challenging for 2nd when fell last. Doesn’t fully apply himself under pressure but well treated and clearly has all his ability in tact
Reappears on a hattrick which he started at Ludlow in December 2018 and leg two was at Kempton in January on what turned out to be his final start of the season, keen, mistakes 5th and 6th, closer order approaching home turn, niggled along briefly, produced to challenge approaching 2 out, upsides jumping, shaken up, put under pressure approaching last, made a length and led over it, driven out, stayed on well last 150 yards, pulling clear at the post. Genuine effort to beat Magic Dancer and recent Chepstow winner Speed Company, but jumping and keenness a concern as is first time out-fitness; unproven on soft (should that much rain fall)
Also on a hattrick bid, his winning run beginning at Sedgefield on March 21st and the follow-up at Carlisle on April 20th, tracked leader going best from 3 out, led on the bit 2 out, shaken up, ran on between last 2, drew comfortably clear, given unnecessary reminders after last though in the clear, won readily, eased late to beat Staged Engagement. Having won three out of four over hurdles up to now, could go well
Ran well when 5th to Uno Mas over the New Course here in April, left disputing lead 2 out and pushed along home turn, every chance last and stayed on under pressure till faded last 100 yards; been busy over fences over the Summer and good last time out-run at Southwell in August, keen hold, disputed lead briefly 6th, brushed inside wing 9th, niggled along 10th, ridden along home turn, disputed lead 3 out, hard driven, every chance 2 out, driven and faded between last 2, reached for last, weakened run-in, was being closed on by the 4th last 75 yards, beaten 6 lengths by Utility. Going back to the Cheltenham race he might have done a bit better if he’d been held on to, but he doesn’t win often and in both the races mentioned in this write-up, he found little to varying extents
Best performance when winning handicap over the New Course here in January, dropped out last taking a keen hold, smooth headway to close on leaders approaching last and jumped it only 4 lengths down, at most niggled along and quickly made up the remaining ground early on run-in, got a split and led 175 yards out, drew clear of subsequent Silver Trophy-winner Flash The Steel; landed the odds in an ordinary Market Rasen novice subsequently. Ran well fresh last season and his trainer Fergal O’Brien had a double on Thursday; the sharper Old Course is not guaranteed to suit, but chances
Successful at Fakenham last New Year’s Day, closed on those ahead under a vigorous push after 3 out, 3 lengths down 2 out, put under pressure, stayed on from home turn, got a split on inner approaching last, hard driven, stayed on, gradually closed on leader, led post. Didn’t look the winner for most of the last circuit but got there eventually to beat Swaffham Bulbeck a nose. Was well held 3rd in Class 3 handicap hurdle at Fontwell on October 4th, chased leader again as pace increased 6th, went left 7th, niggled along turning out of back straight, hard ridden home turn, hung left, driven after 2 out, lugged left and not stay on, faded, well held last, continued to lose ground on 1st 2 run-in, didn’t see it out and beaten 10 lengths behind 25/1-chance Harefield. Could be best watched, resolution looking an issue
Has developed a tendency to lose his place and get driven along around halfway in his most recent races, including in Prelude Hurdle at Market Rasen in September, mistake 4th, went left 5th and firmly pushed along away from it, struggling going to 6th where another mistake, tailed off turning out of back straight, no more under a ride home turn, trailed in behind Scarlet Dragon. Is down the weights and has blinkers back on, but was in better form this time last year when he came in to this race (winning impressively, which shouldn’t be overlooked) and harder to fancy
Won one out of four over hurdles, at Market Rasen on Boxing Day; but better effort in defeat at Taunton in January behind Thomas Darby, chased leader after 3 out, half a length down jumping 2 out, shaken up, half a chance last, ridden, no impression last 175 yards, beaten 3 lengths. In good form on the Flat over the Summer, until well held at Haydock on soft going last time – best Flat run when winning in a small field at Ripon in August, chased leader, shaken up 3f out, hard driven 2f out, stayed on and moved upsides leader, led narrowly entering final furlong, 1st 2 asserted final 75 yards, stayed on well under pressure, could have gone either way but headed post. A bit unlucky that it went against him, did nothing wrong and showed a good attitude, beaten a nose by Stormin Tom. Always the chance that his busy spell might have caught up but chances on paper
Won Class 3 handicap hurdle at Cartmel off 122 in May 2018 but hasn’t been showing form that good for a while, finding little in a claiming hurdle at Compiegne in September prior to running another poor race in Prelude Hurdle at Market Rasen later that month, blundered 3rd, niggled along after 4th, mistake 3 out, still niggled along and making little ground, more firmly pushed along turning out of back straight, going worst of the main group home turn, pushed along and kept on a little going to 2 out, well held some 15 to 18 lengths down last, ran 7th beaten 14 lengths in the end behind Scarlet Dragon. With blinkers replacing the usual visor (blinkered record is F04), little hope
Best effort last season when winning a handicap hurdle at Wincanton in January, moved comfortably 3 out, disputed lead turning out of back straight, led narrowly approaching home turn, moved best turning in, at most nudged along approaching 2 out, shaken up after it, ran on and drew clear betwen last 2, wandered a little, some 10 lengths clear last, ridden out till eased close home, readily and decisive from Highest Sun. Not at his best on his reappearance at Wincanton on October 9th, the 2m4f-trip looking against him: keen hold, mistakes , ridden into 7th, niggled along approaching turn out of back straight, soon arguably going worst of the field, still half a chance home turn, pushed along, faded and changed legs approaching 2 out, no impression approaching last, weakened last 150 yards, finished tired and 6th to Irish Prophecy. It’s open to question whether or not this is his trip and he was too keen on his reappearance anyway, so might be best to put a line through that – on last season’s best he’d get into this
Two wins last season and best effort in January when beating Thounder, led 1st, soon clear, reached for 5th, niggled along leaving back straight, pressed on approaching 3 out, pushed along after it, suddenly looked all out and was hard driven approaching 2 out, was 2 lengths up jumping, hard driven again, wandered under strong pressure, out on his feet but the better jump last, driven out, clearly empty last 100 yards but never in danger of defeat. Had nothing to spare and was lucky no challenger was near. Last seen at Wetherby in March and disappointed, sent clear 5th, moved comfortably home turn, niggled along approaching 3 out, a length up jumping, hard ridden, headed 2 out, weakened approaching last, well held when steadied into it, continued to lose ground run-in when 6th to Suggestion beaten 23 lengths. The clues to what happened last time out were there in the Leicester race and he won’t be able to dominate this
Made all to win in a small field at Worcester in September (all but one of his nine jumps wins there – the other at Southwell) , pushed along when in close to 3 out, hard ridden and had a couple going better than him closing up approaching 2 out, hard driven and wandered a little going to last but stayed on, the better jump last, found more under pressure, stayed on strongly last 150 yards. Raced lazily perhaps and certainly wasn’t going best at the second last but beat Competition just short of a length. Nowhere near that in more competitive race at Worcester on September 10th, mistake 4th and niggled along, hard ridden and lost place turning out of back straight, well back and tailing off home turn, hopeless 2 out and tailed-off 7th behind New Millennium. No jumps wins in fields bigger than 10
Best effort to date over hurdles when winning at Limerick in July, closer order 6th, some 3 or 4 lengths down home turn going comfortably, niggled along approaching 2 out, forced a split nearing it, hard ridden, ran on to lead last, soon clear, ridden out, stayed on well run-in, decisive in the end by just over 2 lengths from As High Say. Better run than the distance beaten would suggest back at Limerick last time on October 13th on heavy ground (was good when she won), not shaken up 3 out with a bit to do in last, headway round the field turning out of back straight, only 3 lengths down home turn, soon niggled along, pushed along when left 3rd 2 out, hard ridden, no impression and one pace between last 2, 3rd beaten 14 lengths behind Penny Out. Off a mark 10 lbs higher than her Turf Club rating, needs to improve a lot to take a hand – and is not being claimed off – but she’s unexposed
Shortlist: Whoshotthesheriff, War Brigade, The Twisler