Chepstow Race Preview, 10/10/2020

Saturday October 10th

Chepstow 2.47
Native River Handicap Chase Class 2
2m7f131y – Going: Good (Good to Soft in places) – 10 runners

Great season last term with three wins, including this race (challenged by Lil Rockerfeller going to 3 out where the better jump, pulled clear going to 2 out, ridden further clear approaching last), the Charlie Hall at Wetherby (closed on by Elegant Escape from the last but never in danger) and limited handicap at Ascot (stayed on in front and 2 to 3 lengths clear home turn, ridden and stayed on to go further clear nearing last, ridden out from Valtor). Off 157 that time, he’s 164 here; likely to go well to a point, but the good ground will bring the others into it
Brave Eagle
In this race in 2018 ran 3rd to The Young Master, dropped last and nudged along 9th, consented to stay on late in the day and pass a few; in 2019 won a handicap chase at Haydock in May and the Summer Cup at Uttoxeter in June. Nothing much in only two runs last season, on the second of them in Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival mistake 2nd, slow 3rd, mistake 8th, little ground before mistake 17th, looked well held approaching 3 out, pushed along and made no ground, tailed off from 2 out. Likely to lose his place before getting going (and nowhere near as good as his 156-mark at his best), makes no appeal
Secret Investor*
Lightly campaigned last season and no wins; best run – and I’m not sure if it’s actually any good – was his 2nd to Native River in Denman Chase at Newbury last February, chased leader 11th, some 3 lengths down 5 out, nudged along approaching 4 out, looked the winner approaching 3 out, niggled along approaching 2 out and still looked the stronger till mistake 2 out, shaken up, kept on, was 3 lengths down last, ridden and wandered, hard driven run-in, stayed on but one pace last 150 yards, stuck to task. Looking the winner against Native River is misleading considering that one’s off-the-bit run style and he seemed to have run a belter; he didn’t deserve to go up to 153 for it, but still has a chance
After failing to impress on chasing debut won his next two chases, the second at Doncaster in December; niggled along in midfield to rear after 9th, blundered 12th, edged closer home turn, made ground to track leaders approaching 4 out, going best as produced to challenge approaching 3 out, led and went left there, soon clear, put under pressure approaching last, 5 lengths up jumping, pushed out, stayed on well to beat Bob Mahler. Would have landed the hattrick but for falling last in Towton Novices’ at Wetherby in February, chased leader from 5 out, moved best of the field home turn, pushed along approaching 4 out, led narrowly approaching 3 out, stayed on approaching 2 out, drew 2 lengths clear, all out approaching last, continued to stay on under pressure and was 3 lengths up looking the most likely winner when fell last. Needs to improve, and for me lacks size, but unexposed
Steely Addition*
In 2018/19 won on heavy at Chepstow (looked the winner approaching 4 out, drew upsides there, 1st 2 drew clear, on the wrong leg 3 out, still not shaken up 2 out, finally ridden a few strides after that and quickly put under pressure/wandered, still only upsides jumping last, hard driven, asserted 150 yards out to beat Yalltari) and also on good at Hereford. Last season wasted his time against Santini at Sandown on reappearance, then moved best for a long way until conditions got the better of him in the end in Haydock National Trial in February, crept forward and in touch final circuit, mistake 5 out, run blocked on inner turning out of back straight, hard ridden and weakened, well held and tailing off when pulled up before 3 out. Perhaps the extreme trip was beyond him, and this is a suitable target on his reappearance
Improved this Summer; ran into one in Imada at Bangor in July, then took a handicap chase at Market Rasen the following month; tracked leaders 14th, niggled along home turn, nearly upsides leader 3 out, hard ridden and hung right going to 2 out, led there, continued to hang, led a length when jumped right last, ridden out, found extra, stayed on well last 150 yards to pull clear, decisive. Skilfully handled by Tom Cannon, he picked up well on the run-in; he may have jumped right there but he’s won five times left-handed – Chepstow is a two-straight-lines-track, like Worcester, where he’s two from two; ground in his favour too
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 Chepstow record comprising three tailed-offs and a pulled-up, I fancy this won’t be happening
Some Chaos
In March 2019 took the Liz Adam Memorial at Kelso, prominent, several mistakes including bad blunder 9th, made ground home turn, produced to challenge approaching 2 out, pushed along, stayed on well under pressure approaching last and led, in close to it, hard driven, found more last 150 yards to beat Blue Flight. No form last season in two hurdles either side of the Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury where he was tailed off 9pushed along and lost place turning out of back straight, hard ridden and struggling home turn, mistake 4 out, well held 3 out), and in a weak small-field novice hurdle at Bangor on reappearance failed to land the odds, pushed along and lost place turning out of back straight, hard ridden and struggling home turn, mistake 4 out, well held 3 out behind Cool Destination. Not badly treated and going in favour
Django Django
Best performance last season when winning handicap chase at Newbury in January, tracked leaders when took off on the wrong leg 11th, niggled along home turn, still niggled but looked to be going best passing omitted 3 out, pushed along approaching 2 out, upsides leaders, rathed cajoled along approaching last, upsides runner-up jumping, shaken up run-in, found extra 175 yards out, driven out, idled in front last 100 yards but always finding enough from Notachance. Didn’t jump well when modest 4th to Stadivarius Davis at Catterick on final start last season, niggled along approaching 14th and 15th, more firmly ridden along approaching 4 out, dropped to detached last and struggling approaching 3 out. Proven on heavy and a track winner over hurdles, has a chance if coming back to his best
On the second of his three novice chase starts to date won at Cartmel in August, tracked 1st 2, in close to 6th, mistake 9th, ridden into 10th, mistake 11th (water), nudged along before 3 out, headway and drew upsides 2 out, moved comfortably, led last, niggled along and readily drew clear, more firmly pushed along and reminder home turn, stayed on well under a ride to maintain clear advantage, ridden out, was closed on last 150 yards but never in danger, decisive from Shantaluze. More mistakes when a close 2nd to Darling Maltaix at Stratford last time, firmly pushed along home turn, stayed on and closed on winner approaching last, had 3/4 length to find jumping it, hard driven, no extra under pressure till closed a little last 100 yards, never getting there and beaten a neck. For me an unlikely stayer, and pedigree suggests he won’t stay 3m (dam is related to a 2m4f-hurdler)

Shortlist: Secret Investor, Steely Addition, Potterman

Chepstow 3.57
Wasdell Group Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle Class 1 Grade 3
2m3f100y – Going: Good (Good to Soft in places) – 17 runners

Saint Sonnet
Useful ex-French performer made successful British debut in novice chase at Catterick last February,  led before 8th, ridden into 10th, in close to 4 out, pushed along 3 out, had challengers half a length down going to 2 out, stayed on under a hand ride, didn’t go away from pursuers, steadied into last, pushed out from Crixus’s Escape, then midfield in Marsh Novices’ Chase won by Samcro at the Cheltenham Festival, mistake 11th and lost place/rear, niggled along approaching 12th, headway going better and at most 3 lengths down 3 out, pushed along after it, moved largely comfortably turning in then shaken up approaching 2 out, not fluent there, faded, put under pressure, looked held but stuck to task approaching last, pecked on landing, no more up the hill. His British form to date is a stone shy of his overly-steep 147-mark
Sir Psycho
Best performance in his juvenile season when winning the Victor Ludorum at Haydock on heavy going, disputed it after 6th, led going comfortably approaching 3 out, quickened, still looked comfortable approaching 2 out, ridden after last, ran on to draw further clear, readily and decisive from Rockadenn. A bit below that in the Triumph at the Cheltenham Festival behind Burning Victory, mistake 2 out, pushed along, hung left approaching home turn, one pace 250 yards off last, looked well held when left 8 lengths 5th jumping last, driven, kept on, stuck to task and was closing on those ahead final 100 yards. Pedigree has no influence for stamina but he runs like he’ll stay this far (best work at the end of both the Victor Ludorum and the Triumph); however he has knee lift in his action and might prefer soft ground
Not out over hurdles since March 2017 and not raced since March 2019, when pulled up in the Stable Plate at the Cheltenham Festival, keeping on though making no further ground when pulled up before 2 out – was beginning to look held, after the usual hold-up ride, when going amiss before the second last. Taken out of a race at Fontwell a week ago, he has won fresh in the past, but stretching it to suggest he’ll win a race this good after 576 days off – stable in good form though and sent out a winner after 942 days off (Hygrove Percy) in October 2019
Doubly Clever
Lines up off a career-high mark, and on a hattrick after two Newton Abbot wins; on the second of them held up last, mistake 8th, taken widest of all and started a move before mistake 3 out, travelled comfortably and disputed lead turning out of back straight, travelled much the best approaching home turn, led straightening, led a length 2 out, hard ridden, carried head high and wandered, kept on and was closed on approaching last, a length up when the better jump, ridden out, stayed on well to assert from Percy Street. Progressing for new yard (two wins from four starts, including on the Flat, since joining Ben Pauling), but looks too high in the weights now and, prior to this, has looked best in the Summer
Lightly Squeeze
Flash The Steel*
Won this race last year, couple of mistakes, started a move round the field 7th and passed several to go into midfield, further headway to track leaders home turn, moved best from 3 out, niggled along and soon more firmly shaken up to take the lead approaching last, put under strong pressure, 3 lengths clear when mistake last, driven out, all out, didn’t have a lot left at the end but never in danger and beat Champagne Court 2 lengths . Only subsequent form in Martin Pipe C/Js Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, turned for home in 9th some 5 lengths down, pushed along, stayed on some 200 yards off last and closed on those ahead, put under pressure approaching last, no extra nearing it, went left and bumped rival in the air, hampered by the faller, driven and no more last 150 yards, faded. Can be competitive again
Fix Sun
Best form for present stable when winning a Market Rasen novice over 2m2f140y last January, led 3 out, travelled best home turn, sent clear approaching 2 out, had ears pricked, ran on to go further clear approaching last, pushed out, ran on to draw further clear still run-in, readily with plenty in hand.  Looked full of speed there, implying that around the minimum trip is the way to go; over 2m4f at Fakenham only subsequent start, clear 7th, in close to 8th, blundered badly 9th, niggled along after, pressed on going to 2 out, still niggled along approaching home turn, hung right off the rail, hard ridden and was closed on home turn, put under pressure approaching last, stayed on, barely a length ahead last, driven, stayed on, headed 125 yards out, no extra and beaten half a length by Fraternal. Lacks experience for this sort of thing, but the trip is more of a worry for me
Mario De Pail
Won at Kelso on hurdling debut, then better form at Chepstow in January, mistake 3rd, moved comfortably 2 lengths down home turn, edged a little closer 3 out and moved largely comfortably, blundered 2 out, hard ridden and outpaced, stayed on and drew upsides Eden Du Houx approaching last, was leaned on nearing it, half a length down jumping, driven and stayed on strongly run-in, closed on winner last 150 yards, only just failed by a short-head – terrific effort which would have been a win but for the blunder at the second last. Pulled up behind Shishkin in Supreme Novices’ at Cheltenham only subsequent start, ridden along 5th, lost place/struggling and detached at the top of the hill, tailed off 3 out. His dam won over 2m5f and this one should stay further than 2m (certainly wasn’t stopping at the end of the Chepstow race); there is a query over the ground though
Notre Pari*
Successful in handicap hurdle at Aintree last December, travelled best of the field when pulled wide and briefly shaken up approaching last, challenged on the bit jumping, led, ridden, found extra, went left under a ride, ridden out, stayed on well to pull clear of One Night In Milan. Would have placed in Lanzarote at Kempton, edged closer after 3 out, slight slip on home turn, pushed along approaching 2 out, 2 lengths behind jumping, put under pressure, keeping on when fell last, then won a novice at Fontwell in February when last seen out, jumped right 2nd, ridden into 4th, went slightly right 6th, headway and chased leader home turn, shaken up after 2 out, stayed on and the better jump last, loomed upsides runner-up and bumped rival, cajoled to the front last 175 yards, did enough to get home. Not needing to run to his best there, his form in the two good handicaps entitles him to get in the mix
Dino Velvet
Consistent without winning in handicap hurdles over the Summer, in the first four on three of his last four outings, last time in Prelude at Market Rasen behind Marine One, held up, in close to 1st and 2nd, edged a little closer approaching 4th, ridden into 3 out, midfield on outer approaching turn out of back straight, further ground under a push and prominent home turn, hard ridden and stayed on into 2nd approaching 2 out, a length and a bit down jumping, one pace approaching last, in close to it, no extra run-in under pressure, stuck to task, faded last 150 yards, kept on but lost 3rd post. Rarely races over this sort of trip and his record over 2m2f110y or more is 504 from three outings, beaten 7 lengths or more, and yet a couple of times he’s shaped as though needing it – so not sure what we’ll get from him here
Tea Clipper*
Point winner who won three of his four runs over hurdles last season, including successful handicap debut at Huntingdon in December,  tracked leaders approaching 3 out, not fluent there, chased leader home turn, niggled along, ridden apprioaching 2 out and challenged leader, went on, hard ridden, wandered a little but led a length when mistake last, headed, hard driven, stayed on, led close home, held on well from Magic Dancer. Stepped up in trip, couldn’t make it four at Huntingdon over 2m3f137y in February, headway 5th and chased clear leader from there, mistake 6th, closed on leader turning out of back straight, hard ridden after 3 out, kept on home turn but going worst of the leading group, lost 2nd 2 out, had 3 lengths to find and stayed on approaching last, re-took 2nd, no impression on Cervaro Mix, kept on under pressure last 150 yards, stuck to task – ran into one on the day. One of the least exposed in the line-up, sound claims
Won twice over hurdles at Chepstow in Spring of 2019. Didn’t take to fences last season and after three midfield-or-worse chase starts, returned to hurdles and was a good 3rd to Secrete Stream at Wetherby on February 1st, led, 3 lengths clear going to 6th, hit 7th and 8th, moved best off home turn, mistake 3 out, pushed along, headed approaching 2 out, kept on betwen last 2 under a push, still half a chance last, hard driven run-in, rallied, might have led narrowly just after last but immediately headed, faded, losing ground on 1st 2 last 75 yards. Tailed off last 2 runs, both behind Main Fact, at Uttoxeter in March when last seen mistake 6th and hard ridden away from it, quickly dropped rear, tailed off 7th, soon pulled up. Likely pace angle but unlikely winner given how he finished the Wetherby race; has been transferred from Harry Whittington to Christian Williams by owners Kate and Andrew Brooks, which – along with his course record – makes him hard to leave out
Cotswold Way
Since a couple of promising outings over fences last season his form has slumped, and he’s been tailed off twice this Summer, last time at Uttoxeter in a handicap hurdle chased leader, mistake 3rd, ridden into 4th, in close to 5th, ridden into 6th and 7th, niggled along, soon more firmly pushed along, lost 2nd and bumped rival 3 out, put under strong pressure, weakened approaching 2 out, well back approaching last, tailed off behind Capone. Easy to swerve
Hometown Boy
Won at Market Rasen last Boxing Day, led, pressed on after 6th, niggled along turning out of back straight, found extra and drew clear approaching 2 out, pushed along in a 5-length lead, safe with the race when mistake last, ridden out,  unchallenged from Torrid; then had the misfortune to run into McFabulous on both subsequent starts, when last seen out in EBF Final at Kempton (transferred from abandoned Sandown the week before) the Saturday after the Cheltenham Festival:  midfield to rear, more midfield when pushed along and struggling after 3 out, rear of main group home turn, picked up a little approaching 2 out but looked well held, mistake last, kept on run-in and took 7th post. It might be important to him that he gets the lead, or races prominently, which he didn’t at Kempton: bare form gives him something to find but he’s unexposed
Raced lazily on his way to winning at Haydock in December,  looked to be struggling after 6th, last of the main group with 8 lengths to find and still under a push turning out of back straight, stayed on approaching 3 out amd passed a few, closing on leaders approaching 2 out, moved into 2nd approaching last, stayed on and closed on leader 250 yards out, 1st 2 well clear, driven out, stayed on well to draw clear last 150 yards – the only place he looked like beating The Con Man was the run-in. Couldn’t, or wouldn’t, get into contention at Uttoxeter behind Any Drama in February on most recent outing, under a push from an inexperienced amateur throughout the final circuit. Soft ground seems important to this one with his get-behind run style, and it won’t be soft
Beaufort West
In this race last year was well tailed off behind Flash The Steel. Improved in novice company subsequently and won at Chepstow then Fontwell on his last two runs, in the latter back in late January when last seen out chased leader 3 out and moved comfortably, disputed lead 2 out, travelled best between last 2, led and the better jump last, soon clear, ran on, not hard ridden till eased last few strides, readily from Wheesht. Related to Bobs Worth on the dam’s side of his pedigree and should stay, but comes here unproven, both over the trip and the going
Caswell Bay
Marked improvement when going over longer trip at Chepstow on January 31st, chased leader, disputed lead 2nd, led 4th, ridden into 7th, pressed on from home turn and opened up a 3-length lead, was soon closed on, steadied into 3 out, hard ridden, stayed on, led a length and a half 2 out, pulled away under a firm hand ride between last 2, reminder approaching last, safe with the race run-in, eased last 100 yards, readily from Le Cameleon; that was a 0-120 handicap though and in a 0-150 at Uttoxeter in March when last seen out he was found wanting, mistake 5th, nudged along and soon headed, lost place 6th, soon pushed along, well beaten and continuing to weaken when mistake 7th, dropped further back home turn and tailed off when pulled up before 3 out behind Main Fact. Ran well at this meeting last year behind Torpillo in the 4-y-o handicap hurdle and worth another chance, although might want the ground softer
Push The Tempo
Sound first run back after a long absence at Kelso last month, although didn’t find what it looked as though he would; held up, mistake 5th, ridden into 8th, last of the main group with 9 in front 3 out, edged closer, niggled along intermittently, good headway on inner and closing in midfield home turn, niggled along approaching 2 out, further ground/got upsides leader jumping and also brushed a rival, briefly travelled best, soon pushed along, didn’t find extra approaching last, one pace when mistake, driven, just kept on, no impression last 150 yards. A sound return to action, but it’s clear on that evidence that, if possible, his effort should be delayed until the last, or preferably halfway up the run-in – he moved better than the winner Chapmanshype for all of two strides just after the second last. In this stronger handicap he doesn’t leap off the page on account of his tendency to finish weakly

Shortlist: Flash The Steel, Notre Pari, Tea Clipper

Chepstow 4.32
John Ayres Memorial Handicap Chase Class 2
2m3f98y – Going: Good (Good to Soft in places) – 13 runners

Two wins to start last season, the Bobby Renton at Wetherby in October and then proved himself over 3m1f at Haydock in November, led 11th, in close to 13th, going much the best approaching 4 out, not hard ridden as drew clear before 2 out, pushed along, stayed on and drew further clear by last, pushed out, stayed on well to maintain clear advantage over Sharp Response by 10 lengths. Lost form last two starts, tailed off on both. A bit to do at the weights, but usually goes well fresh and not expected to be inconvenienced by the drop in trip
Casablanca Mix
After winning the 2019 Summer Plate at Market Rasen, followed up in Listed mares’ chase at Aintree in December, niggled along in detached 3rd, closed on leader final circuit, went on travelling best 3 out, asserted from 2 out, clear last, pushed out, decisive. Struggled to go the pace early on but it fell apart when Listen Dear came back to them, having done too much in front, and Casablanca Mix couldn’t help but take full advantage, beating outsider Holly Flight by 15 lengths. Was some way off that form when tailed off 4th to Lady Buttons in another Listed event for mares at Doncaster later that month, lost ground approaching 10th, pushed along approaching 11th, carried head slightly to one side and dropped further back approaching 4 out, carried head more markedly to one side and looked held 3 out, well beaten when mistake 2 out. Not seen out since, she has a chance on her best form
The reinvention of this one as a front-runner worked a treat last season and he took the Castleford at Wetherby over Christmas, 2 to 3 lengths clear from 4th, in close to 6th, moved best off home turn, niggled along in 3 to 4 lengths lead approaching 3 out, pushed along and found extra approaching 2 out, drew further clear approaching last, beat Hawk High 11 lengths. Unsurprisingly, was unable to dominate in Grand Annual at the Cheltenham Festival when last seen out, not getting in front till the 10th, led a length home turn, firmly pushed along, headed approaching 2 out, pecked on landing, hard driven, chased winner till faded nearing last, looked beaten when mistake, hung left and weakened last 175 yards, 13th beaten 15 lengths behind Chosen Mate. With double-digit defeats all starts over 2m3f or more (including the last two renewals of this race), and no wins in fields bigger than eight, nothing doing here
Unlucky not to get a win last season, best runs when runner-up to Warthog in Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham in December and when 2nd in another Grade 3 handicap chase at Cheltenham in January, rear of main group when mistake 4 out, not hard ridden between there and 3 out, at most niggled along after and gradually edged closer, some 4 lengths down 2 out, pushed along, stayed on, still 2 lengths to find last, hard ridden, stayed on, closed on Cepage last 150 yards but always held. Okay-6th in Brown & Merriebelle Stable Plate at the Cheltenham Festival after not getting the rub of the green early, towards rear when niggled along after 12th, made ground and just about midfield under a push 3 out, pushed along and kept on without making any ground from there till steadied into and went left 2 out, ridden and no impression going to last. Winner of the Listed novice chase at this fixture in 2018 on his only appearance here, likely to go well
River Wylde
No wins since November 2017. Missed last season, and best in 2018/19 when falling last, whilst running close, in graduation chase at Haydock that November, mistake 9th, also mistake 10th, blundered 11th, carried head to one side coming off home turn, pushed along from 4 out, hung left and not stay on approaching 3 out, hard ridden and stayed on approaching 2 out, a length down but still hung approaching last, drew upsides when fell last. Unlikely to have won as he was hanging, while Activial who he was challenging maintained a straight course. Took little interest on the last circuit when tailed off behind Born Survivor in Hillhouse Quarry at Ayr in April 2019 when last seen. A £58,000-purchase as part of the Grech and Parkin dispersal at Doncaster in May 2019 and now with Ian Williams, he’s slipped to a favourable mark but this will be a tough ask with a horse of suspect resolution after an absence of 547 days
Mont Des Avaloirs*
Maiden chaser, hard to win with; best last season when 4th to Champ in Grade 2 at Newbury in November, made up ground approaching home turn, not fluent 4 out, still not hard ridden approaching 3 out, finally pushed along and carried head to one side approaching 2 out, made no ground, pushed along and again hung left approaching last, switched inside fading rival and took 4th last, was closing on 3rd last 100 yards, nearest finish. The reason for the waiting ride was there for all to see as he didn’t stay on when finally popped the question. Was keen early then made mistakes behind Sussex Ranger over 2m7f at Newbury in February when last seen, arguably moved best home turn, at most nudged along from 4 out, ridden into 3 out, niggled along approaching 2 out, jumped low and headed, hard ridden, wandered, not stay on approaching last, steadied into it, no more under pressure run-in, lost ground on winner and not striding out last 175 yards. Comes with risks, but goes on most ground, and accurately treated on the form behind Champ
Garde La Victoire
Nowhere near the force of old but staged a revival of sorts last season, with best runs when 4th not beaten far behind Cepage at Cheltenham last January, then 3rd to Delire D’Estruval in Silver Bowl (Cheltenham Festival consolation) at Kempton back in March, prominent, ridden into 8th, lost place, mistake 9th, midfield and pushed along after, ridden into 10th, pushed along approaching 11th, a little ground 13th but essentially still midfield home turn, a little ground straightening, hit 3 out and hampered, ridden, kept on going to 2 out, put under pressure between last 2, stayed on, went 3rd last, stuck to task under pressure, no impression last 150 yards. In his heyday he’d be winning off marks in the high-140s/low-150s, and nowadays he’s getting beat off marks in the low-140s – now 11 going on 12, not likely to be doing any better now
All his form last season lagged his best of 2018/19 when he hosed up in the Scotty Brand Chase at Ayr on the Scottish Grand National undercard in April 2019. Has run well to a point, then not gone through with his effort, in a couple of starts at Southwell in July, last time led 3rd, clear 6th, not so far ahead when pushed along turning out of back straight, 1st 2 pulled clear, reminder home turn, at most a length up 3 out, hard driven, was joined by winner and lightly bumped him 2 out, leaned on winner against near side (stands’ side) rail approaching last, headed nearing it and mistake, weakened run-in and lost 2nd, no more, 3rd to Solar Impulse and Adrrastos. Not likely to be staying this 2m3f (record over this trip or further is 300P), easily passed over
The Unit
Consistent novice in early 2018, kept going that Summer and got two chase wins; when last seen out ran well at Doncaster on December 15th 2018, held up, reached for 10th, not fluent 5 out, moved comfortably home turn, mistake 4 out but continued to move well, mistake 3 out, niggled along, edged closer and took 2nd between 3 out and next, 2 lengths to find when mistake 2 out, hard ridden, put under pressure approaching last, ridden into it, hard driven run-in, no extra, faded last 150 yards. Costly mistakes in the closing stages probably left him with little in reserve and he was beaten 5 lengths behind Amour De Nuit. This wouldn’t be the first time Alan King has brought one back after a very long absence (Loverboy won for the yard after 782 days off back in January) and he’s well treated
The Bay Birch*
Won this race last year, getting there by a diminishing 2 3/4 lengths from Caid Du Lin; no other form near it since, but ran okay on reappearance when 3rd to Templepark at Warwick last month,  midfield first mile, headway to led 13th, looked strong 4 out, ridden into 3 out, went 2 lengths up home turn, nudged along approaching 2 out, was joined jumping, put under pressure and readily headed approaching last, well held jumping, continued to lose ground on 1st 2 last 150 yards, was closed on by the 4th last strides. In a race where they went quite hard in front, she probably made a move too early, leading at the fifth last when the leaders gave up, and after she looked the winner on the home turn, unsurprisingly she had nothing left in reserve; chance of a follow-up in this race if her effort can be delayed
Punches Cross
Was with Joseph O’Brien last season and followed up a win at Wexford with a good 2nd at Punchestown in November over 2m6f140y, midfield, mistake 2nd, in close to 4th, headway after 6th, tracked leaders 7th, ridden into 8th, briefly pushed along after it, moved more comfortably passing omitted fences, pushed along after 4 out, ridden into 3 out, stayed on into 2nd and chased winner some 2 lengths down home turn, mistake 2 out, hard driven, outpaced between last 2, rallied approaching last, hard driven run-in, stayed on and was closing on winner last 75 yards but never quite getting there as Freewheelin Dylan held on; was tailed off behind Glamorgan Duke in Leopardstown Chase only subsequent start. Has been switched to Jonjo O’Neill, and the stable’s record with JP McManus-owned horses switched to the yard from other trainers is three wins from 95 runs going back to May 2008 (none between 2009 and 2018)
Light season last term beginning with a well-beaten 9th in this race (held up one from last, ridden into 6th, ridden into 7th and mistake, ridden into 8th, niggled along from 9th, steadied into and mistake 11th, still in touch 5 out, ridden, mistake 4 out, no more, well held 3 out, got tired approaching 2 out, no more behind The Bay Birch); after 4th to Saint Calvados at Cheltenham later in October, was tried over hurdles at Wincanton in November, a little ground when mistake 6th, nudged along from 7th, raced wide (not widest), headway and midfield when not fluent 8th, ridden along and stayed on approaching home turn, still wide but with leaders turning in, put under pressure, dropped back, well held 2 out, kept on approaching last but made no ground on those ahead, no more run-in and beaten just over 10 lengths into 6th behind Midnight Midge. Not out since. Now 11, and having never won after a break of more than 49 days, easy to eliminate
Pink Eyed Pedro
Graduate from the pointing/hunter chasing sphere. Largely exposed and has a hit-and-miss profile, but after a poor effort in the Summer Plate at Market Rasen behind Really Super, improved on that in a 0-130 at the same track next time, leaving the impression he should have done better;  last of the main group of 10 coming off home turn and not at all hard ridden approaching 3 out, briefly niggled along approaching 2 out, finally pushed along approaching last, hard ridden run-in, kept on, picked off a beaten one under pressure 175 yards out, stuck to task last 100 yards, nearest finish. Ground is coming right for him and he does best on two-straight-lines tracks (good records at Worcester and Ffos Las), but this is at least as good a race as the Summer Plate – probably better – and he’s surely outclassed

Shortlist: Spiritofthegames, Mont Des Avaloirs, The Bay Birch

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