Chepstow Preview, Saturday 12-10-19

Chepstow
Saturday October 12th

More rain is forecast Friday night
and Saturday morning

Chepstow 3.20
Native River Handicap Chase Class 2
2m7f131y – Going: Soft – 8 runners

Ballyoptic
No form last season (fell when travelling comfortably in Becher Chase on reappearance having moved into contention), his campaign geared around Nationals, his only completion of the season coming in the Welsh version; mistake 6th, ridden into 12th, mistake 15th, pushed along turning out of back straight and dropped off those ahead, hard driven 5 out and looked held, unable to find extra under pressure from 4 out, lost poor 5th after last, beaten just over 26 lengths behind Elegant Escape. The last time he ran to form was his fast-finishing 2nd to Joe Farrell in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr in April 2018 and that would get him in the mix here, given that season he had a stack of form on soft/heavy going
Royal Vacation
Two good runs last season, behind Rock The Casbah at Cheltenham on reappearance and when winning a 3m4f conditions’ chase at Taunton in January with usual blinkers refitted, midfield 15th, headway to track leaders 17th, ridden inrto 18th, pushed along turning out of back straight, hard ridden 3 out, every chance 2 out, effort and led approaching last, ridden into it, drew clear, ridden out, stayed on well to maintain clear lead, workmanlike and decisive from The Last Samuri. Lost place halfway when pulling up in Ultima at Cheltenham when last seen. Tough task here but is blinkered and not out of it, this race similar in quality to the Taunton one
Lil Rockerfeller
Top-class staying hurdler but not near that level over fences, mainly due to his attitude and lack of size; last time at Southwell was 4 lengths 3rd to Royal Village in Class 2 handicap chase during August,  lost some ground when mistake 8th, niggled along, disputed 5 lengths 3rd from 9th, lost place final circuit, pushed along in last pair 11th, last of main group and started to stay on under a ride turning out of back straight, sustained effort and held every chance approaching 3 out, went through it, couldn’t go with 1st 2 from 2 out, looked held approaching last, just kept on. The 2m4f-trip of the Southwell race might not be his best trip nowadays, but defeat has more to do with the fact that he didn’t apply himself on the last circuit. Not for me over fences
Relentless Dreamer
Often shapes like needing all of the trip over 3m. Has been off for a year, but signed off with a Cheltenham win, prominent 16th, firmly pushed along after 3 out, chased leader home turn, challenged 2 out, sustained effort, the worse jump last and was bumped, put under pressure, stayed on, led 125 yards out, driven out, stayed on well to beat Cogry a neck. Hasn’t been at his best on soft ground up to now but hard to rule out
Drinks Interval
At this meeting last year won the 2m7f131y novices’ chase, still looking strong in front when mistake 5 out, went clear going to 4 out without being hard ridden, mistake 3 out, maintained gallop 2 out, ridden into last, pushed out, unchallenged by 11 lengths from Debece; would have followed up in ready fashion in Listed mares’ chase at Market Rasen but for falling 3 out, drawing clear without being asked a question at the time. Lost her way after that, the fences getting in the way, but looked comfortable in front when falling at the 10th at Ayr in April. Not sure about her on this ground, but she won on heavy over hurdles
Cloth Cap
Much the least exposed in the field, having won two of his four chases, his second win coming at Catterick in November, pushed along after 12th, niggled along home turn, pushed along passing omitted 3 out, ridden and stayed on from 2 out, led 4 lengths last, driven out, stayed on well to beat Red Giant just over 2 lengths. On the strength of that took his chance in the Scottish Grand National and ran a mighty race, at most 3 lengths to find jumping 4 out, ridden and outpaced, carried head high under pressure after 3 out, kept on in 4 or 5 lengths 3rd and sticking to task when mistake last, driven out, closed strongly on 2nd under pressure and unlucky not to get the place, 3rd beaten just over 4 lengths behind Takingrisks. Unproven on this ground, his proven stamina over extreme trips might come in handy with this race likely to be more of a stamina test than it usually is
Captain Chaos
In this race last year was tailed off behind The Young Master, lost place 10th and hopelessly tailed off when mistake last. Didn’t wear blinkers on his first few starts, but had them back on when finally showing form in December, chasing Lake View Lad home in both the Rehearsal at Newcastle and Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby, in the latter sent on at a strong early pace, niggled along in front going to 13th and 14th, ridden home turn, stayed on, hard driven going to 3 out, was joined approaching 2 out, no extra under a ride going to last, stuck to task but beaten 4 lengths. Wasn’t a bad run in Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival when last seen out either, again ridden positively, the odd mistake, couldn’t go with leaders when mistake last and 6th beaten 15 lengths behind Any Second Now. All his chase wins have come when blinkered, but he has a good record on soft and it’s difficult to leave him out totally
Cap Du Nord
If this was at Fakenham or Sedgefield this half-brother to Qualando would be a strong fancy, and completed a hattrick after two wins at the latter venue when going in at the Norfolk course on March 15th over 2m5f,  led after 3 out, ridden 2 out, found extra approaching home turn, hard ridden and stayed on approaching last, asserted run-in, stayed on well under pressure to draw clear, decisive by 4 lengths from Nobel Leader. Was down the field behidn Brave Eagle in Class 2 intermediate handicap at Haydock next time before returning to form back at Fakenham in June, mistake 15th, dropped back to 4th and looked held 3 out, pushed along, rallied 2 out, within 4 lengths home turn but 4th and essentially struggling to get on terms, moved into well-held 3rd nearing last, kept on but no impression on 1st 2, 3rd beaten just over 7 lengths behind Hepijeu. Not bred to stay this far, and unproven at the trip and on soft ground, not for me

Shortlist: Royal Vacation, Drinks Interval

Chepstow 5.05
John Ayres Memorial Handicap Chase Class 2
2m3f98y – Going: Soft – 12 runners

Whisper
In December 2017 ran 2nd to Total Recall in Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury, stayed on in a length lead and the better jump 2 out, hard ridden, a length up last, hard driven, stayed on, looked to have it 175 yards out, stayed on well, was collared last 100 yards. Didn’t run to that form when 5th beaten 20-odd lengths in the 2017 King George behind Might Bite. Off till May this year, and on what turned out to be his last start for Nicky Henderson, ran poorly in handicap hurdle at Haydock behind Canyon City, dropped rear and hard ridden/going worst of the field after 3 out, made no ground, left alone and allowed to tail off. On his first run for Sam Thomas, who last had a winner with a horse running for the first time for the yard in May 2016, little hope
Charbel
Winning reappearance when beating Baron Alco (next time Betvictor Gold Cup winner) in this race last year off 154, closed on leader going to 2 out, driven again between last 2, hard driven after last, stayed on well, led 150 yards out, ridden out to win by a head; also won Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon, making all, jumping from fence to fence and beating God’s Own 8 lengths. Next time 3rd to Top Notch in Listed 2m4f chase at Kempton and that proved as good as it got, losing his form from February, when last seen unable to make the front in Oaksey Chase at Sandown (looked well in the paddock) and tailing off from 3 out behind Black Corton. A return to form on his reappearance very possible, high enough off 157 but the ground’s come bang right
Activial
Only win last season in graduation chase at Haydock, benefiting from Magic Saint’s weak finish and River Wylde’s fall; best subsequent runs when 2nd to in another graduation at Ascot, prominent,  took definite advantage between last 2, stayed on, was steadied into last and jumped it upsides, hard ridden, stayed on, narrowly headed by Kildisart 175 yards out, stayed on well and pair pulled clear, just held post by a short-head, then 7 lengths 6th in Ultima at the Cheltenham Festival behind Beware The Bear, forcefully ridden up with the pace, couldn’t go with leaders home turn,  put under pressure between last 2, stayed on approaching last, disputed 3rd jumping, hard driven, faded up the hill, lost ground and places last 75 yards – a better run than his position over what looked a trip too far to start with. Chances
Caid du Lin
Best form over 2m at Ascot last season, got up late to nail Speredek in competitive handicap in November, then bettered it a little when close 2nd to Eddiemaurice on March 31st, niggled along home turn, soon more firmly pushed along, pulled wide approaching 2 out, effort and led there, ridden along, stayed on in narrow lead, good jump last, hard driven, narrowly headed 150 yards out, no extra final strides. Form over 2m3f or more is 2 (beaten 18 lengths) PP and arguably best on better ground
The Bay Birch
An improving mare when last seen in April, won three of her seven chases in all with best effort in Challenger Mares’ Final at Haydock in April, led 10th, moved comfortably, led a length 5 out, moved best of the leading 3 home turn, 1st 2 pulled clear approaching 4 out, pushed along and stayed on approaching 3 out, left clear there by Skewiff’s fall, pushed along, driven between last 2, stayed on, looked safe approaching last, ridden out, just the one reminder, sustained effort to the line, workmanlike but unchallenged by 9 lengths from Troubled Soul. A bit concerning that all her wins and runner-ups have come in the second half of the season, but conditions fine (Towcester winner on heavy in the past)
Valdez
Four runs last season for this 12 year-old and best efforts in handicap chases at Newbury, particularly 2nd to Gala Ball on March 23rd, jumped right a few times,  closed up going comfortably after 5 out, only 2 lengths down 4 out, produced to challenge wide, drew within half a length of Gala Ball and travelled the better between 3 out and 2 out, a length down when pushed along approaching last, in close and ended up a little further behind, hard driven, stayed on at one pace last 150 yards, stuck to task and reduced gap to a length but no closer. It flies in the face of logic to support a horse this old in a race this good but there is absolutely nothing wrong with those Newbury runs
Capeland
Kept busy last season but got three chase wins, however arguably best form when 2nd at Sandown in January, detached last and pushed along/struggling after 3 out, had 8 lengths to find on leader turning out of back straight, started to close under a ride 3 out, still last and 5 lengths down 2 out, ridden, stayed on well and upsides rival challenging for 2nd last, hard driven, sustained effort and got to Darebin’s quarters 175 yards out, driven, stayed on, just held close home, shaping as though the trip was short enough. Didn’t impress with his attitude when last of 4 to Eddiemaurice at Ascot on March 31st, still in narrow lead when in close to 3 out, nudged along home turn, moved the strongest till in close and headed 2 out, hard ridden, checked out quickly and soon last, well held jumping last, ridden and kept on a little run-in, closed on the 3rd last 75 yards. Weak finisher but could go close if putting his mind to it
Theo
Has returned in good form with two runner-up efforts, first behind Sizing Platinum at Worcester on September 16th, travelled best of the field approaching 3 out, within a length when niggled along approaching 2 out, in close to it, finally shaken up, stayed on, led narrowly when not fluent last, hard driven, hung left, headed 150 yards out, no extra under driving close home, beaten just shy of a length; ran just as well when 2nd to Mcgroarty at Kelso last Sunday, mistakes, driven and outpaced home turn, stayed on well under pressure from 2 out, went 2nd last and closed strongly on winner but never getting there. Has often gone well when turned out quickly; has won over this trip in the past; high enough in the weights but a contender
Doitforthevillage
Several good efforts last season, not least when winning over this c/d at Christmas, held up, effort and led going to 4 out, soon 2 lengths clear and going much the best of the field, nudged along and 3 to 4 lengths clear going to 3 out, pushed along, hard driven going to last, stayed on, left clear last when Calipto unseated, eased down last 150 yards, readily by 7 lengths from Dusky Lark; on last start didn’t run badly in Topham at Aintree, closer order and prominent 15th, niggled along after 3 out, further ground and disputed 2nd, some 4 lengths to find 2 out, firmly ridden after, hard driven after last, kept on one pace throughout run-in, lost 2nd after the Elbow, stuck to task. Good run, didn’t flinch, just over 9 lengths 3rd to Cadmium. Not noted for going well fresh but hard to leave out totally
Marracudja
In this race last year was unfancied and well held behind Charbel, taking a keen hold and mistakes when beaten, and better efforts when dropped to 2m, including 3rd to Double W’s at Perth on last start, mistake 9th, niggled along home turn, chased leader turning in and every chance when in close to 3 out, pushed along, stayed on going to 2 out, a length down when mistake there, hard ridden, faded between last 2, beginning to look held when mistake last (worst of the race), faded, well held last 175 yards. With double-digit defeats to his name when completing over 2m4f, an automatic elimination
Templehills
Winning reappearance at Warwick last October, but what turned out to be his best run of the season next time in Old Roan Chase at Aintree, chased leader when mistake 11th, losing place when blundered 4 out, kept on under a hand ride from 3 out, mistake 2 out, put under pressure, kept on, mistake and brushed inside wing last, just got 4th last stride, no impression on those ahead, 4th to Frodon beaten just shy of 9 lengths. Jumping got in the way next two runs and indeed he didn’t show form again for the rest of the season. Changed yards from Nigel Twiston-Davies to Jonjo O’Neill and the trainer has only won with one of his last 30 runners that have switched from another stable having their first start for their new yard; that, plus his jumping, put me off
Aintree My Dream
Has plenty of ability, but it was his first chase win – having joined Milton Harris from Dan Skelton – when beating Western Miller at Stratford on April 14th, mistake 9th, chased leader when ridden into 10th, vigorously pushed along before mistake 3 out, not going as well as the leader Western Miller approaching 2 out, hard ridden, stayed on from home turn, closed on leader approaching last though shaped to hang left, upsides jumping, soon led, driven out, stayed on well to pull away last 100 yards. No form since in three subsequent runs, has no finishes closer than 11 lengths to his name in Class 1 or 2 races and hard to fancy

Shortlist: Charbel, Activial, Capeland

Also on this card
Secret Investor was withdrawn from the 2m3f Listed novices’ chase (3.55) on Friday evening because of the ground, greatly simplifying Reserve Tank‘s chance on chasing debut, so it’ll be all about how the Aintree and Punchestown Grade 1-winning novice hurdler deals with the fences. Paul Nicholls’ other runner Posh Trish is a better traveller through her races than useful Cheltenham novice hurdle-winner Jarveys Plate and the mare is the most likely of that pair to fill the runner-up spot.

Copyright Roy Waterhouse 2019. All rights reserved.