Doncaster Race Preview, 30th January 2021

Doncaster, Saturday January 30th

Doncaster 2.40
Albert Bartlett River Don Novices’ Hurdle Class 1 Grade 2
3m84y – Going: Soft – 12 runners

Shang Tang
Best form to date when produced on the bit then found little when 3rd to Arrivederci at Wetherby in October; not hard pressed in a 4-runner race at Ascot next time, pushed clear of Southfield Harvest, then an early faller at Wincanton on Boxing Day. Disappointing in Lanzarote at Kempton on January 9th when last seen, tracked leaders 7th, niggled along 3 out, at most a length and a half down starting home turn, soon pushed along, hard ridden and weakened quickly, well back in midfield to rear on straightening, eased down, tailing off when pulled up before 2 out. Keen early, probably a case of doing too much – still bang there at the third last. Goes up in trip here and is not bred to stay
Ashtown Lad
Won 2m7f handicap hurdle at Uttoxeter on soft in November, prominent from 8th, caught widest of all turning out of back straight, further ground and led 3 out, soon 2 lengths up and niggled along approaching 2 out, in close to it, pushed along and stayed on to maintain clear lead approaching last, beat Duc De Beauchene 7 lengths; only 5th to Make Good in Grade 2 at Cheltenham in December, tracked leaders 9th, chased leader last, niggled along but travelled more comfortably than some at that point, soon more firmly ridden and chased new leader home turn, faded 500 yards out, well held passing omitted last, weakened last 200 yards, beaten 19 lengths. Chance on the Uttoxeter run
Ask A Honey Bee
So far has failed to add to sole win over hurdles to date, at Wetherby on October 14th, but has posted better form in defeat the last twice, albeit not impressing with the way he went about it; in The French Furze Novice at Newcastle in November prominent, pushed along after 10th, kept on under a ride with 2 lengths to find from 3 out to next, in close to 2 out, outpaced and put under pressure, stayed on well under pressure from last, finished strongly and closed on Getaround last 150 yards, just held post – on and off the bridle throughout – then in Grade 2 at Cheltenham in October  ridden into 8th and 9th, niggled along at the top of the hill, effort and disputed lead, in close to last (normal 2 out), ridden along, led approaching home turn, put under pressure, headed passing omitted last, no more up the hill as Make Good went clear, lost 2nd 150 yards out, 3rd beaten just over 8 lengths. Might need the jockey to be at him some way out
Promising winning hurdling debut at Exeter in November, travelled best 3 out, ridden and headed 2 out and looked to be getting the worst of it, stayed on well going to last, led again, ridden out, sustained effort run-in to beat the reopposing Ask A Honey Bee: followed up with a penalty at Doncaster on November 27th, made all, niggled along approaching home turn, moved best of the field approaching 3 out in a length and a half-lead, pushed along and idled, a length up 2 out, hard driven, challenger wide apart between last 2 so effectively raced with no company, hard driven, stayed on approaching last, steadied into it and mistake, challenger now upsides, hard driven run-in. picked up last 150 yards, asserted close home, decisive in the end from Santon and previopus winner Nikgarde. Should have won by another 3 lengths, but before bungling the last, he idled when ridden between the hurdles in the straight – all in all he had something in hand, but everything needs to improve on that showing, particularly jumping. Still, comes here unbeaten over hurdles
Castle Robin
Won a 0-125 handicap hurdle at Cheltenham in November; better form when 2nd to reopposing Emir Sacree in conditional jockeys’ handicap at Ascot, tracked leaders from 7th, shaken up home turn, at most half a length down 2 out, put under pressure,  stayed on approaching last, mistake, hard driven, sustained effort under driving till no extra last 100 yards. Took his chance in Lanzarote Handicap at Kempton last time but was made too much use of, chased leader before blundered 6th, led briefly bend before 7th, disputed lead 7th, nudged along approaching 3 out and rather pressed on with one other, disputed lead and niggled along home turn, led half a length turning in, put under pressure coming off the bend, headed approaching 2 out, hard driven and no more between last 2, faded, well back last, hard driven and kept on run-in, continued to fade last 100 yards and just held on to 6th final strides. Did too much up front, not helped by the serious mistake, and chances of improvement in this are negligible if pedigree is anything to go by – his relatives, of which useful chaser Arctic Skipper is the best known, were best at up to 2m4f
Emir Sacree
Maiden jumper in native France, primarily over fences, runner-up three times over 2m6f. Joined Nicky Henderson and went in on first start for the yard in conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle over 2m5f141y at Ascot just before Christmas, made all, travelled best in a length lead home turn, niggled along approaching 2 out, jumped left, stayed on under a firm hand ride between last 2, was half a length up last, hard driven, wandered left towards stands’ side rail and jockey switched whip hand to left, stayed on well and asserted last 150 yards, changed legs final stride, beat Castle Robin just over a length. The dam is a half-sister to Sprinter Sacre and this one himself is a full brother to his stablemate Go Sacre Go, who flopped over 2m at Kempton on Boxing Day on his only start for the yard – it’s not a three-mile pedigree
After wins at Ffos Las and Chepstow on heavy, posted best form when placed in 2m7f handicap hurdle at Chepstow on January 9th, started a move 8th and headway into midfield, closed on leaders 3 out, pushed along, within 2 lengths and every chance 2 out, hard driven and stayed on till faded approaching last, looked held jumping, hard ridden and kept on to take 3rd close home, beaten just over 4 lengths behind Storm Arising. Likely to go well
Fern Hill*
Lines up on a hattrick after following up a Wetherby win in November with another at the same track on December 5th, made most and a couple of mistakes, led a length coming off home turn, ridden into 3 out, pushed along, not going best approaching 2 out, mistake there, put under pressure, headed between last 2, hard ridden, stayed on, a neck down last, hard driven, stayed on well under pressure last 175 yards, reeled in Witness Protection, led close home, held on well – a really likeable performance, not looking the winner with two to jump but finding the most off the bit; the race was over the longest trip he’s raced over to date, 2m5f – the pedigree is not packed with stamina (half-brother Aliandy once placed over 2m7f and that’s about it), but he was strong at the end last time
Flash Collonges
Pats Fancy
Won at Ffos Las on heavy in November and built on that when 2nd in Grade 2 at Cheltenham in December (SP 33/1), prominent 7th, shuffled back and midfield 9th, headway at the top of the hill, tracked leaders last (normal 2 out), loomed upsides leaders on the bit approaching home turn, soon shaken up, pushed along off the bend, a length down at least 2f out and put under pressure, outpaced in 3rd passing omitted last, hard driven and lugged left, kept on, took 2nd 150 yards out, stuck to task, no impression on Make Good who’d gone well clear – improved form, although suggesting with his head carriage on the extended run-in that he’s not a nailed-on certainty to confirm that going forward. Might need to be held on to for longer, but despite reservations, could run well
At the sixth time of asking, won over hurdles when taking a steadily-run race at Ayr on December 14th, held up last, early ‘pace’ more of an ultra-slow canter, keen, pace increased approaching 6th, made a place 7th, nudged along approaching 8th, started to close on 1st 3 approaching turn out of back straight, pushed along and if anything lost ground on them home turn, started to close again under a push at the wings of omitted 3 out, within 8 lengths 2 out, took 2nd when mistake last, readily closed on leader and quickly led early on run-in, driven out, stayed on well last 150 yards to pull clear. Showed a good attitude in the straight to beat Ugo De Misselot, who was finishing within 10 lengths of the winner for the first time and has reverted to type since the Ayr-race; what’s going for Portstorm though is he’s only six, and has a bundle of stamina in his pedigree – the dam’s dam Rosie Redman was a 3m4f chase-winner
The Cob
Second win over hurdles when taking a Haydock handicap in December, chased leader 6th, mistake 7th, shuffled back a little home turn, niggled along off the bend and made ground to chase leader 3 out, ridden into it and led, going best of the field between there and 2 out, hard ridden between last 2, stayed on well and pulled 3 lengths clear approaching last, driven out, idled in front, all out, pursuers closed last 175 yards, lead diminished throughout last 100 yards but just held on from Oscars Leader; below that at Newbury last time on December 29th,  firmly pushed along home turn and lost ground before hit 3 out, effort under a push and chased leader approaching 2 out, wandered when ridden, couldn’t go with those ahead when mistake 2 out, left remote 3rd last and beaten  15 3/4 lengths behind Calva D’Auge. Only just getting home when winning and fading last time out are indicators of a lack of stamina over this trip on their own, but possibly more pertinently, his dam was a 5f-sprinter
Took The Lot
Best form to date when getting his second hurdles win, over 2m3f123y at Bangor on November 28th, a couple of mistakes, closed on leaders going largely comfortably approaching 3 out, chased leader home turn, drew upsides straightening, led off the bend and moving much the best of the field, led 5 lengths when not fluent 2 out, not shaken up to pull further clear of Pennyforapound between last 2; dropped right out in Grade 2 over 3m at Cheltenham in December, disputed lead 8th, led approaching 9th, headed at the top of the hill, mistake last (normal 2 out), ridden and weakened approaching home turn, weakened further before and after omitted last, tailed off behind Make Good and three of his rivals here. Admittedly made some use of, his stamina failed before the uphill finish at Cheltenham came into play and this one might be best over shorter, in keeping with his half-sister (serial loser Missesgeejay, who’s never run over further than 2m1f)

Shortlist: Bobhopeornohope, Exploiteur, Fern Hill

Doncaster 3.15
Sky Bet Handicap Chase Class 1 Listed
2m7f214y – Going: Soft – 13 runners

Mister Malarky
As inconsistent as they come, and put behind him a disappointing effort and an unseat on his first two runs this season when winning Silver Cup at Ascot just before Christmas, led 7th, ridden into 13th, pressed on from 14th and 2 lengths clear 16th, not so far ahead 2 out (normal 3 out), hard driven home turn, stayed on approaching last (normal 2 out), was strongly challenged under pressure approaching omitted last, found extra after it under driving, drew clear final 200 yards, beat The Conditional 1 3/4 lengths.  Off a whopping 156, will need to improve again to take this – it’s been well documented that his trainer Colin Tizzard hasn’t had a winner yet in 2021, his last coming on December 22nd (43 runners since then), but this horse has won 3 out of 6 when racing in January and February
Aye Right*
Yet to win this season but has been progressing, and good run behind Cyrname in Charlie Hall at Wetherby (made some of the running, niggled along approaching 3 out, in close to it and headed, hard ridden and couldn’t go with winner approaching 2 out, put under pressure disputing 2nd approaching last, lost the place jumping, hard driven and faded run-in), backed up with another behind Cloth Cap in Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury (again up with the pace, niggled along with 5 lengths to find approaching 3 out, put under pressure between there and 2 out, stayed on but no impression on Cloth Cap approaching last), Faded late on in a jumpers’ bumper at Newcastle last time, but obvious chances on Wetherby and Newbury runs and should be fine on the ground
Give Me A Copper
Not the most consistent and didn’t run to form only other start after winning Badger Ales at Wincanton in November 2019. Promising reappearance when runner-up at Doncaster in December over this c/d though went a little in snatches, tracked leaders 3rd, mistake 9th, in close to 10th, shuffled back a little after 11th, made ground to dispute lead 13th, headed 14th and ridden/reminder, tapped for pace home turn, put under pressure after 4 out, stayed on approaching 3 out, hard driven and little impression approaching 2 out, kept on approaching last, was 6 lengths down jumping, stayed on run-in, closed strongly on Rocky’s Treasure under pressure last 150 yards, not quite get there. Hit a flat spot when things were cranking up turning into the home straight but nearly got there in the end; has a chance of sorts, but it’ll be tough off a career-high mark now aged 11
Progressing chaser, didn’t travel that well through the race in Sir Peter O’Sullevan Memorial at Newbury in November, lost place 9th, a bit to do under a ride home turn, effort and closed on leaders approaching 4 out, was in 7th when put under pressure after 3 out, stayed on to go 4th approaching last and closed on those ahead, sustained effort run-in under pressure, took 2nd 100 yards out, no chance with reopposing rival Cap Du Nord. Went one better and beat the in-form Snow Leopardess in Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day, good ground turning out of back straight and tracked leaders, left 2nd 4 out, 1st 2 clear from 3 out, challenged strongly on the bit 2 out, shaken up last, found the necessary, stayed on well. Chance again, along with several others
Inauspicious debut for new trainer Sandy Thomson, but big time bounced back on second run for the yard in Rehearsal at Newcastle in November, gave those at the head of the group a 2-length head start, led 4th, slight peck on landing 6th, clear 7th, in close to 10th, pursuers closed 14th, travelled best of the field till niggled along home turn, a length and a half up when pushed along after 4 out, only a neck up 3 out, put under strong pressure, stayed on going to 2 out, all out between last 2, a length and a half up last, driven out, all out, was closed on till found a bit extra last 50 yards. Settling better than he used to when with Willie Mullins, pulled out all the stops when it mattered and returned to form, whilst shaping as though he wouldn’t want to go further. All the same, a rise to 147 shouldn’t stop him being competitive if he comes here in the same form
The 2019 Scottish Grand National winner; no wins since taking the 2019 Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle; first form since when 4th to Yorkhill in the latest renewal of that race,  lost ground and midfield/niggled along approaching 9th, hampered 11th, pushed along between there and 12th in 8 lengths 3rd, mistake 13th and ridden along, hard ridden and reminder approaching 15th, outpaced under pressure turning out of back straight, well back home turn, driven and no impression approaching 3 out, kept on from last, was closing on the 3rd last 100 yards. On that evidence he appears to retain all his ability and the four-milers in the calendar are the obvious targets, but likely to get outpaced here as he did in the latest Rehearsal
Rocky’s Treasure
Had been in the doldrums since winning the 2018 December Novices’ Chase over this c/d, and after finishing well adrift of Cap Du Nord in Sir Peter O’Sullevan Memorial at Newbury on reappearance, posted his best form since the December Novices’ when winning the 3m handicap chase on the same Doncaster card in December 2020, made most, steadied into and hit 13th, headed and pushed along, rallied and led 14th, narrowly headed home turn, ridden along, stayed on from 4 out, led a length after 3 out under a ride, the better jump 2 out and left 4 lengths up, put under pressure, well ahead approaching last, driven out, was closed on last 150 yards, held on with little to spare by half a length from Give Me A Copper. Needs to improve and will be one of many going for the early lead; yet to win on softer than good to soft, which it might be on the day (dry night forecast), but his record at Doncaster is 3 wins from 4 runs
One For The Team*
Won a Class 2 handicap hurdle at Newbury off 130 last season. Novice chasing this term and comes here having only had three chases, would have been an okay 2nd but for unseating last at Newbury behind Kalooki on the first of them, then vastly improved form to chase up Next Destination in Grade 2 John Francome Novices’ at the same track next time, chased clear leader when in close to 4th and 5th, disputed 2nd when not fluent 4 out, kept on from 3 out, some 3 or 4 lengths behind 1st 2 2 out, hard driven, stayed on well approaching last and was a length down jumping, hard driven, one pace last 150 yards. No chance with Shan Blue and The Big Breakaway in Kauto Star at Kempton on Boxing Day last time,  ridden and couldn’t go with leaders from 15th, pushed along and kept on into 8 to 10 lengths 4th home turn, hard driven and no impression approaching 2 out, well held when jumped left last, hard ridden and kept on last 150 yards, might have been closing a little on 3rd and 4th last strides. Stuck to the task nicely once the win-chance had gone at Kempton and, despite lacking experience over fences, has a chance here
Disappointing since winning two chases last season, three double-digit defeats this term; on the second of those perhaps testing going was a factor in Anne Duchess Of Westminster Memorial at Bangor in November, held up, closer order 12th, niggled along after, mistake 13th and lost a length or so, pushed along, another mistake 3 out, hard ridden in last of the leading group with 3 lengths to find home turn, kept on till couldn’t go with 1st 3 under a ride between last 2, well held last and 4th to Notachance – last time over this c/d was a little better but again he didn’t see the race out, made ground and chased leader 12th, moved best home turn, might even have led narrowly approaching 4 out, ridden along, chased winner 3 out, put under pressure soon after, began to fade when blundered 2 out, all out, weakened approaching last, hit it, tired and lost ground on 1st 2 last 150 yards. Not for me until he shows more resolve at the end of his races
The Butcher Said 
In good form during Summer with two small-field novice chase wins, but he’s been in better company last two runs and found wanting – firstly behind The Big Breakaway in a Cheltenham novice chase in November, closing on the bit when mistake 3 out, still moved comfortably after that and closed up well home turn, yet to be asked for an effort when overbalanced/pecked on landing 2 out, not recover, held in 3rd when not fluent last, one reminder run-in, kept on but no impression – he would have been fighting it out for 2nd but for what happened at the second last, but there were serious mistakes before that. Last time tried in handicap company in Rehearsal at Newcastle, gave the rest plenty of rope at the start, held up last, mistake 10th, around 12 lengths down 13th, not asked for an effort and about the same distance adrift when mistake 15th, pushed along turning out of back straight, no impression under a ride 4 out, well held behind Yorkhill. Two good reasons why he’s an unlikely winner here – his jumping, and that he’s normally held up, which is not the place to be in this race
Cap Du Nord
More experienced than most but recently improved out of nowhere, confirming reappearance promise when winning Sir Peter O’Sullevan Memorial at Newbury, last and pushed along before 9th, finally made a place 12th, had 12 lengths to find on leader turning out of back straight, very good headway past several rivals and took 4th jumping 4 out, pushed along, chased leader 3 out, produced to challenge and came back on the bit approaching 2 out, led there, went clear before mistake last, pushed out to beat Canelo. Last time at Kempton on December 27th, some 3 lengths off leaders 14th, niggled along home turn, made ground and tracked leaders straightening, at most niggled along, got a nice juicy split against the inside rail and led going largely comfortably approaching 3 out, ridden into it, immediately joined by Royale Pagaille approaching 2 out and ridden along, not going as well as eventual winner, slight lead 2 out, 1st 2 well clear, hard driven, headed approaching last, readily outpaced run-in, stuck to task. Nothing he could do about the most progressive winner, but pretty much thumped the rest, which included in 3rd next time out-winner Double Shuffle. Usual run style is not ideal and they might need to have him further forward earlier in the race, but good chance
Guitar Pete
First form this season at Wetherby on November 14th, although typically hard work, pushed along and outpaced 12th, reminders approaching turn out of back straight, stayed on and closed on leaders approaching 4 out, driven, no impression approaching 3 out, not totally done with as closed on 1st 2 approaching last, in close to it, looked held after, driven and no extra run-in, stuck to task, 4th to Johnbb beaten 6 lengths. Went over 3m at Kempton on January 9th and was doing okay when departing,  midfield, pushed along briefly after 12th, made ground 13th, niggled along and no more than 5 lengths off leader when fell 4 out behind Double Shuffle – hard to know where he’d have ended up, but prior to that his form over 2m7f or more comprised six double-digit defeats from six attempts, so still best watched for me over the trip
Musical Slave
Only chase win at Exeter on New Year’s Day 2020 over 2m3f, but better effort last season when 2nd to Sam’s Adventure at Uttoxeter in March in good novices’ handicap,  track leaders 15th, raced wide, chased leader and moved best 4 out, not shaken up and 1st 2 getting away when mistake 3 out, pushed along, outpaced, looked held 2 out, began to stay on well approaching last and took 2nd jumping, no extra close home. Only start this season, did okay considering the inadequate test over 2m4f on good ground at Newbury on November 27th, held up, took off too early and landed on 1st then hampered, all over the place 3rd, raced wide from 7th, closing on those ahead when mistake 12th, niggled along home turn, not shaken up before 3 out, pushed along after it, made some ground wide going to 2 out, stayed on and moved into 4th approaching last, went left and blundered, kept on under a hand ride run-in, lost 4th last 100 yards, stuck to task, 5th to Clondaw Castle beaten just shy of 4 lengths. How much better could that have been with a decent round of jumping – here the softer ground and longer trip will help

Shortlist: Aye Right, Canelo, One For The Team