Newbury Race Preview, 21/02/2021

Newbury, Sunday February 21st

Newbury 2.25
Betfair Denman Chase Class 1 Grade 2
2m7f86y – Going: Good to Soft (Soft in places) – 8 runners

  • At the time of writing Dashel Drasher hadn’t officially been withdrawn after his heart-warming heroics at Ascot on Saturday.

Clan Des Obeaux* wasn’t that much below form in the King George when 3rd to Frodon, and might run well here; however I’m looking at Lostintranslation** to return to form – he’s shown for all money that Kempton isn’t his track, pulling up in the Boxing Day showpiece for the second year running, and we’re likely to see more from him here, the going less testing than it was when he disappointed in the Betfair Chase at Haydock on his reappearance.  As for who else could make the frame at least, running to form and staying might suffice for The Conditional*, although he looked the winner against Mister Malarky at Ascot last time only to wander and find little on the extended run-in. Cepage ran well to a point but didn’t stay when 7th to The Conditional in the Ultima at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival so I’m not sure there’ll be anything much from him, and whilst respecting that Kalashnikov returned to form in the relocated Peterborough Chase at Cheltenham in December, he too didn’t stay on his one attempt at 3m, over hurdles at Haydock in November – looked on for the frame at the third last but weakened – and Secret Investor, who was runner-up to Native River in this last year, is the only other who could make an impact; however he wouldn’t want more rain overnight. Finally it’s good to see Terrefort back, but he has a 710-day absence to overcome.

Alternatives: Clan Des Obeaux, The Conditional

Newbury 3.00
Betfair Game Spirit Chase Class 1 Grade 2
2m92y – Going: Good to Soft (Soft in places) – 6 runners

Any discussion about the merits or otherwise of Champ running in this instead of the Denman, I don’t want to join in: suffice it to say that one who makes up 8 lengths on the leaders after the last at the end of three miles, which is how he won the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, needs to go up in trip, not drastically down. Returning to chasing after a successful spell hurdling, Sceau Royal fell in the Desert Orchid at Kempton – held up, fell 5th, continued riderless – so maybe there’s a question mark about him, and we might need to be looking seriously at the Paul Nicholls-trio, all of whom need to be ridden the same way – hold up, challenge as-late-as. Dolos*, having shaped promisingly behind Rouge Vif at Cheltenham, found only the resolute Moonlighter too good at Sandown last time, and Greaneteen**, the Haldon Gold Cup winner, was in similarly good nick when last seen – runner-up to stablemate Politologue in the Tingle Creek at Sandown, travelled comfortably (arguably better than the winner) approaching omitted 3 out, shaken up home turn, put under pressure 2 out and no impression between last 2, well held when mistake last, hard driven and wandered a little run-in, stuck to task – and then there’s Magic Saint, who won at Cheltenham in November ( led 2 to 3 lengths when the better jump last, ridden out, stayed on well up the hill) and, with the benefit of hindsight, had a job on when 4th to the subsequent Clarence House Chase-winner First Flow at Ascot in November, chased leader home turn, niggled along approaching 2 out, led then mistake, headed, faded between last 2 – he was below form when 4th to Sky Pirate at Cheltenham in December last time out though. In the Cheltenham race he beat Fanion D’Estruval, who kept on at the end but couldn’t find extra that time; he was 4th to First Flow in the Clarence House last time, disputed 3rd home turn, no extra when in close to 2 out, still a chance of 3rd going to last, ridden out firm hands and heels and stayed on last 150 yards, not quite get 3rd and no chance with 1st 2 – lacking the pace to challenge, he shaped there as though worth trying again over 2m4f. I’m thinking ‘take your pick from Nicholls’s’ – the free-going Greaneteen had Moonlighter behind at Exeter in the Haldon Gold Cup, which on form gives him the edge over Dolos, and that’s who I’m going for.

Selection: GREANETEEN – Alternative: Dolos

Newbury 3.35
Betfair Handicap Hurdle Class 1 Grade 3
2m69y – Going: Good to Soft (Soft in places) – 24 runners

After his win at Ascot in November only Not So Sleepy finished ahead of him in Grade 3 handicap hurdle at Ascot just before Christmas although it wasn’t an entirely satisfactory performance, midfield, raced wide, niggled along after 4th, closer order 5th, prominent to midfield 3 out and niggled along, more firmly pushed along home turn and if anything lost place, stayed on wide approaching 2 out and closed on those ahead, sustained effort between last 2, continued to close approaching last, steadied into last, hard driven run-in, stayed on into 2nd, closed on Not So Sleepy last 150 yards but never getting there. As in November he raced lazily and lost a few lengths at a crucial stage, from the third last to the home turn; added to which he raced widest throughout, so all in all not sure what to make of this one
Well-held 12th to Pic D’Orhy in this race last year, taken wide 3 out and hard ridden, put under pressure approaching 2 out, mistake, looked held some 10 lengths down when mistake last. Been novice chasing this season and would have won for the second time over fences but for falling at the last at Cheltenham in November; dropped right out behind Shishkin in Wayward Lad at Kempton over Christmas. Little expected
Wild Max
On a hattrick after wins at Huntingdon in November and Doncaster in December when last seen, prominent, led approaching 3 out, left clear, drew further clear from 2 out, safe with the race when mistake last, at most pushed out, decisive by 9 lengths from Twin Star. Can find little but, with Angus Cheleda taking off 7 lbs again as he did in the Doncaster race, reasonable claims
Friend Or Foe
Unlikely runner after running behind Goshen in the Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton on Saturday, finishing well held
Sound reappearance when 5th to The Shunter in Greatwood at Cheltenham, keen early, closing but still had 7 or 8 in front approaching 2 out, pushed along approaching home turn, made ground and closing approaching last, disputing 4th but only 4 lengths down, put under pressure, no extra up the hill, stuck to task to the line. Unseated on chasing debut at Doncaster next time and reverted to hurdles at Market Rasen last time out, and not hard pressed to dispose of three rivals in a Class 2 handicap hurdle, edged closer before led on the bit 2 out, not shaken up before in close to last, pushed clear run-in, readily and decisive with high style marks. He’s in the mix
For Pleasure
Despite sometimes running like a headcase, he’s won four out of ten over hurdles, and last time in Grade 2 novice at Cheltenham they simply let him have too much rope, tore off into a clear lead racing freely, at least 20 lengths clear from 2nd to 5th, pursuers closed at the top of the hill, jumped left 3 out, still 8 to 10 lengths up when mistake 2 out and went left (in danger of running out), ridden along home turn, stayed on, still 6 lengths up last, ridden out, all out, kept on well enough, safe in clear lead last 150 yards though had little left and beat Third Time Lucki just under 4 lengths, doing the course and distance in a time just over three seconds slower than The Shunter did in the Greatwood. As at Cheltenham, his chance depends on by how much the rest let him slip the field, because on paper it’s hard to see anything else being in front after the 1st
Two wins over hurdles last season, but Kempton on Boxing Day was a case of coping best with testing conditions, by no means going best straightening and indeed if anything going worst of the leading group, stayed on approaching 2 out, closing in 3rd between last 2, hard driven, stayed on well approaching last, led and the better jump, ridden clear, ran on well last 150 yards to pull further away from Ecco, then at Musselburgh in February niggled along approaching turn out of back straight, disputed 3rd home turn under a ride, pushed along approaching 3 out, effort and disputed lead there, stayed on approaching 2 out, was half a length down jumping, put under pressure, tapped for pace and more than a length down when switched inside rival approaching last, the better jump, driven, led 175 yards out, driven out, 1st 2 clear, was closed on inside last 100 yards, only just held on from Malystic. Back over hurdles after a poor round of jumping on chase debut at Warwick in November behind Allmankind, this one doesn’t travel and will need a truckload of overnight rain if he’s to be competitive 
Thyme White
Successful reappearance in 4-y-o handicap hurdle at Chepstow in December, led 2 out, hard ridden, stayed on though wandered right approaching last, clear jumping, pushed out, unchallenged from The Pink’n; would probably have finished 4th but for unseating 2 out at Newbury in November last time out, edged closer approaching home turn, not asked for an effort and shuffled back to midfield by 3 out, niggled along, closed on those ahead, appeared to be making a gradual beeline for the inner approaching 2 out, bumped the rival on his inner (Milkwood) and not clear run nearing it, took off too early and landed on it, lost hind legs on landing, rider unbalanced and unseated. Ahead of the eventual 2nd and 3rd at the time, and bearing in mind that he didn’t settle early, he’d probably have finished between the 4th and 5th; more testing going might bring about a better show from him (when winning at Musselburgh last February the way he did it suggested that he’d be suited by more of a test than that race, which was run at a medium pace, presented)
Highway One O Two
Failed to complete both starts in novice chases this season – would have been a long way adrift of his hurdles-mark had he not fallen in race won by Hitman at Ffos Las on chase debut – and was tailed off behind Guard Your Dreams back over hurdles at Sandown in January, held up last, made a place but quite a bit to do 3 out, niggled along with 12 to 15 lengths to make home turn, more firmly pushed along approaching 2 out, couldn’t find more some 100 yards off it, hard driven and wandered between last 2, faded, tailed off last. Not for me
Successful reappearance in a Ffos Las novice on October 1st, better form in defeat since and in good company too, last time at Newbury in November a little headway and just about midfield approaching home turn, moved comfortably, nudged along and closed on those ahead approaching 2 out, was bumped nearing it and shuffled back then ground taken and hampered, shuffled back to 8 lengths 5th or 6th in the chain reaction, hard ridden and stayed on approaching last, hard driven run-in, ran on, took 3rd 125 yards out, closed on 1st 2, nearest finish. What happened at the second last cost him the race; nothing finished faster and he’ll surely go close in a big handicap hurdle, such as this
Lightly Squeeze
Hard luck-story in this race last year, tracked leaders, at most nudged along home turn, niggled along on straightening, mistake 3 out, pushed along, stayed on, drew upsides leaders approaching 2 out, mistake there, hard driven, stayed on and disputing lead when fell heavily last – might have won; would have been in the 1st 5. After disappointing in Welsh Champion Hurdle at Ffos Las in October on first hurdles start of the season (making a forward move earlier than others didn’t help that time), ran another good one in a decent handicap when 3rd in Grade 3 at Ascot just before Christmas, disputed lead, more settled by turn after winning post, tracked leaders approaching 3rd, niggled along approaching 3 out, travelled more comfortably approaching home turn and made a little ground to track leaders, ridden turning in, disputed 2nd 2 out, kept on one pace under pressure approaching last, beginning to look held jumping it, driven and kept on, closed on Not So Sleepy last 125 yards but at the same time lost 2nd, stuck to task.  Over a longer trip was disappointing last time at Ascot over 2m3f, mistakes, pushed along 7th to 8th, kept on under a ride approaching home turn but made no ground on those ahead, faded and left alone approaching 2 out, dropped further back between last 2, tailed off last behind Craigneiche. Don’t know where we stand with him now
Mister Coffey
Winning reappearance in 0-130 handicap hurdle at Sandown in November, last and detached, keen, reached for 2nd, still last but not detached and at most 6 lengths down as field clustered up approaching home turn, niggled along on straightening, made good ground and midfield when mistake 2 out, pushed along, ran on and led approaching last, led 2 lengths jumping, driven out, continued to pull clear, readily and decisive; found wanting in a Listed handicap at Sandown in December next time, held up last pair, nudged along after 4th, niggled along after 3 out, headway widest of all niggled along and just about midfield home turn, stayed on under a hand ride approaching 2 out, gradually closed on those ahead, hard ridden between last 2, put under pressure approaching last, one pace in 4th nearing it, took 3rd early on run-in, outpaced last 175 yards, left well behind in 3rd behind Benson and Galice Macalo. A bit to find
On a hattrick, last time posting much his best form to date when winning at Kempton on December 27th, held up, a little keen, headway wide and midfield 3rd, travelled comfortably 3 out, edged closer approaching home turn, arguably moved best coming off home turn, shaken up on landing over 2 out, put under pressure between last 2, ran on to lead approaching last, half a length up jumping, continued to run on last 150 yards till eased last strides, decisive by 3 lengths from Christopher Wood, who won next time out. Hurdler going places
Shakem Up’Arry
Ready winner of ordinary novice hurdle at Ffos Las on reappearance but better form in defeat subsequently in handicap company, over a longer trip at Haydock in November moved comfortably home turn, mistake 3 out, niggled along approaching 2 out, hard ridden between last 2, headed and faded approaching last, kept on under pressure till faded 150 yards out when 4th to War Lord. Only Metier was too good last time in Tolworth at Sandown in January, led, mistake 3 out, moved comfortably turning out of back straight and coming off home turn, momentarily wandered left approaching 2 out (at the part where the approach to the Pond Fence meets the hurdles track), niggled along, hard ridden between last 2, put under strong pressure and headed between last 2, well held last, stuck to task but no impression. Coming here in form, if he was to take this it wouldn’t be the first time that the winner of this race was on show in the Tolworth
Guard Your Dreams
Stepped up in grade after winning two of his three novice hurdles at Bangor, won a Listed handicap hurdle at Sandown on January 2nd, ignored clear leader Totterdown and raced 2nd himself clear of the others, started to close 3 out, within 3 lengths as leader came back home turn, moved comfortably till nudged along as led approaching 2 out, not going as well as Friend Or Foe who’d moved within 2 lengths nearing 2 out, niggled along and wandered left between last 2, more firmly pushed along before hit last, hard ridden, found extra under pressure last 125 yards, ridden out and pulled clear last 75 yards. Wasn’t going best from a few strides off the second last, but pulled out more when it mattered; contender here
Annual Invictus
After running a decent 2nd to Captain Morgs in an Ascot novice on reappearance (a race he might have won but for being steadied into the last two hurdles), he’s won his last three – at Lingfield and the last twice at Plumpton, last time over 2m4f ed, was joined 9th, niggled along before in close to 3 out, opened up a length and a half-lead turning out of back straight, pushed along home turn, 1st 2 pulled clear, going to 2 out, the better jump, put under pressure, stayed on, 2 lengths up when the better jump last, ridden out, stayed on well to pull further clear of Dorking Lad run-in. Could do with at least soft ground as he has a round action, but is in the mix
Galice Macalo
Won twice over hurdles; ran well when 2nd to Benson in Listed handicap hurdle at Sandown in December, keen, mistake 2nd, edged closer and tracked leaders home turn, pulled outside rivals and took 2nd approaching 2 out, shaken up on landing, led between last 2 and ridden clear approaching last, some 3 lengths up jumping but was closed on, stayed on under pressure till headed 150 yards out, no extra, stuck to task, well clear of the 3rd but no further impression; the form looked shy of what would normally be required to be competitive in such a race and he was found wanting when tailed-off 5th behind Metier and Shakem Up’Arry in Tolworth at Sandown last time, keen early, niggled along home turn, soon more firmly pushed along, faded approaching 2 out, well held jumping, lost further ground on 1st 2 between last 2, tailed off last, no more. Not for me here
Soaring Glory
Yet to add to hurdling debut-win posted in October at Chepstow; ordinary form in the main but stepped up a little when 3rd to My Drogo in Grade 2 novice at Ascot just before Christmas, started a move 3 out and disputed 2nd approaching home turn, pushed along and switched outer to middle/inner on straightening, steadied into 2 out, hard driven between last 2, faded, well held last, kept on under pressure run-in, didn’t lose any further ground, stuck to task, beaten 6 lengths. Needs more to get into this
Night Edition
Runner-up in Boodles (Fred Winter) Juvenile Handicap at the Cheltenham Festival last year, good ground and prominent towards outer home turn, pulled wide approaching last, stayed on well and at most half a length down jumping, hard driven, nearly drew upsides Aramax then no extra as winner found more, 1st 2 clear last 100 yards, stuck to task. Nothing on reappearance and only run so far this season in Grade 3 handicap at Ascot just before Christmas, headway and midfield approaching 5th, mistake 3 out, pushed along and carried head to one side a little, weakened approaching home turn, tailed off 2 out behind Not So Sleepy. Best watched for now
Mack The Man
Bad luck in this race last year, closer order after 5th, niggled along approaching 3 out, closed on leaders, at most niggled approaching 2 out, more firmly pushed nearing it, mistake, hard ridden, stayed on approaching last, was closing on leaders when brought down. Reverted to hurdles after a coupld of modest efforts over fences, back to winning ways when taking a four-runner race at Wincanton on January 21st, niggled along as leader pressed on approaching home turn, kept on once in line for home and at most a length adrift till not fluent 2 out, hard ridden, stayed on approaching last, upsides jumping, hard driven, found extra under pressure last 150 yards, asserted last 100 yards, going away from River Bray at the post. Could go well
Fifty Ball
On a hattrick; had an offocial BHA rating of 120 going in to the novices’ hurdle at Sandown on December 5th,  led 2 to 3 lengths and moved best of the field home turn, ridden along from 2 out and found extra to pull clear between last 2, well ahead when rapped the top of the last, ridden out, stayed on well to go further clear run-in, eased last strides, readily and unchallenged from Naizagai. That race looked ordinary by Sandown’s standards and he needs a stone of improvement off his new BHA mark of 131
Glory And Fortune
Best last season when 3rd to Thebannerkingrebel in Listed novice hurdle at Haydock, took a hold, closed on leaders approaching 3 out, hampered on landing, not knocked about and no further ground when mistake 2 out, pushed along and stayed on between last 2, took 3rd after last, hard driven, found extra and closed on 2nd last 175 yards with a strong effort, got to within a length final strides but not quite get the place.  Been chasing this season and 4th of 4 to Elvis Mail at Ayr last time, led, clear, in close to 5th, jumped right 6th, blundered 7th, nowhere near so far in front and niggled along approaching 4 out, headed and mistake there, fading when mistake 3 out and stumbled on landing, weakened and dropped to last approaching 2 out, mistake when dropping away, final mistake last, well back. Best watched
On To Victory
November Handicap winner on the Flat, that not his only useful effort on the level. After falling at Kempton on Boxing Day, got a hurdles win at Wincanton on January 9th, though it was hard work, niggled along home turn and soon more firmly pushed along with 2 to 3 lengths to find, carried head high and to one side, tongue hanging out, veered slightly right but stayed on to lead 2 out, hard driven, hung right, not stay on, upsides eventual runner-up when the better jump last, hard driven, 1st 2 clear run-in, could have gone either way, just got up post. Gave the strong impression he didn’t want to win that, carrying his head high and hanging earlier in the straight, and holding on by a nose from Iron Mike, and could be best watched on the score of resolution
Best over hurdles to date when 6th to The Shunter in Greatwood at Cheltenham in November, made some of the running, still upsides leader and not yet shaken up approaching 2 out, still moved well till niggled along approaching home turn, quickly hard ridden and couldn’t go with leader straightening, put under pressure, still half a chance though a length and a bit down early on run-in, driven, faded last 150 yards, lost ground and places, tired close home and was being closed on by the next one. Poor run in a jumpers’ bumper at Lingfield last time to overcome, prominent 5f out, niggled along 3 1/2 f out, pushed along and weakened 2 1/2 f out, detached last home turn, weakened further, trailed in behind Strong Glance. Seems a find little-type

Shortlist: Edwardstone, Milkwood, Cadzand