Newbury Race Preview, 28/11/2020

Saturday November 28th

Newbury 12.40
Ladbrokes John Francome Novices’ Chase Class 1 Grade 2
2m7f86y – Going: Good (Good to Soft in places) – 6 runners

The best chasing form on offer is Southfield Stone‘s defeat of Coole Cody at Cheltenham in October, making most and winning decisively – it’s fair to say that the form’s been boosted since, but Southfield Stone didn’t get to the front when beaten by all-the-way-winner Protektorat next time, his jumping not as good (mistake 12th); he should stay on pedigree (same family as Chatam, the 1991 Hennessy winner). Second-season novice Hold The Note arguably should have beaten Two For Gold at Warwick last January, but kept on well when taking 3rd in the novices’ handicap chase at the Cheltenham Festival; he checked out readily on his reappearance at Wetherby last month when last of four to Shan Blue, ridden with four to jump and no extra – maybe he’ll be better for the run, but what about Kalooki**, who was an impressive winner at this track over 2m6f on his reappearance and chasing debut, making most of the running and his only mistake coming at the last as he readily beat House Island (won at Ludlow earlier this week) by 12 lengths; One For The Team would have finished about 6 lengths behind Kalooki but for unseating at the last, but he’d survived an earlier blunder – also making a mistake at the fourth last – and could be best watched until he sorts his jumping out. Acey Milan looked genuine and jumped soundly in beating Smackwater Jack by a length at Aintree on his winning chasing debut, but he probably has a bit to find against the best of these, which include chasing debutant Next Destination*, The ex-Willie Mullins gelding ran a great first race for the Paul Nicholls-yard when chasing home Roksana in the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby on his first start for the yard, surviving a blunder at the third last and staying on going to the last, but not knocked about when he wasn’t getting to the winner. A clear round will get him in the mix on his chasing debut, but Kalooki had something in hand when winning here and gets the nod.

Selection: KALOOKI – Alternative: Next Destination

Newbury 3.00
Ladbrokes Trophy Handicap Chase Class 1 Grade 3
3m1f214y – Going: Good (Good to Soft in places) – 18 runners

Had the going in favour for his reappearance in Charlie Hall at Wetherby (won it in 2019) but didn’t perform, lost place from 6th, midfield 10th, furiously pushed along and looked to be going worst of the field approaching 11th where mistake, weakened and dropped rear 12th, tailing off when pulled up after 13th. With the ground drying he’d need this to be over an extreme trip (Scottish National runner-up on officially good ground), so little expected
After winning Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot on reappearance last season went for the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on only other start and ran well, chased leader and niggled along after 17th, pecked on landing 3 out, pushed along approaching home turn, hard ridden approaching 2 out, upsides and pecked on landing, ridden and led approaching last, steadied into it, hard ridden, soon headed, put under strong pressure, faded 150 yards out, stuck to task but lost 3rd close home. Only the underestimated (as it turned out) Cyrname beat him in Charlie Hall at Wetherby on his reappearance, chased leader 10th, shuffled back a little before 11th and once again tracked leaders, niggled along turning out of back straight, pushed along home turn and slightly outpaced in 4th approaching 4 out, hit that, kept on under a push and took 3rd 3 out, looked held and put under pressure, closed on 1st 2 a little approaching 2 out, sustained effort and took 2nd last, driven out, drew clear of 3rd, stayed on but no impression. In first-time cheekpieces, has a good chance on form – good ground is an unknown (apart from debut bumper all his starts have been on officially good to soft or soft)
Secret Investor*
In April 2019 won the Future Champions’ Novice at Ayr; best run of a light but winless campaign in 2019/20 when splitting Native River and Might Bite in Denman Chase at Newbury last February, 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 on Native River last, ridden and wandered, hard driven run-in, stayed on but one pace last 150 yards, stuck to task. Winning reappearance at Chepstow in October on officially good ground (more like good to firm), moved best approaching 4 out, not fluent there, niggled along approaching 3 out, ridden into it, pushed along and stayed on in front approaching 2 out, found extra under a hand ride approaching last, pushed out, decisive and unchallenged from reopposing Potterman, who gave the form a boost when beaten only a short-head in Badger Beers Chase at Wincanton next time. Has a high mark for what he’s achieved (handicapper must have rated the Denman Chase-form at face value), but the going is in his favour (all wins on good to soft or better) and he looks a player
Beware The Bear
No wins since taking the Ultima Handicap at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival; in a light campaign last season much his best run was first up in this race, niggled along 4th, in close to 5th, niggled along again and a little ground before 13th, hit 14th, ridden into and mistake 15th, ridden along turning out of back straight, driven with about 6 or 7 in front and 8 lengths to find home turn, stayed on though hung left under a ride approaching 3 out, just kept on approaching 2 out, driven and stuck to task without making an impression approaching last, idled under driving then picked up when eventual 3rd Elegant Escape came upsides 125 yards out, going on well last 75 yards, 4th to De Rasher Counter beaten 2 1/2 lengths; was a little below his best over hurdles at Cheltenham in handicap won by Skandiburg on New Year’s Day. Hits many flat spots in a race and that’s likely to cost him his win-chance by halfway down the back straight on the final circuit, particularly on the good ground (best on good to soft or softer)
Didn’t win last season but best run when, in first time cheekpieces, ran 2nd to The Conditional in Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, stoked along to make a start, prominent, niggled along and reminder after 11th, not fluent 15th, moved within a length of the leader going to 3 out, hit it, pushed along and reminder approaching home turn, every chance 2 out, stayed on, a length down last, put under pressure, stayed on, a length to find 175 yards out, stayed on well under pressure, closed on The Conditional final 100 yards but didn’t quite get there. Sound reappearance over hurdles in West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby, chased leader turning out of back straight, niggled along approaching 3 out, challenged leaders 3 out, might have led narrowly approaching 2 out, hard driven between last 2, chased Roksana approaching last, no impression, narrow 2nd on landing, hard driven, faded into 3rd run-in, ridden out, kept on. Travelled better through that race than he did in the Ultima when he had cheekpieces on – the cheekpieces are back this time, but he’ll be okay on the ground and might run a race
In a good novice chase season, best effort when winning Reynoldstown at Ascot in February, chased leader 13th, briefly led 14th, disputed lead 16th, chased leader 3 out, led home turn and immediately challenged, asserted under a ride and was 2 lengths clear 2 out, ridden and drew further clear, some 15 to 20 lengths up when steadied into and mistake last, eased inside last 150 yards, readily from Two For Gold. Didn’t run a race on reappearance in West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby, led after 3rd, disputed it 4th to 6th where mistake, headed 7th, ridden into 8th, mistake 9th, pushed along away from it, weakened quickly approaching turn out of back straight, would not stay on under a hand ride, tailed off when pulled up on home turn. Not sure what to expect here and ground will be quicker than ideal; it may also be pertinent that last time was the first pulled-up of his career – along with his fall in the Ultima at the latest Cheltenham Festival (at the last when hopelessly tailed off), they’ve been his only failures to complete the course
Regal Encore
As all know at least one big run at Ascot in a season is obligatory for this one, and on reappearance he won the Sodexo Gold Cup, tracked leaders 9th, in close to 14th, chased leader from 4 out, pued along from 3 out, stayed on, led 2 out, hard driven, 1st 2 pulled clear, upsides when hit last, driven and found extra run-in to beat Whatmore. In this race last year he didn’t complete, midfield and struggling to get to those ahead when blundered 5 out, dropped away and pulled up eventually; he did run 3rd to Total Recall in this in 2017, but he’s pulled up on his two other attempts at the race and it’s probably best to expect little
Aye Right
Posted his two best chase runs on his first two starts this season; it was on the cards that he’d leave the form of his runner-up finish to Nuts Well over 2m1f at Kelso behind – good run though it was – when he went back over a longer trip, and proved the point when 3rd in Charlie Hall at Wetherby, led, mistake and headed 14th, led again after 15th, narrow advantage turning out of back straight, travelled equally as well as Cyrname as the pair disputed lead approaching 4 out, 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 to Vinndication jumping, hard driven and faded run-in, no more, stuck to task. Went down with honours and has run a stormer, matching strides with Cyrname to approaching the third last; at the weights the pair should dead heat, but I’m not sure this one will be strong at the finish, particularly if ridden as prominently as he was in the Charlie Hall – I’d like to see him dropped in a bit
Mister Malarky
The going was about in his favour in this race last year when 6th to De Rasher Counter,  lost place and midfield 12th, pushed along, made ground and prominent 16th, ridden along from home turn and closed on those ahead a little approaching 4 out, jumped left 3 out, ridden, no more from 2 out, couldn’t go on when mistake last; subsequently won Grade 3 handicap chase at Kempton in February, again on good to soft ground. The going went against him on his reappearance in Sodexho Gold Cup at Ascot, disputed lead 9th, chased leader 11th, ridden into 13th, disputed lead 14th, ridden into 15th, in close to 16th, mistake 4 out, ridden, lost place under a ride 3 out, dropped back home turn and 6th beaten 25 lengths behind Regal Encore. He’s now blinkered first time – since January 2008 his trainer Colin Tizzard’s record with runners first time in the headgear is five wins from 49, but two of those have come from his last five such runners, between October 2019 and the present (Native River one of them) – on that basis, hard to rule out
Black Op
Before his 2019/20 season was cut short – didn’t run again after Boxing Day – he was doing a lot better on his second go at novice chasing, winning readily at Stratford, making all and jumping soundly (with one Lisnagar Oscar tailed off in 3rd), then runner-up finishes in better races, behind Champ at Newbury and chasing home Slate House in the Kauto Star Novices’ at Kempton over Christmas. On reappearance he was a good 4th to Imperial Aura in Colin Parker Intermediate at Carlisle, tracked leaders, in close to 5th, lost ground and pushed along 4 out, steadied into and mistake 3 out, hard driven, couldn’t find more approaching 2 out, mistake there, kept on approaching last, hard driven and faded run-in – ran well for a long way but found wanting from the second last in the uphill home straight. Asked to go over 3m2f here, he lines up with a question mark over his stamina – with his 2nd to Slate House coming at Kempton, the world’s easiest three miles (albeit on soft going), for me he’s unproven – his dam’s dam is the dam of Younevercall, who’s been beaten on all three runs over 3m (twice double digits), and I can’t see him staying
Two For Gold*
Arguably best effort in a good novice chase season when winning from Hold The Note at Warwick in January, not going as well as that rival between the last two fences but finding more on the run-in, well beaten behind Copperhead in Reynoldstown at Ascot and didn’t run again in 2019/20. Shaped well on first start of 2020/21 when 2nd to Huntsman Son in Listed handicap chase over 2m3f at Wetherby, led 3rd, in close to 11th and niggled away from it, niggled along in a length lead home turn, hard ridden aproaching 4 out, jumped slightly right there, stayed on going to 3 out, hard driven going to 2 out, was challenged, sustained effort, headed approaching last, 1st 2 clear, ridden and no more run-in, all out, weakened last 100 yards and was being closed on by the 3rd – good run, but nothing left at the end after a forcing ride. He looked a stayer going in to the Wetherby race and I can see a big run coming from him here
The Conditional 
Vastly improved last season and, after winning at Cheltenham in October, ran 2nd to De Rasher Counter in this race,  travelled comfortably home turn, moved best approaching 3 out, at most a length down jumping, shaken up and rather hung fire nearing 2 out, hard driven approaching last, a length and a half down when mistake, driven and hung left again, picked up under pressure last 100 yards but always held – arguably looking the winner, but not finding as much as looked likely. Went on to win Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, travelled comfortably 3 out, at most nudged along approaching home turn, pushed along turning in, mistake 2 out and pecked on landing, hard ridden, a length down last, soon drew upsides under a ride, wandered but stayed on well under pressure till was closed on last 75 yards, held on well. The mistake at the second last probably did him a favour as he’s the type that needs to be produced late, and he’d have come off second best to Kildisart if there’d been another 100 yards. Making his reappearance, open to question whether or not he’ll be going one better – he’s yet to win after more than 59 days off
La Bague Au Roi
Not for the first time, she rather flattered to deceive on her last start, when seen as a plausible outsider in Charlie Hall at Wetherby, midfield, made ground and prominent 6th, took off on the wrong leg 11th, tracked leaders 13th, niggled along turning out of back straight, made ground and close 3rd though not going as well as 1st 2 approaching 4 out, hard driven and faded quickly approaching 3 out, 6 lengths 4th when mistake, tiring and lost 4th 2 out, well back last, no more and 20 lengths 5th to Cyrname. Didn’t have lack of match fitness as an excuse in the Charlie Hall, having had a run at Perth in September, and finished weakly, which is beginning to become a habit. With the big field also now a consideration (not won a chase with more than seven runners), she’s not for me
Danny Whizzbang
Only chase win when taking the John Francome Novices’ on this card last year in a three-runner event, beating Reserve Tank and Ardlethen,  niggled along and arguably not going as well as the other 2 approaching turn out of back straight, ridden along home turn, stayed on approaching 3 out, drew upsides there, sustained effort and led approaching 2 out, hard driven between last 2, steadied into and hit last, driven out. It’s been three double-digit defeats since including in Badger Beers Chase at Wincanton on reappearance, starting 4/1 favourite for some reason; midfield, mistake 3rd and lost ground/niggled along away from it, ridden into and flat-backed jump 7th, niggled along after 8th, not fluent 9th, a little ground before mistake 12th, not fluent 16th, lost ground and ridden along after 17th, kept on but work to do and 12 lengths to find under a ride before brushed 4 out, outpaced and looked held under pressure coming off home turn, weakened further approaching 2 out, tailed off. Never looked like winning and didn’t jump well enough; no reason to suppose this will be any different
The Hollow Ginge
Two wins from six chase starts last season, with best effort at Leicester in January, led, tended to jump slightly left, niggled along in front, in close to 10th, niggled again going to 11th, went through 13th, pushed along home turn, drew clear, stayed on approaching 4 out, was closed on beore jumped left then left clear 3 out, ridden into 2 out from only remaining rival, stayed on under a hand ride going to last, jumped it 3 lengths up, hard ridden, stayed on well last 150 yards to maintain advantage over only other finisher Late Romantic. Did little in National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, midfield when not fluent 9th, blundered 11th, lost place and towards rear approaching 16th, struggling when went right and nearly off the course 17th, tried to refuse 18th, barely clambered over it and pulled up. Reappearance in Edinburgh Gin Chase at Kelso in October won by Some Chaos didn’t last long, led or disputed when overjumped and went left, collided with rival and fell 1st. Soft or heavy going and fields of eight or less are important to this one and this is neither, so nothing expected
Reappearance win at Market Rasen in August, picking up well on the run-in to beat Topofthecotswolds, with El Presente in 3rd. Ran okay when 2nd to Secret Investor at Chepstow in October, pushed along approaching 3 out and chased winner, stayed on going to 2 out, outpaced approaching last as the winner asserted, and then ran his best to date when turning up late enough on the scene, but nearly beating El Presente, in Badger Beers Chase at Wincanton, mistake 15th, pushed along after 17th, a bit to do when in close to 4 out, ridden and outpaced home turn, looked held approaching 3 out and jumped it some 12 lengths off the leader, stayed on and closed on those ahead approaching 2 out, put under pressure betwen last 2, sustained effort and joined El Presente when steadied into last, hard driven, 1st 2 headed the curling-up My Way 150 yards out and quickly went clear, might have led narrowly under pressure 100 yards out, headed post. Unlucky not to get it on the nod, but arguably lucky to have ended up where he did following an early mistake, and like the winner was tapped for pace on the back straight. With the going in this one’s favour, it’ll be more of a test of stamina and, now 6 lbs better with Secret Investor (the pair are officially 159 and 142 – with me 151/148), it wouldn’t be the first time that a Badger Beers runner-up has won this – anyone remember King’s Road?
Won at Chepstow in October 2019 on chase debut then ran 2nd to Sam Spinner in a good novice at Wetherby last season but never built on those – well held behind Two For Gold at Warwick last January and ran poorly behind Milan Native in Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival, niggled along in one from last 6th, had made a couple of places when jumped right 10th, niggled along again towards rear when ground taken approaching 17th, struggling when mistake 18th, a bit of ground wide before 19th, pushed along and kept on approaching 3 out, pecked on landing, ridden and lost ground approaching home turn, well held approaching 2 out as lost ground, dropped right out, barely clambered over last. On reappearance was 5th to Imperial Aura in Colin Parker Intermediate at Carlisle, held up last, made a place 9th, closer order 12th, ridden along from 4 out, some 3 lengths down but not done with 3 out, hard ridden, weakened after 2 out, well held under a ride last, passed a beaten one run-in. It was sort-of encouraging, but he was still 8 lengths behind the 4th Black Op, and on balance it’s probably best to expect little
Cloth Cap
Scottish National 3rd in 2019; best run last season good 2nd to My Old Gold at Doncaster in December 2019, moved comfortably home turn, blundered 4 out, pushed along, stayed on, led a length 3 out, put under pressure, 1st 2 pulled clear, the better jump 2 out, stayed on under strong pressure though wandered approaching last, was closed on 175 yards out, driven, was closed on last 100 yards, headed two strides from the post; below-form 8th to Milan Native in Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival, passed a few under a ride and turned for home in 6th some 3 lengths down, outpaced approaching 2 out, looked held between last 2, driven and no extra before last. Probably needed his reappearance when distant 3rd to Frodon and West Approach at Cheltenham in October, no more than 3 lengths off Frodon when niggled along at the top of the hill after 4 out, pushed along and took 4th after 3 out but had 2 to 3 lengths to find on those ahead, stayed on and took 3rd 2 out, driven and wandered approaching last, no extra, hard driven and continued to wander up the hill. It was a bit better than expected; he’s in first-time cheekpieces here, and his trainer Jonjo O’Neill has had three winners from his last 12 runners first up in that headgear (with another two placed) – expected to be better for the Cheltenham run and effective on good ground, has a chance

Also shortlisted: Vinndication, Potterman

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