Wetherby Race Preview, 31/10/2020

Saturday October 31th

Rain is forecast through the morning and in the early afternoon

Wetherby 2.45
bet365 Hurdle (West Yorkshire) Class 1 Grade 2
3m26y – Going: Good to Soft (Soft in places) – 9 runners

Lisnagar Oscar
The idea was that he went chasing last season, but he ran poorly on his second start behind Black Op at Stratford and went back over hurdles, initially with no results – was 9th behind Stoney Mountain in Grade 3 handicap hurdle at Haydock, detached from main group 9th and reminder on his way round – and falling early in a Pertemps Qualifier at Warwick in January. Back on track in a steadily-run renewal of Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham in January, ridden and held place upsides leaders as pace picked up after 2 out, unable to go with 1st 2 under a ride approaching last, kept on and 3rd to Paisley Park beaten just over 4 lengths. On to the Stayers’ Hurdle and it was more strongly run than the Cleeve, and with Paisley Park off his game, not only did he reverse the form with that one but with the Cleeve runner-up Summerville Boy as well as he took a famous victory, prominent in chasing group 10th, at most nudged along and closed on leaders going better than most on downhill run to 2 out, pushed along and took 2nd approaching home turn, led soon after the turn, stayed on, opened up a 2-length lead 175 yards off last, put under pressure nearing it as Ronald Pump closed on him, in close but the better jump, driven out, stayed on well to pull clear last 175 yards. Obvious form-pick, but so far he only has the one run on his record that makes him that – not a few, like Big Buck’s and Paisley Park (before his defeat in the latest Stayers’) had – and for me not an outright favourite’s chance
Improving handicap hurdler takes this huge step up in class in a hattrick bid after winning at Fontwell in August and Kelso in September, in the latter chased leader 7th, led approaching 3 out, pressed on approaching home turn, led 2 lengths straightening, was joined 2 out, pushed along, stayed on, hard driven approaching last, led a neck jumping, driven out, stayed on well last 150 yards to beat Weather Front (beaten 5 lengths into 8th behind Captain Tom Cat at Cheltenham last week in arguably not as good a race as the Kelso one). Yet to try this trip, he’s related to staying chaser Bowleaze on the dam’s side and should stay it – it’s just a question of whether or not he can find the 12-or-so lbs of improvement that he needs to figure; the ground is also a query – he does most of his racing on good or good to firm nowadays, and was tailed off in a bumper on his only start on officially soft ground
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 (good 2nd to Huntsman Son in the Listed handicap chase on the Friday). Didn’t run to form in RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival when last seen, niggled along approaching 11th, mistake 14th, held place and niggled along at the top of the hill, hard driven away from 3 out, weakened approaching home turn, in rear and tailing off when blundered 2 out, looked heavy-legged and tired when crumpled to the ground in an undignified heap last. With defeats of 16 lengths or worse on his seasonal debut-runs, little expected here
Decor Irlandais
Fairly useful hurdler, runner-up to Mossy Fen in Grade 2 Leamington at Warwick in January but tailed off behind Envoi Allen in Ballymore at the Cheltenham Festival,  pulled wide approaching 3 out, took off too early there, ridden, kept on without making an impression approaching 2 out, put under pressure approaching home turn, couldn’t find more approaching last, mistake, weakened up the hill. Best of two runs this Summer when winning a handicap hurdle at Killarney on August 22nd carrying top weight (mark 139), held up last, good gallop, went a bit left 5th, niggled along after 8th, ridden into and dived at 9th, mistake 10th and pushed along, still last approaching turn out of back straight, widest of all home turn, good ground going more comfortably approaching 3 out passing several, tracked leaders there on the bit, moved much the best when asked for a jump 2 out chasing leader, still not asked for maximum effort approaching last, led nearing it, hard ridden run-in, found extra under pressure, stayed on well. Had something in hand, beating William Of Wykeham 3/4 length conceding him 16 lbs; has more to find than one or two to get competitive, but he’s unexposed
As was the case in 2018/19 when he won the 3m1f handicap chase at Aintree, he produced his best at the end of last season (as it turned out) when 2nd to The Conditional in Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, 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. Good run, but had first-time cheekpieces on and made it clear that he comes with risks going forward, getting a reminder with a circuit to travel – his temperament might come under suspicion this season. He got into the 140s with me over hurdles when winning the Silver Plate at Kempton in March 2018; he’s gone well fresh in the past and might do something
Next Destination
When with Willie Mullins in 2017/18 he won four out of five in a productive novice chase season – his only defeat was when 3rd to Samcro in Ballymore Novices’ at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, pushed along at the top of the hill, stayed on and midfield 3 out, outpaced going to 2 out still pushed, steadied into it, shaken up approaching home turn, put under pressure, stayed on and closed on those ahead approaching last, left alone nearing it, hard driven last 175 yards, ran on strongly last 100 yards and went 3rd last couple of strides, shaping as though the trip wasn’t far enough. He proved that when going over 3m to take the Grade 1 Irish Daily Mirror Novice at that year’s Punchestown Festival from Delta Work and Kilbricken Storm, mistakes 6th and 8th, edged closer 9th, niggled along approaching 3 out, mistake 2 out, niggled along approaching home turn, soon more firmly pushed along, stayed on to challenge leader straightening, led narrowly under a ride and staying on well approaching last, 1st 3 clear, hard driven run-in, asserted 175 yards out, sustained effort, was closed on last 50 yards but always holding on under driving, genuine effort. Had to get really tough against two rivals who wouldn’t lie down and won by a neck. Now with Paul Nicholls, it’s a massive ask after 920 days off, but he was/is unexposed and might go well if fit enough
The Dutchman
Useful handicap chaser, not out since April 2018; he took that year’s Peter Marsh at Haydock when with Colin Tizzard, chased leader 10th, led 14th, arguably moved best of the field approaching 3 out (normally 4 out), went 2 to 3 lengths up passing omitted 3 out, hit 2 out, pushed along, stayed on, was 4 lengths up last, driven out, all out, drew clear under pressure, clearly empty last 100 yards but unchallenged by 13 lengths from Captain Redbeard; no other form in two subsequent starts, pulled up in Haydock National Trial in February and unseated 23rd (midfield at the time) in the first of Tiger Roll’s two Grand Nationals. In the same ownership, he’s now joined Tristan Davidson; the worst in the field on official ratings, he’s easily passed over
In a short first season over fences, won two of his three starts and on the third of them beat Rockpoint in a good novice chase at Cheltenham in November 2019, mistake 5th, headway 12th, not fluent 15th (normally 4 out) and briefly pushed along away from it, headway and tracked leaders at the top of the hill, effort and challenged leader home turn, led going best approaching 2 out, pushed along, stayed on to draw 4 lengths clear by last, ridden out, idled in the clear but never in danger, workmanlike and decisive. Wasn’t seen out again. His hurdles form to date considerably betters what little he’s done over fences – his best official hurdles-rating was 161 (Lisnagar Oscar is currently officially 160) and when he finished 3rd to Penhill in the 2018 Stayers’ (had 5 in front jumping last, hard driven, stayed on strongly last 150 yards to go 3rd, finished fast but no impression on 1st 2), that was arguably a better renewal than the 2020-one. With a good record fresh, there’s a case for this one to start favourite
Consistent mare who got her last win over hurdles when she was the beneficiary of Benie Des Dieux’s fall at the last in the 2019 Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, unable to go with her approaching last, some 3 or 4 lengths 2nd when left clear in front by her fall, hard driven, all out, veered right (into the whip) 150 yards out, stayed on, went sligtly left last 75 yards, always getting there but nothing to spare from Stormy Ireland; bettered the form and proved her stamina when running If The Cap Fits to a head in the Grade 1 3m hurdle at Aintree that April,  switched outside rivals going to 2 out, mistake, 3 lengths to find under a strong ride approaching last, the best jump, led a furlong out, hard driven, headed 150 yards out, found extra under strong pressure, led inside last 50 yards, headed post. Best run last year on reappearance when running Top Notch close in a conditions’ hurdle at Aintree in November, the rest of the campaign wasn’t as good – only 4th to Honeysuckle in latest renewal of the mares’ hurdle at Cheltenham, moved comfortably enough but effort delayed before 2 out, jumped it in 5th and pushed along after, one pace under a ride approaching last, chance of 3rd jumping, carried tail high, no extra up the hill last 175 yards. The best of her form would get her in the mix, receiving 13 lbs from Lisnagar Oscar

Shortlist: Wholestone, Roksana

Wetherby 3.20
bet365 Charlie Hall Chase Class 1 Grade 2
3m45y – Going: Good to Soft (Soft in places) – 10 runners

Great season last term with three wins, including the Class 2 3m handicap chase at Chepstow’s first meeting (challenged by Lil Rockerfeller going to 3 out where the better jump, pulled clear going to 2 out, ridden further clear approaching last), but finest hour when winning last year’s Charlie Hall; chased leader 11th racing wide, hard ridden turning out of back straight, going worst of the leading 3 home turn, stayed on under a ride and every chance 4 out, half a length down 3 out, sustained effort and led approaching 2 out, hard ridden, 4 lengths up when mistake last, driven out, stayed on well run-in to beat Elegant Escape. Also took 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). The forecast rain will be in his favour
Needs little introduction – top-class if he gets a right-handed track, like at Ascot last November when, following the encouragement of the racing media towards the relevant parties, he and Altior faced off in the 1965 Chase last November, Cyrname beating him off from the second last. Running in that – which wasn’t the original plan for last season for the trainers of both horses – affected Altior’s season and ruined Cyrname’s, as he wasn’t the same horse when unable to lay a glove on Clan Des Obeaux in King George at Kempton (was strongly challenged when ridden along after 4 out, narrowly headed 3 out, hard ridden, mistake 2 out and left well behind, beaten 21 lengths) and when falling in Ascot Chase in February when last seen out, led but didn’t go flat out, jumped soundly, niggled along from 12th, headed 3 out, hard ridden, couldn’t go on and looked held 2 out, in 3rd and losing ground on 1st 2 when fell last, Riders Onthe Storm the beneficiary with the staying-on Traffic Fluide, who looked likely to get there, also falling. Raced only three times left-handed since joining Paul Nicholls, his best run is a 2nd over 2m at Newbury in December 2017 – to be fair I haven’t actually noted him as jumping right (save for once over hurdles in 2017, when tiring) , the issue when he was only 4th to Finian’s Oscar in the 2018 Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree being that he couldn’t dominate. Which leaves problem number two; the trip – all we’ve got to go on is that King George run, for which he wasn’t on top of his game. He has a chance, sure, but due to circumstances, for me his chance is not that of an outright favourite
Definitly Red
In 2018 won the Charlie Hall on seasonal debut, led 7th, niggled after 14th, pushed along and pressed on coming off home turn, was joined by Black Corton 3 out, gradually asserted going to 2 out, stayed on and drew further clear by last, stayed on well, ridden out, workmanlike and decisive by 2 lengths. It was a hit-amd-miss season for him last term, only 4th to Ballyoptic here last year (not fluent 13th and niggled along, soon more firmly pushed along, kept on home turn, put under pressure, no extra going to 4 out, no impression going to 3 out and weakened), then 4th in Becher Chase, pushed along most of the final mile, but eventually came back to form when 2nd to Vintage Clouds in Peter Marsh at Haydock, and finished off with a win in a Listed chase at Kelso in February in first-time cheekpieces, chased leader, not fluent 1st, niggled along turning out of back straight, stayed on and led 2 out (normally 4 out), a length up last (normally 3 out), pushed along and stayed on to pull clear home turn, put under pressure when in a 10-length lead approaching omitted last, ridden right out and continued to stay on till all out last 100 yards, safe and in no danger when pulled himself up close home, beat Kauto Riko 14 lengths. It can’t be rated as highly as some of his other form going back; he’s harder work nowadays than he used to be and now not sure what to expect, this his seasonal debut aged 11 going on 12, but the forecast rain will be in his favour
On this day last year won the Sodexo Gold Cup at Ascot off 151, chased leader, not fluent 2nd, ridden into 4th, tracked leaders after, in close to 5th, ridden into 7th and 14th, a little ground to chase leader 15th, pushed along briefly approaching 4 out, moved more comfortably before ridden into 3 out and led, moved largely comfortably home turn, niggled along approaching 2 out, led 2 lengths, hard ridden, stayed on under pressure between last 2, some 5 or 6 lengths up last, ridden out, stayed on well, decisive from Regal Encore. On only other start, despite a question mark about the left-handed track, went for the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival 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. Leading at the last is good enough for me to suggest that going left-handed isn’t an issue; having said that there were too many little errors, so jumping needs to improve – he’s young enough though, and should run well
Sam Spinner*
One of the most popular Northern jumpers right now, he posted the best run of his career in the 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle when 2nd to Paisley Park at Cheltenham at an SP of 33/1,  led 8th, niggled along approaching 9th, ridden into 10th, pressed on in front at the top of the hill, was joined up front 2 out, hard ridden, stayed on from home turn, hard driven approaching last, was challenged by Paisley Park and headed nearing it, the better jump, driven, no extra last 150 yards as winner asserted, stuck to task. Unbeaten in three chases in his novice season, which was cut short by an injury to his pelvis; the first two of them were at Wetherby and on the first of them, over only 2m3f, he showed that he wants 3m –  looked to be going nowhere 5 out, ridden along with firm hands and heels, stayed on well on home turn and closed on those in front, stayed on into 2nd 3 out, some 3 lengths down at the most 2 out, hard ridden, continued to close on Beakstown, led last, ran on, going away at the line. When last seen took the Grade 2 December Novices’ at Doncaster, led 8th, ridden into 10th and 12th, slipped on take-off side of 13th and bad mistake, niggled along home turn, the better jump 4 out and pulled clear, pushed along from 3 out and safe with the race going to 2 out, coasted in from last, unchallenged from Windsor Avenue. If this was over hurdles he’d be favourite (my best hurdles rating for him is 167, in that 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle), and he needs to improve his jumping and transfer that back-class to hurdles – it’s a tough ask but not impossible
Aye Right
Rated 147 with me over hurdles, but in a light novice chase campaign last season didn’t reach that level, taking his chance at an SP of 100/1 in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, tracked leaders 4th, mistake 5th, shuffled back and midfield when nudged along away from 14th, had made up ground when mistake 16th and lost place, niggled along and made up ground going down the hill to 3 out, pushed along and lost place approaching home turn, well held turning in, weakened further, tailed off last, 5th to Champ. Dropped to 2m1f for reappearance, shaped well behind Old Roan Chase-winner Nuts Well at Kelso on reappearance, chased leader approaching 4th, in close to it, tracked leaders from 7th, firmly pushed along home turn, couldn’t go with 1st 2 approaching 2 out, kept on approaching last though carried head to one side, hard driven and stayed on into 2nd after last, sustained effort run-in but never getting to winner. Although he’s unexposed it’s a bit surprising to see him here, and on paper he’s likely to run similarly to as he did at Cheltenham, but on this flatter track, he’s less  likely to come back tailed off
Keeper Hill
Reappearance win last season in graduation chase at Haydock in November, disputed lead 3rd to 4th, shuffled back but remained in touch, blundered 8th, nudged along before steadied into 10th, steadied into 11th then briefly pushed along, niggled along before and after 13th, ridden 4 out, last with 3 lengths to find 3 out, driven, stayed on, every chance 2 out, sustained effort, led last, soon challenged, hard driven, 1st 2 clear, found more for pressure last 100 yards to beat Midnight Shadow. Was subsequently 2nd to a below-par Frodon at Kempton, then on what turned out to be his final start of the season was 3rd to Highland Hunter in Pertemps Qualifier over hurdles at Musselburgh in February. Much better over 3m than shorter, he’s more exposed than one or two and is a difficult ride who’s failed to finish in four of his nine chases (has completed all his hurdle races); not for me
Mister Whitaker
No wins in a light season last term, and after reappearance 5th to Oldgrangewood at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day ran worse when failing to finish behind Santini and Bristol De Mai in Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham’s Festival Trials-card late in January, looking well in the paddock, held up, mistake 2nd, made a place 7th, lost place and niggled along 17th, pushed along as relegated to last approaching home turn, no more before mistake 2 out, tailed off when pulled up after last. Came back to his best – indeed may well have posted a career-best – when 3rd to Simply The Betts in Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate at the Cheltenham Festival, midfield, blundered 1st, closer order going comfortably and at most 6 lengths down 14th, reminder after 3 out, niggled along and kept on approaching home turn, soon more firmly pushed, left in 3rd 2 out, ridden and no extra approaching last, put under pressure, one pace, picked up when challenged for 3rd inside final 125 yards, no impression on 1st 2. More than once he’s shaped as though he’ll stay 3m – on both starts over the trip he’s pulled up, but in the Cotswold it was the eventual Gold Cup runner-up, who was pressing on and taking the race to the rest, that he was trying to stay with – how it panned out the race suited Santini more than it did Mister Whitaker and everyone else; so, one last chance over this trip
Saint Xavier
Fair form over hurdles when joining Paul Nicholls, but his only win came in a three-runner novices’ hurdle over 3m at Kempton in January this year, made all, clear much of the way, pressed on from 3 out, pushed along between last 2, well ahead when mistake last, unchallenged from Delight Of Dubai (official rating 117). Showed nothing on only chase start, at Kelso in February behind Definitly Red, tracked leaders, keen, not fluent 1st, lost place after 7th, niggled along and unable to make ground on those ahead after last fence on back straight, ridden and weakened from home turn, tailed off passing omitted last, trailed in, beaten 52 lengths. Now with new connections, on what he’s shown so far in Britain, he won’t be cause for concern
La Bague Au Roi
On reappearance in this race last year, couldn’t go with leaders after the last on the back straight and was pulled up on the home turn. Benefiting from the run, she ran to form on her completed runs – 3rd to Top Notch in Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon, then played her part in a terrific scrap for the Silver Vase at Doncaster just after Christmas, led, headed 3 out, stayed on and was upsides Happy Diva as pair disputed lead 2 out, hard driven, sustained effort, still upsides jumping last, driven and faded run-in, stuck to task, beaten just over a length behind Lady Buttons. Again tried to make all in Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February, dropped some 4 or 5 lengths off leaders and struggling to stay in touch with them nearing 2 out, hard ridden and kept on approaching home turn without making an impression, put under pressure approaching last, made no ground and 5th to Delta Work beaten 13 lengths; was doing okay when exiting the race in the Plate at the Cheltenham Festival, tracked leaders 9th, ridden into and blundered/unseated rider 10th. Made an early reappearance, at Perth in September, and shaped as though the race was needed behind Amalfi Doug, led, hit 10th, ridden into 12th, clear 14th, ridden into 4 out, niggled along home turn, not so far ahead straightening, was a neck up 3 out, pushed along, stayed on, hard ridden approaching last, was being headed when as-good-as-fell last, not recover, looked heavy-legged and soon lost 3rd, no more. I’d like to see her dropped in a bit more, but there’s likely to be a better showing from her in this Charlie Hall compared to last year’s as she comes here with a run behind her

Shortlist: Ballyoptic, Vinndication, Sam Spinner

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