Friday 4.30pm Cracking Saturday afternoon of National Hunt racing with four good cards at Haydock, Ascot, Wincanton and Gowran Park. Maybe could have done with a few more runners in the handicaps but horses to keep an eye on with regard to Cheltenham are Yanworth in the Kingwell hurdle (2.45 Wincanton) and Jezki (Gowran Park 3.05) re Champion hurdle, Cue Card, Traffic Fluide, Taquin du Seuil etc (Ascot3.35) re Gold Cup/RyanAir and the Ascot 1.15 and Haydock 3.50 may throw up a Neptune/Alfred Bartlett springer! As for the Festival handicaps there is a Pertemps qualifier at Haydock (2.40) and some guilty looking sorts in the wrong race/distance etc such as Mall Dini in the Beginners Chase at Gowran 1.20, Tony Martin has a couple at Haydock etc..
Nice to see, via twitter “Rebecca Curtis has 5 at Ascot tomorrow, her first runners for 17 days. Jonathan Moore rides 4 of them, having not ridden for RC since 14 Dec” chris cook @claimsfive The Guardian
Saturday Lucky 15
Ascot 2.25 VIRAK 8/1 general
Ascot 3.00 TEMPLEROSS 9/2 general
Haydock 3.15 VIEUX LION ROUGE 13/2 general
Haydock 3.50 THE WORLDS END 7/2 general
and here’s why
Ascot 2.25 VIRAK Got a mention in my Ante Post piece yesterday. “I have Virak very much on the radar and think Paul Nicholls has him coming to the boil nicely, is well handicapped and about to land a nice prize over 3m+ on Soft ground. Indeed if he runs in the 2.25 at Ascot on Saturday instead he would carry my money based on his excellent second to Wakanda in the C&D Listed Silver Cup off a mark six pounds higher (Currently 16/1 with PP).” The price has gone but so has most of the opposition, just the seven runners! Sausolito Sunrise was 5lbs lower when winning this year but hasn’t run as well since and I’m not sure those cheek-pieces help, the classy O’Faolains Boy is on the comeback trail again, Tenor Nivernais and Cloudy Too have their best days behind them, Chef D’Oeuvre needs a bog and further though he has a featherweight here and I’d have the Rooneys Go Conquer as the main danger.
Ascot 3.00 TEMPLEROSS He went up just 3lbs when a well-supported second to Modus in the Lanzarote hurdle at Kempton and it is really hard to get away from that form that has been well franked twice already when the 3rd Lord of the Island won the Grade 3 handicap hurdle at Sandown and the fifth Kalondra sauntered home in a C2 handicap hurdle at Huntingdon. Add to that Jamie Bargary can claim 3lbs and the excellent form of the Twiston-Davies yard and Templeross has to be a bet. Plenty of dangers but a few to keep an eye on. Two long term absentees, firstly Ordo ab Cheo for Alan King who was really well thought of and had strong novice form including a seventh in the Neptune at the 2015 Festival having won a trial at Cheltenham previously with his Official Rating dropped from 145 to 137 for eighteen months off, secondly Nicky Hendersons Oscar Hoof who has been off for the best part of three years since falling when just 11/2 to win the Grade 1 Mersey hurdle at Aintree. His mark has slipped just 6lbs from OR138 to 132. However the dangers for today are more likely to be Air Force One, winner of two novice hurdles, who Harry Fry sends handicapping for the first time and Divine Spear who was an excellent third to William H Bonney in a C2 handicap hurdle at Cheltenham and Nicky Henderson continues to use Ned Curtis’s 5lb claim and I wonder if connections have one eye on the Martin Pipe at the Festival?
Haydock 3.15 VIEUX LION ROUGE Put him up in my Ante Post staying chasers treble and I have no reason to change my mind. Thurs. 1pm “Vieux Lion Rouge was an impressive winner of the 3m 2f Becher Chase over the National fences when last seen and we know he jumps and stays, we know that he has a touch of class, he was sixth in that red hot 4m NH chase at Cheltenham. What we don’t know is what shape David Pipe’s Pond House string are in as the aforementioned Becher Chase is the only Graded chase the yard has won for two years and they haven’t been setting Saturdays on fire. How fit will Vieux Lion Rouge be as obviously this season is all about April 8th and the Grand National itself? As an 8yo I think he is still improving and is a well weighted solid staying chaser and I shall back him at to win at 13/2 with William Hill or BetFred (Was 8/1 when I started writing this piece!).”
Haydock 3.50 THE WORLDS END I think the in-form connections of Tom George, Adrian Heskin and the McNeill family may have a star on their hands here. Won his bumper at Chepstow last season, was third to Gayebury at Ffos Las on hurdling debut when too keen but has won his next two at Chepstow both times over 2m 3f. The downside is can he transfer that form away from South Wales and how will he cope with the three furlong rise in trip? My answers would be “of course he can” and “he’ll love it”! The upsides of this horse greatly overwhelm any doubts as visually impressive on both winning runs, form that has been confirmed with both the horses who finished second to The Worlds End winning since. Full Irish won a C3 at Leicester beating the likes of Laser Light and Reigning Supreme whilst Testify put away Lough Derg Farmer and Over to Sam. Solid stuff. In both wins The Worlds End jumped, travelled and quickened to put the race to bed and there is not much more you can ask for!
Friday Lucky 15
Frustrating afternoon, especially the first race, and I’m not in the habit of jumping up and down about tipping an even money winner!
Fakenham 2.00 PRINCE OF STEAL UR 10/1
How very annoying! Got no further than the fourth when as half expected Mr Mix failed to complete, Omessa Has ran like a cow and the total rag has obliged at 22/1!
Sandown 2.10 POUGNE BOBBI 5th 11/10F
Really disappointing. Lost place halfway down back straight, kept on albeit at one pace. Perhaps does need to go back up in trip but will be on a 14lb higher mark!
Sandown 2.40 COLINS SISTER 1st Evs
Gutsy mare who deserves another crack at Grade 1 level but needed every yard of this 2m 4f trip. Punchestown?
Fakenham 3.00 RAKTIMAN 3rd 9/2
Prominent throughout but always pushed along. Led 2 out but no answer to comfortable winner, Rear Admiral.
MONEY TALKS Oldtown point to point winner Flemenshill went to the Tattersalls Cheltenham sales as the talking horse on Thursday and connections were not disappointed as the well bred gelding went through the ring for an incredible £480,000. Hailing from the Colin McKeever and Wilson Dennison team, a duo who have produced a number of high class performers including last year’s Cheltenham Festival winner Yorkhill, plus fellow Grade 1 winners Bellshill and Shaneshill, who all who came through the point-to-point ranks, the son of Flemensfirth becomes the most expensive point to point horse sold at the sales. Partnered by Noel McParlan at Oldtown on February 5th, the four-year-old easily accounted for expensive purchase Defi Bleu (€255,000) who topped last year’s Tattersalls Derby sale for Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown House Stud. The horse is out of the unraced Dr Massini mare Southern Skies, who has produced four winners from six runners and is a half sister to Strong Flow, a six-time winner which included the Grade 3 Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury and the Grade 1 Feltham Novices” Chase at Kempton in 2003. He will now join Colin Tizzard’s stable of stars.
Other notable sales for point to point graduates include Paul Cashman’s Kilfeacle winner On The Blind Side bought for £205,000 goes to Nicky Henderson for Alan Spence, Getareason who finished second in the Punchestown four-year-old maiden on Sunday for Warren Ewing sold to Harold Kirk/Willie Mullins for £140,000, James Doyle’s Bitingthebullet who finished ahead of Getareason going to Evan Williams for £170,000 and Warren Ewing’s Sending Love, a Kirkistown winner last Saturday, also going to Harold Kirk/Willie Mullins for £130,000. Ex-Irish point to point graduates sold for a combined total of £1,945,000 on Thursday. Get them in the Tracker!