Showers were forecast for Sandown on Friday evening and the hope is that there is enough cut in the ground for Might I (12.05) in the opener for Harry Fry who had such a much-needed winner at Leicester on Thursday. This piece was written before Boothill’s run at Exeter on Friday and a big run from that inmate would certainly be a boost to the selection who created such a favourable impression when scoring at Newton Abbot back in October.
The selection – 6/4 with William Hill – has pulled too hard in all three career starts but he certainly houses an engine, and he can make it two from two over timber. The 5-y-old is a half-brother to Stattler who finished fourth in the 3m Albert Bartlett at Cheltenham back in March, but he remains at the minimum distance and is likely to remain so while he refuses to settle.
Hardkore beat Good Risk At All by over 4L at Chepstow on his first start over hurdles and the runner up was beaten 6L by Nicky Henderson’s Supreme Novice Hurdle favourite Jonbon at Newbury last week. That was his first career start, and he could be anything although an SP of 10/1 suggested he had not been exactly burning up the gallops at Dan Skelton’s.
Fable heads the market in the mares’ handicap hurdle with connections deciding against making the switch to chasing which was under consideration. The Tizzard yard have done us a number of favours of late and Shirocco’s Dream (12.40) looks well treated for her handicap debut. The mare was all out to score at Exeter last time, but Brendan Powell is likely to set more of a gallop on his mount now he knows she is such a strong stayer. Today’s additional furlong and stiff uphill finish should suit, and the mare is fitted with a tongue tie for the first time. The 9/2 with 10Bet looks fair.
Chacun Pour Soi (2.25) beat Nube Negra by almost 20L at Punchestown last time the pair met in April, and I will be surprised if Dan Skelton’s charge were able to reverse the form with the Irish raider although I appreciate that Nube Negra finished in front of the Willie Mullins’ star in the Champion Chase the previous month.
Nube Negra was very impressive at Cheltenham last month and is a nailing good two-mile chaser but if Chacun Pour Soi – Evens with Boylesports – brings his A game to Esher then I feel he will be very tough to beat. Patrick Mullins takes over in the saddle with Paul Townend still on the sidelines.
I am convinced the ground was softer than the official going description of good at Fontwell last time – winning time 20 seconds above standard – for Natural History (3.35) in the Salmon Spray and he is now 10lbs lower – 15 if you include his jockey’s claim – than when sent off 2/1 market leader for the Imperial Cup back in the spring when he never went a yard over today’s C&D on soft/heavy ground. This is very much a retrieval mission but the 16s available on Friday evening with Boylesports 4 places was surely too big back on decent ground.
Yes, Jamie Moore rides the more fancied stablemate Hudson De Grugy, but he would surely want the rain to arrive.
A sensational eight-race card at Aintree with two races to be run before noon. Palmers Hill will have his supporters in the 2m 3f+ handicap chase but I cannot desert Annual Invictus (12.55) who jumped well when making all at Plumpton last time albeit in a match and the runner up – Dino Velvet – was beaten a short head at Doncaster last weekend. The 7s with William Hill 4 places looks a fair each way price.
I don’t like the idea of Imperial Aura (2.05) having to give weight to the unexposed Protektorat but the market leader and Simply The Betts have stamina to prove. I thought Kim Bailey’s horse was the only one likely to give A Plus Tard a race before he came down six out in the Betfair Chase on his reappearance.
Whether he would have got home is debatable, but he had travelled strongly at Haydock and would probably have finished a well beaten second behind the magnificent winner. There is no A Plus Tard in todays field and the 4/1 with William Hill on Friday was too big.
It would be wonderful to see the evergreen Native River win the race for a second time, and he is the main danger. I never believed the guff the media told us that only Richard Johnson could get the best out of him and Jonjo O’Neill will try and make all as he did on the former Gold Cup winner in the Denman Chase of 2020. The more rain the better for his supporters.
The Becher Chase is one of my favourite races of the season, but Blaklion is the only winner I have backed in the last decade. My two against the field are the Snows Falcon and Leopardess (2.40) with preference for the latter. Connections of the mare Snow Leopardess have made the bold decision of tackling the National fences with their grey who is a terrific jumper of park fences. The hope is that she will take to these unique obstacles, and she looked better than ever at Bangor-on-Dee on her reappearance.The 13/2 with William Hill 7n places looks fair.
At Chepstow St Barts (1.22) has never won first time out but may need to win the Welsh National Trial to stand any chance of getting into the big one back here over Christmas. The ew selection – 5s with MansionBet – only had three races last season and ran a poor race when last seen at Uttoxeter back in the spring despite being beaten just over ten lengths. There is more to come this term.
My two against the field in the 3m novices chase are Gericault Roque and the frustrating Faustinovick (1.57) with the latter getting the each way vote having had a wind operation since he finished runner up – he did on his last five starts – at Plumpton back in March. His talented conditional jockey takes off a valuable 7lbs and the selection – who I did not think stayed 3m this time last season – was a rare runner from the Colin Tizzard yard who performed consistently well without winning last term. The ew recommendation is 6s with William Hill 4 places