The ground at Wincanton on the chase course on Wednesday was described as good – good to soft in places – with the hurdle course given as good to soft – good in places. What a crock of shit!
How can a competitive handicap chase run over 2m 4f on good ground be won by a winning time over 21 seconds above standard? Yes I appreciate I could be accused of talking through my pocket having backed Kakamora but how can the clerk of the course not alter the going description after the first couple of races? The winning times told us, not hinted at, that underfoot conditions were a mix of soft/good to soft on both courses but the form book will tell us otherwise.
A wonderful card at Gowran Park this afternoon with the highlight the Thyestes Chase over 3m 1f on ground described as soft on Wednesday although there is no more significant rain forecast.
The market is headed by Martin Brassil’s Longhouse Poet who has been the subject of a rare antepost gamble in the last week backed down from 25s to 11/2 with Boylesports. His astute handler won the corresponding race back in 2005 with subsequent Grand National winner Numbersixvalverde and he does have an ideal profile for the race given he had excellent novice chase form and had a pipe-opener over an inadequate trip at Limerick over Christmas.
He must run a big race, but the value has gone, and Gordon Elliot and Willie Mullins have shared the last four renewals of this valuable handicap and they saddle no fewer than ten of the eighteen runners due to face the starter this afternoon.
I would have been very sweet on the chances of Elliot’s Braeside (3.05) if there was rain forecast but he still gets the each way vote on the back of a terrific run at Leopardstown last time when he jumped slightly out to his right but was doing all his best work late on.
Today’s additional furlong will suit and his previous success in the Cork National suggested to me that he could make up into an Irish National horse one day. The 13/2 with William Hill looks fair.
Death Duty is another Elliot horse I am interested in despite the fact that this Grade 1 winning novice chaser has not yet fulfilled his early promise. Now eleven, the gelding has had two long absences in his racing career to overcome, but he did run well returning from a thirteen-month absence when just behind Braeside at Leopardstown over the Festive period.
Last year’s winner Coko Beach runs from a 9lbs higher mark but is the pick of Davy Russell and he and Eklat De Rire are others for the shortlist in another terrific renewal of this prestigious contest.
In the Wetherby opener If Not For Dylan has been put in very short – 6/4 – for a horse who must prove his stamina for this near 3m 1f trip.
Real Armani (12.40) is a Hexham specialist but did run a decent race over fences here in the past and he is suggested as the each way alternative to the market leader. The ew recommendation – 8s with 10Bet – may have found four miles taxing his stamina back in November and appeared to get bogged down on heavy ground last time. Liam Harrison looks a good booking for the selection who would not be inconvenienced if the ground continued to dry out.
The near 2m 4f handicap chase is a terrific little race despite the fact that only half a dozen go to post. The Paddy Pie ran well for a long way at Newcastle last time over a trip longer than ideal and he looks sure to give it a good go from the front for Sue and Harvey Smith.
Realm Keeper has had a wind operation ahead of his belated seasonal reappearance and he looks sure to go close for Venetia Williams, but I hope that the race over C&D here on Boxing Day will be the key and I feel there is every chance of third home Mr Whipped (2.15) reversing the form with the second Buster Valentine on 2lbs better terms.
Brian Ellison has only raced the horse twice since he was transferred to his yard from Nicky Henderson back in March, but I thought he tanked through the race here over Christmas and it was just the combination of being too keen on his first start for 260-days that prevented him from adding to his four previous career successes.
He lowered the colours of Paisley Park over timber and was rated 13lbs higher over fences when finishing a good fourth in an Aintree Grade 1 novice chase over an extended three miles. He has only just turned nine and I would be disappointed if he didn’t run a big race. The 7/2 with William Hill looks fair.
Spot On Soph will appreciate stepping back in trip to 2m 4f in the mares’ handicap chase but her jumping remains a bit hit and miss – she flew some at Catterick last time but also made a couple of errors – and I am going to take a chance on Wheesht (3.45) who jumped out to the left down the back straight at Huntingdon last time on ground – heavy – softer than ideal.
I remember the selection – 5s with MansionBet – running out a fluent winner over timber on good ground last spring at Plumpton and, if she doesn’t run a big race today, I suggest we keep her on side on decent ground going left-handed in the weeks to come.
Marta Des Mottes had jumped carefully before unseating Ben Poste at Newcastle and no real surprise to see a change of pilot today. She is another to consider as I am keen to take on the favourite Spot On Soph.