Thursday Jan. 21st 12noon
The weights are out for the SkyBet Chase at Doncaster on Sat. Jan. 30th and the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Sat. Jan. 6th and are just too tempting to resist!!
SkyBet Handicap Chase Doncaster Sat. Jan. 30th
You know my modus operandi by now. I am looking for an in-form improver who has had the race on his agenda for a while. Course form helps and Doncaster’s flat 3m is probably more about speed than stamina and probably suits a second season chaser. I think Charlie Longsdon’s COOLOGUE fits the bill.
COOLOGUE was a creditable second to Southfield Royale over course and distance last time out after which his trainer wrote on his website “NO WINNER, BUT A FINE 2ND BY COOLOGUE. We could not get a winner on another important Saturday, but Coologue ran his heart out to be second in the Grade 2 Novice Chase at Doncaster. It was the first time he had stepped up to 3 miles and he jumped like an old pro and was still just leading at the second last where he just drifted left into the upright of the fence while jumping, knocking him sideways and also losing his rhythm. To be honest it looked at that stage he would have been second anyway, but it would have been far closer without the mistake. He will now have a small break and I can see him heading back to Doncaster at the end of January for the Skybet chase…….”
COOLOGUE has an official rating of 139 and if either of the current topweight’s, Sam Winner or Ballynagour, stood their ground he would carry just 10st 5lbs.
He is a one star* each way selection @ 20/1 with Paddy Power. We’ll top up the win side nearer to race time if necessary.
Betfair Handicap Hurdle Newbury Sat. Feb. 6th
Love this race!
Prior to last year’s contest the Sponsors through Simon Rowlands (Timeform) gave us the following information.
As with many jumps handicaps, younger has tended to be better.
Last-time winners have performed well. Eight of the last 10 winners have been five-year-olds or six-year-olds.
There is also no clear effect regarding absences, but that in itself may be regarded as useful information. Horses returning from absences of more than 60 days have won four of the last 10 Betfair Hurdles from just 22.7% of the total representation while being almost bang on par in terms of % Rivals Beaten. Recent form is not the positive it might be imagined to be.
Of the 19 jockeys with more than 12 rides in all handicap hurdles at Newbury since 2009, four stand out in terms of % Rivals Beaten. These are: Tom Scudamore (30 rides, 61.6% Rivals Beaten); Ruby Walsh (15, 57.5%); Aidan Coleman (27, 57.2%); and Richard Johnson (44, 57.0%). Meanwhile, Paddy Brennan (25, 44.6%), Brendan Powell (14, 41.7%) and Daryl Jacob (16, 36.2%) have fared worst by that measure. “Horses for Courses” is a well-known dictum, but a jockey’s ability to understand how to ride a given course – including when and where to make a move – may still be underrated.
My first observation is that I’ll be amazed if more than a couple come over from Ireland as they are dreadfully handicapped. Take our favourite #startrackingAntepost horse, De Name Escapes Me, he had 134 in the Coral.ie hurdle at Leopardstown last Sunday but he has 143 in this race!! Wouldn’t be surprised if Desoto County came for Gordon Elliott and the Rooneys but he’s up 17lb since being well beaten in a C2 hurdle at Newcastle for Donald McCain less than twelve months ago. Not with stolen money!
Age and form seem to be the key and looking at this race three weeks out I have a short list of seven.
You have to start with the blatantly obvious in MODUS. He looks a plot and a blot!! Second to Moon Racer in the Cheltenham bumper, third to Bellshill in the Punchestown bumper is classy Championship form. He’s won two C3 novice hurdles including over course and distance and most recently was third over 3F further on ground he would have hated. He is good in big fields, helping him settle, and as a son of Authorised he has gears! He beat Charmix a neck and is 6lbs better off!! Owned by JP McManus, assured of a racing weight he can’t go unbacked. So Modus is a one star* win selection at the general 8/1 and we will build a portfolio against that.
IVAN GROZNY This is one Irish horse that Mullins may send over. He was a classy 4yo winning a Fairyhouse Grade 3 race but was then off the course for close to two years before running well for a long way in the Coral.ie hurdle on Sunday off OR145. He gets the same mark here and could well pick up a big pot this season but I’m ducking him for two reasons. Firstly he could ‘bounce’ on his second run back and Willie Mullins has adreadful record at Newbury, 0-17 in the last five seasons and 0-6 over hurdles. (Top price 50/1 with PP suggesting he won’t run!)
NABUCCO A classy beast for John Gosden on the Flat, rated OR109 at best, he has won three of his five goes at hurdling including a Listed race at Ascot. His jumping mark of OR136 is competitive and could he be the horse to win a big handicap for John Ferguson and the Godolphin/Bloomfields experiment? Two concerns, firstly put firmly in his place when playing with the big boys in the Great wood hurdle and only a pound less and secondly I always thought he kept a bit for himself on the Flat. (Top price 33/1 with Ladbrokes and Coral, that has a ring to it?)
ZARIB At the start of the season I had Dan Skelton’s classy youngster down as a major player in the 2m handicap division but he was really disappointing in the Elite at Wincanton behind Irving when he had loads in his favour. The only other time we’ve seen him this season was in the Ladbroke at Ascot before Christmas when he was a nearest-at-the-finish 6th. So he stays on OR134 and should sneak in with a low weight and his regular pilot, brother Harry, can get down to 10st. Zarib is a one star each way selection at 20/1 general.
SIGN OF A VICTORY In days gone by my first port of call for this race would have been Seven Barrows and the Nicky Henderson entries. Peace and Co has been given top weight and although he may settle better at the guaranteed fierce pace I think the horse is mentally brittle and I can’t have a 4yo giving weight to the whole field! However Sign of a Victory also has a Champion Hurdle entry and if he won this off OR153 he would be worth his place at Cheltenham. He has had an unusual prep in finishing fourth to Nabucco, then winning a maiden on the Tapeta at Wolverhampton and then last of five to Faugheen in the Christmas Hurdle, going well to two out, then eased off when beaten. If he runs he will probably have top weight but he could simply be the best horse in the race. (Currently best price 33/1 with PP and Coral)
WAR SOUND On only his fifth run over hurdles he won the Swinton Hurdle at Haydock under claimer Cairan Gethings off OR140 last May but we haven’t seen him since. In his Racing Post Stable Tour back in October said “Unfortunately he’s got a bit of an issue with the bone above his fetlock joint” whilst adding “he won’t be running until January, so the Betfair Hurdle might be a suitable target.” He gets in here off OR148 and has been the subject of strong early market support from 20/1 to 10/1 general.
STERNRUBIN The more I look at this race the more I’m drawn to Sternrubin and I’m certainly more positive than the owner Terry Warner who told At The Races “We always thought that he was a nice horse, but if I told you I thought he’d win a Ladbroke at the start of the season I’d be lying. He was a bit of a head-case last season, but has calmed down now and Philip has done a good job with him – it was great to see him battle back at Ascot. The intention is to run at Newbury and then go to Cheltenham, but for what, I’m not sure. He’s still a novice, don’t forget, so the Supreme could be an option if he runs well in the Betfair. He’ll also be in the County Hurdle, but to win two major handicaps is very hard. I think he’ll run well at Newbury as he’s still progressing, but it might be clutching at straws expecting him to win another big one.”
Bought off the Flat from Peter Chapple-Hyam on his first three runs over hurdles they tried to get him to settle by holding him up and he didn’t get home. As soon as they put him in handicaps and let him have his hooded head his form has been 22111 and the only horse to have beaten him is Lil Rockefeller who is now rated OR151 having finished second in the Graded Relkeel hurdle. When Sternrubin won the Gerry Fielden hurdle over course and distance he went 10L clear, they got within 2L at the third last but he pulled away again. Violets Dancer showed last year that is hard to reel in a front runner and it was the Hobbs/Johnson team who got closest with Cheltenian. I must confess to having backed Sternrubin already for the Coral Cup at Cheltenham as I think he will stay that far. If Richard Johnson gets his fractions right, as in the Lanzarote, he could have plenty of these out of their comfort zones and as he has shown previously he’s a hard horse to beat. Sternrubin is the two star** each way selection at 16/1 general.