Tanya Stevenson’s Market Movers
Hello, and welcome to the National Hunt version of my Market Movers service. For the rest of the season I will be providing a weekly update (every Wednesday) in which I will look back at the previous week’s racing. This takes into account both my own professional opinion, whilst also providing insight from a market perspective i.e. which horses received notable market support, and in contrast which horses were weak in the betting. From this I provide a list of ‘Eye-Catchers’ for you to follow closely. The second aspect of the service sees me analyses the upcoming weekend’s racing, highlighting the horses I’m most interested in – my ‘Horses to Follow’.
In order to give you a taster of what you can expect from the service, Bettrends have kindly made this first installment free to view, so I do hope you enjoy.
Review – Saturday 28th October
So, here goes. Although the Jumps have never stopped throughout the summer, the National Hunt code comes out of the shadows of the Flat, and where better to start than Cheltenham itself? On the Friday, there were impressive performances by North Hill Harvey, Master Dancer and What Happens Now, all of which should be noted.
Three miles and one furlong plus 20 jumps were the first examination on the Saturday, which Cogry (13-2 from 11) passed with an A*. He was only confirming his Scottish National performance and did it with courage; he will be back in November and will run his race. Perfect Candidate never got to the front and, all things considered, did well not to sulk. There was money for Robinsfirth (Pricewise) and Coologue, giving indication they were forward at home.
Doing Fine was under pressure for around a mile at the back of the field, while Coologue ran in snatches. Viconte du Noyer travelled oh so smoothly but made a costly error, then jumped tired two out. Doing Fine was the eye-catching horse of the race.
Sadly, there was only four runners for the four-year-old hurdle and it went to the very impressive Twobeelucky. I would have preferred there to be a deeper field but he did it well and I expect to see him and his ungainly high-head carriage back in the Cotswolds.
Le Prezien (11-2 into 5-2) and Poker School (14 into 11-2) were massive gambles in the two-mile handicap chase. Those that were eased were Double W’s (11-2 out to 7) and Sizing Platinum (9 out to 16). Poker School had shown up really well at Market Rasen in the summer but had been disappointing since and needs to get into a rhythm. Foxtail Hill made sure everyone was rushed. Le Prezien raced with every chance and was well-positioned in fifth with three to jump, while Poker School appeared to be forever in catch-up mode. Sizing Platinum was going well and a good leap saw him go into second. His fitness gave way two out and is worth considering in November. Foxtail Hill’s courage won the day, as Le Prezien couldn’t out battle the pacesetter. The pair were a long way clear of the remainder.
Nicky Henderson’s Thomas Campbell was backed 11-4 from 6, while Whataknight was 7 from 12 in the three-mile handicap hurdle. Unlike the previous races over the bigger obstacles, this was run at a sedate pace, with the runners tightly bunched. Nachi Falls made a horrific error early, pulling up with a circuit to go. Anteros had been hampered and became detached; he made up ground gradually, only to have a crashing fall at the last. Milrow ran above himself, becoming the only challenger to the dominant Thomas Campbell. Luccombe Down will surely make all very shortly, while Dell Arca showed he isn’t far away.
Double Treasure has to get a name-check for his pure battling quality; he, too, won his race from the front but when relinquishing the lead, he rallied and showcased his ability, and will be back at the November meeting. With all these quality front-runners, I suggest stopwatches at the ready.
VICONTE DU NOYER
Review – Saturday 4 November
It may have been Breeders’ Cup weekend , but in the afternoon all eyes were fixed on Wetherby for the return of Coneygree and Cue Card, with Ascot and Ayr offering future stars.
Although it is Brian Hughes’ ride aboard Cyrius Darius which will resonate longest in the memory, it was pure artistry in the saddle, an unsung hero plying his trade to the best of his ability, and, as it wasn’t covered terrestrially, it would have been missed by most. Cyrus Darius made an humungous error, but Brian let the horse recover and showed patience really is a virtue, and managed to make the improbable, probable. He is a wonderful rider and goes in as my jockey to follow.
Benatar proved himself a chaser to follow in Ascot’s 1.50, where there was a little bit of money for him (11-2 into 9-2). He is a huge, tall individual who leaves plenty of daylight when jumping over his fences, yet it doesn’t make him any less fluid and economical. I noticed he pulled hard and will no doubt benefit from a stronger pace.
There was a huge gamble on Exitas in Ascot’s 2.25. He had been 16-1 in the morning and shortened right up to 6-1. He turned what was meant to be a 2m 1f handicap chase into a procession and surely there is more to come. Little Pop went way too quick early and dragged Festive Affair along with him. When they dropped out, it left last year’s winner Quite By Chance but he had no answers to the strong challenge from Exitas.
Jenkins was a non-runner in the Ascot 3.00, a significant absentee as far as the betting was concerned, and then Song Light refused to start, with the field not helped by the delay. There were eight in with a chance with two to jump which suited the small Elgin, who possesses flat speed to beat his labouring chasing types. He will be seen to best effect on tracks such as Kempton, Wincanton, Aintree and Huntingdon. Midnight Maestro is one for the notebook, as he was squeezed out when making a move two out.
Antony was back to defend his crown in the race he won 12 months ago at Ascot, and came in for support (13-2 from 12), while Emerging Force was backed into favouritism (10 into 11-2). Both he and Go Conquer set the early pace, while Ballykan and Ballycross paid for their sloppy jumping. Go Conquer saw off the interests of Emerging Force, Rock Gone ran above himself, and it was only in the closing stages that Braqueur d’Or ran on.
Warren Greatrex unleashed La Bague Au Roi at Wetherby in the Mares’ Hurdle. She had the superior form and punters agreed, backing her from 11-8 into 10-11. It was her class that told when she was headed by Lady Buttons, Richard Johnson able to gather her up and galvanise her for success.
Lil Rockerfeller had been priced up as short as 5-4 for the bet365 Hurdle in the morning for his seasonal reappearance, but had eased out to 2-1 on the off. Wholestone was a massive punt (7-2 into 2-1 joint-favouritism). Both he and Colin’s Sister were held up in the early skirmishing, but they went no pace at all. Even at five out, they were just galloping at a very slow tempo. This can’t really have suited any of the runners, especially Lil Rockerfeller. It allowed Colin’s Sister and Wholestone to sit and wait. Success went to Colin’s Sister who, barring an error at the last, coasted home.
The task for both Coneygree and Cue Card wasn’t an easy one. The last horse aged 10 or over to win the Charlie Hall Chase was Grey Abbey in 2004; 25 had tried unsuccessfully since – it’s a young horse’s race. Coneygree was spent very early with 10 still to jump, a nasty overreach to blame, and we wish him a quick recovery, but he is not a betting proposition when he does return. Blaklion was left in the lead with a circuit to go and Cue Card never looked settled, pushed along with six to jump. He never took off five out and it was blamed on the low sun. Nigel Twiston-Davies was a happy man, with both Bristol de Mai and Blaklion fighting out the finish. Definitely Red and Vieux Lion Rouge ran with distinction. Blaklion is a dour stayer, while Bristol de Mai races with grace.
On Sunday, we saw the pleasing return of Waiting Patiently, aptly named with Brian Hughes in the saddle, and he is a horse who Malcolm Jefferson has gently brought through. At Huntingdon, Willoughby Court made a satisfying debut over the bigger obstacles and is sure to be out very quickly.
BRIAN HUGHES (JOCKEY TO FOLLOW)
LA BAGUE AU ROI
BRISTOL DE MAI
Preview – Saturday 11 November
The reappearance of The New One appears to be the marker of when the National Hunt season starts in earnest. Aintree could see his second run already, in what at the entry stage looks a fabulous renewal of the 2.50, with L’Ami Serge and Unowhatimeanharry also in the line-up. It would be a dream if they were all to run. We are at that stage where the superstars are being slowly unwrapped. Indeed, Might Bite is entered for Sandown’s 2.20 on Sunday in a race the course Executive should be banging on doors to showcase.
Next week it’s the November meeting at Cheltenham. Their first meeting of the year revealed so much that I can’t wait, and am keen to find out whether my notebook horses run and whether they are value to back in their respective races.
The next couple of weeks is best advised to approach with a modicum of caution, as horses making their seasonal reappearance are pitched against those with the benefit of at least one run. Although, in some cases, those turning out for the first time this season will be far superior, be conscious that this first run may not be pivotal to their entire campaign, as main objectives await in the near future.
This is a weekend where Paul Nicholls normally dominates at his home course. He has won the Rising Stars Novices’ Chase nine times and the Badger Ales Trophy and Elite Hurdle seven times, which not surprisingly takes a fraction off all his runners’ odds, as respect is duly paid.
He has a strong hand again in the Badger Ales Trophy, with Present Man, Mr Mix and Southfield Theatre, the latter being a previous winner of the Rising Star, and favourite for this in 2016 when falling at the last. In the past, there is a majority of winners (eight of the last 11) who came into Wincanton having had at least one run in the season, thus you would be looking for a little bigger than what is currently on offer, but his lack of a recent run can be offset for his liking of the course, where he has had five runs, winning three and finishing second once.
Gentleman Jon also likes it at Wincanton, winning four of his ten spins around the course and also managing three thirds. Colin Tizzard trains him, as he does Theatre Guide, an entry that intrigues me; he is on his highest mark, although this could be an ideal Hennessy prep.
Back to Paul Nicholls. Twelve months ago, Present Man defeated Go Conquer at Ascot, the same Go Conquer that trounced his rivals last week at the same venue. That form looks pretty good. Present Man had the ideal run to boost his confidence by winning over hurdles at Kempton recently. The one niggle with me is that he tends to put in a clumsy leap, due to lack of concentration. He unseated Jack Sherwood in this last year. Much was learnt, going on to win three more chases. Even at 8-1, he represents each-way value now.
It wouldn’t be beyond the realms for Paul Nicholls to saddle the 1-2-3 as Mr Mix is unbeaten at the course in two starts, although he is only just starting to learn this chasing game and, against a group of really experienced handicappers, it’s a big ask. I’m only looking at which is better value from the perspective of the odds – Present Man at 8, Southfield Theatre at 10 or Mr Mix at 14. It’s the first two.
And, finally, just a note that Royal Auclair (2004), Iris Bleu (2005), Parsons Legacy (2006) & The Package (2012) had run at the Cheltenham Festival earlier in the year before coming on to win the Badger Ales Trophy.
I mentioned earlier that Paul Nicholls has won the Elite Hurdle seven times and he has three entered at this stage – Old Guard and High Secret are double-figure prices, while Zubayr is 7-1. The latter fell in this last year when in contention and is back to atone for that defeat after a pleasing Flat campaign. However, he may have to settle for running behind the Simon Munir green again.
Before getting on to that, as good a Flat campaign as Zubayr has had, he didn’t achieve as much as London Prize. I am still getting over his defeat in the Cesarewitch as, although he was trounced by Withhold, he was five lengths clear of the remainder. He is fit from the Flat and his improvement in that code must reflect the fact there should be room for improvement over hurdles!
Now looking at the Elite Hurdle. As an equation, backing both London Prize and Call Me Lord at this stage, as I could if I hunted around, and get the equivalent at 2-1 coupled – worse case about 7-4. To me, this is tremendous value.
Call Me Lord oozes potential, with everything possible at present. Introduced to these shores at Sandown, he waltzed home when well-backed in what was meant to be a competitive Class 2 handicap hurdle. Even the big mistake at the last didn’t stop him. He has had since then to mature and muscle up, and literally could be anything.
There are pros and cons about his age at four, as Azertyuiop (2001), Santenay (2002) and Well Chief (2003) all won the race at that age, as indeed did Sceau Royal last year, but beware that between 2003 and 2016 the record of the age group has took a knock, as 15 were beaten. One to ponder.
It’s just speculative, as I’m not sure of field sizes at this stage, but at Aintree I see Vintage Clouds is out for his second run of the season. He didn’t have much luck last year, with the odd bad error at a crucial time which gradually knocked his confidence from race to race. With a seasonal break he came back fresh with a clean slate to win easily at Aintree in October; considering the classy races he ran in last season, he has the room to manoeuvre to win again.
Also at Aintree, Vyta du Roc opens his campaign but over hurdles; I’m value seeking with him. We last saw him finish second in the bet365 Gold Cup over the bigger obstacles. He was second to Thistlecrack last time he ran at Aintree over hurdles, and he was fourth in the Neptune at the Festival. He won’t need to be that class to be a challenger in Aintree’s 1.40 and could be fair odds.
HORSES TO FOLLOW
CALL ME LORD/LONDON PRIZE – Elite Hurdle, 3.00 Wincanton
PRESENT MAN/SOUTHFIELD THEATRE – Badger Ales Trophy, 3.35 Wincanton
VINTAGE CLOUDS – 1.05 Aintree
VYTA DU ROC – 1.40 Aintree
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