Saturday 24th November

Haydock – Betfair Best Odds Handicap Hurdle – 1.50pm:

I heard this horse mentioned on the On The Hunt Podcast and so I don’t want to regurgitate their brilliant reasoning so go give it a listen as it’s a great podcast, but this horse looks extremely well handicapped on the basis that he finished behind Lostintranslation (now rated 149) and ahead of Simply The Betts (now rated 128) and Black Op (now rated 152). Admiral Barratry runs off 130 taking Lizzie Kelly’s claim into account which could look very lenient.

Selection – Admiral Barratry

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Ascot – Christy Chase – 2.05pm:

I personally was hoping to see Politologue declared in the Betfair Chase and see how he goes over 3 miles but it would obviously be a very tough starting point over that trip to take on two of the best staying chasers around and so he’s been declared here with Min not being declared. A classy horse in his own right he won a Novices’ Chase over course and distance and has since proved himself at the top level. His record away from Cheltenham is pretty incredible: 8 wins from 12 runs and for Grade 1s is 2 wins from 4 runs. He’s got some real good form, behind Altior twice and beating Min at Aintree. He’s got a good record fresh having won first time out in the last two seasons and he might prove tough to beat.

However I’m quite keen on Charbel for this race. He was running a huge race in the 2017 Arkle at Cheltenham before falling at a crucial stage when ahead. He ran third in a Grade 1 after that and fell at Cheltenham this year however he ran a big race on his comeback run this season and came on for that run when he managed to give Baron Alco 12lbs and a beating of a head. The form of that race speaks for itself as Baron Alco went and won the BetVictor Gold Cup by 2 lengths to Frodon and they finished 8 lengths clear of Guitar Pete in third. This will be Charbel’s first run over 2m5f but I think he should cope fine with that and hopefully he will be able to go to the front like he did in the 2017 Arkle and get away from them.

Benatar has a chunk to find on ratings however he’s got some solid form, having beaten Finian’s Oscar. The main problem with Benatar is that he doesn’t settle in his races and so he may struggle to see this out if he runs free again. If he can settle then he’d have a great chance as he skipped the BetVictor Gold Cup to come here. Gold Present has had a wind op and Nicky Henderson’s horses seem to do well after wind ops. First run after wind ops Henderson’s horses are: 6 wins from 12 runs for a win P/L of +7.33. He didn’t stay at Ayr and he could be a good horse to follow back down in trip.

Selection – Charbel

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Ascot – Coral Hurdle – 2.40pm:

I don’t want to spend too long on this race as at the prices I really couldn’t have a bet but If The Cap Fits had We Have A Dream covered last time out finishing seven lengths ahead of him. I see no reason why he should overturn that form given they’re on the same weights, although he should be fitter for the run but the same can be said for If The Cap Fits. They both step up in trip for the first time but I think that If The Cap Fits will win this with the scope for improvement he has. We Have A Dream was arguably the best juvenile last season however it’s yet to be seen if he can continue that form into this season.

If If The Cap Fits were to drift to around 7/4 I’d think about having a bet.

Selection – If The Cap Fits

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Haydock – Betfair Exchange Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle – 2.25pm:

First Assignment has been declared for this, running under a 5lb penalty which sees him 8lbs well in for Ian Williams after he bolted up in a Listed handicap hurdle at Cheltenham over 3 miles last weekend. Clearly he’s the one to beat if coping with a quick turnaround and he’s an unexposed horse who is likely open to much more improvement. However, given that he won so impressively and runs well in, he’s likely going to be overbet in the market and therefore I think that there will be value elsewhere in the race.

I can’t help but feel Folsom Blue is overpriced at around 8/1 given that he runs off a hurdles mark of 132, yet is rated 145 over fences. In February he ran a very solid race to finish 5 lengths behind Topofthegame at Sandown in a competitive Grade 3 handicap hurdle. Topofthegame was rated 142 that day but is now rated 154 over hurdles. My main reservation with Folsom Blue is the ground, with the vast majority of his best runs coming on soft or heavy ground. I think it’s a chance worth taking however and in the last year when Gordon Elliott and Richard Johnson have teamed up they’ve had 29 wins from 58 runs (50% strike rate) for w in P/L of +18.97.

If the step up in trip unlocks further improvement for Captain Cattistock then he could be well handicapped and Bobo Mac was a big eye catcher last time when staying on very strongly from well off the pace. Up 4lbs for that he could be able to put up a challenge.

Selection – Folsom Blue

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Haydock – Betfair Chase – 3.00pm:

Although there’s only 5 runners it’s a good field for the first Grade 1 of the season and the first leg of the £1 million bonus. Last season’s Gold Cup 1-2 head the market with Might Bite in as favourite to overturn the form at even money. On ratings he has 4lbs to find with Native River however the better ground will be much more in his favour.

I’m still convinced Might Bite doesn’t stay in a strongly run extended 3m2f that is the Gold Cup but he ran a massive race and was out-slogged in the conditions by Native River. After that he went and put Bristol De Mai in his place at Aintree in the Betway Bowl Chase. He’s a top class chaser and is certainly the one to beat, but at even money I’m more than happy to let him win without my money as this is the first season he has reappeared in top class company.

It’s undeniable Native River is very talented having a Gold Cup, Welsh National and Hennessy Gold Cup to his name however he’d prefer the rain to come down here despite finishing third in last year’s Gold Cup on good ground. I’ve got slight concerns about his form when fresh as although he’s won first time out the form isn’t amazing. I could see him dominating this from the front, grinding his opponents into submission but it could also be the case that he’s taken on for the pace and doesn’t see it out, however he’s got thorough staying power.

I can’t help but think Bristol De Mai is overpriced here though given that he’s 3 from 3 at his beloved Haydock, including this race last year by 57 lengths (albeit flattering). He has a bit to find on ratings and would ideally also prefer softer conditions, but his record at Haydock can’t be ignored and he also has a good record fresh, including the Charlie Hall Chase last year. There’s no doubt he’ll be primed for this with Native River and Might Bite likely aiming at bigger prizes this year.

Thistlecrack would have a great chance if he can recapture his King George win as a Novice but he hasn’t been at his best since then. He hasn’t been seen since last year’s King George where he finished 4th to Might Bite but he’s certainly a hugely talented horse and can’t be ruled out. Nor can Clan Des Obeaux who has a bit to find on the ratings but he showed he stayed the trip at Aintree in April when running off a 117 day break. Although he’s usually ridden prominently I think he could be nearer the back of this pack of 5 with the top 3 in the market all likely to go forward. I won’t be touching the race betting wise but if Thistlecrack is fit and ready then he’ll be bang there on the bridle 3 out and I’d love to see him win.

I could honestly see the race panning out in multiple ways and any of the 5 having a solid chance and so even hard pressed I’m not keen on making a selection on any. It promises to be a great race and I’ll be looking forward to watching it.

Stats courtesy of: https://www.geegeez.co.uk/

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