Refusal – Usually makes the running, but was held up when making his hunter chase debut at Cartmel last week. Thought it was a very good ride to sit off the fast pace although he had to work hard to overtake Fair Exchange on the run in. They pulled 20L clear of the 3rd Asangy who re-opposes here. Given the amount of front runners here I would imagine he will sit of the pace again and try and pounce late. Is progressing nicely and has to go on the shortlist.
Steeles Terrace – Was really impressive at Fontwell last month when beating Hinxworth by 16L. That wasn’t a strong race though and this is certainly harder. I wouldn’t rule him out, but he has to find a bit more for me.
Ballinhow Bill – Hasn’t always led straight away, but is always up there with the pace and took a bit of a keen hold at Hexham in the Heart Of All England a month ago. When he took the lead at the 4th he set a really good pace and would have finished either 1st or 2nd had he not come to grief at 2 out as he had Greensalt looked to have the race between them. Easy to see Stratford playing to his strengths and looks a major player on his pointing exploits as well as the Hexham effort.
Bleu Et Or – Don’t really fancy him, but he is another who likes to make the running.
Caryto Des Brosses – Has had a really good season winning 4 on the bounce, but arguably his best run of the season was at Garthorpe last time when he was beaten a short head into 2nd by hunter chase winner Thetalkinghorse. It was a hell of a race that was run at an end-to-end gallop with Dale Peters’ mount just failing to get back up. Granted the winner was carrying 12lb penalty, but it was still a top in a really quick time. Doesn’t have to make the running, but is another who likes to be up there. Looks progressive and another one for the short list.
Essteepee – Interesting jockey booking, but does seem to have a bit to find. He was held up when winning last time, but usually makes the running.
Kit Barry – 2 3rds in Hunter Chases at Cheltenham and Worcester, but he has looked like a real stayer in both and easy to see him getting out paced round this sharp track over this shorter trip.
Lords Park Star – Won his Restricted at Garthorpe last time, but his winning time was 10 seconds slower than Caryto Des Brosses’ races time.
Royal Flush – Unusually broke his maiden tag in a Restricted at Hexham last month which was a fair step up on what he had done prior. I would be surprised if this wasn’t too tough for him.
Seamusjay – Won his Restricted by 15L at Chaddesley Corbett in February over 2m4f miles, but has pulled up on all 3 starts since and last time he just downed tools. He wares a first time tongue-tie which suggests he might be a breathing problem more than anything. Is another who is usually up with the pace. He is hard to want to back, but if it is a wind issue then if he did run well it wouldn’t be a total shock.
Pique Rock – Looked useful when winning her maiden on the first day of the season, but then things didn’t go to plan on her next two starts on soft ground. However she has been really impressive back to a faster surface when winning a Restricted and Intermediate last month. At Eyton she beat Asangy by 20L in a quick time. That effort obviously brings her form up to Refusal’s. She then won at Kingston Blount 12 days ago by 11L again in a quick time. Has been up there or led in her two wins last month, although was held up when winning her maiden. Looks another for the shortlist.
Summary – For me the shortlist contains Refusal, Steeles Terrace, Ballinahow Bill, Caryto Des Brosses and Pique Rock. The first three named have already proved themselves in hunter chases, whereas the latter two have been impressing in points recently. Ballinahow Bill is the main play as I have been really impressed with him this season, but I will also add Caryto Des Brosses (last run makes him a huge player in this) and Pique Rock (been clicking fast times lately)
Tips – Ballinahow Bill
Caryto Des Brosses
Numbercruncher – Won this race last year in impressive style beating Exclusive Rights by 6L and then just got the better of the same rival at Fontwell last time after his jockey dropped the reins on the run-in. Had shown really good form earlier in the season when not having his ideal conditions, but good ground at this trip is perfect for him and he should make a bold bid to hold on to his crown.
Argot – Won on his Hunter Chase debut at Leicester in the mud in March which was a decent effort. That came over today’s trip and fair to say he hasn’t been as good over further since although he did win a point over 3m last month. He then failed to stay again on Bank Holiday Monday at Chaddesley Corbett. Likely to make the running and wouldn’t want to rule him out.
Treat Yourself – I thought his 2nd at Kempton to Port Melon was a fair effort, but he was pretty bad at Fakenham last time and hard to see him wanting this short a trip.
Brave Jaq – Strangely didn’t go off hard in front last time at Fontwell, but still pulled hard and ended bursting a blood vessel when 27L behind Numbercruncher. Didn’t run too badly behind Monsieur Gibraltar at Cheltenham the time before and on that run he would have a chance in this, but a concern he bled last time.
Gowanauthat – Did win over 3m last time at Tabley, but doesn’t really stay that far. Will be up with the pace and this drop in trip will certainly suit. Often makes mistakes which is a concern, but were he to hit the frame it wouldn’t be a total surprise.
Magic Music Man – Went missing between September 2016 and April this year and he wasn’t great in his first two pointing starts. Reversed for with Gabrial The Great who had beaten him by over 30L at Tabley last month so was clearly running himself fit. The concern is he got himself outpaced over 2m4f that day and even though based on his previous rules form this trip ought to suit, you don’t want too find yourself too far back round here especially over this trip.
Right Of Reply – This horse has been taunting me all season since he ran a really eye-catching 4th behind Barrakilla at Bangor. That was his first run since a wind-op and to me it had worked. He finally got a run again at Towcester last month, but his owner took over in the saddle and he gave it a shocking ride. It was given no chance at any stage to get involved in the race. He was set to run at Huntingdon with Gina back on, but the race got abandoned. Gina is suspended, but her brother Jack now rides so that is a positive. It could be that he has just gone backwards, but I am certainly prepared to give him a chance in a race like this.
Robin Des People – Has won 4 of his last 5 with his only defeat coming in the Dunraven Bowl when he was 3rd behind Tinkers Hill Tommy. Did win over 2m4f earlier in the season, but I can’t help think that this short a trip is going to find him out.
Velvet Maker – Ran like there was an issue at Leicester as he dropped out very quickly before unseating. There was a bit more promise at Fontwell, but Numbercruncher and Exclusive Rights beat him by a comfortable 10L and I don’t fancy him to reverse the form.
Exclusive Rights – Has been 2nd at this meeting the last two years and as mentioned above ran a hell of a race at Fontwell last time. Strictly speaking at these weights she should reverse the form and although I don’t think it is as simple as that it is clear this track and this time of year really do suit her.
Summary – No idea why Velvet Maker has been made favourite for this. I don’t see him reversing form at all. I was really keen on Numbercruncher last time and I think he looks a really solid e/w bet again here. He has been in good form all season and I think he had a bit more in hand than the winning margin suggested at Fontwell. I have to back Right Of Reply who is 20/1 or 16/1 with Betfred/Totesport who are going the first 4 for e/w bets. He has the potential to make those odds look silly with the jockey change although I hope he can sit closer to the pace. I couldn’t put anyone off Exclusive Rights who clearly loves it round here, but I love the jockey booking of Alice Stevens on Gowanauthat and she was getting a decent spin out of him at Fontwell in February before his stamina gave out. She is a really promising jockey and he has the ability to go well here.
Tips – Numbercruncher e/w
Right Of Reply e/w
Bally River Boy – Bit surprised they didn’t run him in the first race as that trip would have suited him much better than this one. Was all out to win at Fontwell, but was lucky the jockey on the 2nd wasn’t any good as Just Cause should have won. Likely to lead, but I can’t see him lasting out in this better race.
Eddies Miracle – The last two times we have had an Irish runner in the race they have both won and he actually beat 2016 winner Quiet Account back in January. Has only managed to win one of 7 hunter chases when winning at Down Royal back in March. That race was over a mile less than today’s trip. He was then sent off at just 16/1 in the Aintree Foxhunters and he was running pretty well until falling at halfway. He failed to win on his next 3 starts and gave the feeling that a trip shorter than 3m was his best one. However he then went and won over 4m on Sunday so clearly he can stay well. I am really not sure what to make of his chances especially as he has been very busy this season, but chances are he will go close.
Excitable Island – On the whole really consistent and is 3 from 3 this season including when getting the 4miler at Cheltenham last time in the stewards room. I think he was fortunate that Battle Dust lost his weight cloth that night and it wasn’t the strongest renewal of the race, but it was still a good effort and he clearly stays well. On that he has a place chance here, but the nagging doubt in my mind was the fact he ran terribly in this race 2 years ago. Maybe it was an off day, but I just wonder if he didn’t enjoy the track.
Fair Exchange – Ran his heart out at Cartmel last week when getting collared late on by Refusal. His win over Garde Ville on his previous run is looking useful now as well. Can run well, but I am not sure he will be quite up to this.
Garde Ville – Won 8 of his 13 point starts and has had a fantastic season. Showed how well he stays at Warwick last week when he outstayed Royalraise. For me everything went right that night and this will be very different kettle of fish. He won’t be able to drop himself out as far as he did at Warwick and his jockey can’t claim his 7lbs either which for me is a big negative against his chances.
High Hatton – Had a wind op after losing his form last season and ran in ground which didn’t suit on his first two starts this term. Has thrived in two runs last month though when winning easily in a couple of points. Was 3rd in this race in 2016 and every chance that he might be capable of running to that level again now he has his conditions. Might not be quite good enough to win, but he has place claims.
Master Baker – Won 9 points and made a winning hunter chase debut in the mud at Taunton back in April. Jumping wasn’t always the best when just denied by Herbert Park at Exeter and he may not have been given the best of rides. Herbert Park did little for the form at Fontwell although he clearly hated the quick ground. His last run was a match with The Wealerdealer and he easily saw him off. A bold run wouldn’t surprise although his jockey can’t use her 5lbs claim.
Pink Eyed Pedro – Had a very busy season having run 10 times already a;though he won his last 3 all last month. Needs to find a bit on the form of those wins and he has been well beaten in his two hunter chases, the last two renewals of the Dunraven Bowl. Is only 7 so there might be more to come, but on balance he looks one to take on.
Teeton Power – She didn’t see the trip out in the mares race at Cheltenham which wasn’t a surprise given how keen she was, but it was still a cracking effort. This race is 2 furlongs further and it might sound odd to say she has a better chance of staying, but I think she has a better chance of staying. Stratford isn’t a stiff test of stamina. If she can be just a little less keen as well that would also help her. It is possible her and Bally River Boy might end up in a pace battle which wouldn’t be ideal, but clearly she was still able to run well at Cheltenham despite been keen.
Summary – Don’t think its a overly strong edition of the John Corbet Cup. Excitable Island has place claims although the fact he ran so badly 2 years ago is a concern. Garde Ville is likely to find himself a fair way back and could struggle to get involved. Master Baker could go well although the Exeter run is a cause for concern and I am a little surprised he has been put in as favourite. I think Eddies Miracle has to be onside given the Irish record in this race and hard to think any of these would have been a 16/1 shot at Aintree. I think Teeton Power has a better chance of seeing the race out than she did at Cheltenham and has a great chance of being in the places at the very least. I am also taking a small chance on High Hatton who seems to have re-found his form after a wind op now he is on better ground. Given he was 3rd in this 2 years ago he has to be considered.
Tips – Eddies Miracle
Teeton Power e/w
High Hatton e/w
Arthur’s Secret – Has looked really good in points the last couple of seasons and has run out a very easy winner of both her hunter chase runs over course and distance and at Worcester last time out. The horse is a fairly simple ride which is a good job as the jockey isn’t very good. He is clearly a very good horse, but this is the strongest race he has been in by far and the big question is if the jockey will be up to it.
Knocklong – Been a winning machine since going pointing winning 12 out of 15 starts and both hunter chases as well. They came last season at Catterick and Southwell. The Catterick race was weak and with Galway Jack under performing the Southwell was was really weak. He has won 5 out of 7 this season, but the fact he has been odds on for all but one of those runs shows the level of form for me. The times on the whole were nothing special either. I wouldn’t be surprised if he won, but on form he has a bit to find compared to some of these.
Monsieur Gibraltar – Has had another superb season and it was rider fault rather than the horses fault that he failed to complete at Ascot. The lady jockey he has on here is in a different league to Harriet that is for sure. He was in a different league to his rivals at Cheltenham and although he won by less than a length at Fontwell he got the jockey out of trouble and was in a different league to them as well. This is tougher for sure, but he has the best jockey in the race on top and that could be the difference.
Golden Hoof – Won his last 4 races including his two this season both last month. Won by 30L at Trebudannon and then by 5L last weekend. This is a much better race and although it is hard to know fully how much ability he has still has, my feeling is it won’t be enough to win this.
Patricktom Boru – Has been 4th and 2nd in this race the last two years, but fair to say this race is stronger than either of those two running’s. Won a couple of times this season, but they weren’t strong races and was beaten last weekend when a 6/4 favourite.
Sedgemoor Express – Had 33 months off the track and I have a feeling he was purchased to give Victoria Pendleton experience, but he obviously had his issues. Ran OK behind Dabinett Moon at Kimble first time out and then bolted up in a bad race at Fakenham. Hard to know how much ability he retains and he will need to step up a fair bit on his two efforts this season.
Dabinett Moon – Loves it at this meeting having won the first race 3 years ago and this race last year. As mentioned above though this race is stronger than last year’s renewal and as much as I am sure she will run well I am just not sure she will be good enough to beat a couple of these.
Summary – You always have to respect Dabinett Moon at this meeting, but this looks stronger than last years race. Golden Hoof and Sedgemoor Express could be capable of running well, but have to prove how much ability they still have as their pointing efforts don’t tell us an awful lot. Knocklong has won plenty in the last couple of years, but in my view that form is below what Monsieur Gibraltar and Arthur’s Secret have achieved. Jockey’s could well make the difference here so the main bet is the former, but the latter might be good enough despite the jockey.
Tips – Monsieur Gibraltar 2pts
Ascokastar – Ran a hell of a race at Cheltenham and gave Barel Of Laughs backers a bit of a scare. That run came out of nowhere though and I’m not sure I would be wanting to back him to repeat it.
Balnaslow – Been a real credit to his connections as bar Punchestown last time he has run crackers in all of the big 4 hunter chases the last two years including winning at Punchestown last year and Aintree this. Derek O’Connor got off him in this last year and said it was a race too far, but he still ran a superb race to finish a 2L 2nd to Young Hurricane. He was great at Aintree this year and I was a little surprised to see him go to Punchestown because it was so close to Aintree this year and he ran no sort of race. Also Derek wasn’t on him which wouldn’t have helped. Not having a hard race at Punchestown might be beneficial for this and he has had fewer races coming into this this time around. Derek is back on and for me he is the one they all have to beat.
Chosen Dream – Same connections as Balnaslow, but his form is nowhere near as good and hard to see him winning.
Kilbree Kid – Was a fair 3rd to Creevytennant on his first run since October at Perth and then reversed form with Double Whammy at Kelso two weeks ago. Young Hurricane won that race before landing this so it can be done. Was well beaten over course and distance off 126 on the Saturday of this meeting last year and I just wonder if this track doesn’t suit him as he would have to step up a fair bit on that.
Mon Parrain – Ran really well at Cheltenham in the 4miler when 2nd, but hasn’t won all season and not hard to think he will find a few too good here.
Now Ben – Really good effort to win the John Corbet Cup last year and as much as I didn’t think the form was great at the time, the 2nd Tinkers Hill Tommy has boosted the form this season. Now Ben hasn’t had a great deal to do this season. He pulled up on his seasonal return and then won 3 of his other 4, but the form is nothing to talk about. He was 2nd to Thetalkinghorse on the other start, but the ground may have been too soft that day. I’m guessing this has been the target this season, but he needs to improve on the John Corbet win and given what he has done this season it is impossible to say if he has. I will add the time of his win last year was 4 seconds quicker than this race, but they went a much stronger pace in the John Corbet so I wouldn’t read too much into that.
Ourmanmassini – Interesting that Gordon Elliott has decided to bring him over, but hard to see him playing much of a part really. He did beat Gilgamboa in December, but was then pulled up behind him in February and was pulled up at Punchestown last time.
Spencer Moon – Useful horse who won a weak race at Fontwell last year and was then a 36L 4th to Bay Sly in the first race on the card last year. Won his last 4 in points including on Sunday, but that level of form is nowhere near what is required to win this.
Strumble Head – Loves Newton Abbot and has won two hunter chases their in the last couple of months. Both races fell into his lap really and this is much tougher. He does handle the track though and he stays well so can put up a decent showing, but would be a surprise winner.
Vivaldi Collonges – Has got blinkers on for the first time to try and wake him up after he wore cheekpieces on his last two starts. I can’t have him at all though. The win at Newbury isn’t good enough form and he was 43L behind Strumble Head at Newton Abbot last time. How on earth he is shorter than that one in the market I don’t know and I can’t see him winning.
Wonderful Charm – Got going way too late in this race last season and he got caught out by the sharpness of the track and the lack of pace for most of the race. Was finishing best of all though to finish 3rd. I would totally ignore his runs at Cheltenham and Aintree as the ground was totally against him. He had a nice little prep for this at Fontwell last time where he won hard held. There should be a stronger pace in this race this year which will help him, although the nagging doubt is that this track is on the sharp side for him.
Young Hurricane – Great performance to win this race last year, but I just wonder if he was helped by the fact it was one run too many Balnaslow, there was a slow pace and Wonderful Charm got outpaced at a crucial time, meant that he was able to win. His early season form was poor although the ground was soft enough at Cheltenham. He won his last two points last month which at least proved he is in better form. We often see horses who have run well at this meeting before do so again, but for me you are only backing him based on that win last year. Nothing he has done since warrants him being so short in the market and at the age of 12 the feeling is last year was his year.
Summary – For me the two best horses in the race are Balnaslow and Wonderful Charm. As we saw last year that doesn’t always mean they win, but Balnaslow has had a nice break since the Punchestown effort and with Derek back on top he must have a big chance of going one better. I am going to have a small saver on Wonderful Charm as the likely stronger pace should help him compared to last year. The others have been running at a lesser level and it is hard to know which might be able to step up to win this as Young Hurricane did last year should the main two fail to give their running. If pushed I would possible say Strumble Head or Now Ben. Both are at double figure prices and both have shown a liking to this track.
Tips – Balnaslow
Creevytennnt – It could be argued that if he wins this it will be his best ever performance. He has top weight and is going the wrong way round. The weight issue I am not so fussed about as he has earned the right to give this much weight away and this isn’t like a normal handicap. He won off this mark at Perth last year. The form of his win at Perth has worked out well given the 2nd and 3rd filled the first two spots at Kelso and Kilbree Kid is 3rd in the betting for the feature. If this track was right-handed then it would be ideal for him as he jumps so well and it suits front runners. He hasn’t run this way round since the 2013 Foxhunter were he actually ran pretty well given he was jumping out to his right and the testing ground was against him. Maybe in his old age it won’t be such an issue. Maybe his class will allow him to get away with it anyway. I do think he will come on for the Perth run as he has tended to improve for his first run in recent years.
Persian Snow – Run terribly in both hunter chases this season and even a mark of 119 would appear to flatter him on the back of those two efforts.
Mantou – Managed to front run in a bad race at Sedgefield, but is highly unlikely to be able to do that here and he ran poorly at Cheltenham when he wasn’t able to make the running.
Royalraise – Didn’t stay against Garde Ville at Warwick last week and this will be a much more suitable trip. His other two efforts read fairly well in the context of this and he has a chance.
Forever My Friend – Has no chance of beating Crazy Jack on either Cheltenham or Ludlow runs, but was much better at Fontwell last time. Won at this meeting last year off a mark of 125 so a mark of 115 in theory gives him a solid chance. The problem for though is beating Can Mestret by 3/4L does not warrant a mark of 115 for me. Even so he is getting better with each run so if he did go close it wouldn’t surprise.
Curraigflemens – Won this race last year off a 7lbs lower mark and fair to say it looks a strong heat this time around. I also don’t think he is in the same form this year either. He didn’t run too badly at Fontwell last time behind Wonderful Charm over a trip that was always going to be too far, but they went pretty slow and that probably helped him stay involved for so long.
Sam Cavallaro – 2nd in this last year and running OK at Cheltenham and Southwell the last twice, but hard to see him being good enough to win this and no more than place claims for me.
Crazy Jack – Paddy’s went 16s early doors which was a silly price given how well he has run the last twice especially when 4th at Cheltenham last time. The concerns here are he often finds himself a long way back and it can be hard to make up ground here. The other is he is very hard to win with and has flattered to deceive in the past. Even so he doesn’t look too badly handicapped.
Summary – Creevytennant was put in too short to start with, but he is drifting out to a more attractive price now. I can’t be confident like I was at Perth as he might well jump out to his right, but if it isn’t too bad then I think he is good enough to get away with it. Cases can be made for Forever My Friend and Royalraise. The fancy prices about Crazy Jack have long gone, but if he repeats his run from Cheltenham then there is every chance he can hit the frame.
Crazy Jack e/w
It seems hard to make a case for anything other than the 3 who ran at Aintree last month and Shalltoo. Shalltoo made his debut in a point bumper at Gathorpe and landed it in decent style with the front two pulling 12L of the rest. Interestingly Rapaport won the other division of the bumper but in a time 17 seconds slower. That is obviously huge and although the jockey change is pretty big on Rapaport it would suggest Shalltoo is the better horse. Given she has only had one start and Rapaport has had now there is also more scope for improvement.
Rapaport was best of the 3 at Aintree, but I just wonder if Strike Hollow and Lily The Pink might be able to reverse the form. Lily The Pink helped made the running and ran well considering. It was also just her 2nd start. Strike Hollow was also having just his 2nd start and in addition it was his first run since January so there is every chance there could be more to come from him.
So preference for me is with Shalltoo and Strike Hollow is the saver.
Tips – Shalltoo