Tuesday 16th March:
ULTIMA HANDICAP CHASE: (3m1f)
Happygolucky sets the standard here and is very unexposed in handicap company, his only start in this sphere came when fourth in last year’s Martin Pipe (over hurdles) beaten three-and-a-half-lengths off a 10lb lower mark. He’s switched to chasing this term where he’s won twice as well as a half-length defeat behind the now 152-rated Getaway Trump and with further progression likely he holds solid claims having won over here over the extended 3m1f the last day.
Vintage Clouds has placed in two of the last three runnings of this and though he was only eighth last year he’s slipped right down the weights again but his form has been off this season and will need to find rediscover somewhere near his best form to be winning this now aged eleven. Cepage will struggle to land this off top-weight (only one winner off this weight in over two decades) over a trip which probably stretches him with him being best at around 2m4f. He has won at this course before but is 3lb higher than when held in this last year so is opposed. Pym won well in a Sandown listed-event over 3m back in November where he jumped well in the main, he’s another course winner who may be slightly overpriced but his mark is looking slightly on the high side at present so a place at best is the most likely outcome for him.
Aye Right is 4lb higher than when a ten-length second in the Ladbrokes Trophy behind the ever-progressing Cloth Cap and was an even closer second in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster off 3lb lower. Richard Johnson is an eye-catching jockey booking, he’ll handle the ground and I think the trip will be fine for him, the worry is that he might be on a tough mark now for win purposes. Milan Native won the Kim Muir over 3m2f a year ago so has stamina assured and he returned to action with a short-head win in a three-runner race at Galway in October. His last two runs were not as good and he’s on a 6lb higher mark than for last year so will need to reproduce that form here to figure but he’s been kept fresh for this so you couldn’t completely rule him out for the Irish.
My selection therefore is the Nick Williams-trained seven-year-old ONE FOR THE TEAM. This yard won the race back in 2018 with Coo Star Sivola and they have another good chance this time round providing the ground doesn’t get any worse, which it’s not likely too. He was well held the last day at Doncaster on soft ground and has been eased a pound for that but some of his early season form puts him right in the picture you’ve got to feel. He was beaten just over a length off level-weights behind 153-rated Next Destination at Newbury in a Grade 2 and would have found the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ a step too far though was only beaten nine-and-a-half-lengths by Shan Blue (second-favourite behind Envoi Allen in the Marsh). This mark of 140 is certainly within his grasp if able to put his latest run behind him, the trip should be fine the way he finished off that Newbury race (has a 3m hurdle win to his name as well as a close third over 3m1f) so he gets my vote.
ONE FOR THE TEAM – (17/2) – William Hill – 0.5pt ew (5 places) – 5th (+1.35)
- One For The Team
- Aye Right
BOODLES JUVENILE HANDICAP HURDLE: (2m87y)
Not typically a favourite’s race with some big-priced winners in the past decade. Houx Gris is the current favorite and having arrived from France where he won two of his four races, he finished third in a Grade 1 at Chepstow when 20-lengths behind the re-opposing Nassalam. That rival must carry around a stone more so will probably find it difficult to confirm that form and may need a step up in trip. Paul Nicholls’ gelding is off a nice mark though if showing improved form on second start for this yard and I can see why he’s being backed for a trainer who has had success in this race before.
Saint Sam brings probably the best form to the table having chased home the likes of Zanahiyr and Quilixios on his three starts this season and is very much respected now in a handicap for the first time. He might be classy enough to carry a fair chunk of weight to be very competitive but I’ll be looking further down the market for this. Busselton has run in two of those graded races and in fact got the better of Saint Sam when beaten just under four-lengths behind Zanahiyr on Boxing Day. He wears cheekpieces for the first time here, is off a 4lb lower weight than the aforementioned and comes from the Joseph O’Brien yard who won this race two years ago with the well-backed Band Of Outlaws, so any money in the betting for this horse may be significant.
Cabot Cliffs has won his last two starts, both at Warwick, with the latest of those by a commanding 17-lengths. He’d previously got the better of the re-opposing SAGE ADVICE when a length-and-a-half ahead of him but the selection has a 10lb pull at the weights and I think he should be reversing the form if putting an underwhelming last of three run behind him at Fontwell. That came on bottomless ground over a furlong further so this better ground and drop in trip can hopefully see him in a better light. He won on hurdling debut by six-lengths in a juvenile race at Kempton ahead of a horse who then went on to beat Homme Public at Catterick. Dr Richard Newland’s-inmate looks on a dangerous opening handicap mark of 127 and this former flat-winner could be well overpriced if putting that last run behind him and improving on those two previous runs.
Of the others, Coltor looks interesting for Dermot Weld on the back of a Naas win at the end of January but he’d previously finished almost ten-lengths behind Curious Bride who has sneaked in here with Tinnahalla being pulled-out. That horse stayed-on well in the closing stages to score at Punchestown and would have found the step up to 2m5f the last day a bit too far, so the return to this much shorter trip will suit and she too could be overpriced if improving on her previous win, but may only be good enough to fill the places at best.
SAGE ADVICE (22/1) – Paddy Power – 0.5pt ew (6 places) – 6th (+2.7)
- Sage Advice
- Saint Sam
March P/L: -10pts
Overall P/L (Sept ’17-present): +566.15pts