Thursday 18th March:
PERTEMPS NETWORK HANDICAP HURDLE: (3m)
The Bosses Oscar has been ultra-consistent since switching from point-to-points to rules races, where he’s yet to finish any worse than fifth place (that fifth came in last year’s Martin Pipe, beaten just under four-lengths) off a 5lb lower mark. He won on seasonal reappearance before a couple of second placed finishes, the first when held being Stayers Hurdle fancy Flooring porter before a much closer second beaten a length behind the re-opposing Dandy Mag, though he should reverse that form I feel. He’s a strong traveller who jumps well and this has been the target for some time now, I think he’ll be involved at the finish.
Another horse who has shown his consistency is Paul Nicholls’ Southfield Harvest, his form figures read 3-1-2-1-2-2-3. He was beaten a neck two runs back before finishing third on soft ground in a decent sized field at Newbury where hanging slightly left in the closing stages. The second horse hasn’t given the form much substance though having been beaten comfortably next time and a further 3lb rise in the weights isn’t ideal. Imperial Alcazar was easily beaten on first go at this sort of trip at Haydock two runs back off a mark of 140 but did score the last day off a pound lower with a few of these in behind but he’s up to a mark of 147 so would need to improve further, which is possible however for local-trainer Fergal O’Brien.
Bushypark looks interesting at a double-figure price as he just keeps improving, winning five on the trot over hurdles (was defeated in a ‘jumpers bumper’ on his penultimate start). The latest of those was by a comfortable eight-and-a-half lengths for which the handicapper has now taken drastic action raising him 12lb, but he’s clearly in fine fettle and can’t easily be dismissed, though this course is a different test of stamina. He had Champagne Platinum back in second that day but was receiving 16lb from that horse and now is only getting 7lbs, and with that pull in the weights you’d have to feel the JP McManus-owned gelding can reverse the form with him sitting on a handy mark at present.
Of the others who could run well I think Brinkley, who arrives on a hat-trick, is certainly interesting for David Pipe despite an 8lb rise in the weights for a three-and-a-quarter length win at Exeter recently. That came in bottomless ground where he kept galloping through the line showing he has plenty of stamina, though he’s untried on a sound surface so if it were to keep drying out then this will have to be taken on trust but he’s lightly-raced and improving so demands respect.
My vote goes to Paul Nolan’s mare MRS MILNER at a double-figure price. She’s only got the two wins to her name so far, one in a maiden hurdle on her third start and the other came on handicap debut at the end of July last year off a mark of 116. She’s 18lb higher now but has been on the improve, she finished a weakening fourth the last day at Leopardstown in the race which Dandy Mag won but was ridden much more prominently that day and her previous run when beaten a neck behind On The Blind Side over 3m her on the old course was very promising indeed having been waited with towards the rear in a smaller field. I’m sure they’ll ride her a bit closer in this race with plenty of runners but the way she finished her race off there off a 4lb lower mark would suggest she’d rather pick off horses late. She hurdles efficiently and this drying ground should be fine having won on good ground last summer, she’s on a dangerous mark I think and if building on those last two runs then she’s got a chance.
MRS MILNER (14/1) – Sky Bet – 0.5pt ew (7 places) – WON (+9.4)
- Mrs Milner
- The Bosses Oscar
PLATE HANDICAP CHASE: (2m4f127y)
The Shunter has seen significant support in the build up to this race and has been well placed by his trainer so far, coming over to the UK twice this season and winning both of those (over hurdles) with one coming at this course in the Greatwood Hurdle back in November. His latest win was at Kelso at the beginning of the month and though he’s up 5lb he has the added bonus of 7lb-claimer Jordan Gainford in the saddle. He’s stepping up in trip which is fine having won twice over similar distances before and looks sure to go close with a clear round. A Wave Of The Sea got the better of this rival the last day when hitting the front after the last and just clinging on by a neck over the extended 2m1f. He has won over 2m4f before but for me an 8lb rise back over this trip might find him out slightly for win purposes.
Farclas is a former Triumph Hurdle winner back in 2018 though was pulled up a year later in the Coral Cup off a 5lb higher mark. He won his first three starts over fences and this season despite not winning yet has been amongst the places in three big-field handicaps, but a further 2lb rise for his three-and-a-half length fourth the last day demands more here and there was a couple of jumping errors when the race got to the business end. Fils D’oudairies is very unexposed on handicap debut having won a novice chase before finishing a close second behind Envoi Allen but was completely outclassed the last day in a Grade 1 in which Monkfish won. The opening mark could be within his grasp but with very little jumping experience in a big-field handicap like this he might be caught out in my opinion.
We’ve got a couple who filled the places in last year’s contest having another crack at this prize. Mister Whitaker (former Close Brothers winner off 137) was beaten three-lengths last year despite jumping errors throughout and is 2lb lower this time round but is carrying plenty of weight compared to others whilst Oldgrangewood will be having his fourth consecutive festival start and of the two preference is for him, a pound lower than last year when finishing his race off well and he was in contention three out the last day at Warwick when unseating his rider, Two For Gold and Aso were the first two home which is good form. If he gets round I think he’s overpriced for the Skelton yard, the ground is coming right for him and he’s only a pound higher than his highest winning perch.
The horse I’ve landed on in Anthony Honeyball’s seven-year-old SULLY D’OC AA for JP McManus. He warmed to his jumping task the last day at Newbury and though pecking on landing at the final fence he rallied up the run-in to be beaten just over two-lengths behind Clondaw Castle who has since won a valuable Grade 3 handicap at Kempton off 153. This horse is in here off a mark of 137 having gone up 2lb since that race and prior to that he’d won at Ascot off 12lb lower with six of the seven other runners all winning a race since. He was beaten over C&D on his only previous visit here but that was only his fourth start over fences and with a bit more experience now and having been freshened up for this I could see him out-running his current odds.
SULLY D’OC AA (16/1) – Bet365 – 0.5pt ew (5 places) – Lost (-1)
- Sully D’Oc AA
- The Shunter
KIM MUIR HANDICAP CHASE: (3m2f)
Shantou Flyer was a horse that I was really keen on for the Hunter Chase on the final day but connections have decided to divert to this handicap instead after a couple of solid runs at Wincanton this season. He improved on his fourth on return to finish second beaten two-lengths but a further 4lb hike in the wrights won’t help matters and he also doesn’t have the help of a 7lb-claimer with Harry Cobden taking the ride. He’s placed in the past three festivals (two in the Hunter Case and the pother beaten a neck in the Ultima) so they 3m2f will suit and he’s 9lb lower than when winning a good handicap here on New Year’s Day back in 2017 but he’s getting slightly long in the tooth and may be caught out by slightly more unexposed runners.
Last year’s second, fourth and fifth are back for more this year. Kilfilum Cross has threatened the last two years to win this race having come there swinging turning for home both times before finishing second and it might be a case of third time lucky this year with him dropping to a mark of 135 (previous years 138/139). However, his form in the build up to this doesn’t read well with a pair of pulled-ups along with a held fourth and seventh this season, so is passed over. Deise Alba is off the same mark as when fifth, he was pulled-up on both starts since returning but arrives here having got his head back in front at Sandown off 5lb lower, but for me he’s not my idea of the winner now back up in the weights. The other from that race last year is Plan Of Attack, who like the other two has been pulled-up on a couple of occasions since with his prep for this a held eighth in a Grade B at Leopardstown, but he’s dropped to a 3lb lower mark than last year and out of the three I’d have him winning from that trio, but not winning the race itself.
Mount Ida takes a big step up in trip having raced mainly over 2m recently, her last run saw her finish second (beaten 12-lengths) behind Colreevy. She was a Grade 3 winner on her penultimate start and now makes her handicap debut off a mar of 139, the worry for me would be that she’s not got that much chasing experience on just her fourth chase start under rules (1/2 in point-to-points) and this longer trip not completely certain to suit, but she’s very unexposed and may relish this test so can’t be dismissed lightly. At a bit of a price Crievehill might be interesting if able to show anywhere near his best form now 5lb lower than when bolting up by ten-lengths at Haydock over the extended 3m1f a couple of seasons ago. The ground has been against him so far this season and his last two runs have been in the races which Royal Pagaille has won with ease. He started the season on a 12lb higher mark and has slipped to a very tempting mark, so with the ground coming up good I could see him sneaking a place having finished fourth in the 2019 running off this same mark.
HOLD THE NOTE is my selection for Mick Channon, this seven-year old is very interesting based on some form in novice events over the past year or so. He was beaten half-a-length in a Warwick Grade 2 behind the now 154-rated Two For Gold and this season he’s ran behind the likes of Next Destination, Shan Blue and Happygolucky (two of those went close on the opening day of the festival and the other holds claims behind Envoi Allen). He was third in last year’s Northern Trust Handicap Chase behind Ryanair fancy Imperial Aura and now on a 5lb lower mark (140) he’s looking well-handicapped. The last day saw him beaten half–a-length at Newbury off 2lb lower and the horse in third won a Novice chase next time by 18-lengths. He’s progressing nicely and any further improvement would see him go very close off this mark you’ve got to feel, the drying ground is a big plus also and this will be his second run after a wind op so fingers crossed for a big run.
HOLD THE NOTE (9/1) – William Hill – 1pt win – 4th (-1)
- Hold The Note
- Plan Of Attack
March P/L: -8.45pts
Overall P/L (Sept ’17-present): +567.7pts