So, here we are – the final proper blog of the season. As I’ve said, I might theoretically pop up around the Classics or Royal Ascot, but maybe don’t hold me to that.
I’m not going to say anything trite, like, ‘oh and what a season it has been’ but, it has been PRETTY good, and, happily this blog is sure to finish with a level stakes profit (to a £1 stake) of at least £21, a figure which includes the stakes for today’s selections.
My point being that hopefully we’ll finish a little bit better off than that. I’ll PROBABLY (time allowing) do a retrospective style post in the coming weeks, just to try and learn from what we’ve done this season, and to see whether there’s any patterns we’ve missed that’ll help next season.
Some of these lessons are already presenting themselves – it was pointed out to me last week that perhaps we, as punters, should be more willing to stick by horses for longer, or particularly in some cases until the spring, a point hammered home at Ayr when Label Des Obeaux, Chesterfield, Vaniteux and Vicente – all of whom have been selections in these pages, some of them more than once – all won.
So anyway, without further ado, let’s take a lot at Sandown.
I won’t be doing a preview of the Oaksey Chase, for the sake of simplicity and style if nothing else and that’s solely because I cannot see past Menorah, who loves Sandown and this time of year.
bet365 Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
Now obviously the market here is still at a relatively formative stage, and, could theoretically shifted markedly in the next twenty four hours, but I’m not sure I’d be rushing to back the forecast favourite, Call Me Lord, for all that he has won on his last two starts in France.
The first and perhaps most obvious point is that he has to translate that form to Britain, and only appears to have moved yards very recently. Admittedly he comes from a powerful yard, and, indeed from powerful owners, but all his form thus far is on much softer ground and, looking at his breeding, being by Slickly, I just wonder if that’s what he needs to be seen to best effect. I suppose what I’m hinting at is that it seems that his position atop the ante-post markets is derivative of a wider uncertainty and a nod to the fact that this is an open race.
I think I can probably fairly safely put a line through Fidux, for all that he appears to have fallen to a more reasonable mark – I have it in the back of my mind that Alan King had gone on record as saying that the mark in the low 140’s that he’d been allotted initially was beyond what they really thought he was capable of – because I suspect that the stiff uphill finish here isn’t going to be to his liking. His better performances seem to come at flatter tracks, with the exception of Catterick, but I think the topography there is different in the sense that much of the most significant uphill section is going away from the winning post and perhaps doesn’t represent quite such a gruelling test.
Gregarious has obvious charms, but, I suspect that this may be the end of his winning run as the ground might be a little too lively for him.
The one that I like, albeit in something of a tentative way, is Don Cantillon’s Hollywood Road. The yard is clearly in good form – having saddled two winners from three runners in the last two weeks – and I don’t think we’ve quite gotten to the bottom of how good he is yet, comparative to some his more exposed rivals at least. It’s hard to be too bullish about his Huntingdon form given the starting prices of some of his rivals, but interestingly it has produced a couple of winners (one of which was on the flat) and, one of those winners, Tasty Ginger, beaten five lengths, went on to beat Walshingham Grange next time out conceding three pounds. The only pertinence of this is that Walshingham Grange was beaten a short head by Fidux at level weights, and wasn’t, in the grand scheme of things, beaten all that far by Master Blueyes, a horse near to, if not quite in, the upper echelons of British juveniles this year. In light of that, the fact that Fidux has to give Hollywood Road five pounds seems to support his chances. There’s significant proof that a sound surface will be ideal for him – his two hurdles victories came on good ground and he’s won twice on even faster ground on the flat, including once at Sandown – and I get the feeling he’s probably a shade overpriced at present. He would be my choice here.
bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase
After mentioning that I have probably been guilty of giving up on horses too soon, it seems only right that I give Rock The Kasbah another chance.
I’m certain he stays three miles well, which, if not indicative that he’ll stay this trip, is at least a nod in the right direction – his performance at Chepstow looked more like he was idling than anything else – and his prior run here was encouraging if viewed through the prism of understanding that he was doing well to still be standing after an early blunder. Not disgraced when beaten by American, he is certainly worth a chance here, especially in light of the fact that the fourth, Mustmeetalady won over a marathon trip at Haydock earlier this month. He should also have no real issues with a sounder surface, having won a novice chase on good ground last year. His prior form with Politologue now makes a little more sense in light of his rival seemingly being better at the minimum trip and he over further, but the ‘meet in the middle’ distance that that was run over is probably still evidence of there being some strength to the form.
The Druids Nephew was a little disappointing when seemingly well handicapped at the festival and perhaps that was the day for him given the evidence that he didn’t seem to quite stay this trip last year. That the peak of his form is at or around three miles also hints at the same, and retrospectively makes me feel a little better about his unseat when clear in the Grand National several years ago. Whether that race has left a mark – his form since, other than a good run in the Grimthorpe is unremarkable – and it’s perhaps in testament to that the first time visor is applied. I’m not sure I can back him at the moment, all things considered.
Benbens and Doing Fine, albeit to slightly differing degrees, would need cast iron constitutions to follow up here after excellent runs over marathon trips seven and ten days ago, and I can imagine this coming a little too quickly for both. That the latter is forcecast to be favourite just suggests to me that there is value elsewhere.
Just A Par and The Young Master are obviously relatively closely matched on their form in this race last year, with the latter prevailing and now being a pound better off in terms of official ratings, to say nothing of the fact that Just A Par no longer has the benefit of Harry Cobden’s claim – then five – whereas Sam Waley-Cohen can still claim three. That being so, The Young Master has been inconsistent this year, having fallen twice over the National Fences, and is short enough in the betting in light of this possible form dip.
As it is the last full jumps blog of the season, I’ve also decided to have one more go at this race, and that’s with Vyta Du Roc. He was sixth in a Hennessy, which is now worth more than I was initially willing to admit, courtesy of Native River’s third in the Gold Cup, and there are excuses for his apparently poor performance at Kempton (he lost a shoe), to say nothing of the fact that Cloudy Bob and Upswing have both won since and Gevrey Chambertin was going well in the Eider before unseating. You only have to rewind the clock twelve months or so to his win in the Reynoldstown over (future Gold Cup second) Minella Rocco – a performance for which he was rated 145, yet appears here off 143 – and that he appeared to stay the trip well enough in the Scottish National when fifth behind Vicente this time last year. He too has won on good ground, although admittedly as a maiden hurdler, but I just wonder, in people have given up on him too quickly too. To me, there’s a good chance that he’s well handicapped.
Rock The Kasbah
Vyta Du Roc
Selections this week:
Hollywood Road – 8/1 generally available
Menorah – 2/1 BetVictor, Bet365
Rock The Kasbah – 12/1 generally available
Vyta Du Roc – 10/1 Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, BetVictor, Boylesports
Thank you for all your patience and support this season.
With best wishes,