Saturday Racing Preview
Last Saturday gave us some excellent racing, producing two winners for the preview and a handful of seconds. This weekend the English jumps action comes from Market Rasen and Warwick with the latter hosting a pair of Grade 2’s. Throughout the preview I will talk through all the featured races and highlight a few horses I believe can run well.
The Sky’s the limit for Jonjo’s Pirate
You will rarely see a Cheltenham handicap won as easily as Sky Pirate managed to last time out. The Jonjo O’Neill inmate sat well off the pace, popped round and cruised into the lead jumping the last. Previously campaigned over longer trips, 2 miles at Cheltenham last time out represented a substantial drop in trip but it may have unlocked the secret to a horse who had been notoriously difficult to win with. Subsequently raised 11lbs to a mark of 145, Sky Pirate looks to be on an ideal mark for some of the big spring handicaps, notably the Grand Annual at Cheltenham. It is therefore interesting to see connections opt for this £12,000 contest. Rumours are connections may be looking to revert back to hurdles for the Betfair Hurdle and exploit a now lenient looking hurdle mark. The form of Sky Pirate’s effortless Cheltenham handicap win looks solid to with the runner up Ibleo winning cosily in another good handicap at Sandown a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully Sky Pirate 11/10 can get the day off to a winning start.
Fiddlerontheroof can reach new heights now up to three miles
The first Grade 2 of the day is the McCoy Contractors Civils and Infrastructure Hampton Novices’ Chase over three miles. Just the three runners go to post but all of whom have some high class form to their names. Current Favourite and ex Willie Mullins inmate, Next Destination, has adapted to life at Ditcheat well under the watchful eye of 11-time champion trainer Paul Nicholls. A grade 1 winning hurdler back in 2018, Next Destination ran a cracker on his seasonal debut after a 920-day break. This run came over hurdles and he cemented the promise shown when taking to fences well on his next start, winning a three-mile novice chase at Newbury. The form of this win took a slight hit when both the second, One For The Team, and third, Kalloki, ran average races in the Kauto Star Novices Chase. Today’s outsider of three, Golan Fortune finished 1 ½ lengths ahead of One For The Team that day and on bare form lines alone may look a nice price at around the 7/1 mark.
That being said the one I like in here is the Colin Tizzard trained Fiddlerontheroof 7/4. This is a horse who looks to me like he’s been crying out for a step up to three miles for some time now. As a Grade 1 winning hurdler, many people had high hopes for Fiddlerontheroof over fences and I’d say he’s disappointed many up to this point. Running over middle-distance trips, he has been beaten by the likes of If The Cap Fits, Caribean Boy and Allart. A fine stamp of a chaser on looks, Fiddlerontheroof has jumped well to date and to my eye just hasn’t had the gears to pick off good horses at the intimidate trip. I hope stepping up to three miles will unlock further improvement and receiving 5lbs from Next Destination he looks the pick at around 7/4.
Adrimel to take high rank in the Leamington
The second of the Grade 2’s at Warwick is the Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle over 2 miles and 5 furlongs. This year’s renewal sees 12 go to post in what looks an ultra-competitive contest. One of my “Ten Dark Horses to follow”, Optimise Prime looks set to participate and I’m sure he can run a nice race at a double figure price. Whether he’ll be up to winning this I’m not so sure and as a result the vote goes to Tom Lacey’s Adrimel 5/1 who has impressed me so far this season. 5 career starts have yielded 4 wins, the only defeat coming in last season’s Champion Bumper which in typical fashion has looked an extremely hot contest. Sent novice hurdling, Adrimel beat the re-opposing Lord of Kerak and then Grumpy Charley, giving him 5lbs, on his most recent start. Both hurdle starts to date have come over 2 miles and the form would look solid. Lord of Kerak has won nicely since and Grumpy Charley ran a solid race on his next start. The ground should suit and I’m confident a step up to this intimidate trip will bring out plenty more improvement. Adrimel looks a solid proposition at 5/1.
Le Breuil has to run a big race if he’s to be considered a Grand National Horse
Le Breuil 6/1 has long been considered an Aintree Grand National horse by connections but off his current mark of 140 he’s not guaranteed to get in. As a result, he has to run a big race at some point in order to increase his rating and guarantee a spot in the Aintree show piece. His season to date hasn’t been poor by any stretch of the imagination but plenty of punters, including myself, had hoped for more. Both starts have come over 3 miles and 2 furlongs where he’s plunged on both times for a 4th and 3rd place finish. The extra 3 furlongs looks sure to help here and given he doesn’t clatter a fence like last time out you’d like to think he’ll be hitting the frame.
In a race of this nature he’s short enough and I also like to have an each-way alternative at a bigger price. Jonjo O’Niell’s Django Django 12/1 caught my eye last time out and he’s another who will appreciate the 3 mile and 5 furlongs’ trip. His first two starts this season were disappointing but he took a step back in the right direction when staying on from miles back to finish 5th at Newbury over 3 miles and 2 furlongs. He still remains 4lbs above his last winning mark but I think he’s unexposed at this marathon trip and can outrun his current odds of 12/1.
Ardlethan worth chancing in typically tricky Pertemps qualifier
The final race I will touch upon at Warwick is a Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle which are notoriously tricky to predict. That being said, I believe we have quite a solid favourite in the shape of Come On Teddy 5/1 whose form has been significantly boosted by On The Blinde Side who ran a massive race in the Relkeel last weekend. Come On Teddy has gone up 7lbs for his Cheltenham success which now looks like it may be a lenient rise. Given he reproduces the standard of his win, he should go very close.
For those of you who like one at a bigger price, I think Dan Skelton’s Ardlethan 12/1 is an interesting runner reverting from chasing. Sixth in this seasons Ladbroke Trophy we know Ardlethan is in relatively good form and he was well supported when a faller at the second last time out at Ascot. I just think he’s a horse who may well be a bit better than his current mark of 137 over both fences and hurdles. We will know a lot more come Saturday evening.
Sizing Cusimano can run a big race in the Market Rasen opener
A three-mile handicap chase kicks off a good looking Market Rasen card and I’m hoping Sizing Cusimano 9/2 can run a big race for the Tizzards. A course winner back in 2018, we know he likes the track and todays trip should be ideal for him. Form figures of 262 this season show he’s in fine form and the 6th placed effort can be marked up considerably as he travelled extremely well that day but ultimately didn’t get home over 3 miles and 6 furlongs. The form of his most recent second looks strong with the winner, Nearly Perfect, now officially rated 135. Sizing Cusimano went down 2 ¾ lengths to Nearly Perfect receiving just the 5lbs. He runs off a mark of 118 here which looks well within his reach. I’d like to think he’ll be good enough to hit the places if not notch up a first win of the season.
Nothing wrong with a Grey Sky for Frost and Martello
Next up at Market Rasen we have a 2 mile 2 ½ furlong novices’ hurdle where 10 go to post. Top rated and subsequently top weighted, Across The Line runs here and concedes plenty of weight all round. As a result, my selection for the race carries a handy 11 stone 1. Martello Sky 7/4 is a mare I’ve got plenty of time for. Starting off the season in bumpers she notched up a win on her reappearance before a creditable fifth place finish at Cheltenham in a good mares’ bumper in October. Sent novice hurdling at Fakenham next time out, I thought there was plenty to like visually about her success. Despite making the odd mistake she came swinging into contention round the home turn and absolutely pinged the last before going away at the line. The extra two furlongs here are sure to suit and given her jumping improves a tad I’d be disappointed if she doesn’t go close. The form of her hurdles win took a big boost on Thursday when Allavina, the horse who filled the runner up spot to her, won a mares’ novice hurdle in tidy fashion at Fontwell. King George winning jockey, Bryony Frost is back on board to do the steering a I’m hopeful of a big run.
Be wary of Ward in intriguing handicap hurdle
It’s not often you describe a horse who finished 13th from 16 runners last time out as an eye catcher but that’s exactly what I’m going to say about Rowland Ward 10/1 in the 2:05. Sent to Cheltenham for a typically competitive handicap hurdle in December, Rowland Ward was relatively unfancied at 20/1 and to the naked eye should’ve been a 66/1 shot looking at the result. As is the case in many a race, the finishing result is far from the full story and I believe there were positives to take from this run. Kept relatively wide throughout, Rowland ward jumped slickly and made an eye catching move before 2 out. He swooped round the majority of the field to put himself right on the leader’s heels. His effort tapered out but I believe this return to a tighter and flatter track will really suit. He has some lovely form in the book too. As a juvenile he produced his best performance to date when beating the now 141 rated Thyme White at Kempton, a flat track! He gets in off 127 here and receives a stone off the short priced favourite Edwardstone. In a 5 runner race he just looks a big price at 10/1 and I’m hopeful he can outrun these odds.
On The Blind Side worth chancing despite a quick turn around
It is very unlike Nicky Henderson to run a horse just 7 days after his last run but that is what On The Blind Side 9/4 has been tasked with doing. Hopefully it is a clue to how well On The Blind Side has come out of last week’s Relkeel hurdle where he ran an absolute cracker to finish second to the highly impressive Mcfabulous. Thomas Darby, Summerville Boy and Call Me Lord were all in behind On The Blind Side last weekend and I believe a reproduction of that run will be good enough to see him win this. He has to concede 4lbs to market rivals Mohaayed and Lil Rockafeller but he actually comes off better at the weights with Mohaayed on their last meeting when he gave Mohaayed 9lbs and finished a length ahead of him. Lil Rockafeller could be a tough nut to crack but the form of his seasonal reappearance isn’t in the same league as On The Blind Side and at the prices I’d side with the latter.
Hopefully I’ve highlighted a few horses to go well at some nice prices.
Best of luck if you’re having a bet!
By Sam Rideout – Follow me on Twitter @TheTr17pleP