Seymour Biz has another quartet of picks for punters on Saturday and an 8-year-old is his fancy for the bet365 Handicap Chase.
A fine two day pre-Christmas meeting to look forward to this Friday and Saturday. The main race on Friday is the Cross Country where we should see Grand National hero Tiger Roll in action. These types of races are not great as betting contests and are best watched as they are mainly used as jumping practice for both horses and riders. However the rest of the card has some good races on offer that feature a couple of horses that were highlighted in this column over the past couple of weeks. One is Theatre Territory, who was one of last weeks picks, but was kept back for this handicap chase. The other is Big River who was an unlucky faller in the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle a fortnight ago, he reverts to hurdles here and can go well. On Saturday there are a couple of very competitive races backed up by a very good card at Doncaster and my thoughts on this week’s meetings are below along with Saturday’s Lucky 15.
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Let’s begin at Doncaster with the 2.10, the bet365 December Novices’ Chase. This three miler is probably the toughest race of the day to pick the winner. A case can be made for every runner on the card and that is reflected in the betting. The bookies favourite is Ok Corral from Nicky Henderson’s yard who is having his first run since last April. That was at Aintree where he ran poorly after a fine second at the Cheltenham Festival behind Kilbricken Storm, he had won twice earlier in the season including first time out, so coming here after a long break should not be a problem. The form horse is Lil Rockerfeller with three wins already this year including a win on the Old Course at Cheltenham in October, but he does tend to hit one or two of his fences and needs to be kept at his work. Paul Nicholls has a pair of contenders, Coup De Pinceau and Ibis Du Rheu, with the former going for a hat-trick after having shown a good turn of foot already this season. But Ibis Du Rheu is the class horse of the pair, his fine win at Cheltenham first time out shows his potential. Ian Williams’s King Of Realms was a fine winner at Ascot on his seasonal reappearance but he may be outclassed here. A lively outsider is the Theclockisticking who won his first race over the bigger obstacles at Fakenham in November, he may well run into a place.
The 3.20 is the bet365 Handicap Chase with Nicky Henderson sending 0 0 Seven out for his first run of the season. Great things were promised for him last season but he failed to get to the winners enclosure in six tries. I think he best watched here in his first run for eight months. Paul Nicholls’s El Bandit is reported to have ‘ran novicey’ on his reappearance last month, he has had his problems in the past and is another best watched. Sumkindofking has been busy this season running eight times already but his two wins are in lower classes than this. Go Conquer was a beaten favourite on his first run this season, he would need to improve significantly to take this. Barney Dwan has promised much in his career since going chasing, but has only two novice chases to his name. He is due an improvement and has the ability to take this. Lower in the handicap is Sue Smith ‘s Straidnahanna, a Catterick specialist, has had a run in preparation for this and may run into a place at a nice price.
Moving south-west to Cheltenham for their Christmas meeting at 1.55 we have the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase. Last years winner Guitar Pete is declared by trainer, Nicky Richards, for this important prize. The 8-year-old ran third to Baron Alco here at Cheltenham last time in the BetVictor Gold Cup. That race was four weeks ago and looks to be the answer to this tricky contest. The rise in weight may be too much for Baron Alco this time, Frodon was unable to mount a challenge that day under top weight and the case would seem to be similar here. War Sound was a winner at Aintree last month coming home by 6 lengths with Romain De Senam a further 19 lengths back in third. However War Sound has a 10lb rise for that win and that could prove too much for him. Full Glass needs soft ground, his last run at Haydock where he unseated his rider was not fluent and trainer Alan King blamed the tough fences but he was off the pace at the time. A much more interesting runner is Nicky Henderson’s Rather Be. He was a close second to Mister Whitaker here in March and came out for his seasonal reappearance here last month in the BetVictor when he was unluckily brought down when travelling well four out. He can gain compensation for that mishap by taking this.
The final race on the Cheltenham card which will be run in the December gloom is the OLBG.comMares Handicap Hurdle. This is a very tight betting race with seven horses vying for favouritism. One of those is Noel Williams ‘s Sensulano who beat off the challenge of Petticoat Tails last time and I take him to confirm that form. Further back in the field were Oscar Rose and Miss Mash and I cannot see either of those improving on that form. Casablanca Mix has only been able to deliver two seconds this season and has not won for over twelve months, top weight may be too much for her once again. At the bottom of the handicap Definitelyanoscar from Harry Fry’s yard steps up in class for this, she may take a place but the step up is too much for her. Ratoute Yutty looks much more promising having won at Navan last year but perhaps she needs a little more experience under Dan Skelton, her time will come but I can’t see it being here. I will mention Henry Daly’s Chilli Filli who won a small contest at Ludlow on her reappearance, she has had experience of the Cheltenham fences running fifth here last year. She may well take a place at a nice price.
Saturday Lucky 15
2.10 Doncaster. Ibis Du Rheu
3.20 Doncaster. Barney Dwan
1.55 Cheltenham. Rather Be
3.40 Cheltenham. Sensulano