After ‘threats’ of a weekful of sunshine cooking up dry ground for this meeting, historically known as the Hennessy meeting, good to soft ground on the chase course is the call at the time of writing, bringing sighs of relief from antepost supporters of American in the big one on Saturday. But we have Friday to deal with first so let’s see if I can give you a winner out of a few fun TV bets.
Short and sweet for this first TV race: I think Willoughby Court is a potential star and despite a couple of scary moments on his jumping debut, I won’t oppose him. His fencing technique looked sound enough and I suspect he frightened himself with a bit of a lunge at the 2nd fence that day and Nico did well to calm him down.
He didn’t much care for going right handed either and should be much better here. He’s a confident selection despite the threat from Yanworth who is an admirable horse but one I am convinced is not straightforward despite his consistent record. The improving Western Miller should be the fittest in the field and he will almost certainly outrun his big odds without being able to beat Willoughby Court.
This is a tricky handicap chase. I’m not convinced by the jumping style of the likely favourite Willie Boy so will disregard him. Vibrato Valtat is a horse I’ve never been able to catch right so don’t be surprised if, having given him the elbow here, he trots up.
The one I like best is O O Seven who at one time looked as though he might go to the top. He has 11.12 to carry here on his seasonal debut but he’s fine with the ground and with going left handed. His record in November/December is 4 from 5 so it looks to be his time of year. He hasn’t run for 238 days but his form suggests this might be a benefit; off a break of 121 days or more he has a 100% record – 3 from 3.
The final stat I have to give you on O O Seven is that in races above the class of this one, which is a class 2, he has failed to win on 7 outings. In Class 2 and below he has been beaten just once in 7 outings. He’s about 7/1 and looks good value.
Lipsmackinthirstquenchinaceracing . . . A great race for this stage of the season with the mighty Thistlecrack back at one of his favourite tracks. He’s 2 from 2 here as is his main market rival Unowhatimeanharry who is 6 from 7 in this ground to Thistlecrack’s 3 from 7 (the hurdle track going is soft). This is their first clash and, oddly for such a specialist division, the only two horses who have previously met here are Colin’s Sister and Wholestone.
Thistlecrack’s long absence leaves blanks to fill in: he was off injured so, is he fully recovered? And will he be race fit, or should I say win fit? The upside of that lengthy absence means connections have chosen to bring him back in a hurdle whose conditions mean that he receives 6lbs from Unowhatimeanharry and 3 from Wholestone. Were this a handicap, he’d be giving weight to every rival.
If he’s fit and hurdling-sharp (the latter quite unlikely) he’d win this comfortably which he might well do. But Unowhatimeanharry will give him a race. Fit from a recent smooth victory, high class and ruthlessly consistent, Unowhatimeanharry’s yard is in better form than that of Thistlecrack’s whose handler Tizzard has a strike rate of 20% versus Harry Fry’s 36% (past 14 days).
But, but, but . . . This is not a two-horse race, Wholestone is another consistent horse. He’s 2 from 5 on soft going; this is his track debut and his yard has the same strike rate as Tizzard’s. But Wholestone got spanked last time by Colin’s Sister who was making her first attempt at the trip. She travelled strongly throughout that Wetherby race and on taking it up two out she quickly went a couple of lengths clear – often the sign of a quality animal – before running around a bit and I’d say Brennan will hold onto her a fair bit longer tomorrow.
Colin’s Sister gets the mare’s allowance meaning she gets weight from all rivals, albeit only a pound from Thistlecrack. Her yard is going strong on a 33% strike rate, she’s 4 from 5 on the ground; this is her track debut but she is 4 from 7 left handed. She’s improving fast and is thoroughly unexposed at the trip and I’m happy to take a chance with her at around 10/1.
Actinpieces has been unplaced just once in 6 runs on soft ground, winning 4 of those, giving her the best ground record of these. She is also certain to stay the trip having won twice beyond this distance. She’s been running over fences lately and her handicap mark is lower here back over hurdles. Given her strong liking for going and trip and her fat price of around 16/1, I’ll go with her.
Enjoy the racing. Don’t bet more than you can lose with a smile.