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The Weekend Preview - Saturday 7th January

Weekend Preview We have jump racing from Sandown, Wincanton, Cork & Newcastle on Saturday along with two flat meetings at Lingfield & Kempton. While we have a Grade 1 Novices’ at Naas on Sunday to also look forward too. I will be looking at a few races that catch my eye on what looks a good weekends racing.

Saturday Sandown 12:05 – Unibet Extra Places Everyday Juvenile Hurdle

The opener at Sandown caught my eye with G. Moore and O. Harris teaming up again with Bo Zenith. Bo Zenith is another French recruit for this shrewd owner & he already has a Triumph Hurdle entry at Cheltenham on the 17th of March. On his only start in France he beat Blood Destiny by 3½ lengths. Blood Destiny is now with Willie Mullins in Ireland and was sent off 4/5fav on his Irish debut in a Maiden Hurdle at the start of December. He caught the eye that day when winning comfortably, and if G. Moore’s gelding can run close to that form, then he should take all the beating.

Out of the ones with a run under their belt, you’d have to say they look nothing more than average handicappers at best. So, if Bo Zenith is going to be heading to the Triumph Hurdle in March with any sort of chance, then he will have to be swiftly dispatching these on Saturday. William Hill is currently offering 16/1 for the Triumph Hurdle, while SkyBet offer 20/1.

Saturday Sandown 12:40 – Unibet 3 Uniboosts A Day Mares’ Hurdle, Listed Sandown’s first Class 1 race comes in the form of a Listed race in the Unibet 3 Uniboosts A Day Mares’ Hurdle with six entered at the time of writing this on Wednesday. As it stands there are no prices available, but I would assume the improving Love Envoi will head the market, followed by Martello Sky. Lucy Wadham’s Martello Sky won this race last year off a mark of 144 and comes into this race 4lbs better off, off 140. I think Wadham has had this race set out for her and giving her a bit of time off since her last run at Kempton when finishing second to Miranda in a Listed race over 3 miles. I wasn’t sure she would get the trip that day and I was thankfully proved right. She steps back down to what I think is her ideal trip 2½ miles over a stiff finish.

With Love Envoi I don’t think this will be her be all and end all with Cheltenham more than likely her main target for this year. Obviously, connections would love to head into Cheltenham with confidence high, but I do think she could get found out in better company over this trip with a stiff finish. I’m unsure whether Saturday will be the day she gets caught out, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a battle-hardened Martello Sky put it up to her and make it a tough ask. Fautinette is potentially interesting runner for Venetia Williams if declared to race on Saturday. She was pitch into the Grade 1 Jewson Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree on her first start for her new trainer. That makes me think that she came with a big reputation from France and to throw her into a race of that caliber first time of asking. She was pulled up that day and seemingly put away. It will be interesting to see if any money comes in for her on Saturday before race time in what looks to be an easier race on paper.

Saturday Newcastle 12:48 – QuinnBet Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase

This looks a penalty kick for Ann Hamilton’s Tommy’s Oscar. On official ratings he is 19lbs clear of the next best in the field Cormier who runs off 136. He steps back down into handicap company and despite carrying top weight he should be better off at this level after being slightly found out at the top level. It would be no surprise to see him get back to winning ways, but I imagine he won’t be much of a price.

Saturday Sandown 14:25 – Unibet Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle, Grade 1 Sandown’s main feature on Saturday comes in the form of a Grade 1 contest, the Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle. Unfortunately, Luccia will miss the meeting after news broke today (Wednesday) of an unsatisfactory scope. Meaning the early betting now makes Authorised Speed and Tahmuras as joint favorites. As it stands Tahmuras would be my slight preference of the two as the form keeps stacking up for the Paul Nicholls trained gelding and he just seems to be improving with every run. I also think the stiff finish will benefit him. When you dig into his form there seems to be winners coming out and winning handsomely in the likes of; Snake Roll, Out Of Office, Clonakitty, Pembroke, Always Busy, Blow Your Wad & L’astroboy to name a few. I know Authorised Speed has come out and won twice since his Champion Bumper fifth behind Vacile Vega, but that form is surprisingly not turning out to be anything extraordinary like we all thought it would be, other than the winner and Authorised Speed coming out and looking above average.

Another one to watch out for at a slightly bigger price would be the Irish trained Artic Bresil who caught my eye on debut for Henry De Bromhead. I would like to think Racheal Blackmore will travel over to take the ride to continue building what could be a good an exciting partnership for years to come. He kicked away after the last in very good style and he just went away, putting good distance between him and the rest of the field. L'astroboy could be the dark horse of the race. He beat Tahmuras at Ffos Las in a bumper race by staying on very nicely to head Tahmuras in the closing stages. If he happens to be up there as they come to the last hurdle, I do think the stiff finish will be a benefit to him on the run in as he really reaches for the ground. He’ll have to improve his jumping to have any sort of chance, but if he has been schooling well at home to improve from his Ffos Las win then he could be one to outrun his double figure price. If you can find any bookmaker offering more than the usual three places, then I would be interested in a small each way bet.

Saturday Wincanton 15:15 – Virgin Bet Handicap Hurdle

Chianti Classico will be looking to notch his third win from three races on Saturday and his opening handicap mark of 131 could prove to be a lenient move from the handicapper. I don’t expect him to be any sort of price and would advise anyone to include him in any multiples they may have over the weekend. If he can make it around without falling, then I struggle to see him beat.

Saturday Sandown 15:35 – Unibet New and Improved Bet Builder Handicap Hurdle

To be honest I don’t have too much to say on Sandown’s finale other than I think Lightly Squeezed should be winning. He was returning from a 9-month absence when winning readily at Kempton and that would have done him the world of good as he wasn’t asked too many questions. It would have just knocked off any cobwebs he may have had, and he’ll surely come on for the run. Djelo has questions to answer after not looking the same horse as when he won at Exeter. Despite winning very impressively at Exeter he got found out next time out when coming up against Jungle Jack – a horse of a decent standard & think the same will happen again on Saturday. Iceo runs for the in-form Paul Nicholls and is taking a step down in class on Saturday, but he is returning from nearly a year off. Nicholls can get them ready first time out, but I think with Lightly Squeezed having a run under his belt, he could find one to good. In The Air is an interesting runner for the same connections as Bo Zenith in the opener on the card and is one I would watch the market for as the owner is known for his gambles, I wouldn’t expect it to go off at odds-on, but any late movement could mean connections have had this race lined up for the horse.

Saturday Kempton 19:00 – Unibet/EBF Restricted Novice Stakes

I now switch my attention to the evening meeting at Kempton where we get to see Charlie Fellows Chorlton Lane. He was an eye-catching winner on debut at Newcastle where Jamie Spencer sat motionless on him, and he was an easy winner. That was back in September so that does make me question why we haven’t seen him since, with plenty of racing between then and now. I don’t think the form of that Newcastle win is anything to be shouting about, but it is more the fashion in how he won that makes me think he could well be a nice horse for this coming year if he doesn’t have too many problems we don’t know about. Richard Hughes will also be sending out a first-time winner in Nails Murphy. He was a big price winner at 16/1 at Chelmsford. He hung left towards the finish that day and with Kempton being a right-handed track that could prove to be a small problem if that issue isn’t ironed out.

Based on the betting you would have to think he wasn’t fancied that day and it may have come as a surprise and he will have to shoulder a penalty to a few of these on Saturday. It will be interesting to see what the market does with Andrew Balding’s Floating Spirit & Archie Watson’s Sundazed. Normally Andrew Balding’s want the run first time out so it could well be she just gets a nice educational ride on debut, while Archie Watson’s Sundazed is ridden by Hollie Doyle. That is normally one I would keep an eye out for as she is normally booked for their better runners on debut. Breeding suggests she could be useful.

Sunday Naas 14:20 – Lawlor’s Of Naas Novice Hurdle, Grade 1 We get to see the Cheltenham Albert Bartlett favourite, Grangeclare West line up in a field of some very good novices’ on Sunday and he’ll be looking to build on that 13-length victory at Navan back in November. After that win I decided to back him for the Ballymore at 12/1, before deciding to back him again but for the Albert Bartlett at 5/1. He looked as if he had plenty of running left in him. It will be interesting to see what he does in the coming years as he looks like he could be a Ryanair contender if connections can’t keep Allaho sound, or with him looking like he had plenty left in the tank the Gold Cup could be an interesting route, especially if A Plus Tard isn’t the horse he once was. At his predicted price of 5/4 for the race on Sunday he is one I would be more than happy to sit and watch knowing full well I’ve got a decent price for the Cheltenham festival and if he backs that up on Sunday then those prices will look even better come the festival.

One that could throw down a challenge could be Gordon Elliott’s Irish Point. He was a very good second in a Grade 1 to Marine Nationale at the start of December. He was caught on the line after kicking on once getting over the last and it will be interesting how he deals with the step up in trip if he is declared to race on Sunday. Gordon Elliott could also line up Three Card Brag for different connections, but he looks like he is crying out for another step up in trip. He looks to be a stayer in the making. At what level? It’s hard to say as I don’t think you can say the staying division is filled with world class horses, so you really don’t have to be world class to leave a mark on the division at this moment in time. You can’t go through Grade 1’s in Ireland and mention just the one Willie Mullins runner. Grangeclare West is likely not to be his only runner on the day with Champ Kiely and Gaelic Warrior also entered on Sunday. Neither of which I have been overly impressed with. Gaelic Warrior was sent off 13/8 favourite for the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle at Cheltenham on his stable debut after being one of the hype horses for the festival.

A recruit from France – Where he was yet to win a race. I could never jump on the band wagon as we know W. Mullins loves to talk his unraced horse’s up as if they’re all going to be the next big thing. He broke his maiden at Tramore, but that form is one I wouldn’t be taking too much notice of. Not many that day would have wanted to finish close to him for their own sakes. Champ Kiely had looked impressive on his first three starts. Most notably when winning a Grade 3 on just his third start when beating Brazil. I thought that form would be strong enough when he was sent off favourite at Fairyhouse, but he was beaten 4 lengths by Marine Nationale and Irish Point. Form I can’t see him turning around, especially over this extended trip. He’s looked all speed and I think he got caught out on the softer conditions. Dawn Rising & Inothewayurthinkin both deserve honorable mentions as either are yet to really do anything wrong, but I think they may just come up short albeit running well.

Sunday Chepstow 14:40 – Follow Vickers Bet on Facebook Novices’ Hurdle I have had one horse in my Tracker for well over year and he looks to be finally making his first start for new connections on Sunday. Estacas was an unlikely winner when first seen at Ascot despite being sent off 3/1 favourite. He had collared Chianti Classico and Card Dealer in the final furlong when plugging on at what looked one pace but ended up winning by 1½ lengths after looking to beat 2-furlongs out. He was then seen 3 months later at Lingfield when sent off 15/8 favourite but was easily beaten in third. He may have had an excuse that day when tackling the all-weather in what I can only assume was his first time experiencing it but connections still thought enough of him to think he was more than capable of winning.

Estacas has not been seen for nearly 12-months coming into this race on Sunday and it will be interesting what they do with Libberty Hunter looking the one to beat despite being a beaten favourite on his hurdling debut after his 6th place finish in what could prove to be a hot bumper. He was then stepped up in trip next time of asking but was well beaten in third. Noticeably they have decided to drop him back down to 2m. I’m really interested to see Estacas here on Sunday, and I really hope he doesn’t disappoint on his hurdling debut. He does have a handful of entries over the next few days, so it will be interesting to see if they opt for an easier task elsewhere.

*Write up was done on Wednesday 4th January due to work commitments.

Weekend Selections

Saturday - Sandown 12:40 Martello Sky @ 5/2

Saturday - Sandown 14:25 Tahmuras @ 11/4

Saturday - Sandown Artic Bresil @ 7/2 L’astroboy @ 11/1

Saturday - Sandown 15:35 Lightly Squeezed @ 7/2

Saturday - Lucky 15

Bo Zenith, Chianti Classico, Tommy’s Oscar & Charlton Lane @ 5.12/1

Sunday – Naas 14:20 Grangeclare West @ 11/8 Irish Point @ 9/2

Sunday – Chepstow 14:40 Estacas @ SP

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