Matthew Sutcliffe guides us through the horses to take out of last weekend’s action, before giving some value punts for this weekend’s racing
Matt is looking to kick off 2024 with some tasty winners and he has headed to Sandown and Wincanton for his best bets.
Published: 11:15am 3rd January (Odds correct at time of publication)
Last Week’s Pointers
Friday 29th December
1:20 Kelso – Ganapathi (3/5) – Samum x Une Dame D’Avril (Meshasheer) – Trainer: Mike Smith.
Ganapathi was rated in the mid 140s when with Willie Mullins in 2022 but has lost his way since landing two novice chases in the summer of that year. As a consequence of dropping 20lbs in the weights, he’s shown signs of winning form after a 7L 3rd at Catterick in November, before another third at Kelso in a first time visor finishing mine lengths behind the 1/2F in Traprain Law. Whether he’s a ‘handbrake’ job in waiting or simply returning to a more workable mark remains to be seen, but he’s of major interest next time out at what will likely be a fair price.
1:40 Doncaster – Carole’s Pass (3/8) – Authorized x Carole’s Spirit (Hernando) – Trainer: Amy Murphy.
Carole’s Pass has been pitched straight into listed company over fences and acquitted herself well with two 3rd places. Along with the rest, she couldn’t lay a glove on the well backed winner Limerick Lace, who looks set for graded tasks, but she ran on well and like many of her sires’ progeny, will be suited to stepping up in trip. She’ll be a bet down in grade next time out off a handy enough mark.
2:45 Doncaster – Erne River (1/6) – Califet x Lusty Beg (Old Vic) – Trainer: Nick Kent.
Erne River was a promising novice chaser in 2022 with his season culminating in G1/G2 company (albeit well beaten). He began last season well but his form wildly tailed off, however he drastically emerged from a spell in the doldrums with a welcome success at Doncaster on Friday, with the 3/4L distance doing the performance a disservice. He was behind the bridle at times and far from fluent, but travelled ominously well in the latter stages and despite some further sticky jumping, he was able to just cling on having idled toward the finish. The first time cheekpieces evidently proved the oracle there and if he’s in the same mood next time out, connections can step him back up in class with him well handicapped on his novice form.
Saturday 30th December
1:25 Haydock – Fortescue (2/6) – Shirocco x Last Of Her Line (Silver Patriarch) – Trainer: Henry Daly.
The cheekpieces haven’t made Fortescue any less lazy than what he can be at times as exemplified by his second in the Last Fling Handicap Chase at Haydock on Saturday. That said, it was still a promising performance giving some 25lbs away to the winner, recording his best RPR since his 4th in the Becher Chase in December 2022. While I think Hugh Nugent is a fantastic young jockey, I just wonder whether an experienced one would be able too get him jumping/travelling much better, as he’d have an excellent chance off his lowering mark. The target will possibly be the Grand National, but he’d have to win somewhere before to sneak into the contest, so perhaps a return to Ascot in February will suit, where he took the Swinley Chase in 2022.
1:50 Newbury – Irish Hill (2/8) – Kingston Hill x Irresistable (Monsun) – Trainer: Paul Nicholls.
Irish Hill was set some stiff tasks at the end of last season (Martin Pipe, Aintree equivalent) after taking a 26k handicap at Ascot in February, and has dropped 2lbs below that performance after a string of uncompetitive efforts. That said, he fared the best of those racing prominently (others finished 28L 4th, 61L 5th, PU) at Newbury beaten eight lengths into second by the well-backed favourite (split pair who came from rear), so his effort can be somewhat marked up and he’ll likely be minded for a repeat success at Ascot next time out.
3:00 Newbury – Johnnywho (4/9) – Califet x Howaya Pet (Montelimar) – Trainer: Jonjo O’Neil.
The last six year old to win the Challow Hurdle was Champ in 2018, and although Jonnywho could emulate that success for his owner, his strong finish was reminiscent of that of Champ’s in the RSA the following season and he could be a smart staying type for connections. The unexposed son of Califet came into the race as the least experienced and off the longest layoff so his task was a steep one, but having initially been outpaced by the leading three halfway up the straight, he rallied relentlessly clocking the quickest final furlong and I’d say he’s a lively contender for the Albert Bartlett in March for which he is a 16/1 shot for.
3:10 Haydock – Ned Tanner (3/7) – Milan x Rose Tanner (Roselier) – Trainer: N W Alexander.
Ned Tanner has struggled to find his feet in open company this season after a productive novice chasing campaign (2L behind subsequent 150r Richmond Lake). Heavy ground perhaps doesn’t suit him given he weakened quickly up the run in but he jumped well in the main and strikes me as the type to begin an upward curve once the yard unlock his ability, likely around Kelso (or other sharp tracks).
Monday 1st January
12:25 Exeter – Tango Tara (4/7) – Kayf Tara x Bling Noir (Moscow Society) – Trainer: Paul Nicholls.
Tango Tara was weak in the market in the opener at Exeter, suggesting he’d need the run having been off 623 days. A fine stamp of a chaser, he’s clearly had issues getting fit given he’s had a wind op in the interim and was equipped with a tongue tie, but normally when a horses wind issue still occur you see them back-pedaling/not seeing their race out, however the manner in which he rallied after initially weakening suggests it was a case of needing the run on that heavy ground as opposed to those issues remaining, and he will be a confident bet next time out.
2:20 Musselburgh – Corrigeen Rock (2/9) – Westerner x Set In Her Ways (Old Vic) – Trainer: Lucinda Russell.
Corrigeen Rock was backed late on in the Auld Reekie handicap when upped in trip to 2m4f for the first time, and caught the eye staying on strongly after hitting a flat spot three out. Although he couldn’t lay a glove on the winner who made all, the fact he showed he can stays this trip unlocks further options, and granted a sharp, right handed track, he’ll be of interest next time out over the distance.
2:40 Cheltenham – My Bobby Dazzler (2/10) – Malinas x Ease And Grace (King’s Theatre) – Trainer: Mel Rowley.
Had Charlie Deutsch took his mount across to the stand side a lot earlier than he eventually did, then I’m sure My Bobby Dazzler would’ve landed the spoils for connections after he was beaten 6L in the race in 2022 off a 13lbs higher mark. ‘If’ that was the intended plot, then he’s likely to be well handicapped going forward over hurdles and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were to enter him in a Pertemps Qualifier, as he bumped into the subsequent 2023 Pertemps favourite in one last season.
3:30 Musselburgh – Call Me Harry (2/7) – Make Believe x Lake Moon (Tiger Hill) – Trainer: Iain Jardine.
As often at Musselburgh, there was a huge front runners bias on Monday with the RP description of the winners reading ‘led’, ‘made all’, in touch with leaders’, ‘made all’, ‘made all’, ‘prominent’. The performance of top-weight Call Me Harry can be massively upgraded on that basis, who was held up throughout in the last race, just failing to reel in the well backed winner. While he’s not bred for three miles, he’s certainly improved for this distance and can be strongly considered next time out.
1:50 Sandown – Read Nicky Henderson’s Unibet Blog Handicap Chase (GBB Race) (Class 2) (5yo+ 0-150)
Hudson De Grugy (7/2 generally, 4/1 Bet 365) 1.5pt WIN
Gary Moore’s son of Falco was a pointer for the column last time out after his staying on 3rd here over 1m7f, after which I noted “despite being behind the bridle at times and jumping the second last 15 lengths down in fifth, Hudson De Grugy was about the only one to finish off their race with something left in the tank and may improve next time out with that first run after a wind op behind him.”
While he moves back up in class, he’s back on his last winning mark which came when taking a 28K G3 Premier Handicap last March over course and distance, adding to his three other course wins. That win came in a visor, which didn’t seem to make much of a different on either side of that, but it’ll be interesting to see whether Gary Moore returns to that equipment as he raced lazily last time out. Moore’s horses are in excellent form and this 20k race looks to have been minded from last time out.
2:40 Wincanton – Virgin Bet Best Odds Daily Handicap Chase (Class 3) (5yo+ 0-130)
Honneur D’Ajonc 20/1 0.5pt EW (3 places)
Honneur D’Ajonc was disappointing in first time cheekpieces at Exeter last time out and I’m hoping the yard discard them when declared on Thursday. Although that added to a string of disappointing recent efforts, plausible excuses can be attached to those runs (2x fresh, 0-6 after a break, fell once, cheekpieces a hindrance) and as a result he’s dropped 4lbs below his last winning mark and has to be considered dropping back into 0-130 company. He’s a course winner who generally comes good around this time of year (unbeaten in January) and I’m banking on a switch back to prominent tactics for a return to form.
3:00 Sandown Unibet Veterans’ Handicap Chase (2023 Veterans’ Chase Series Final) (Class 2) (9yo+)
Sam Brown 9/1 1pt WIN
It’s last chance saloon for Sam Brown who showed that the fire still burns when rallying for 5th behind Cepage at Cheltenham. He hadn’t raced over a distance that short since 2020 so you can only presume it was a prep race for this, and while he did race lazily, I’ll largely put that down to being outpaced and the blinkers can continue to sharpen him up, as he was likely to win in them at Punchestown last April. He’s dropped to his last winning mark of 147 and will appreciate the move away from top-weight. Anthony Honeyball is one from four with chasers at Sandown in the last five seasons. Which came in this race with Jepeck in 2020.
Matt Sutcliffe’s Weekend Bets
1:50 Sandown – HUDSON DE GRUGY (7/2 generally, 4/1 bet365) 1.5pt WIN – ABANDONED
2:40 Wincanton – HONNEUR D’AJONC (20/1 generally) 0.5pt EW (3 places)
3:00 Sandown – SAM BROWN (9/1 generally) 1pt WIN – ABANDONED
The 2023/24 Jumps Season is underway and we’ve got all our team to give their ’10 to follow’ for the NH season. Matt Sutcliffe is the next to give his selections, which include an old favourite of his from the Syd Hosie yard, plus a Nicky Henderson horse he’s backing to win the 2024 Triumph…
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