Matt Tombs / Friday 14th February 2014 / 18:15
Captain Chris has been good to this column and I’d been hoping to back him again in the Grade 1 Ascot Chase tomorrow, (extended 2m5f, soft). He’s even money though and that’s probably about right given he faces Riverside Theatre, who is top class on his day, and a couple of potential improvers in Rolling Aces and Cloudy Too.
I’m more interested in the Reynoldstown novice chase, (3m,) which appeals as a betting medium as there are plenty I want to take on. Gevrey Chambertin (11/4) is a talented horse and won the big fixed brush handicap at Haydock off 143, but hasn’t run over fences yet and this is a tough introduction. Its understandable connections don’t want to lose his novice status in an egg and spoon at this stage of the season, but he’ll have to be pretty special to win this.
O’Faolains Boy (9/1) is also a maiden over fences, albeit after 2 runs. He looked to blow up when a promising 2nd to Easter Day but then stopped as if amiss in a race won by Taquin Du Seuil last month, apparently scoping badly afterwards. His yard is in better form now but he’s a chancy proposition at the moment.
9 year old Ely Brown (6/1) is having a 2nd crack at chasing late in life. He’s 2/2 over fences this season and took advantage of favourite Green Flag clipping heels and coming down to win the Towton. He carries the full penalty and looks one for marathon chases rather than an RSA contender, (only entered in the 4 miler at the Festival). Whilst there’ll be an emphasis on stamina on the soft ground, I can’t see him having the class.
Third Intention (10/1) is as talented as anything in the field but it’s always hard to know what you’re going to get from him. I doubt a slog is going to suit – he’s never won over further than 2½m and has been well beaten in ordinary looking graded events over 3m the last twice. He’s the type to pop up and win a race at some stage in the spring, (probably in a handicap as he’s nicely treated off 143,) but I doubt he’ll be winning this.
That leaves two to concentrate on. The most likely winner is Many Clouds (9/4) who beat dual subsequent winner Knock A Hand on his chasing debut and then was a good 2¼l 2nd to the classy Black Thunder at Haydock. He looked to have progressed again when slamming Indian Castle by 16l at Wetherby – form which looked all the better when Indian Castle won a traditionally strong novice handicap at Cheltenham off 135. He’s a half brother to The Tullow Tank and I’m not sure that he’s the stayer many think he is, (entered in JLT as well as the RSA at the Festival.) If he gets home he’ll be hard to beat.
Baby Shine (7/1) has progressed nicely during 5 starts over fences this season. She was going well enough when falling 4 out in a hot beginners chase where Black Thunder edged out Fox Appeal. She then was 4l 2nd to leading RSA fancy Corrin Wood and 2½l 2nd to classy mare Une Artiste. Returned to calmer waters she’s bolted up in a beginners and a mares. Unpenalised and getting the 7lb mares allowance, she’s best in at the weights. She won a point as a 4 year old and looks like a test of stamina will suit. With Richard Johnson booked she looks good value at 7/1.
1pt Baby Shine to win Reynoldstown Chase @ 7/1
For many the Grade 2 Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton, (2m, heavy), will be a match between Champion Hurdle outsider Melodic Rendezvous and World Hurdle hopeful Zarkandar, but I think both are worth taking on. Melodic Rendezvous (5/4) loves bad ground and after bombing in the Fighting Fifth, won a Grade 2 at Haydock when beating Ptit Zig (who gave 4lb) 4½l. Ptit Zig apparently ran flat there, (after a hard race in the Ladbroke,) so the form might not be as strong as it seems. He’s rated 156 and that looks about right, which makes him look very short here.
Zarkandar (7/4) is more tempting as he won this easily last year, before a fair 6¾l 4th in the Champion Hurdle and victory in the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle over 2m4f. On that form he’s the winner of this, but it’s hard to know what to make of his form this season. He’s run 3 times and been trounced twice by Annie Power and once by The New One. Those two horses could easily turn out to be the best two hurdlers in training, but its also quite possible Zarkandar isn’t the horse he was. He did look surprisingly short of pace in the Bula and I think he could be vulnerable here.
At the prices I’d rather take a chance on Grumeti (5/1) who gets 8lb from the other two. He looked a quality prospect two season ago when 3rd in the Triumph, before reversing the form with Countrywide Flame in the Grade 1 at Aintree. He had all sorts of problems last season and only ran in the Scottish Champion Hurdle in April, (decent 5l 4th off 153.)
He ran a fair race when 5½l 3rd in the Fighting Fifth, (Melodic Rendezvous behind, although apparently pulled muscles in the race.) He bombed in the Christmas Hurdle but that was just before the Alan King yard shut down. I’m not sure whether heavy ground is what he wants, (won on soft but untried on heavy,) but he gets 8lb from the other 2 and if he is to run in the Champion Hurdle he needs to be winning this at the weights.
1pt Grumeti to win the Kingwell Hurdle @ 5/1
Over in Ireland, I can’t wait to see the brilliant but fragile Bog Warrior (9/4) back over fences, in the Red Mills Chase at Gowran, (2m4f, heavy.) He looked a potential superstar 2 seasons ago when easily beating Flemenstar and then demolishing a Grade 1 field at Fairyhouse. Tony Martin makes no secret of the fact he’s the best horse he’s had and he looked to have the World Hurdle at his mercy when breaking down coming down the hill last season. I thought we’d never see him again but he’s apparently recovered from that double fracture of his fore, and if he’s anywhere near his best he wins this.
He faces 4 decent opponents here. Argocat (6/1) looked set to win the Grade 2 event for second season chasers at Down Royal in the autumn, only to fall at the last. He didn’t jump a fence on his comeback last time and might need a confidence boosting clear round here. Aupcharlie (7/2) was a good novice last season for Willie Mullins but the wheels rather came off in the spring and, switched to Henry De Bromhead, he’s best watched on his seasonal debut here. Rathlin (14/1) is entered for the Ryanair but needs better ground and Brian Cooper passes him over. Turban (13/8) took the valuable Dan Moore handicap last time off 140, which in theory puts him in the mix here. Small field conditions races and big field handicaps are obviously very different and whether he’ll have the class to take on Bog Warrior at levels I doubt.
This all depends on whether Bog Warrior is able to do himself justice. If he can, he’s the winner of this - 2m4f on heavy ground in a small field are the perfect conditions for his comeback. Turban's presence makes the market nicely, and the opening price of 9/4 about Bog Warrior is what we were looking for. Of course you’re taking a chance that he’s not the horse he was, but at that sort of price that’s well worth doing.
1pt Bog Warrior to win the Red Mills Chase @ 9/4