Matt Tombs / Friday 5th December 2014 / 17:30
As the Tingle Creek lacks the star names that are on the sidelines it makes it a more competitive betting race than usual. Regular readers will have heard me say before that the top 2m chases are all about jumping at speed. Unless the ground is desperate, the stayers have virtually no chance as one of the fast horses is bound to jump well enough to win. It looked to be decent soft ground on the chase course on Friday.
Equally, given the margin for error when jumping at speed is so small, and a mistake is so hard to recover from at the strong gallop the Tingle Creek is invariably run at - if you've got a field with half a dozen horses of similar ability, you could easily run the race three times and get three different winners. My starting point in this sort of, (unusual,) situation is that the value is likely to be at bigger prices.
Six of the front seven in the market were novices last season - the exception being Somersby (9/1) who was a solid 2nd in this last season and ran a fair race behind Al Ferof at Ascot a fortnight ago. He’s every chance on the book, but despite last year’s 2m novices looking a below average crop, the understandable consensus is that at least one of them must be able to improve past him, (if they haven’t already).
Balder Succes, (official rating 163), God's Own (162), Dodging Bullets (158) and Oscar Whisky (157) are all closely matched on form and it may be a case of working out which is the likely improver. Oscar Whisky (7/1) looks the least likely improver, embarking on his 6th season over jumps. He came to chasing late in life and hasn’t looked a natural at his obstacles. He hasn’t run at around 2m since the 2011 Champion Hurdle and is easy to oppose.
The other 3 have roughly similar chances. Balder Succes (3/1) and Gods Own (4/1) have clashed twice with God's Own taking advantage of Balder Success’ chasing a suicidal pace in the 2m Grade 1 novice at Punchestown to beat him ¾l at levels. They clashed again over 1½f further at Exeter in the Haldon, where God's Own received 7lb and was a comfortable 5l winner off 155.
If this was a level weights contest over the Haldon course and distance, I’d fancy God's Own to confirm the form. However, this is back at 2m, which I think will suit Balder Succes better and I’m struggling to split them. When looking at how much they’ve improved from their novice season to the Haldon - Oscar Hill was only 9l behind Balder Succes from 10lb out of the handicap. Oscar Hill hasn’t gone well fresh in the past and was well beaten off 8lb lower next time, so it might be that the Haldon form isn’t as strong as usual.
The other main formline from this season is the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham, which is also tricky to assess. Dodging Bullets (10/1) was 2l 3rd to Uxizandre and Simply Ned, (Champion Chase 3rd Module 23l behind.) Uxizandre was having his first try at 2m and the progressive Simply Ned might not have liked the bad ground. It was interesting that Paul Nicholls said he’d have fancied Dodging Bullets chances in the Shloer even had Sire De Grugy not been scratched – perhaps that form is stronger than it looks. This is his time of year, though I’m still open-minded about how much he’ll find off the bridle.
The other two who were novices last season are slightly unknown quantities. Hinterland (16/1) won the Henry VIII on this card last season and was still going well when taken out of the Champion Chase. He’s bombed in his 2 runs since - being far too keen again in the Haldon, (hood now tried). If he settles and bounces back to his form of a year ago, he’s got a chance, but he’s a risky betting proposition.
Vukovar (8/1) has been a springer during the week, (25/1 when markets opened.) He beat a couple of dodgepots getting the four year olds allowance in two novice chases last December. He then didn’t run again until the JLT. He was slightly hampered by Oscar Whisky and Mozoltov coming down at the first there, but its stretching it to say that cost him his chance – he was out the back already and didn’t look to be particularly inconvenienced. He’s been a bit of a hype horse so far and probably wants further – the value has gone and he looks short now.
There’s not a lot between the main contenders and working out which is improving most isn’t easy – so it’s not a race to be dogmatic about. The vibes behind Dodging Bullets have been really strong and he settled much better last time, (spoiled his chance in the Arkle by pulling too hard.) If he settles well again, I think he has a not dissimilar chance to Balder Succes and God's Own - so he must be the value.
1pt Dodging Bullets to win Sandown 3.00 (Tingle Creek) @ 10/1
The usual small but select field lines up for what these days is a Grade 1 novice chase over 2m at Sandown. I was a bit surprised by the market for this race as I thought Irish Saint (13/8) would be a shade of odds-on. Court Minstrel (3/1) is a real good ground type and I’m not convinced that his jumping will stand up in this much better race. Dunraven Storm (4/1) is rising 10 and beat Nicholls 2nd string Vibrato Valtat (7/2) 1¾l at Cheltenham, but is 4lb worse off here.
Irish Saint beat Chris Pea Green with much more authority than Court Minstrel did, looking a natural over his fences. He may want further in time but that’s true of plenty of winners of this. The ground is in his favour and he’s proven over the track. I have him much shorter so am keen to take the 13/8.
1pt Irish Saint to win Sandown 1.50 (Henry VIII) @ 13/8
My King George fancy Ma Filleule (9/4) puts her credentials on the line in the 3m1f listed race at Aintree. She was clearly far from fit at Down Royal – she should come on a lot for it. The race looks there for the winning as Holywell (15/8) is again without the all important blinkers and looks to be being saved for the spring. Jonjo’s horses continue to struggle. Sam Winner (4/1) was a good winner of a marathon chase at Cheltenham off 147 but giving 162 rated Ma Filleule 7lb is a very different test. Perhaps the biggest threat will come from the unpenalised Medermit (5/1) who ran respectably in the Charlie Hall and Betfair chases.
Unless Holywell bounces back to form, this really ought to be a simple task for Ma Filleule and should put her spot on for the King George.
1pt Ma Filleule to win Aintree 2.40 (Betfred Chase) @ 9/4
Races over what’s effectively the minimum distance, (extended 2m5f,) over the Grand National fences seem to really favour those ridden up with the pace. The Sefton, (and Topham in the spring,) have produced plenty of specialists, which given the unusual nature of the races is no surprise.
Benny’s Mist (12/1) stayed on to take an 8l 2nd on ground, (good,) much quicker than he likes in the Topham when Ma Filleule hosed up off a mark of just 150. He doesn’t look to face anything of the mare’s class here and gets in off the same mark of 138. The ground is currently soft, (good to soft in places,) with clerk of the course Andrew Tulloch suggesting it could ease further with showers around. 6 of Benny’s Mist 7 wins have been on heavy and the other on soft. He stays the trip well and with conditions ideal, he looks to have a good chance, in a typically competitive renewal, for in-form handicap queen Venetia Williams.
1pt Benny’s Mist to win the Grand Sefton (Aintree 3.15) @ 12/1