So far: Staked 12pts Returned 24.55pts = +12.55pts
IMPERIAL CUP (SANDOWN) - 9TH MARCH
- The last 10 winners were all rated under 134 carrying 11-02 or less
- The last 10 winners were all aged 5-8yo
- The last 10 winners had all won a maximum of 2 hurdle races
- The last 10 winners had all run at least twice that Season
- The last 10 winners were all weighted within 14lbs of the bottom weight
- 9 of the last 10 winners had their last run in a handicap
- 9 of the last 10 winners last ran 16-45 days ago
- 9 of the last 10 winners last ran in class 1-3 company
- 8 of the last 10 winners had raced 8 or fewer times over hurdles
- 3 of the last 10 winners were ridden by claiming jockeys
- 2 of the last 10 winners had their last race on the All Weather (from just 6 such runners)
- All 19 runners coming on from Grade 1 or Grade 2 company have been beaten
Trainers (Runners / Wins / Places)
Nicky Henderson (13 / 1 / 3)
Gary Moore (11 / 0 / 3)
Paul Nicholls (8 / 0 / 2)
Phillip Hobbs (7 / 1 / 3)
Venetia Williams (5 / 0 / 0)
Brian Ellison (6 / 0 / 1)
David Pipe (13 / 1 / 4)
Alan King (7 / 0 / 0)
Dr Richard Newland (5 / 1 / 1)
4 of the winners (and 3 places) since 2000 had their last run at Cheltenham
2 of these 4 winners ran in the concluding handicap at the Cheltenham Festival Trials meeting at the end of January
3 of the last 19 winners (and 15 places) had their last run at Newbury
2 of the 3 winners and 7 of the placed horses ran in the Betfair Hurdle
CALL ME LORD - Classy topweight who keeps all the other runners under 11-00 due to his Grade 2 win last season and his subsequent 160 rating. He ran a neck second in this race last year from topweight (rated 152) but was in much better form back then having won a decent C&D handicap and then run third in the Kingwell Hurdle on his previous two starts. This year he's had just the one run when beaten 19 lengths as favourite in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle behind Paisley Park just before Christmas. I'm sure we can expect improvement from that run here but history tells us it's hard to win from his current high rating and he's probably playing for places at best.
SPEREDEK - Good front running chaser who's been highly tried over the last 14 months. Took a heavy fall last time out and connections obviously looking for a confidence booster here over the smaller obstacles. His last run over hurdles saw him run Verdana Blue to 3 lengths from a rating of 136 in November 2017 so despite all his improvement in the intervening 14 months this is a tough ask off 146.
FIRST FLOW - Looked a decent novice hurdle prospect last Season when completing a hat-trick in Grade 2 company in the heavy at Haydock but hung badly in the Supreme Novices Hurdle on his next start and was pulled up shortly after the second last. This is his first run of the Season and he'll need to be at the peak of his form if he is to defy his 144 rating after a year off the track.
BLU CAVALIER - Bought out of Paul Nicholls' yard after getting beat in a seller at odds of 2/11 but gave his new owners an instant return when defying odds of 100/1 to finish 3rd in the rescheduled Betfair Hurdle behind Al Dancer. That was a cracking run with him rallying nicely from the last flight and with just a 2lb rise in the ratings here a similar run will put him right in the mix. Does tend to find one or two too good though and another place is probably most likely.
CHTI BALKO - Only 9th in this race last year from a 1lb lower mark and has been out of form recently after a promising start to the Season. That's largely due to being put up 9lb for a run of placed efforts after his run here last year. He's slipped back to a workable rating now and the ground has come right. Could be one of the more likely outsiders.
DREAM DU GRAND VAL - Ex French horse who had failed to win in 6 hurdle starts before joining Nicky Henderson. He finally got off the mark when winning a novice handicap for the stable on just his second start for them and followed up with an easy win in novice company just over 3 weeks ago. He's now 14lb higher since that first win but he's improving and novices have a good record in this race so looks a big player coming from such a powerful yard.
ALL YOURS - Won the Grade 1 4yo hurdle at Aintree for Paul Nicholls in 2015 but has had his problems since with just 4 runs coming over the following 2 seasons. He has a new trainer now and is well treated on his best form but can't possibly be entertained on his first run for over 2 1/2 years.
SOLOMON GREY - Good consistent novice form last season culminated in a handicap win off topweight at Market Rasen on his last start from a rating of 130. He disappointed on his first run this year when last of 7 at Doncaster but bounced back to run second in the 2m5f Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton where he had Lord Napier (won Heroes handicap next time out) just behind him. Up 6lb for that run to a career high of 137 which probably isn't as much of a problem as this drop back down to 2 miles.
MALAYA - She looked a top juvenile hurdler last Season but ended her season comprehensively beaten in the Aintree 4yo Grade 1. She fell on her first two hurdle starts this Season but came back to some kind of form when a close 4th to stablemate Brio Conti at Ascot last time out. She was noted travelling strongly at the back of the field for most of that race and she now looks primed to run a big race dropped back to 2 miles.
STORM RISING - Came over from Ireland at the start of the Season after a busy Summer and quickly repaid his new connections with facile victories in two handicaps in Oct/Nov. Got thumped with a 14lb collective rise for those two wins and was then down the field in the competitive Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham. He hasn't been seen out since with his trainer probably giving the horse an overdue break and he hasn't done much running on soft (did win his first race on the flat on soft) but as a fresh horse who looked on the up before his rest could be ready to continue his progression.
TOTTERDOWN - Absolutely bolted home when leading all the way in heavy ground in a 20 runner handicap over course and distance earlier this season but struggled to recapture that form from a 10lb higher mark on his next two runs. Dropped 2lb he ran better last time out on ground not quite as testing as he would have liked and is now down another 2lb. A return to soft ground will help and if getting an easy lead may be ready to run another big race under ideal conditions.
PYROMANIAC - Hasn't won since scoring on the flat and over hurdles in the space of two weeks in May 2015 but was still running well up to around the end of 2016 for Tony Martin. The 9yo hasn't been seen out much over the last two seasons and has now left Ireland to join Alistair Ralph. Hard to know just how well he'll go on his first run for his new trainer but on balance he's probably best watched for now.
EXTRA MAG - Won an ordinary French flat race in the soft before crossing the Channel to join new trainer David Pipe for a hurdling career. Unseated rider on debut when looking to have the race in the bag and nearly did the same thing on his next start but steadied himself and got back up to record the win. Couldn't follow up under a penalty next time out when only second but stayed on well that day. Can take a keen hold and is one of the more inexperienced runners in the field but Pipe Jnr, and his Dad before him, used to farm this race and on that alone can't be discounted lightly.
MONSIEUR LECOQ - Ran well without winning in his first four starts but upped his game to record an easy win at odds on at Ffos Las in December on heavy ground. Followed that up with another easy success over course and distance in early January when beating Our Merlin by 9 lengths. Raised 10lb for that last win he still races from 2lb out of the handicap so 7lb claimer Chester Williams takes over from Lizzie Kelly and if he gets on as well with the horse as his regular rider does they'll have a major say in this race.
OUR MERLIN - Won three time on the bounce in handicap company last season winning very easily each time. Has coped well in better company and a much higher rating since and won again when dropped to 120 by the handicapper. Ran Monsieur Le Coq to 9 lengths in January and then fell in the concluding handicap on Cheltenham Trials Day when just headed at the third last. He's 7lb out of the handicap and appears to have a tough ask reversing form with Monsieur Le Coq.
BENNYS BRIDGE - Won the handicap hurdle on Cheltenham Trials Day in fine style coming from a long way back to reel in the leaders before comfortably drawing clear. A 9lb rise didn't look too harsh but is still means he races from 8lb out of the handicap and that makes things more difficult. Surprising to see Paddy Brennan onboard and not the stables excellent, in form claimer Conor Brace, which may in itself be a clue as to the yards perception of his chances. Certainly can't be ruled out.
The race has a rather lopsided look to it thanks to the highly rated top weight pushing the other runners down below 11-00. The trends tell us that we're most likely to get a lightly raced 4-6yo who has run in the last 2 months and is rated under 136 which I believe leaves a choice of 3: Extra Mag, Monsieur Le Coq and Bennys Bridge.
The Pipe dynasty farmed this race throughout the 90's and early 2000's (and again in 2014) with similarly lightly raced horses and EXTRA MAG looks the best trends fit.
A number of these have been in good form recently including Monsieur Le Coq, Bennys Bridge and Nicky Henderson's Dream Du Grand Val but it's a horse that looks set to return to her top class form of last Season that interests me the most. MALAYA was noted travelling strongly at the back of the field last time out at Ascot over 2m3f but despite finishing a fairly close up 4th didn't appear to quite get home that day. She drops back to 2 miles for this and on her preferred soft ground can be another big Saturday winner for the Nicholls/Cobden partnership.
Of the outsiders, Totterdown would be of interest if getting an easy lead like he did for his win in the heavy here last November but with a number of runners who like to run from, or near, to the front in the field he doesn't look like he'll get it all his own way. Preference therefore is for CHTI BALKO who looks way over priced at 33-1 as he now sits on a decent mark and returns to soft ground.
SELECTION: MALAYA WON 7/1
Each Way BET: CHTI BALKO (33/1 or better)
TRENDS SELECTION: EXTRA MAG (9/1 or better) -NR
888SPORT CHASE (KEMPTON) - 23RD FEBRUARY
- The last 10 winners had all been rested at least 3 weeks (21 days) since their last run
- The last 10 winners had all raced at least twice that Season
- 9 of the last 10 winners were aged 7-9yo (exception 11yo)
- 7 of the last 10 winners were rated 138-147 (2 exceptions rated 154)
- 7 of the last 10 winners finished Top 3 last time out (8/10 top 5)
- 7 of the last 11 winners had raced 10 or fewer times over fences
- 4 of the last 10 winners had their last run in a non-handicap
- Topweights have won 5 times in the last 17 years
- All 22 claiming jockeys have been beaten in the last 10 years
Trainers (Runners / Wins / Places)
Nicky Henderson (11 / 0 / 0)
Tom George (10 / 2 / 4)
Paul Nicholls (22 / 1 / 3)
Phillip Hobbs (9 / 1 / 2)
Venetia Williams (9 / 0 / 0)
Colin Tizzard (6 / 1 / 3)
David Pipe (6 / 0 / 0)
Alan King (7 / 0 / 0)
Nigel Twiston-Davies (12 / 1 / 2)
6 of the last 19 winners (and 9 places) had their last run at Cheltenham
4 of these 6 winners ran at the Cheltenham Festival Trials meeting at the end of January
5 of the last 19 winners (and 11 places) had their last run at Kempton
4 horses had their last run in the King George and then finished 1-1-2-1 here
DOUBLE SHUFFLE - Ran the race of his life to finish second in last Season's King George but hasn't run anywhere near to that level in 5 subsequent runs. Dropping back into handicap company for the first time since October 2017 when he finished second to Romain De Senam from a 3lb lower mark. Horses coming here after running in the King George have done well in recent years and the trainer won this race twice with a similar type in Nacarat. Off an attractive looking handicap mark he is taken to go well.
ADRIAN DU PONT - Decent hurdler and bits and pieces of very decent form in novice chase company last year over a variety of trips but ran his best race to date last time out when comfortably winning a handicap from topweight over this course and distance. Up 7lbs for that but he was quite impressive in that race and probably has more to offer now connections have found his ideal conditions.
MODUS - Unreliable as a hurdler but did well went sent chasing last Season until raised in class for the Spring Festivals. Won first time out this season in handicap company but ran terribly on his next start from a 4lb higher mark. A bit better next time out and now dropped 2lb by the handicapper but he's not really one you can trust to put his best foot forward.
RATHER BE - Did well over fences in his first season chasing and rounded it off with second place in the Novice handicap at the Cheltenham Festival. Looked to be going well when brought down in the Paddy Power Chase at Cheltenham last November on his seasonal return but didn't travel with the same zest when coming back in December for the other big Cheltenham handicap chase and came home a well beaten 5th behind Frodon. Been given a big break since then and still has plenty of time to get his career back on track.
TALKISCHEAP - Won 3 of his first 4 starts over hurdles last year but pulled up in the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival. Sent novice chasing this year he twice ran behind La Bague Au Roi before narrowly winning a two horse race at Doncaster. Outspeeded by On The Blind Side on the run in over course and distance last time out he goes for his first handicap chase but doesn't look particularly thrown in on either his hurdles rating or what he's done so far over fences.
CATAMARAN DE SENAM - Won two chases at Wetherby, at the end of last season and start of this, but has struggled since due to a 9lb higher mark. Looked to be coming back into form last time out when a staying on 4 lengths behind Calipto at Wincanton. The return to 3 miles should help and not totally discounted.
ROMAIN DE SENAM - Could usually be found running okay in the top 2m4f-2m5f Grade 3 handicap chases over the last couple of seasons but struggles to get really competitive. It usually takes a drop in grade before he finds the winners enclosure as happened last time out when taking advantage of a fall in the ratings, a small field and a drop down to class 3. That was his first run over this sort of trip so improvement can't be ruled out but his record in this grade over fences (5550UP) doesn't inspire too much confidence.
GLEN ROCCO - Nick Gifford's 8yo has been in good form since unseating his rider first time up and wasn't that far behind crack novice Glen Forsa when a staying on second to him two starts back. He looked well worth a try at 3 miles after that run and proved that theory correct when storming home over course and distance last time out by an eased down 23 lengths. The handicapper was impressed as he stuck him up 13lb's but given the manner of his win that day and the improvement shown for the step up to 3 miles it's not hard to argue that he's still well handicapped.
DIDERO VALLIS - Has done well for Venetia Williams since coming over from Willie Mullins bagging two handicap chases in workmanlike fashion on his last two starts. He was driven out strongly in both of those wins, which came on soft ground at trips around 2m5f, so doesn't really strike as having an outstanding chance in these conditions after a 6lb hike in the ratings.
WAIT - Started this Season still a novice after 4 unsuccessful runs over fences last year and it took another 5 runs for him to get off the mark when taking advantage of a big fall in ratings and a drop down into class 4 company. He did win by 15 lengths but has since been beaten into second from a revised mark that was 11lb higher and with another 5lb raise looks out of his depth in his first run at higher than class 3 company.
The most likely winner according to the trends will be a 7-9yo rated 138-154 who has been rested at least 3 weeks having already had 2 or more seasonal runs. Most had run fewer than 14 times over fences and were ridden by a professional jockey. A recent run at this course or at Cheltenham on Trials day are both big positives.
The best trends fit is probably recent course and distance winner ADRIEN DU PONT.
GLEN ROCCO also won over course and distance last time out having previously chased home the recent Grade 2 winner Glen Forsa in a race that has worked out extremely well. The manner of that Kempton win marked him down as a rapidly improving chaser and despite a 13lb rise in the ratings has a serious chance here.
Of the outsiders I think Catamaran Du Seuill will appreciate this step back up to 3 miles and should go well but preference for the each way bet is DOUBLE SHUFFLE who has struggled in top class company over the last 14 months but will appreciate this drop back to handicap company and, despite carrying topweight, he still looks to be on a competitive mark. Topweights have a great record in this race.
SELECTION: GLEN ROCCO 7/2 (Ladbrokes)
DANGER: DOUBLE SHUFFLE 9/1 (Ladbrokes)
TRENDS SELECTION: ADRIEN DU PONT 9/2 (Ladbrokes)
ASCOT CHASE (ASCOT) - 16TH FEBRUARY
- The last 10 winners have all been rated 162+
- The last 10 winners had all been rested at least 5 weeks (35 days)
- The last 10 winners were all 11/2 or shorter in the betting
- The last 10 winners had all run at least 5 times over fences
- The last 10 winners all ran in Class 1 company last time out
- The last 10 winners all ran in a UK, non-handicap Chase last time out
- 8 of the last 10 winners had their last run at Kempton
- 8 of the last 10 winners had won at least 1 of their last 2 starts
- 4 of the last 10 winners were aged 10yo or over (other 6 were all 7 or 8yo's)
Trainers (Runners / Wins / Places)
Nicky Henderson (9 / 2 / 2)
Paul Nicholls (10 / 1 / 0)
Phillip Hobbs (5 / 1 / 2)
Colin Tizzard (4 / 2 / 1)
Alan King (5 / 2 / 1)
5 of the last 10 winners had their last run in the King George Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day
2018 renewal: 1st CLAN DES OBEAUX 12/1 2nd THISTLECRACK 15/2 3rd NATIVE RIVER 9/2 4th POLITOLOGUE 5/1 (UR WAITING PATIENTLY)
3 of the other 5 winners had their last run in the Listed 32 Red Chase at Kempton in mid-January
2019 renewal: 1st TOP NOTCH 6/4F 2nd BLACK CORTON 9/2 3rd CHARBEL 7/4
ASO - Finished a fine 3rd in the RyanAir in 2017 but injury limited him to just 2 runs over the next 18 months. He's come back in fine fettle this Season following up a comfortable handicap win first time up with victory in a Grade 3 handicap at Cheltenham last time out. On that second run he gave a lot of weight and a two length beating to a decent Mare who has since come out to win a Listed Chase. In top form and doesn't need to find that much improvement to match the top rated runners in the field.
CHARBEL - Finally got his reward for his unlucky fall in the 2017 Arkle when scoring in the Grade 2 Peterborough Chase earlier this Season when receiving weight from veteran chaser Gods Own. That was nowhere near as strong a lineup as this race and his subsequent defeat to Top Notch leaves him with something to find in this company.
CYRNAME - Looked likely to make up into a decent chaser when only going down by a neck when giving 3lb to Terrefort at around this time last year but the wheels seem to fall off his progress afterwards with defeat at Aintree and on his first two runs this Season. He bounced right back to form last time out when cruising clear in a tight handicap to come home 21 lengths clear of the field under a fine front running ride. Up 15lb for that win he deserves his place in this field and is another not needing to find that much on ratings to be competitive.
FOX NORTON - Top class 2 mile chaser who has had his problems since pulling up in the 2017 King George. Outclassed behind Altior on his comeback run in January but stuck on nicely to chase him home at 7 lengths. That distance flattered him but it was a solid return and he's always looked like this sort of trip would suit him. Good chance if able to build on his Seasonal debut.
POLITOLOGUE - Very decent 2 miler who ended last Season with an excellent defeat of Min when stepped back up to 2m4f for the Aintree Festival. Came back this year with another good run when giving weight and a beating to Charbel and a few decent handicappers in a Grade 2 at Ascot. Went up again in trip for the King George for his next run but he looked a non stayer that day and although he ran well to finish 4th this drop back a few furlongs should show him in even better light.
WAITING PATIENTLY - Lightly raced as his trainer is very fussy about only running him when conditions are deemed suitable. Missed a number of intended targets early season then when finally allowed to run in the King George he got no further than 9th as he unseated his rider. Won a solid renewal of this race last year, although his main rival that day didn't run his race, and will have his work cut out in a field where not a lot separates them on official ratings.
The trends make it between Politologue and Waiting Patiently and despite there not being that much between any of the runners I'm inclined to agree and side with these two. We haven't seen very much of Waiting Patiently since he won this race last year and I think the safest option is to go with Paul Nicholls' King George fourth as the selection. He didn't seem to stay the 3 miles that day but only gave way late on and back down in trip can give the favourite a lot to think about.
SELECTION: POLITOLOGUE 7/2
BETFAIR HURDLE - (Re-scheduled for Ascot 16th February)
- The last 10 winners have all been aged 5 or 6yo
- The last 10 winners have all carried 11-05 or less
- The last 10 winners had all finished Top 3 last time out
- The last 10 winners had all finished Top 3 on both their last starts
- The last 10 winners had all raced 10 times or less over hurdles (6/10 had raced just 3 times)
- The last 10 winners had all been rested at least 2 weeks since their last start
- 8 of the last 10 winners raced in a non-handicap last time out
- All of the last 20 winners were French, British or Irish Bred
- 19 of the last 20 winners had run within the last 80 days
In the last 10 years all 16 horses that had their last start in Ireland have finished unplaced
Trainers (Runners / Wins / Places)
Nicky Henderson (28 / 1 / 1)
Paul Nicholls (15 / 1 / 4)
Phillip Hobbs (13 / 0 / 3)
David Pipe (13 / 0 / 6)
Alan King (12 / 0 / 2)
Willie Mullins (11 / 0 / 1)
G L Moore (10 / 2/ 1)
Nigel Twiston-Davies (9 / 2 / 1)
Since 2008, 4 winners had their last run at Sandown (from just 15 runners) including all of the last 3 winners
The 4 winners had all finished Top 3 in Listed company or better (only 1 in a handicap) over 2m - 2m4f within the last 31-75 days
Solely backing these types over the last 10 years would have given you 4 winners and a place from just 6 runners!
Lisp - Fell early on when fancied for last years Fred Winter but made no mistake first time up at Fontwell this Season winning by 7 lengths in a class 3 handicap. Has run two excellent seconds since behind Global Citizen and Moyaahed. Up another 5lb but is improving nicely, is in good form and can't be completely ruled out
Mont des Avaloirs - 3rd in the Tolworth Hurdle the pick of his Novice form from last year and had been running well this Season until flopping when favourite for the Ascot Handicap Hurdle won by Mohaayed. He may have just had an off day and he's better judged on his previous 1/2 length second to Global Citizen which would give him a big chance here.
Getaway Trump - No great shakes as a bumper horse and was beaten a long way on his hurdling debut but has really got his act together since with two impressive minor novice hurdle wins before giving current Ballymore Hurdle favourite Champ a real shock in the Group 1 Challow Hurdle at Newbury last time out. He travelled very strongly until being outpaced on the run in leaving the impression that he may need further rather than this drop back in trip.
Al Dancer - Perfect 3 from 3 over hurdles so far including an impressive 11 length handicap win at Cheltenham last time out. Up 12lb for that win which may turn out to be very lenient and from a stable with an excellent recent record in this race with similarly lightly raced types he looks a worthy favourite.
Blu Cavalier - Bought out of a class 4 selling hurdle after his last run, having not looked the most genuine of horses in his previous two starts for Paul Nicholls, he certainly doesn't look thrown in on his handicap debut from a rating of 140 and wouldn't be anywhere near the top of my shortlist.
Didtheyleaveuoutto - Decent bumper horse who narrowly won his first two starts over hurdles before running 4th in what looked a very decent class 2 novice hurdle at Kempton last time out. He was some way behind the winner that day and will need to bounce back from that poor run if he's going to win this.
Equus Amadeus - Rounded off a fair novice hurdle Season with a 3rd in a decent novice handicap at Sandown's end of the season meeting (Mont des Avaloirs 4th). Form has been in and out this year with two victories sandwiched between two poor runs in better company and a disappointing first run over fences. Tailed off at Cheltenham last time out and this will require a big upswing in form if he is to be competitive.
Distingo - In fairly good form last Autumn but beaten out of sight in a handicap hurdle at Kempton over Christmas and then again on the flat a couple of weeks later. He closely weighted with the original topweight (Jollys Cracked It) on their run at Ascot in November and his trainer's record in the race is second to none. It's also worth noting his 2015 winner Violet Dancer ran in the same Kempton Hurdle and got beat at 1/5 on the all weather before taking this. On that alone he cannot be discounted.
Zanza - A lightly raced novice who has won two of his three hurdle races either side of a tailed off effort at Sandown. There was obviously something amiss that day and he's better judged on his recent win under a penalty in a class 4 novice hurdle at Taunton. On what he's achieved so far it would be difficult to call him thrown in from an opening handicap mark of 135 but these types have done well in the race recently.
William H Bonney - After nearly two years of struggling in handicaps off a rating in the mid to high 130's the handicapper finally relented and opened the door for Alan King's hurdler who had also undergone wind surgery towards the end of last Season. Beginning this Season from a mark of just 125 he grabbed his opportunity and has scored in both of his races in class 3 company. Back up in class and back up to a rating of 133 he'll find this a lot harder than his recent races.
Nordic Combined - A 80 rated handicapper who won 3 times on the flat for Stuart Kittow he's yet to get off the mark in 4 hurdle attempts for David Pipe with his last three runs seeing him finish runner up. They did include a 1 1/2 length second to Rathill in a 20 runner race at Newbury though and on that form alone he can't be ruled out completely from his opening mark of 131.
Ar Mest - 1 hurdle win from 5 as a novice but he improved with each of his runs this Season thanks to some help from the handicapper who dropped him to 115 from an opening mark of 121. He scored on his third start of the year and followed up nearly 3 weeks later from a 6lb higher mark. This is a big step up in class and he's now up to 127 but he is inform and comes from the respected Gary Moore yard.
Magic Dancer - An experienced handicap hurdler who won three such races last year including twice at Cheltenham. He underwent wind surgery at the start of the Season but has looked held by the higher rating given for that third handicap win. He wasn't totally disgraced behind Al Dancer at Cheltenham before Christmas though and will now meet that rival on 18lb better terms. A recent second at Kempton off today's rating will have put him spot on for this and he's an outsider with a real chance.
Nelsons Touch - Just a maiden win in 4 starts last season but he began this Season in fine form winning first time up and then running second in two decent Sandown handicaps. Flopped badly when tailed off at Cheltenham in the concluding race on Trials Day and will need to bounce back from that poor effort.
It's difficult to know how well the trends will stand up given the race is being run a week later at a totally different track but for those looking for the runner with the best profile I would have to side with David Pipe's NORDIC COMBINED. As a lightly raced novice in the bottom half of the weights he scores well on the trends and his opening handicap mark of 131 might end up looking a bit of a snip. In a race that has cut up quite badly the 20/1 with 5 places is quite appealing.
Paul Nicholls runs two but I slightly prefer the chance of bigger priced runner Mont des Avaloirs over Getaway Trump but he'll need to bounce back from a poor run last time out. I thought Getaway Trump looked in need of a stiffer test than he got last time and although this is usually run at a decent clip there aren't quite as many runners this year as usual and he may find himself outpaced again by one or two of the speedier types in the line up. That list definitely includes the favourite AL DANCER who pinged the last before storming up the hill at Cheltenham and looks a worthy favourite from a stable who knows the sort of horse needed to win this race.
The back to form Ar Mest and fellow novices, Zanza and Didtheyleaveuoutto are sure to give a good account of themselves but I see the biggest danger coming from the top-weight LISP who has run two excellent seconds in big handicap hurdles on his last two starts.
I have a feeling Gary Moore's Distingo has been laid out for this and he's followed a very similar path to the race as his last winner Violet Dancer did. At 33/1 with 5 places I wouldn't put anyone off backing him but I'm going to chance Kerry Lee's MAGIC DANCER as the each way bet. He doesn't fit the usual profile of a Betfair Hurdle winner but he didn't run too badly behind Al Dancer in a handicap at Cheltenham before Christmas making his challenge between the final two flights and only weakening from the last. With a massive 18lb swing in the weights I fancy him to get closer this time around from a mark just 1lb higher than his last winning rating.
SELECTION: AL DANCER 11/4 WON
DANGER: LISP 8/1
EACH WAY SELECTION: MAGIC DANCER 33/1 2ND
HEROES HANDICAP (SANDOWN) - 2ND FEBRUARY
The race was not run from 2012-2014 as the meeting was an all-chase one but it was renewed in 2015 over a furlong and a half more.
In the last 19 runnings....
- Only 1 horse has won from a rating higher than 142 (from 43 runners)
- Only 3 horses have won carrying more than 10-12 (from 92 such runners)
- No horse aged over 9yo has won (25 losers)
- Only 1 female has won (17 runners)
- All 19 winners had run in the last 75 days (26 losers had not)
- All 19 winners had their last race in Class 1-3 company (21 losers from class 4 or 5)
- All 19 winners last raced over a minimum of 2m 3 1/2f (29 losers did not)
- All bar 1 of the 19 winners finished top 5 last time out (the exception Fell last time out from the 77 runners who finished 6th or worse)
- 6 of the winners (and 14 places) had their last run at Kempton (from 38 such runners)
6 of the last 10 winners had run 4 or 5 times over hurdles (including all Paul Nicholls' winners)
Trainers (Runners / Wins / Places)
Jonjo O'Neill 15 / 0 / 2
Nicky Henderson 13 / 1 / 3
Paul Nicholls 13 / 4 / 6
Venetia William 12 / 1 / 2
Nigel Twiston-Davies 12 / 1 / 1
Phillip Hobbs 8 / 3 / 3
6 of the last 19 winners had their last run at Kempton (all in January and all over 2m5f+)
4 of the last 9 winners had their last run at Cheltenham
10 of the last 17 winners (plus 13 places) had their last run at either Kempton or Cheltenham including 4 of the last 5
Ballymoy - Won 6 of his last 7 over much shorter distances going from a 132 to 152 rating. Improving but tough ask stepping up in trip under top weight
Keeper Hill - Recaptured good novice form the last twice. Up 5lb but ground and trip ideal. Weight, not so much.
Brio Conti - Decent novice hurdler but just 1 run in the last 22 months when winning a novice chase in November 2017. Trainer has a great record in this but long absence to overcome.
Eminent Poet - Experienced hurdler with 8 wins to his name that have all come when the ground has been really testing. Trainer remains in good form but an 8lb rise to a career high 143 for his latest course and distance win makes things tough here unless conditions are really bad.
Paddleyourowncanoe - 4th in the Fred Winter last Season and came back to form with a win under today's 10lb claimer in the Wincanton Pertemps Qualifier last time out. This is another step up in trip and he's up 7lb but the ground is ideal.
Full Glass - Disappointing 3 runs over fences for Alan King since coming from France and pulled up on his last run when trying this sort of trip for the first time. Won very easily on his last hurdles start in France but a bit to prove at the moment.
Mr Antolini - Won the Imperial Cup last Season at this course and has run very well in 4 handicap starts since. This is a big step up in trip compared to his last run but he kept on nicely over 2m5f at Cheltenham three starts back when 5th of 20 and not without chances.
Coole Cody - Completed a hat-trick with a handicap win at Cheltenham early last season but out of form since including when tailed off behind Paddleyourowncanoe last time out. Dropped to just 1lb higher than that last win so nicely handicapped but will need to show more than he did in that run at Wincanton.
Lord Napier - In good form on soft at around 2m4f last Season and was running well over shorter distances at the end of last year. Ran his best race of the Season when 3rd in the good trial for this, the Lanzarote Hurdle, last time out and with the ground no problem he looks to have an excellent chance here.
The Hollow Ginge - Struggled under a penalty in novice hurdles last Season and not great in 4 subsequent handicaps but took advantage of a drop in the ratings to win last time out in heavy ground. Back up 9lb making things a lot tougher here.
Flemcara - Decent form last year but ended the Season disappointing in two big handicaps. Been chasing unsuccessfully this Season but not totally out of it on his return to hurdles if he can run like he did at Chepstow around this time last year from a 2lb lower mark.
Virginia Chick - Showed absolutely nothing in his first 6 runs but has done very well since in handicap company going from an 87 rating to a new perch of 131 after winning a shade cosily on his last start at Chepstow. Got a rise of 8lb for that win but it doesn't look like he's stopped improving yet and with trip and ground perfect he should go close.
Dans Le Vent - Very good Bumper horse and he was doing okay in handicap company up until his last run where he didn't jump well and was well behind in a 5 runner race. He had run well previously at Cheltenham and a reproduction of that particular run could see him go close.
Man Of Plenty - A veteran in this sort of handicap and finally got his reward when winning a Listed handicap at Sandown two starts back. Struggled since with the 9lb rise since and it will probably be a similar story here.
Folsom Blue - Old timer who's a much better chaser than hurdler but he did finish 4th in last years renewal from a 2lb higher mark and ran well behind handicap snip Paisley Park at Haydock earlier this Season. Ground and trip of no concern and an interesting runner for this top Irish trainer.
Mr Clarkson - Multiple winner for David Pipe two years ago but pulled up on his reappearance after missing last Season. Unproven at this sort of distance and a lot of questions to answer at this level.
Casko D'Airy - Stormed home in an Ascot handicap last time out and paid the penalty for that easy win with a 14lb hike in the ratings. This is a better race than that one but he is unexposed and has a very similar profile to the stables other 4 winners of this race. Big chance.
Lugarno Palace - Ran fairly well from this rating earlier this Season and wasn't that far behind Keeper Hill last time out. An 11lb pull for 6 lengths with that one means he's not totally out of this although he's yet to really prove he stays this far.
Mellow Ben (Reserve) - Behind Lord Napier in the Lanzarote and with only a 4lb pull in the weights has it all to do here.
Ocean Cove (Reserve) - Won a handicap hurdle at the end of last season but has struggled this year from a 5-6lb higher mark.
The two that stand out for me on both the Trends and recent form are Casko D'Airy and Peter Bowen's Lord Napier.
Paul Nicholls has a great record in this race with lightly raced hurdlers and his CASKO D'AIRY has run just 4 times over obstacles. He won comfortably last time out and this un-exposed horse may be up to defying his 14lb rise. I just prefer him to LORD NAPIER who ran a great race to finish third in the Lanzarote Hurdle last time out. That race has long been a good trial for this and with the ground no problem and a step up in trip looking sure to suit he looks a big danger to the selection.
Of the outsiders I fancy Virginia Chick to run well but his 7lb claiming jockey is a bit of a worry while Lugarno Palace has doubts about staying the trip in the forecast conditions. So I'm going to side with MR ANTOLINI who has been running well in some tough handicaps over the last 12 months. He's never gone this far before but there have been signs recently that he may improve again for the longer trip and he looks worth chancing at bigger odds.
SELECTION: CASKO D'AIRY 6/1
DANGER: LORD NAPIER WON 8/1
EW SELECTION: MR ANTOLINI 14/1
IMPERIAL CUP (SANDOWN) - 9TH MARCH
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