The Saturday 5T Race

CHELTENHAM MEMBERS ONLY

The first of the six Saturday 5T races on the run up to the Cheltenham Festival comes from Sandown this weekend.

Heroes Handicap Hurdle (3.00 Sandown - 3rd Feb)

TRENDS (The last 10 renewals 2005-2017)

  • All 10 winners carried under 11-00 (only Francois Doumen's amazing stayer Baracouda carried more than 11-00 this century)
  • All 10 winners were rated under 136
  • All 10 winners were aged 6-9yo
  • All 10 winners last ran in a class 1-3 race
  • All 10 winners last ran in a 3 mile or less race
  • All 10 winners had their last run within the previous 9 weeks (63 days)
  • 9 of the 10 winners finished top 5 last time out (exception fell)

TRAINER

P. Nicholls - 10 runners / 3 winners / 1 place / LSP +7.50
P. Hobbs - 6 runners / 3 winners / 2 places / LSP +14.00
JJ O'Neill - 8 runners / 0 winners / 2 places / LSL -8.00
V.Williams - 7 runners / 1 winner / 2 places / LSP +10.00
N. Henderson - 6 runners / 0 winner / 1 place / LSL -6.00
N. Twiston-Davies - 6 runners / 0 winner / 0 place / LSL -6.00

TRIALS

Since, 1997 (18 renewals) 5 of the winners and a further 7 placed horses had their last run at Kempton.

4 of those 5 winners had contested a Class 3 handicap

TAKING PART

BEAT THAT - He was a very classy novice hurdler with victories over Cole Harden and Don Poli in a couple of Grade 1's at the end of the 2013-14 season but we didn't see too much of him after that and he missed the entire 2015-16 season and most of the following season too. He came back last Summer over fences but has hardly set the world alight in that sphere and has 4 defeats including two falls from 4 chase starts. So it was back to the drawing board and a return to hurdles for his last run which saw him run third to Holly Bush Henry in a Pertemps Qualifier off topweight. He's obviously not the horse he was before his injury but his 147 rating now is nearly a stone under the 160 he was once rated and there will be races to won with him. Unfortunately he doesn't seem to be finishing his races off at the moment and this will be a tough ask under top weight.

UBAK - An experienced Graded class hurdler who has mixed it with the big boys on numerous occasions. He was a good 3rd in the Coral Cup in 2016 and then won a similar contest at the Aintree Festival a couple of weeks later. He wasn't so good in three runs last season and was off the track for a year before returning just before Christmas as a 66/1 outsider in the Grade 1 Ascot Long Walk Hurdle. Despite losing by some way and finishing second last he didn't run too badly and his rating has now dropped to the same mark as when he won that Aintree Handicap in April 2016. With a run under his belt he could run well but I have a feeling his trainer might have his eye on another prize by getting him qualified for the Pertemps Hurdle in one of the remaining qualifiers.

PRIME VENTURE - A winning NH Flat horse he was a consistent and fairly decent novice hurdler who won first time out over hurdles before rounding off the 2016-2017 Season in handicaps off a rating of 126. He was runner up in a novice Grade 3 handicap at Sandown and then second again in a decent stayers handicap at Haydock in May before romping home in a Ffos Las handicap six months later. His last run saw him finish 4th under topweight in the Warwick Pertemps Qualifier under an inexperienced claimer off a revised rating of 142. With a top jockey back on board today I think we'll see him run very well.

TOPOFTHEGAME - Very lightly raced 6yo who has had just 4 hurdle starts (plus a chase run) since making his debut under rules at the end of 2016. He ran Wholestone to 11 lengths in a Grade 2 on just his second hurdle start so it was a little disappointing to see him beaten back in novice company on his next run. He started this Season novice chasing but after falling at odds on when travelling well his trainer sent him over hurdles last time out for the Lanzarote handicap at Kempton. He kept on well behind William Henry to run less than 3 lengths behind in fourth but was stuck up 3lb for that and he now sits on a rating of 142 with just a novice hurdle to his name.

FLEMCARA - He was beaten in four novice hurdle starts during 2017 but then won a novice handicap at Worcester under a 7lb claimer despite stumbling on the final bend. He followed up at Worcester from an 8lb higher mark with the same jockey onboard and the partnership made it three on the bounce when winning a class 2 handicap at Chepstow despite another 10lb rise in the ratings. He's up another 9lb but is obviously improving and his 7lb claimer gets on well with him. Another good run looks on the cards.

TAJ BADALANDABAD - David Pipe's 8yo won plenty of races as a hurdler up to April 2016 including a Pertemps Qualifier but after injuring himself in the Pertemps Long Distance handicap at Haydock that May he was off the track for 18 months. He didn't show anything on his first two starts this Season but came back to life last time when winning comfortably in the same Huntingdon Pertemps Qualifier as he had in 2016. He's up 8lb for that win to his joint highest career mark of 138 but looks back to his best and has every chance of following up here.

THELIGNY - He rattled off a quick hat-trick at the start of the 2016-17 Season before running second in a Listed handicap at Newbury behind easy winner Who Dares Wins. He went back to Newbury a month later to win a decent class 2 handicap on New Years Eve which set him up for a step up in class to a Grade 2 novice hurdle at Haydock against The Worlds End. Something went wrong with him there as he pulled up and was off for nearly 8 months. His return in a handicap at Aintree showed a lot of promise and so it proved because he followed up his 7th there with a game second place finish at Newbury last time when going down fighting to Brace Eagle. He got a 4lb rise in the ratings for that effort but he showed a lot of guts there and can't be dismissed lightly despite his big price.

GOLAN FORTUNE - A winning pointer he took until his fourth start to win when taking an average Sandown handicap hurdle from a rating of 118. He fell next time out before the race had started in earnest but bounced back to win at Ascot. He made it three handicap hurdle wins from 4 starts when winning at Kempton on Boxing Day when ridden right out to score a comfortable win by nearly 4 lengths. He's been put a whopping 14lb for those wins but has the 7lb claimer that won on him at Ascot back on board and that should help counteract some of that penalty to give him a fighting chance here.

MELROSE BOY - He got beat in three novice hurdles during the 2016 -2017 season but started the following year with an easy win in a Cheltenham Conditional Jockeys handicap. The form of that race hasn't really worked out, although the 5th home did win next time out, and Melrose Boy himself got turned over at odds on back in novice company next time out at Newbury despite receiving 6lb from the winner. However, the winner that day was Nicky Henderson's Albert Bartlett hope Mr Whipped and he was only beaten 11 lengths. He made light work of some vastly inferior rivals in a class 4 novice hurdle at Fontwell last time out when scoring by 50 lengths at 1/10 but he looks quite harshly treated with a rating of 135 considering the runner up at Newbury Gowiththeflow beat him 8 lengths and is only rated 129. Either that one is a handicap certainty next time out or Harry Fry's runner is up against it here.

KRIS SPIN - He was a very consistent novice through the 2013-14 season running Silsol to under 3 lengths when runner up at Newton Abbot and finishing second in the Haydock Pertemps Long Distance Handicap that so many of these have run in over the years. He picked up an injury when sent chasing the following season and was off for the whole of 2016. Last season he made little impression in three further novice chases so it was no surprise to see him returned to hurdles for this campaign. He won on his second start then finished second in the heavy at Uttoxeter but looked to struggle under a 6lb rise at Warwick last time out and the handicapper may just have him at the moment.

BUYWISE - The 11yo chaser brought the house down when finally winning a big pot at Sandown by taking the Veterans Chase final in early January. He hasn't run that many times over hurdles recently but, when he has, the results haven't been that great finishing 4th-7th-8th with the last run coming off this rating a couple of months ago. He looks an unlikely winner to me.

FOLSOM BLUE - As an Irish raider from the Gordon Elliott yard he has to be given a bit of respect despite being an average 11yo chaser who has only reverted to hurdles when switching to his new yard this Season. He won first time up and then ran 4th at Navan in a similar handicap and doesn't look particularly well handicapped to me. Not on my shortlist.

OKOTOPS - Formerly with Tony Martin in Ireland he won a national hunt flat race and a hurdle, finished 4th in a Grade 2 novice but was well beaten in a staying handicap hurdle at the Punchestown Festival. He switched to the Fergal O'Brien stable at the start of December and was quite well fancied to make a winning start in a class 3 handicap at Cheltenham a couple of weeks later over 2m1f but looked a little one paced and could only finish 7th. This trip should suit better and the stable can pull one out of the fire every now and again so may not be the no hoper the betting suggests with Sean Bowen onboard.

KING OF FASHION - He finished top 4 in 9 runs for Ian Duncan after a debut 5th in a NH Flat race and rounded off his novice season with a third to 147 rated Gayebury in April 2017 in a Listed hurdle but has only run once since when finishing an outpaced 4th in an Ayr handicap behind Kris Spin. He's since switched to Kerry Lee and has his first run for the stable here with a 5lb claimer onboard. I'm struggling to make a case for him and he wouldn't be for me despite his low weight and new surroundings.

DASHING PERK - He has just 3 hurdle runs to his name but was a very good bumper horse who ran 5th to Western Ryder in a Listed contest and 3rd behind Lalor when giving him 6lb at Wincanton. He didn't get off to the best of starts over hurdles with a second at Chepstow and a fall at Cheltenham but made no mistake on his third run when romping home by 22 lengths in a 4 runner class 4 novice back at Wincanton (favourite something amiss). A rating of 127 looks about right and he's another from the bottom of the weights who ought to run well.

FOURTH ACT - A pretty decent handicap chaser he'd become a little disappointing over fences so was sent off for a wind operation in November last year. He came back two weeks ago over hurdles in a 5 runner race made up of chasers reverting to the smaller obstacles and looked very well handicapped having dropped 10lb since his last hurdles start. He made no mistake and won by 4 1/2 lengths. He's been put up 6lbs for that win and will find the opposition here much tougher.

DOESYOURDOGBITE - Jonjo O'Neill's entry rattled up a hat-trick at the end of 2016 but has been woefully disappointing ever since. He's failed to make the top 10 in his last 6 runs and beaten just 6 horses home in his last 4 starts. He's come down 15lbs in that time but was 35 lengths behind Golan Fortune last time out and will need all of Jonjo's magic to be even remotely competitive here.

MAN OF PLENTY - From the bottom of the weights is a very interesting runner from the Sophie Leech stable. He's been very consistent this term and finished top 5 in all his starts including in some very tough handicaps of late. Way back in October he ran in between the subsequent Greatwood Hurdle 1st and 2nd Misterton and Elgin when finishing second at Chepstow. His last two starts have seen him run 5th and 4th in Grade 3 handicaps at Ascot under today's 7lb claimer where he wasn't beaten that far while staying on nicely. He's well worth this step up in trip and I wouldn't discount his chances from such a low weight despite his long odds.

TIPS

This is a really tough handicap to sort out but traditionally those horses in the bottom half of the handicap do best here and Paul Nicholls' fancied novice Top of the Game doesn't really appeal to me off 11-07. The favourite Melrose Boy is another lightly raced novice and sits bang in the middle of the weights but I don't think he's particularly well handicapped and I prefer the other novice, Dashing Perk, who was a very good bumper horse and has been given an interesting opening handicap mark that could underestimate his chances.

Of those in the top half of the handicap I really like the chances of Evan Williams' Prime Venture who has been running well over the last 12 months and looked in need of a stronger jockey last time out when finishing 4th in a Warwick Pertemps Qualifier. Tom O'Brien takes over today and from the same mark as last time I think he's a big danger.

A very close fit on the trends is Golan Fortune who won a class 3 handicap at Kempton last time out and has a 7lb claimer aboard which brings his weight down to under 11-00. Daniel Sansom's claim also helps counteract some of the 14lb Golan Fortune was raised for winning twice in a week around Christmas. The lad has been doing well over hurdles this Season and won a race at Wincanton on Thursday. The pair will be difficult to keep out of the frame.

There are a number of outsiders in this race that I could give a chance to including classy runner Ubak, the game Theligny, the ex-Irish Okotops and the two horses that fit the trends best, Fourth Act and Man Of Plenty who are both towards the bottom of the weights. The last named has been running particularly well in similar company and wouldn't have to improve that much to be in the mix here.

MAIN FANCY: DASHING PERK 10/1 Skybet
DANGER: PRIME VENTURE 16/1 Betfair
OUTSIDER: MAN OF PLENTY (EW) 33/1 PaddyPower 5 places