The racing broadcaster runs through the card at Newbury, has one additional pick for Wolverhampton and reveals his regular list of jockeys to watch.
With some tremendous performances over the Christmas period, the racing year is going out with a bang. It was obviously no surprise, but reassuring nonetheless, to see Constitution Hill returning in fine fettle, but the way Il Est Francais burst onto the UK scene in dismantling the Kauto Star field and Galopin Des Champs bounced back in imperious fashion in Ireland gives plenty to look forward to in 2024.
Before that, the final domestic Grade 1 of the season takes place at Newbury in the shape of the Challow Novices Hurdle, a race which, considering horses are at such a formative stage of their careers, has a very good roll of honour. Past winners include Bindaree, Denman, Reve De Sivola, Taquin Du Seuil, Champ and Bravemansgame, and while they all went on to Grade 1 success the race is also one of the big Cheltenham Festival statistical hoodoos, with Hermes Allen the latest winner to fail to win one of the novice races in March.
This year’s renewal features several promising horses in the likes of Willmount, Johnnywho and Captain Teague, while I have also been impressed with MASACCIO 12/1 (15:00 Newbury) this season, who showed good fight to win at Chepstow ahead of Beat The Bat, who has run well since. He was just touched off last time when trying to give away in a novice over course and distance, and can at least make the frame at a more appealing price than a few others who are priced on potential over achievement.
Earlier on at Newbury, MARTATOR 1/1 (13:15 Newbury) looks solid in the first of ITV’s eight races. Venetia Williams’ horses remain in good form and Charlie Deutsch rides the track well (see Jockeys for Courses below). He was no match for Etalon over course and distance last time but only needs a similar effort to put him right in the mix here in a race the yard has twice saddled the winner of in two of the last three years.
Kerry Lee also has her horses going well with three winners and three placings from just twelve runners this month. ATALANTA BRAVE 5/1 (14:25 Newbury) looked to be getting the hang of fences when second to Enjoy Your Life at Exeter last time, jumping much more fluently than on his chasing debut at Cheltenham. He is up against some experienced handicappers but is very much the unexposed horse in the field and physically has always looked the type to make a chaser.
In the last, PASSING WELL 4/1 (15:35 Newbury) has some very solid form lines to his name. He has been only raised 3lb for a hard-fought win over Heva Rose at Lingfield last time, and she has followed up at Hereford since. He can round off a good 2023 for local trainer Jamie Snowden and in-form rider Gavin Sheehan.
JOCKEYS FOR COURSES
These are the riders in action at tracks where they have a particularly good career record. A reminder that this is calculated on the Actual/Expected Ratio (A/E), where the actual number of winners ridden is divided by the expected number of winners based on the prices the horses started (Exchange SPs). Par therefore would be 1.00.
HAYDOCK – Daryl Jacob (26/126 with an A/E of 1.32)
NEWBURY – Charlie Deutsch (13/55, A/E 1.63)
TAUNTON – Michael Nolan (22/172, A/E 1.54)
WOLVERHAMPTON – Jack Mitchell (147/813, A/E 1.17)
FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
A real wide one here in the shape of TAXIING (19:15 Wolverhampton) on his first start for trainer David Evans. Historically this is a yard that are very good with horses switching into their care (71/165, A/E 1.32) and, although the angle has not been as strong in recent seasons, the fact this horse runs in the Rohaan silks also piques my interest. Taxiing has shown very little in runs for Andrew Slattery in Ireland but there was one run three starts ago at Down Royal that showed some ability. Whether he is ready for take-off the market may guide, but he looks worth a throw at the stumps.
MARTADOR 1/1 (Newbury 13:15)
ATALANTA BRAVE 5/1 (Newbury 14:25)
MASSACIO 12/1 (Newbury 15:00)
PASSING WELL 4/1 (Newbury 15:35)
TAXIING 132 (Wolverhampton 19:15)
This is the final blog of 2023 so wishing everyone a very Happy New Year. As it is the time for resolutions, next week rather than selections I will be setting out the aims for the blog in 2024 and how to better assess the success or failure of the various elements I will be using next year, starting with the cards in a fortnights time.