The racing broadcaster previews a busy Saturday of racing with three selections at Aintree, one at Sandown and another at Newcastle.
At the time of writing, three of racing’s biggest jumping stars Jonbon, Constitution Hill and Shishkin are all currently engaged to run at Sandown on Saturday – something you could have got a massive price for two weeks ago. You would still be sweating, however, as there remains the real possibility that the rescheduled Fighting Fifth may end up without its biggest star in Constitution Hill if the rain that is forecast for Saturday morning materialises.
The concept of rescheduling feature races is a good one, but it still surprises me how little attention is paid to one key criterion when the new venues are being decided. Given how often trainers discuss preferences for going either right- or left-handed – Desert Orchid, Clan Des Obeaux and currently Stage Star are just a few of the hundreds of examples – it strikes me as odd that the Fighting Fifth will now be run at a right-handed track, and the moved Mares’ race from Carlisle (right-handed) at Aintree (a left-handed one).
Rather than trying to ensure any specific individual horse is suited by a new venue, maintaining the integrity of the race conditions should be considered more important. I would have been made to look rather silly in preferring Wetherby as an ideal Fighting Fifth venue given its loss to the weather but staging that at Aintree and the Mares’ Chase at Sandown would have been preferable to my mind.
Both Jonbon in the Tingle Creek and Constitution Hill in the Fighting Fifth are too prohibitively short-priced favourites to get involved with. Jonbon was very impressive at Cheltenham and is proven over at the track having won the Celebration Chase last backend. Constitution Hill, meanwhile, has handled very deep ground impressively at Sandown in the Tolworth and, so fa,r has looked streets ahead of his hurdling rivals. If he doesn’t run, then Love Envoi has a very good chance of a Grade 1 victory as she also has good form at the track and is a real mud lover.
SANDOWN AND AINTREE SELECTIONS
On the betting front JPR ONE 7/4 (Sandown, 13:50) had jumped immaculately until stumbling at the last with the race at his mercy at Cheltenham last time. He has a victory over Iceo on deep ground at Newton Abbot and his forward fluent jumping style is ideal for Sandown’s rat-a-tat back straight fences.
Aintree has also seen substantial rainfall but appeals more as a betting card starting with ZAMBELLA in that rescheduled Houghton Mares’ Chase (Aintree, 12:55). She is wonderfully consistent and renews rivalry with Pink Legend whom she has met six times with the score 3-3. Two of her Listed victories have come in this very race, both when it was moved here in 2021 and she lowered the colours of the smart pair Annie Mc and Elimay, and also when winning it at Carlisle last season.
PERCUSSION 9/2 could be the answer to the Becher Chase over the National fences (Aintree, 14:05). He has made the frame on all three of his runs over them including when third to Ashtown Lad but the task is made a little tougher by Coko Beach’s participation ensuring he, along with a few others, is running from out of the weights. This is likely to be his main target for the season as he won’t be high enough to run in the National itself with the Topham a more achievable objective.
Rebecca Menzies had a very quiet November with just three winners from 48 runners but has already matched that score in the first few days of this month. RAFFERTY’S RETURN 16/1 (Aintree, 15:15) could therefore progress enough to reverse the Wetherby form with Basher’s Reflection, especially as he could well get a soft time on the front end with an unusually high number of hold-up horses in the field.
FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
A big-field Newmarket Sales race was hardly the easiest place to be pitched in on debut, yet ELDERFLOWER acquitted herself surprisingly well, making a good deal of late progress. She was largely running through horses that had made their efforts but, with that experience under her belt, she should be very competitive here (Newcastle, 17:45) and is the mount of one of our Jockeys For Courses (see below) in Jonny Peate.
JOCKEYS FOR COURSES
Here are three venues where riders are heading to safe in the knowledge that they have been happy hunting grounds in the past:
- Chepstow – Ben Jones (16/86 with an actual/expected ratio 1.71)
- Newcastle – Jonny Peate (20/132, 1.53 A/E)
- Wolverhampton – Rossa Ryan (112/598, 1.30 A/E)
ZAMBELLA SP (Aintree, 12:55)
JPR ONE 7/4 (Sandown, 13:50)
PERCUSSION 9/2 (Aintree, 14:05)
RAFFERTY’S RETURN 16/1 (Aintree, 15:15)