The racing broadcaster reveals his Saturday selections, including one runner from his tracked stable, and suggests a better process for omitting obstacles.
With the rain and decent field sizes, the jumping action has really cranked up this week, but for Aintree the weather has proved a challenge. First of all, a really wet week left the National course needing to pass an inspection early on Friday morning and, with a sunny day forecast, it is highly probable that several obstacles may have to be omitted on the Mildmay course due to low sun.
Low sun has become an increasing issue in recent years. These days, no course is going to overrule jockeys who express concerns about not being able to see fences adequately to jump them safely, but from a punting perspective it fundamentally changes the complexion of a race when trying to work out the winner.
The frustration is that the decision to omit obstacles often appears a last-, amateurish procedure for something so significant and, in many cases, entirely predictable in advance. After all, the sun’s position in the sky can be foretold and the fences don’t move, so a far better and consistent system needs to be devised.
All races that may be impacted by low sun should be identified on the racecards, on websites and in newspapers, perhaps with a little sun motif next to the conditions, alerting punters to the possibility of omitting obstacles. If sun does then look like being an issue, then 15 minutes before the scheduled off time a designated senior rider should assess the conditions at fences that are affected, and a decision be made on whether they will be jumped or not. This should then be communicated to the public at least 10 minutes before the scheduled off time, allowing those that want a bet to do so knowing the conditions that the race will be run under while ensuring that those riding have adequate confidence that it is safe.
It isn’t rocket science but would make the procedure seem a lot more professional than the current last-minute decision which can leave punters understandably feeling the goalposts have been moved.
Thankfully, Wincanton’s orientation means sun is not usually an issue, and the headline act will be FRODON 100/30 looking to land back-to-back Badger Beers (14:25).
Frodon couldn’t reproduce the same form after winning the race last season and there is always the possibility that age has begun to weary him, but there is little doubt that first up is a good time to catch him. He has won five and been placed third three times from eight starts off breaks of more than 150 days and, off the same mark as last year, has the potential to outclass his rivals again.
There may well be some pressure over the early fences from Gustavian and Blackjack Magic but, if he can get into that superb rhythm that typifies his association with Bryony Frost, Frodon can again be a popular winner.
Paul Nicholls looks set for a good day with Knappers Hill in the Rising Stars (13:50) and Rubaud in the Elite (15:00) both looking to justify short-priced favouritism, but a better bet on the card looks to be ILOVETHENIGHTLIFE (15:52) from Joe Tizzard’s yard. Her last two pieces of form at Newbury and Cheltenham have both worked out particularly well and she can give weight away all round.
The transfer of Doncaster’s Flat card to Newcastle ensured a premature end to the turf season but that looks to be in favour of JUAN LES PINS 7/1 in the Listed Wentworth Stakes (14:05). He is quite a fiery character and tends to run himself out on soft ground, so the All-Weather track here will be much more suitable. There is quite a bit of pace in the race, so if regular rider Ali Rawlinson can get him settled then the uphill finish will play to his strengths.
One of our stable tracker horses HARRY DID also runs at Newcastle (14:40). He showed abundant promise on debut at Kempton, making significant late ground in a steadily run race. He is a really taking looking, strong horse and Newcastle should be the ideal track to bring about above-average improvement.
ONE FOR AINTREE
At Aintree, GESSKILLE 3/1 can go one place better than last season in the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase over the National fences (14:45). He just failed to reel in Al Dancer that day and, while he disappointed in the Topham in April, this is likely to have been on his capable yard’s radar for some time, so expect him to be cherry ripe.
JOCKEYS FOR COURSES
Three of the four riders mentioned last week rode winners at 20-1, 9-1 and 6-5f, so here’s our regular list of riders plying their trade at tracks where they historically have an excellent career record:
- Chelmsford – Callum Shepherd (73 winners from 512 rides, with an actual/expected ratio of 1.28)
- Kelso – Ryan Mania (66/401, 1.37 A/E)
- Newcastle – David Nolan (36/285, 1.31 A/E)
- Wincanton – Rex Dingle (15/95, 1.49 A/E)
JUAN LES PINS 7/1 (Newcastle, 14:05)
FRODON 100/30 (Wincanton, 14:25)
HARRY DID (Newcastle, 14:40)
GESSKILLE 3/1 (Aintree, 14:45)
ILOVETHENIGHTLIFE 7/2 (Wincanton, 15:32)