The racing broadcaster reveals his best bets from the cards at Haydock, Ascot and Huntingdon, as well as his regular list of jockeys to watch.
One of the most endearing aspects of National Hunt racing is getting to know the horses and their foibles far better as we see them over the course of several seasons. This weekend there will be debates on which Shishkin will turn up and whether Goshen will respond positively or negatively to his enforced jockey change with Jamie Moore on the sidelines after a fall this week.
A non-enforced jockey change has also made the headlines this week with Bravemansgame running in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase without his regular rider, Harry Cobden, who is staying at Ascot for a book of rides that includes Pic D’Orhy in the Grade 2 Nirvana Spa 1965 Chase, where he clashes with Shishkin.
The booking of Daryl Jacob for Bravemansgame is a sensible one given he rides Haydock well (see Jockeys For Courses below) but also slightly surprising given he has only had two rides for Paul Nicholls this year, and only sporadic ones in the recent preceding years. Bryony Frost and Lorcan Williams would have been more obvious stable-driven substitutes, so it may well be the whole Haydock enterprise is owner- rather than trainer-driven after the Wetherby defeat in the Charlie Hall. It is hard to believe that whoever replaces Cobden could be seen as a positive, so well has he been riding this season, and a hard race could also jeopardise his King George chances, which will surely be his ideal first half target.
Field sizes will again come under the microscope, especially at Ascot where a valuable card has attracted fewer than 40 runners and only one three-place betting race.
There are, at least, quality horses in the two feature chases this weekend with PROTEKTORAT 9/4 capable of making it back-to-back victories in the Betfair Chase (Haydock, 15:00). The Skelton horses have been a slower burn this season, often due to exaggerated hold-up tactics, but this race should set up nicely with Bravemansgame providing an ideal target to take him into the race.
Corach Rambler has a bit to prove at this level, especially after his lacklustre return at Kelso and it may not be quite soft enough for the admirable Royal Pagaille, who excels at Haydock, to reverse previous Grade 1 efforts.
The stable of Tom Lacey is very much one to keep an eye on as a corner turner at present, ending a losing sequence of 27 a couple of weeks ago with Operation Manna and, since then, has had two winners and two places from six runners.
LUTTRELL LAD has been off since winning at Cartmel but is still reasonably enough weighted having finished eighth in the County Hurdle and is still off a 3lb lower mark than that run (Haydock, 13:15).
TWO FOR ASCOT
Ascot makes a lot of sense for the return of SHISHKIN 4/6 in the Nirvana Spa 1965 Chase (Ascot, 13:30). It is a track where the fire has always seemed to burn more brightly than at some other venues where he has taken more stoking. Despite his Aintree victory, I am not certain that staying trips are really what he wants, with the bit he seemed to save for himself that day just coming in handy up the straight. When he is good, he is very, very good, and certainly capable of accounting for his rivals comfortably and the signs will be obvious early from the way he does or does not travel. It is no surprise to me to see him in cheekpieces.
There are very few bigger characters in jumps racing than GOSHEN 2/1 who attracted a big following after his capsize with the Triumph at his mercy a few seasons ago. He has rewarded them with equal measures of triumph and disaster under Jamie Moore who has tried numerous tricks down the years to achieve the former rather than the latter.
Jamie has partnered Goshen in all 19 of his jumping runs, but injury means Niall Houlihan will have the responsibility at Ascot. The right-hand track and race conditions are in Goshen’s favour and hopefully he will consent to put his best foot forward as he is the most talented horse in the field (Ascot, 14:05).
The feature hurdle race of the weekend is at Punchestown and highlights one of the major issues in Ireland with the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle a straight match between the Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins yards who continue to dominate the feature races.
Of the 294 runners in Irish Grade 1s this season, 152 (52 per cent) have come from either of those two yards. While it is impractical to impose limits, certainly the perception when many run in the same ownership is a negative one for punters. State Man should make a successful return to action but, at such short odds, hardly represents a betting proposition.
FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
There are a few points of interest at the meeting at Huntingdon, starting with TELLHERTHENAME SP, who was a non-runner when one of our selections last week at Cheltenham. He has a far simpler task here (Huntingdon, 12:28) and can be added to your multiples along with chasing debutante MACLAINE , who steadily improved last season for Oliver Sherwood and looks the type to make further progress over fences. The Richard Bandey yard have hit a bit of form and I’ll be very disappointed if he does not land the spoils here (Huntingdon, 14:48).
JOCKEYS FOR COURSES
Here’s our usual list of jockeys riding at tracks where they have good career records:
- Haydock – Daryl Jacob (26/123, 1.38 A/E)
- Huntingdon – Gavin Sheehan (28/152, 1.35 A/E)
- Lingfield – Richard Kingscote (186/1,124, 1.15 A/E)
- Wolverhampton – Billy Loughnane (35/183, 1.29 A/E)
TELLHERTHENAME SP (Huntingdon, 12:28)
LUTTRELL LAD 8/1 (Haydock, 13:15)
SHISHKIN 4/6 (Ascot, 13:30).
GOSHEN 2/1 (Ascot, 14:05)
MACLAINE SP (Huntingdon, 14:48)
PROTEKTORAT 9/4 (Haydock, 15:00)