Saturday Racing Preview: Top Jumping Action From Ascot, Down Royal And Wetherby

Betfred's Matt Hulmes breaks down the best bets across a busy Saturday
17:33, 29 Oct 2021

Blanket wide coverage for the jumpers this Saturday with the ITV cameras gearing up for the winter game.

Three venues bring us top class jumping action with graded action at Down Royal, featuring the return of last season Gold Cup hero Minella Indo while earlier on the card we will witness the seasonal debut of talking horse Envoi Allen.

Wetherby hosts its feature of the season, the Charlie Hall Chase with Cyrname looking to repair his reputation and retain his title while Ascot hosts its first jumps fixture of the season with a trio of competitive handicaps to solve.

1.20 WETHERBY – REVELS HILL

A very competitive opener in West Yorkshire tomorrow afternoon. Some of these lost their way over hurdles while others seem to be in the grip of the handicapper but neither of those statements apply to Gericault Roque or REVELS HILL.

Gericault Roque signed off last season with an easy win at Sandown in March on just his fourth rules start. The David Pipe yard are not wasting time getting him over fences and he is respected, but preference is for the Harry Fry trained REVELS HILL.

A winning point-to-pointer, he made an eye-catching debut at Leicester before finding two miles too sharp at Chepstow next time. He didn’t stay at Ascot in February before finally delivering the goods at Warwick in April before being put away for the summer. He is another with which connections are not persevering over timber and he can continue the good form of the Harry Fry team.

1.35 ASCOT – SAM BARTON

A brilliant way to get Ascot’s jumps season underway and I like a couple of these to pay their way over this season and the next few.

SAM BARTON is a typical stamp of a horse you associate with the late Trevor Hemmings. Whatever he did over hurdles was always a bonus and he proved very useful in that sphere, winning a novice hurdle at Doncaster that worked out nicely before staying on fourth in a big series final at Sandown the weekend before Cheltenham. He will appreciate the rain that is forecast and is a horse I think will be very profitable to follow. I even made him one of my ten to follow this season. 

Another who just missed the cut for that list was Sizable Sam, a horse in a similar mould to the selection. After a couple of wins at Wincanton, a track that didn’t look to play to his strengths, he was a decent fifth as he stepped up to handicap company at Newbury before being thrown in at the deep end at Aintree in April when he found the Grade 1 staying contest too warm. Back in trip on chasing debut and on soft ground, he also has decent claims and is another I expect to be winning races this campaign. 

Nassalam went off favourite for the G1 Finale Hurdle last season, but his form gradually regressed despite being in decent company. He will have been well schooled in France by Guillaume Macaire and is respected, while Kid Commando is a point-to-point winner with course winning form to consider too.

Sam Barton
Sam Barton

1.55 WETHERBY – MARIE’S ROCK

A cracking Mare’s hurdle is next up at Wetherby. This may lie between MARIE’S ROCK and Miranda. They clashed at Doncaster in January when Miranda ran out a very cosy winner, finishing some twenty-two lengths ahead of the selection, but that was on soft ground. 

There is rain around in Yorkshire this weekend, but I expect it to ride a bit better than Town Moor in January and with MARIE’S ROCK having had another wind operation in the summer, she can reverse that form. She will be having just her sixth start for Nick Henderson and can deliver on that early promise that saw her impress at Haydock and Taunton at the end of 2019. She only had the two runs last year and clearly had her problems, but the trainer was positive about her in a recent stable tour, and she can finally fulfil that early promise.

Miranda went on to finish fifth in the Imperial Cup but could be vulnerable first time up under a penalty.

2.10 ASCOT – BOOTHILL & MEGAN

Fourteen runners are set to go to post for this race and a case can be made for every single one of them. My two against the field though are BOOTHILL and MEGAN

BOOTHILL was the subject of ante post investment form these quarters for the Supreme Novices Hurdle after an easy win at Taunton in December. That, sadly, was the end of his season, but it means he could be very well handicapped on his return. He gave 7lb and a nine-length beating to the 123 rated Lilly Pedlar, while the 131 rated Bothwell Bridge couldn’t get within four lengths in a bumper. With this just his second hurdle run too, there is so much scope for improvement that I expect him to go very close here and could easily be in graded company after the turn of the year. 

I also must have a saver on MEGAN. She was travelling like a dream when over-jumping three out at Chepstow and buckled on landing. I have no doubt she would have won that race as the winner, Progressive, scrambled over the line and now has 6lb worse terms to contend with. MEGAN won't mind any of the rainfall forecast for the track and off a lightweight of 10-1, she should be making her presence felt at the business end. 

2.30 WETHERBY – THOMAS DARBY

The G2 West Yorkshire Hurdle sees the return of 2019 Stayers Hurdle hero Paisley Park who makes his earliest seasonal reappearance for three years. 

Emma Lavelle’s star did have some issues after a well beaten seventh in his title defence in 2020 but bounced back last year, beating Thyme Hill in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot before a fine third in the Stayers once again. However, that race may have taken its toll when pulled up at Aintree three weeks later and if raring to go after his break, he is the one to beat…..but it is a big ‘if’. 

The one to take advantage is THOMAS DARBY. He stayed on to finish third in that Aintree contest and was a close third to McFabulous at Kempton in January. He was well beaten under top weight in the Coral Cup in March, the only time he has finished out of the first three. With Olly Murphy going well and THOMAS DARBY having a good record when fresh, he can step forward and throw his hat into the ring for the big staying hurdle races this season. 

2.45 ASCOT – FRERO BANBOU

A competitive two miles handicap chase with a key piece of form coming from Aintree in April where Editeur Du Gite beat Sully D’Oc AA and FRERO BANBOU with Grey Diamond back in fifth.

Editeur Du Gite and Sully D’Oc AA also met on this card a year ago in the novice’s handicap chase that opens the card, with the latter coming out on top. Editeur Du Gite is now better at the weights for both of those meetings, a victory and a defeat after Sully D’Oc AA’s win at the Punchestown festival.

I’m taking FRERO BANBOU to turn the Aintree form around with both. He is 10lb better off with the winner and 13lb better off with the runner up for nine lengths and as a 6yo, should still be improving having had less chasing starts. Venetia Williams has won this race twice in the last eight years so her runners are always of interest and wont mind any rain having been a two time chase winner in France. 

Grey Diamond is the main danger for the bang in form Sam Thomas. He was only a length behind in the Aintree race in April and has kept his form well in four starts for the yard since switching from Nigel Twiston-Davies. He has only been dropped 1lb over the summer though, so preference is for Venetia’s 6yo. 

2.50 DOWN ROYAL – GALVIN

We welcome back last year’s Gold Cup hero at Down Royal this afternoon in a Champion Chase where only the 149 rated outsider Ravenhill would be regarded as a shock winner.

Minella Indo had his finest moment in the Blue Riband at Prestbury Park in March to take his festival figures to 121 after an Albert Bartlett success and an RSA Chase runner-up effort. He bounced back from a disappointing effort as favourite in the Irish Hennessy when one place behind Delta Work to land the biggest race of all and all roads will lead back to Cheltenham in the spring. 

Delta Work won on this card in 2018 but hasn’t been at his best in this race the last two years and arguably this is a stronger race than both of those. There have been some headlines written over the jockey bookings with Jack Kennedy ordered to ride Delta Work instead of renewing his partnership with Minella Indo and the pair have enjoyed top-level success with victories in the 2019 Lexus Chase and 2020 Irish Hennessy. 

Last year's King George VI Chase winner Frodon adds another exciting element to the contest for Paul Nicholls who has won this race on four occasions previously. He signed off for the season when winning at Sandown in April but was firmly put in his place in the Gold Cup and needs to find a bit more on their best form.

They may all though have to settle for places behind the race-fit GALVIN. Unbeaten in his last six starts over fences, he won the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham on his final start of last season and started this campaign giving weight and fitness away to the 152 rated Annamix and 157 rated Brahma Bull. While that is still some way below Grade 1 class, it was a huge performance and he will certainly come on for it, having found plenty for pressure despite a couple of inadequate leaps. I think he could line up as a lively outsider for the Gold Cup in March and could very well shorten from his current price of 33/1 should he win this contest this weekend. 

Minella Indo
Minella Indo

3.05 WETHERBY – CLONDAW CASTLE

Cyrname is the Arsenal of the horse racing world… We never know what performance we are going to get. On his day, he is brilliant, as we saw when lowering the colours of the great Altior a couple of seasons ago to become the highest rated horse in training. 

That rating never sat right with me and he was well beaten by his stablemate Clan Des Obeaux in the King George of that year. Just four starts subsequently have yielded victory in this very race twelve months ago, but his recent failures to finish at Kempton and Ascot means he does carry a wealth warning. His record after a break is indifferent but he has his ideal conditions this weekend and is clear on the figures, but I’m not interested at around 5/4.

Step forward CLONDAW CASTLE. He is a relative latecomer to the top end of graded action and after some solid placed efforts in novice company, he impressively landed the big three-mile handicap chase (formerly Racing Post Chase) at Kempton in February. 

Cheltenham has never been his track so he was kept for Aintree where he found only an on song Clan Des Obeaux too good in the G1 Bowl. He is best on a flat track, won't mind which way the ground goes and has a good record first time out.  

3.20 ASCOT – JOHNBB

A cracking renewal of the London Gold Cup Handicap Chase with the last two winners of the race, Vinndicaton and Regal Encore in the line-up.

The one for me though Is JOHNBB. The consistent 7yo has only had ten runs and on his first start over three miles, found only the progressive Happygolucky too strong at Aintree in April. 

He may have just been giving second best when falling at Wetherby in the Rowland Meyrick on Boxing Day previously but showed no ill effects from that and can only build on his latest start. He won on reappearance last year and won’t mind whether the forecast rain arrives or not.

3.40 WETHERBY – HAAFAPIECE

A tough race to end the ITV coverage on with a fourteen-runner handicap hurdle to solve.  

HAAFAPIECE has course form figures of 423 and bumped into very progressive rivals last season in Albert’s Back and Pay The Piper. He has fair form fresh so the six-month break is of no concern and trainer Pam Sly has a 25% strike rate over the last five seasons at the track with seven winners from twenty eight runners saddled. Jack Andrews' valuable 5lb claim is the icing on this cake and he will be hard to keep out of the frame in our finale.

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