Friday, 26 February 2016

Triumphant March to Cheltenham!!

It's a busy Saturday ahead for the two trainers that we are following.
Paul Nicholls sends out 11 at Kempton and Chepstow with double or treble entries in some races - whilst Dan Skelton sends out 5 across the same two meetings.
As it's so busy I will just concentrate on Paul Nicholls runners at Kempton but that's not to say that Dan Skelton's won't run well, it's just a lack of time to cover them all.

Paul Nicholls will be on Channel 4 tomorrow on the "Morning Line".

Paul Nicholls

2.00 Pilansberg is more experienced than the stables other entry today Zubayr having run 11 times on the flat in France - his most recent outing being on 25/10 when last of the 13 runners in the Group 1 Prix Royal Oak. He's previously beaten 1 of his opponents on the flat before today Wolfcatcher.
His jockey here Sam Twiston Davies presumably had the choice between him and Zubayr and chose Pilansberg although Zubayr is much shorter than him in the Triumph hurdle betting.
He is said to be a a big, strong colt

2.00 Zubayr is entered for the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham and the interesting thing about him at this stage is he's currently 16/1 which is the same price you can get about two other Ditcheat inmates Tommy Silver and Frodon who've both won decent races already. Two other Nicholls entries for the Triumph are Clan Des Obeaux and Adrien Du Pont and they are both 20/1 and 33/1 respectively so there is plenty of betting confidence about Zubayr at this pre race stage and Nicholls is thin on the ground in the festival novice events.
Zubayr is a relatively recent acquisition to the stable having been trained in France by A De Royer-Dupre for His Highness the Aga Khan. He was purchased by Tom Malone at the Arqana sales for 380,000.00 euros. Nicholls has said that he is a lovely individual and an exciting prospect and recently commenting re his 4yo's generally said that "this is the best lot of 4yo's Ive ever had and a lot haven't run that we will save until next year as well". Nicholls has previously won the Adonis hurdle three times in the last 10 years with Hebridean, Zarkander and Irish Saint proving good enough and Zarkander went on to win the Triumph as well.
Zubayr has been gelded since arriving in this country so has been given some time to recover
Given that he will meet three of his previous winning opponents today on level weights should they meet in the Triumph hurdle he gets a chance to meet them getting weight here, although Sam Twiston Davies presumably had the choice between him and Pilansberg and chose the latter.

2.35 Mon Successeur was previously trained by Guillame Macaire in France and won his only two starts over fences before joining Paul Nicholls. He is a 4yo half brother to Easter Day and finished 2nd on his return in a novices limited handicap chase, over a Wetherby 2m, despite being in receipt of a 4yo weight allowance, however he was said to have needed the run that day and wasn't used to British fences as well as hanging a bit right.
He was given a spin over hurdles at Cheltenham as the stable thought it would open more options but he looked as though he would appreciate a bit further and finished 10/20 beaten 18 lengths. He then went to Newbury for a conditional jockeys handicap chase over two miles two and a half furlongs on soft and finished 2nd beaten three quarters of a length to Rouge Et Blanc.
He was then 2nd again at Exeter before winning a Class 3 handicap chase at Ascot over 2m 3f on good to soft going where he was patiently ridden before making smooth headway to take up the lead and win going away for a 7 length success from Philip Hobbs Mountain King.
He then went for a Grade 3 at Cheltenham on New Years Day and finished 7th of the 11 runners over 2m 5f on heavy going and that race may have come too soon.
He's had 57 days off and returns here - up in grade again in the Grade 2 Pendil novices chase over 2m 4f 110y.
Since November he has gone up 20lbs in the handicap ratings so is improving quickly and on ratings he is the highest rated in this so he has a decent chance to get back on the winning trail.

3.05 Marracudja had a breathing operation over the summer. After his run at Doncaster last December he was put away. He duly rewarded patience when he made a comfortable winning return at Wincanton on 25th October in a Class 4 national hunt novices hurdle. He then followed up that win at the same course in a Class 3 national hunt novices hurdle over 2m on soft winning by a comfortable 9 lengths.
He then went to Kempton on Boxing Day for a Class 2 novices hurdle over 2m on good to soft where he finished 3rd of 10 twenty lengths behind the winner Altior. He set a decent pace but was headed two out and faded to hold on for third place.
He.jumps well, possesses speed and a flat track probably suits so he gets another chance in a Grade 2 back here at Kempton over 2m although he has to give 3lb to Winter Escape.

3.35 Virak is a lover of soft ground with all 8 of his wins coming with the words soft or heavy in the going description. Nicholls has been saying for a while that he is too high in the handicap but he keeps putting in good runs albeit not winning so he wont't be coming down anytime soon and he remains 15lb higher than his last win. He put in a good run in 2nd behind the improving Wakanda at Newcastle in the Class 1 Rehearsal Chase beaten half a length with 7 lengths back to the third and he was then 2nd again to the same horse at Ascot.
Harry Cobden retains the ride as he gets on well with the horse apparently although I'm not sure he stays 3m as well as the horse.
Last time out Virak went to Haydock for the Peter Marsh Chase and finished 2nd once again this time to Cloudy Too beaten 15 lengths.
Whether it will be soft enough for him to win today I don't know but he probably will put in another good shift and at 16/1 as I write this he's worth an ew punt as there's 16 runners ie 4 places if they all stand their ground and run the race.

3.35 Rocky Creek was 5th in the 2014 Grand National but like so many horses he didn't fancy it next time and he came home a well beaten 17th. He ran well on his return at Down Royal against top opposition who had the benefit of a run. He is a very good horse on his day and could have run in last seasons Gold Cup. He had cheek pieces on for the first time at Aintree on his second start of the season in December when he contested the Grand Sefton handicap chase over 2m 5f round the National course. That day he was hampered by a faller at the 9th fence and couldn't get back into it and was eventually pulled up.
He then went to Newbury for a Grade 2 over 2m 7f 86y on soft and finished a fifty length 4th of 7 to the rejuvenated Houblon Des Obeaux.
He now wears first time blinkers in an effort to rekindle the flame and he also has the tongue tie on which hasn't been seen for a while.
Despite his run of form there is no let up from the handicapper and he has to shoulder 11-11 here which is another big ask.

3.35 Ruben Cotter - I backed this horse on his first run last season when winning but not sure he can do that today although he gets a handy weight pull off both of his stable mates and it will be interesting to see how he gets on in this.
After his win his only other start last season came in the 2m 5f Topham Chase at Aintree in which he finished a good 5th of the 30 runners in what was an eventful race.
I presume this a test to see whether he stays 3m now that he's turned 10yo.

Chepstow Runners
2.05 Red Hanrahan
3.45 Southfield Vic
3.45 Arpege D'Alene

Dan Skelton
2.00 Azzuri
3.05 Welsh Shadow
5.20 Sulamani The Late

3.45 Abricot De L'Oasis
5.30 Starlight Court

Virak 0.50 points ew @ 16/1 with several bookmakers

I wouldn't put anyone off backing any of the other stables runners - but for blog purposes I'm just doing the one.

I won't be making a post for Sunday's racing as I will be savouring the League Cup Final and supporting Liverpool.

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