Prince Of Scars Could Land RSA Crown

We’re only just entering the very early stages of the National Hunt season but there’s already whispers of the Cheltenham Festival after a very enjoyable Cheltenham Showcase meeting.

One of the most enjoyable betting feelings (although it nearly always ends in tears) is taking fancy prices about a horse early in the season and then sitting smugly as it continues to shorten until the day of the race, should it actually make it unscathed, at Cheltenham.

It carries obvious risks and isn’t always the greatest money-making scheme, though there are definite reasons to suggest singles and perhaps doubles, could be worth pursuing if you think the price is right.

One horse in particular who could be worth following en route to The Festival is Gordon Elliot’s Prince Of Scars. The former classy hurdler looks set to embark on a Novices’ Chase campaign this season and after showing plenty of ability last year, he looks interesting in the big races at Cheltenham.

However, if you are contemplating a punt on the horse, be prepared for the fact he will only run, should the ground be sufficiently soft. Cheltenham in March is a question mark, as we have seen extremely heavy or rattling quick, so that has to be something to bear in mind.

Still, if you are committed to the cause, then the current 33/1 for the RSA Chase could prove to be very tempting. Those towards the head of the market have plenty of question marks about potential engagements over hurdles/fences, 2m4f & 3m, so it could be a race to steer clear of, if you’re not overly fond of taking a risk.

Prince Of Scars made a rather inauspicious start to maiden hurdling, though his runner-up effort in a Listed Hurdle on his second start over the obstacles suggested he had some ability. He was put away for a decent break after switching to the Gordon Elliott yard and that seemed to do the trick, as he has since won three of his four races.

He won a handicap hurdle a shade cosily on his first start for the yard before showing battling qualities, to follow up soon after in a thrilling finish at Navan. His home work must have suggested he was worth a go in better company as he was seemingly tossed in the deep end in the Grade One Novices’ Hurdle at Leopardstown in late December.

The Heavy ground seemed to work in his favour as he travelled beautifully before pulling clear of genuine top quality animals, Alpha Des Obeaux, Martello Tower and Arctic Fire.

He swerved Cheltenham and waited for the subsequent softer ground at Aintree where he ran on well without ever threatening Thistlecrack and Shaneshill. 0pair are real Grade One animals, so finishing as close as he did was a solid effort.

The scope he possesses and his action over hurdles, suggest he may be suited to fences and in a recent interview, Gordon Elliot suggested he is looking forward to the soft ground so he can get Prince Of Scars back out.

Elliott is usually brilliant at finding an opportunity for a horse early on and if he can show he get round in style, the 33/1 for the RSA may well shorten. All things being well, we will be treated to a wetter Cheltenham this season and this lad may well turn up as a real contended in the RSA.

Selection:

1pt e.w – RSA Chase – Prince Of Scars @ 33/1 (bet365)

 

Five To Follow – National Hunt 16/17

It’s that time of the season, when the horses to follow lists come out and horses are jotted into trackers and notebooks across the land.

The National Hunt sphere sees old favourite come back year on year, so my particular five to follow are fairly young (majority are novices’), so that there may be value in following them progress.

Hopefully the sextet can see us build up to the big days with plenty of profit already banked!

EDWULF (7-y-o gelding – Joseph O’Brien – JP McManus)

Another to keep an eye on as the season progresses is the potentially useful Edwulf. He’s in the capable hands of fledgling trainer Joseph O’Brien after moving from father Aidan’s yard after his switch from Ben Pauling.

He ran three times for Aidan last season and there was three promising, yet very frustrating runs. Despite being sent off a big price on his chasing debut, he looked to have the race in the bag as he powered clear before the last only to come to grief at the final obstacle.

A drop down to hurdles followed after being purchased by JP McManus and despite sketchy jumping as the tempo increased, he battled on well to hold the very useful Haymount at bay. A Grade 2 beckoned next and again, he was running a big race before coming down at the third last.

Of course, jumping is clearly an issue but having spent a summer schooling with Joseph and his team, he is sure to have learned a lot. It looks as though the plan is to return to Novices’ Chases and he could progress into a very useful horse, should his jumping hold up.

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BATTLE OF SHILOH (7-y-o gelding – Tom George – Paul and Clare Rooney)

Tom George and Paddy Brennan have enjoyed a superb partnership over the years, so it was somewhat of a surprise to see the pair part ways, as Adrian Heskin arrives from Ireland to become retained rider for George.

They have started well and surprisingly and they look to have plenty of solid horses to go to war with this season, with one of the most interesting, the still unbeaten Battle Of Shiloh.

Having won twice in the P2P sphere, he scored gamely on both hurdles starts last season. He rallied strongly on both occasions and it appears he has tremendous courage to go with his eye-catching ability.

It looked as though his unbeaten run was going to come to an abrupt end after some shoddy jumping on his chasing debut earlier this season and after a mistake at the last seen him a fair few lengths behind Jimmy The Jetplane, it looked as though he was to succumb to defeat.

However after a couple of reminders he picked up smartly and in the end, went past Jimmy The Jetplane to win smartly going away in the shadows of the post.

He is sure to have learned plenty from that run and with many sure to take the run on its bare form, the manner of the win suggests he could be a fair few pounds ahead of the handicapper. He has improvement to come and he is one who could be worth keeping on side as the season progresses.

WESTEND STORY (5-y-o gelding – Phillip Hobbs – Mick Fitzgerald Racing Club)

Phillip Hobbs and Richard Johnson often team up with great success and one of their more likely types this season looks to be the exciting Westend Story.

He made a fairly innocuous start to racing life, falling twice in P2P’s, before a switch to bumpers – and the Phillip Hobbs stable – seemed to work some magic. He made his debut on Boxing Day at Huntingdon, in what looked a decent enough bumper, before being backed into odds-on, winning by a cosy six-lengths.

It was a very pleasing performance for connections and they wouldn’t have to wait too long before tasting success again, as he broke the heart of his rivals on Valentine’s Day (I’m sorry), winning a race at Exeter by 18l.

They didn’t turn out to be the strongest of races, which allowed him to be sent off at 20/1 in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival. He travelled nicely into the race before looking set to be outpaced over three furlongs out, as the tempo increased.

He was slightly tapped for toe but he responded well to his rider’s urgings, staying on well without ever having the pace to threaten the leaders. He picked up the pieces to finish fifth and over a longer trip this season, he could be a force to be reckoned with, if schooling at the Hobbs stable has worked.

Of course, that is a slight concern given his P2P efforts but Hobbs is often reliable at readying one for their novice hurdling campaign. He’s currently 33/1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and it will be interesting to see where he aimed.

NICHOLLS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARRACUDJA (5-y-o gelding – Paul Nicholls – Ditcheat Racing Club Marracudja)

It wouldn’t be a five (or ten) to follow over the jumps without a Paul Nicholls runner and this year, that coveted nod goes towards Marracudja. He made a rather disappointing start to live over hurdles, flopping behind the very impressive Peace And Co.

He was put away for the rest of the season and when returning fresh, he won two novices’ hurdles at Wincanton in fine style, suggesting he had plenty of ability. He contested a really competitive race at Kempton on Boxing Day, where he ran a fine race to be third behind subsequent Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner, Altior.

He returned for a Grade 2 at Kempton at the end of February and he battled on well, only just failing to get the better of the well-regarded Winter Escape. He was a no-show in a Grade 1 at Aintree but he showed no ill-effects of that race, as he embarked on a chasing career earlier this month.

It always looked as though he would develop into a chaser and if he progresses from his hurdles form, he will be a force to be a reckoned with in the novice division. He could hardly have been more impressive on debut, defying a drift, jumping boldly out in front before moving readily clear of subsequent winner Ballyboley.

He ticked all the boxes as an impressive novice and given his trainer is already nominating targets at Aintree and Punchestown (likely to skip Cheltenham), it suggests he rates him highly. He could be a very nice horse.

CONSUL DE THAIX (4-y-o gelding – Nicky Henderson – JP McManus)

The final member of the five to follow comes from the Nicky Henderson yard, in Consul De Thaix. The JP McManus-owned gelding ran twice in Britain last season for Henderson and it was evident they rated him highly, as he was thrown in at the deep end with a Grade 2 engagement at Cheltenham.

He travelled with enthusiasm for Barry Geraghty and looked to have every chance coming over the last. He battled bravely but couldn’t find what was required to get past the highly-rated Protek De Flos and Clan Des Obeaux.

Subsequently, he was put away until being aimed at the Triumph Hurdle, for which he was sent off at 33/1. He was kept towards the rear of the field and was outpaced when push came to shove but he stayed on once beaten to run a nice enough race.

Considering it was only his second start under rules in this country, it was a fair effort and it would be no surprise to see him aimed at graded races or maybe a top end handicap later in the season.

He has plenty of scope to improve under the handling of Nicky Henderson and he rates as an exciting prospect that perhaps may slip under the radar.

Enjoy A Sweet Selection In The Cesarewitch

Friday sends us into the weekend in buoyant mood, after Rhododendron scored impressively at HQ. She showed real class and is an exciting prospect to follow, if she heads over to the Breeders’s Cup.

Hopefully her performance will bode well for the weekend, where Sweet Selection is selection in the Cesarewitch. Hughie Morrison’s charge is well and truly on an upward curve this season, rattling up a hat-trick of wins before following up a decent effort at York, with a career-best fifth place in the Doncaster Cup.

She gets in the Cesarewitch off a mark of 87 and that is set to significantly rise in the coming weeks. Champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa is riding well and he is a solid booking. The four-year-old will relish the trip, should have no issues with the ground and looks sure to go close off a generous weight. The current 9/1 is fair value and given most firms are offering five places (six at Sky Bet), then she deserves another look.

Elsewhere on a fantastic day of racing, Churchill looks set to cement his Classic status with a big performance in the Dewhurst. He should take all the beating but from a betting perspective, it may be worth taking a trip to York to sample some more value.

The Rockingham Stakes (3.10 York) looks a fair renewal but Sir Dancealot is a horse who could prove a cut above his rivals. He made a fairly inauspicious start to racing life in a hot Windsor maiden but that run was left well in the past, as he came out next time and hacked up at Kempton, landing a fairly serious gamble in the process.

He followed up in a decent Conditions race at the same track next (subsequent winner Fly At Dawn was back in third) and his final start to date confirmed all promise. It looked a solid Group 3 (though favourite Escobar clearly wasn’t right) and he looked a potential winner a furlong out.

He travelled nicely for Jim Crowley (has ridden him on all four occasions) and battled on well behind Larchmont Lad and Whitecliffsofdover, getting within a length at the line.

The form could prove to be very strong and given he wasn’t overly well placed during the race last time, it would be no surprise him improve on that performance.

The drop back to 6f is a slight concern given he has pulled hard on occasions but he settled well last time and if that is the case on Saturday, he can pounce off a strong pace from a favourable high draw. Shane Kelly is an able deputy to Crowley and the current 4/1 seems a very fair bet in what looks a winnable Listed race.

Selections:

1pt e/w: Sweet Selection (Cesarewitch) @ 9/1 Various

1.5pts win: Sir Dancealot (15.10 York) @ 4/1 Various

 

 

 

Side With Rhododendron At Newmarket

Racing returns to terrestrial TV this Friday, as the Channel 4 cameras pan to Newmarket and York.

The fillies take centre stage in the Fillies’ Mile, with plenty hoping the leading protagonists can follow last year’s winner Minding in taking a leading role in next year’s Classics.

Godolphin won the race on three consecutive occasions from 2010-2012, so it’s no surprise to see sufficient interest in current market leader Sobetsu. The filly showed plenty of promise when running behind the reappearing Spatial, before going on to a wide-margin victory at HQ.

She could potentially be anything and although there is a fair level of excitement surrounding her, it may be worth taking a chance with Rhododendron. Aidan O’Brien’s filly is already a Group 2 winner, after scoring in battling fashion, edging out her repappearing stablemate, Hydrangea.

O’Brien’s got his string in fine form, as shown by his 1-2-3 in the Arc last weekend, and the fact his filly Found fared best gives an extra, albeit small, boost of confidence ahead of the Fillies’ Mile.

Rhododenron landed a mini-gamble when winning her maiden at Glorious Goodwood and after back-to-back wins, she ran a nice enough race in defeat last time in the Moyglare. This looks a logical step and given her breeding suggests she will relish the step up to a mile, the current 4/1 looks more than fair.

Ryan Moore gets back on board (he is 1/1 on her) and she can announce herself as a possible Classic type and make it three in a row for Aidan O’Brien.

Elsewhere on the card, it is a shame Mark Johnston appears to be in poor form. His runners have struggled to reach the expected heights over the past week and there may well be some small issues plaguing his animals. However, this appears to have been factored into the price of three of his runners on Friday.

He saddles Yalta in the opener and the colt looks extremely interesting. After scoring twice in fine fashion, he disappointed in hot company. He slammed rivals with ease in the Molecomb and given The Last Lion – subsequent Middle Park winner – was back in second, the form looks solid.

Two disappoint efforts have ensued, though one of these was when sent off well-fancied for the Nunthorpe, and he has now acquired something of an all-or-nothing reputation. This may be the case tomorrow, though the 8/1 could prove to be a silly price now back in Group 3 company.

Another pair of Johnston runners are Lumiere and New Caledonia. Lumiere put a poor Guineas display behind her when bolting up over 6f at Newmarket next time out. A flat effort at Deauvile was followed with a nice enough third at Doncaster and if she has her own way of things in front, she could be hard to stop on a going day in the 14.05. The 11/1 is fair, though there has to be slight reservations given MJ’s form.

The same can be applied to New Caledonia, who benefited from the step up to 10f, when winning at Ascot last month. He was a credible third to Southdown Lad on softer than ideal ground last time and could be ahead of his current mark of 95, now returning to a strongly ran 10f on better ground in the 15.45.

He’s been notably strong in the market since the prices opened, which has to be taken as a positive given the MJ factor and he is of interest at a current 9/1. Yalta, Lumiere & New Caledonia could ensure Johnston returns to form in some style, all at nice prices.

Selection:

2pts win: Rhododendron (Fillies’ Mile) @ 4/1 (Various)