Jamie Lynch's Monthly High-Fives: November 2017

Action returns to Cheltenham for the newly-named November Meeting
Action returns to Cheltenham for the newly-named November Meeting

Timeform chief correspondent Jamie Lynch picks out five important dates coming up in November...

"The best Cheltenham meeting outside of the Festival, for sure, as there’s an autumnally optimistic feel about it, from the competitors to the connections and the crowd"

And so to November, when the Flat is tied up and the National Hunt is unwrapped, a pre-Christmas present that lasts until March, precisely Friday 16th, when the Cheltenham Festival ends and the Cracksman v Enable belligerent band strikes up all over again.

1. BREEDERS' CUP DAY ONE, Del Mar - November 3rd

Since the Breeders' Cup went to two days, in 2007, the Friday has been quick to find its identity, of fun and fever-building, neither pretending to be the main feast nor threatening it. If anything, like the Ryder Cup, the early exchanges can be more exciting than the conclusion, and the Friday is significant for us Brexit-deferred Europeans , because there are turf wars to be fought, by the juveniles.

Almost half of the 26 pre-entries for the boys race, the Juvenile Turf, are from Britain and Ireland, headed by U S Navy Flag, though he could go for broke on the dirt, leaving one or both of Nelson and Mendelssohn to fly the Ballydoyle flag. On substance and suitability, Masar looks best of the six Brits, and he lost little in finishing third in the Lagardere, one place off Olmedo and two behind the spiciest girl in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, Happily.

The fillies game is less grey than the colts, more black and white, as if Happily does what she has been then she'll be very difficult to beat, and Ballydoyle have got big back-up in September, very nearly the super-sub for Happily in the Fillies' Mile.

2. BREEDERS' CUP DAY TWO, Del Mar - November 4th

Let's work back from the Classic, where all roads lead, the crossroad at which Arrogate stands, and the smooth, straight road Gun Runner has motored down all year. Arrogate's got the wobbles, Gun Runner never wobbles, and one's back class versus the other's bankable consistency is the selling point of this year's Classic. And that's without the international man of mystery by the name of Churchill.

It sounds like Churchill is lining up a big swing at the showpiece, rather than playing it safer in the Mile on grass, in which O'Brien also has Lancaster Bomber and Roly Poly entered, something of a second-rate raiding party if Ribchester doesn't go, compensated by the Turf, which features Europe's honorary captain, Ulysses, who's tailor-made for this test. Sir Michael Stoute is sending Queen's Trust for a Filly & Mare repeat, in hope, but he's firing Ulysses into the Turf in high expectation.

3. JN WINE CHAMPION CHASE, Down Royal - November 4th

Shortly before the Del Mar desert comes the Down Royal dinner, with the first Grade 1 of the jumps season. Needless to say, the primary colour in the distant view is the maroon of Gigginstown, who have half of the 20 early takers, including last season winner Valseur Lido, last season's noble novice Disko, and last season's flatterer Empire of Dirt. But none of the Gigginstown gang, nor the McManus mob, are as exciting as Our Duke, the mobile monster who's set to start what could be a seismic season at Down Royal, according to Jessica Harrington.

The Hunted team have decamped to Down Royal in their search for Coneygree, but intel suggests he could turn up at Wetherby on the same day, for the Charlie Hall. Whoever turns up, and wherever they do, the 4th is a big day for the big chasers in a big season.

4. THE NOVEMBER MEETING, Cheltenham - November 17th - 19th

The best Cheltenham meeting outside of the Festival, for sure, as there's an autumnally optimistic feel about it, from the competitors to the connections and the crowd. It serves all, young and old, on and off the track, over the three days, and the highlight from a betting perspective is the BetVictor Gold Cup, or, to give the handicap its proper title, 'that race that used to be the Mackeson.'

The second-season chaser force is strong in this one, and fitting that bill are Romain de Senam, already rolling along, Shantou Village, who rolled on through last term, and Politologue, who rolled over after the last with the Maghull at his mercy. A change is as good as a rest, they say, and Kylemore Lough, topping most ante-post lists, has had both, transferred from Kerry Lee to Harry Fry during his summer break, figuring on a good mark (154) if he gets his beloved testing ground.

5. BETFAIR CHASE, Haydock - November 25th

The chase starts here, the chase for the £1m of the Chase Triple Crown, comprising the Betfair, the King George and the Gold Cup. And Sizing John wants a piece of it, having already proven he can do the hard part by winning last year's Gold Cup, where it slipped away from Cue Card when he saw the pound signs in 2015/16. It can be done. It will be done one day. So what's standing in the way of Sizing John?

Well he's probably not standing still as much as meandering around, but Might Bite won't be easily overtaken, such is his engine, and then there's course specialist Bristol de Mai, for whom the Betfair is probably the end game rather than the first leg. But whoever comes out on top is in for a shock in the King George, as Thistlecrack is due back by then. What's clear, in November, is that the jumps is definitely back.

MONTHLY WAGER

Value doesn't only pertain to big prices, and 5/2 with the Betfair Sportsbook looks to me to be big value for the Breeders' Cup Turf. The Euros look a cut above the Americans, and Ulysses looks a cut above Highland Reel, when the market has them the other way around. Highland Reel was handed last year's renewal on a plate, gifted such an advantageous lead, and his best in 2017 doesn't match up to Ulysses' collection of classy performances.

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