Kate Tracey heads to Aintree and Sandown this Saturday, where she has located three each-way plays, including a Colin Tizzard horse looking to go one better this season...
"He’s already had a couple of sighters at the National fences. He’s twice run in the Grand Sefton where he got around on each occasion."
It's the return of the National fences at Aintree and who doesn't love to see a big field of horses flying over the big green spruce? Well, we get an extended watch this time around as it's the turn of the 14:40 Becher Handicap Chase over 3m1f188y.
There are many factors to consider in this wide-open contest, namely who's likely to get around without mishap. That's where previous course form can be so essential and regularly plays out in the Becher. Returning winners have often followed up and those who have already faced Aintree's famous fences, have a good record in the race.
There's one runner in this year's renewal who looks overpriced to my eye, that being Didero Vallis. He ticks all the boxes for me for this contest as he's an eight-year-old which is the first positive for this race. He's also running off an ideal mark of 137, which is a favourable rating on recent trends. That mark sees him carrying a nice racing weight of 10st1lb with Hugh Nugent taking his 5lb claim off also.
The last four winners of this race were having their second start of the season which again, is where Didero Vallis finds himself.
His reappearance start was underwhelming but far from a disgrace when sixth in a Grade 3 Handicap Chase at Ascot over just shy of three miles.
We know his stamina is assured for this test due to his second in the 3m2f Borders Handicap Chase on his final start of last season.
Probably most importantly though, is the fact he's already had a couple of sighters at the National fences. He's twice run in the Grand Sefton where he got around on each occasion. He finished fifth in the 2019 running and then eighth in 2020. He was sent off at 7/1 and as the 5/1 favourite on the latest occasion, which makes his current price for another go over these fences look too big.
He jumped superbly when last sighted over the big fences and didn't make a single mistake. He showed scope, for not an overly big horse, when he had to be brave. Yet he was neat and clever when having to shorten, displaying agility and intelligence as well.
His run was quite remarkable really after he raced prominently early, jumping accurately. Yet his lack of pace found him out on the stretch down to Becher's Brook. He continued to jump well despite it looking as if he'd finish tailed off at best. His stamina kicked into gear though on the swing into the home straight which almost got him back into contention.
He continued to prick his ears at his final few fences showing the race had barely taken anything out of him. It also reflected his continued assessment of his obstacles. He probably got lonely on the run for home more so than anything and would have finished a lot closer had he had company to take him forwards. The Grand Sefton is far too short a trip for this horse as we know.
However, Didero Vallis will certainly appreciate this stamina test and has all trends for this race in his favour to be outrunning his price.
A Christmas winner in December
I had wanted to sight Sandown's two Grade 1 contests for my best bets but I'd have felt a bit of a fraud had I put up two favourites in those races. And when the option is there to tackle two competitive handicaps, well I just cannot resist. Especially when my two selections are available at each-way prices.
It's the turn of the stayers in Sandown's 15:00 Betfair Exchange London National Handicap Chase over 3m4f166y with stamina still to the fore despite the sounder surface. Now, there are a few trends which again are worth following in this race.
Our Money Back offer is back for the 15.00 at Sandown tomorrow.? Betfair Racing (@BetfairRacing) December 3, 2021
Money back as a free bet if your horse fails to finish 1st, 2nd or 3rd
Available on Sportsbook or Exchange.
T&C's apply, click below for more details
Age doesn't seem to hold much gravitas so it's more important to focus on the other variables. A rating of around 130, with the horse having run 20 days or more ago and coming into this race on the back of at least two starts this season are all positives.
Front runners also have a very good record in this race which is understandable given the stamina sapping test provided where horses aren't able to quicken to get on terms with the prominent racers.
Therefore, there are three horses who hit most of the criteria. The first is Strictlyadancer however, he is a hold up performer which has to be a concern despite his brilliant run of form.
I'm also concerned for another horse that fits most trends, that being Salty Boy. David Bridgewater's representative tends to hit a flat spot in his races which results in him losing places before his stamina kicks into overdrive. He then finishes with a flourish, but that running style may not be seen to as strong effect at Sandown and in a Class 2 Handicap.
Therefore, the only horse that ticks all boxes for me is Christmas In April who is an admirably consistent performer. The only negative about his chances from the trend's perspective is the fact he's only had one run this season where he finished second in a 3m2f Handicap Chase at Carlisle.
However, he has an ideal rating for this race on 135, he's had over 20 days since that latest outing and he's a prominent racer. The Colin Tizzard yard continue in fine form which will hopefully continue with Christmas In April.
Don't give up on Zambezi over the smaller obstacles
My final bet of the three comes in the 15:35 Listed 0-150 Handicap Hurdle for 4yo+ over 2m where there are plenty of likeable types set to run.
There's last season's Tolworth winner Metier who probably doesn't have conditions soft enough. There are also three other course and distance winners ready to put their form to good use again at this track and trip. So it's by no means an easy race to solve however, there's a horse who shouldn't be underestimated at an each-way price.
That runner is Zambezi Fix who has plenty of factors in his favour. This six-year-old gelding by Zambezi Sun has had his jumping issues where he's unseated twice and has fallen once in his 14-race career. Two of those non-completions have come over fences, however.
I can understand why this horse has had his jumping issues over the larger obstacles though as shown at Ffos Las last time out. He was slow and clumsy at his fences by pitching in a short stride before each fence when there was no need to chip in.
He then would fail to make a shape over his fence and arch his back. This caused a jolting effect over most of his fences, yet he was still able to tank his way into contention before the third last fence. He looked the most likely winner at that stage of the race but became blindsided by a loose horse as well as his two rivals crowding him on either side. He took a crunching fall where he did all he could to save himself.
The frustration about that fall was how his confidence was growing with his jumping at the time. He was in a good rhythm turning into the homes straight where he actually came up off a long stride at the fourth last.
He returns to the smaller obstacles here for the first time in Britain and the first time for Bernard Llewellyn. His hurdling technique has been far from convincing in his career either, however I can forgive that.
He's a big, rangy horse who struggles to shorten his stride and then doesn't make a shape over his obstacles.
The last two tracks he ran over hurdles at were simply not suitable tracks. Yet he still managed to win his penultimate start over hurdles at Wexford despite barely jumping anything well until the final couple of flights. He then finished last at Bellewstown with the tight turns and good ground certainly not playing to this scopey gelding's strengths.
Yet the interesting aspect to this horse is how his jumping improves the faster and the further he goes. Once he settles, is in a rhythm and is allowed to go on a stride, he jumps far more efficiently and with more confidence.
I'm hoping that Sandown will suit him as a result as he has a long, stiff home straight to really extend over his obstacles. He should also appreciate a return to hurdles for all he looks like a chaser physically.
He runs off a 5lb lower mark in this discipline which should see him far more competitive than his price suggests.
Daily Offer - Get a £5 Free Bet on Multiples
“Stake £20 on multiples over the course of a day, and, after the bets have settled, you'll get a free £5 to use on multiples. Bets must settle within 48 hours. No opt-in required, T&Cs apply.”