- TC on Saturday at Ascot and Wetherby
- Rain forecast later in week
- Pair to revisit on Thursday
- Two to back in 3pm hurdle
As soon as we get the Breeders' Cup and Doncaster's November meeting out of the way then it is full steam ahead for the National Hunt season, but the jumps take centre stage on ITV this weekend anyway with what are invariably good cards at Ascot and Wetherby.
Now that the rain has arrived, we can expect the field sizes to improve further, and Ascot is currently good (good to soft in places) after a whopping 28mm on Sunday, with Wetherby good to soft (good in places) after 18mm from Sunday into Monday.
Ground could be decent at Ascot and Wetherby
Looking at the early forecasts, Ascot could be veering towards soft by the weekend, and maybe the same at Wetherby with the rain currently set to arrive there from Thursday onwards.
Good news for the trainers and owners alike, you'd imagine, but the forecasts I use don't agree on the amount coming, so maybe it won't get too deep and it could easily be decent going at both tracks.
An entry of just 10 for Wetherby's Charlie Hall Chase at 15:35 was perhaps predictable enough as we simply don't have enough class horses to go around in this country, and there are no Irish entries with Down Royal around the corner.
However, the Listed mares' hurdle at 14:25 (Zambella also has an entry at Carlisle on Sunday) and the Grade 2 bet365 Hurdle at 15:00 (Oscar Elite is entered in a novices' chase on Friday, while Sporting John has an alternative engagement over fences at Ascot on Saturday, with Wholestone and Windsor Avenue in at Carlisle on Sunday) have attracted five-day fields of a mere seven and eight respectively and that is worrying.
That valuable 50k Grade 2 hurdle could be embarrassing given the double-entries situation. I was a touch surprised to see the Sportsbook make Sporting John an 11/10 poke, given the Ascot option over fences, but nothing immediately stood out to me at the Betfair prices against him.
But stay tuned on that front, and read on.
The Sportsbook made Martello Sky their early 15/8 jolly in the mares' hurdle. The early 4/1 about last year's winner Molly Ollys Wishes didn't last long and she is into 5/2, so her attractiveness has waned considerably as a result.
It is rare to see a novices' hurdle on ITV but that is the situation with the 2m3f154yd race opening the card at 13:50 and thankfully that has seen some stronger numbers with 24 entered.
Eldorado Allen appeals more than favourites
The Charlie Hall is obviously the stand-out contest on the Wetherby card - and one that sees old foes Bravemansgame and Ahoy Senor probably locking horns again.
They are the market leaders here (6/4 and 13/8 respectively) and also just about the form horses at the weights. They only get a 3lb penalty for their Grade 1 wins as they came in novice company. But I don't have any strong betting opinions at the current prices.
Good Boy Bobby is also in at Wetherby on Friday and Ascot on Saturday if you are betting though. Bravemansgame, Paint The Dream and Sam Brown are in early-closers next week. Some Chaos and Win My Wings also have the option of the 3m handicap chase at Ascot on Saturday,
It could cut up then and perhaps Eldorado Allen is the one that would appeal most at this stage, if pushed.
Quite simply, his superb record when fresh jumps out at you.
I am not totally sold on his 3m stamina if conditions did get testing, despite his defeat of Royale Pagaille over an extended 2m7f at Newbury on good to soft - he carries a 6lb penalty for that Grade 2 win, by the way - but his seasonal form figures since joining the Tizzards read 1211. They didn't come in Mickey Mouse heats either, with last year seeing him win the Haldon Gold Cup from Hitman first time up.
Joe Tizzard said that this race was the plan in an ATR stable tour on October 12 - and he was also talking about Betfair Chase and the King George down the line - and that appears to hold true, with Tizzard saying on Monday that this has indeed been the horse's target "for some time" .
The first firm up on Monday offered 6/1 about him, while the next one up went 8s, and the latter price was very generous.
In truth, I thought the opening 6s was pretty attractive, but I will leave alone for now, as I am a bit worried about the possibility of the weather turning the ground too deep for him at the trip and he does have to carry that 6lb burden.
And, more importantly and annoyingly, the Sportsbook's 8s was cut into 5s on Tuesday morning. At 8/1 I was an each-way player all day long but, alas, that route has been shut off for me.
Keep an eye on Daly Tiger entry at Ascot
My heart leapt with joy when seeing all four ITV races at Ascot were handicaps, and hopefully all of these will provide eight runners or more come the weekend. A couple don't look that promising on that score, but let's see.
There are 13 in the card-opening 2m2f175yd novices' handicap chase at 13:30 and seven are double-entered this week (Bowtogreatness, Brief Times, Cobblers Dream, Deeper Blue, Pencreek, Samarrive , and Zacony Rebel), so this clearly has the potential to cut up badly.
Indeed, Stimulating Song missed a Chepstow race on Tuesday with a bruised foot and Pencreek is entered up overnight at Stratford on Thursday, so they are likely non-runners you would think. Unless the former's problem was only minor that is; he would undoubtedly be interesting if fully recovered and taking his chance.
The headline name in this race is Goshen, and Gary Moore has won this in recent times with Nassalam in 2021 and Benatar in 2017.
He was installed as the 5/2 favourite with the Betfair Sportsbook for his chasing debut here, and that was predictable enough, given his hurdles prowess (at his best, anyway) and a good recent run on the Flat.
There are 18 in the 1m7f152yd handicap hurdle and five are double-entered; Caramelised, Daly Tiger, Magistrato, Samarrive and Sebastapol.
I was a bit frustrated to see that Daly Tiger was entered in this and the handicap chase on the card, as I have a lot of time for Laura Morgan who picked this horse up for £40,000 from Giggginstown last month.
Morgan, who is going great guns this season with 22 winners at a strike rate of 22 per cent and three recent scorers to her name, has a well handicapped horse on her hands if she can coax him back to form. But we can't back him ante-post with those two options.
Just the 12 in the 2m167yd handicap chase and three of these have alternative engagements; the aforementioned, Daly Tiger, Joke Dancer and Sebastapol.
I am happy to revisit this race on Thursday.
Full Back and Regal Encore are ones to watch
There are 21 in the 100k 2m7f180yd handicap chase and with just four that could go elsewhere - Good Boy Bobby, Some Chaos, Sporting John and Win My Wings - this promises to be a pretty deep race on Saturday, and one that could see enhanced each-way terms.
Gary Moore has won two of the last four runnings of this race and he has 14/1 poke Full Back in here, just 4lb higher than for his well-backed win at Cheltenham on New Year's Day. And he probably improved in a second at Taunton afterwards, too.
The 25/1 chance Regal Encore, winner of this in 2020 and third last year, could be back for more as a 14yo off a plummeting mark, but, again, I am going to leave this race alone until after the overnight decs when we could be looking at a similar set of prices and better place terms.
Pair primed for Wetherby hurdle
I was struggling for a bet then, so I did another sweep of the races and prices on Tuesday morning and, given the race could cut up, I am going to suggest small win-only bets on Thomas Darby at 10/1 and Proschema at 7s with the Betfair Sportsbook in Wetherby's bet365 hurdle at 15:00.
I told you to stay tuned and read on.
You obviously have to fear Sporting John but he is very short considering he could go to Ascot for that handicap chase and maybe they have one eye on keeping his hurdle mark intact for the Pertemps again, though a shot at the Stayers' is perhaps more likely if they stay over the smaller obstacles.
And, going into Tuesday's racing, the Philip Hobbs yard was hardly in cherry ripe form and Sporting John does carry a 4lb penalty.
At least we know that my pair have nowhere else to go this weekend, and are surely primed to run, ground and health permitting.
Darby is better than his odds
Indeed, an Olly Murphy stable tour has just dropped on ATR on Tuesday morning and this is the plan for Thomas Darby.
I appreciate he has a 6lb penalty for his Grade 2 Newbury success last November and only finished fourth to Indefatigable in this race last season, but he has gone well when fresh in the past and he is no 10s chance on his best form.
Pro can go one better than last year
I thought Proschema shaped well over an inadequate 2m3f in the Silver Trophy on his return.
He is no forlorn hope to go one better than he did when second in this race on good to soft last season, a race in which his jockey was perhaps too over-confident (he was 7/1 pre-race but hit 6/4 in running despite never getting within 2 lengths of the winner at any stage, after being delivered approaching the last).
His course form figures of 1422 wouldn't deter you and the return to 3m is an obvious plus, with that opening run under his belt. He was still going very well when falling 2 out in the Cheltenham handicap won by Sporting John in November, and I think a mark of 143 underplays his talent, especially over 3m.
He would prefer no more appreciable rain, but good to soft will be fine. The soft ground scenario carries an obvious risk to the ante-post bet but I am willing to take the risk to small stakes.