Angus McNae
Angus McNae's Racing UK Blog
Saturday 23rd November 2013
   
Racing UK
First up it’s going to be a slog

Johns Spirit (advised at 8/1) continued our good recent run of form last week and there is plenty of good racing at Ascot and Haydock on Saturday which gives us a chance of keeping the run going.

The Betfair Chase has been dubbed as the best renewal for years and it is hard to quibble with that assessment. That said, let’s try and strip the race down to its bare essentials.

First up it’s going to be a slog. Three miles in really soft ground at Haydock makes this race a real test of stamina as opposed to one that will suit speed horses. With that in mind it is likely that a tough staying type will win, a gutsy slugger rather than a strong travelling speed horse.

Let’s take a look at the field in my pocket guide:

1 Bobs Worth - the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner has won 9 of his 12 races under rules and is unbeaten going left-handed. He is anything but flashy as his win in the Gold Cup displayed, but he is gritty and with an official rating of 180, has clearly been performing to a level that entitles him to be favourite here. His number one weapon is stamina and a real slog would suit him, in fact, a couple more furlongs would be ideal. He looks set to run a decent race but let me add one caveat to that. Nicky Henderson is not in great form. This is a dangerous statement to make as we saw with David Pipe last Sunday but let me hit you with the facts. In 2012 his strike rate was 26%. At the moment he is way off that. Of his last 34 runners just 5 have won, that equates to a current strike rate of 15%. There is nothing wrong with that as a stat for most trainers, but for Henderson it is poor.

2. Cue Card - I cannot have this horse today. He is classy and won the Ryanair Chase in tremendous style at Cheltenham in March. His main asset is his speed. As a hurdler he was a strong traveling type with a turn of foot, but all the evidence we have does not point to him being a strong stayer at three miles in very soft ground. We only have the evidence of one run in similar conditions to go on and that was in the 2012 King George Chase where he palpably failed to stay, being beaten 20 lengths into fifth by Long Run. Put simply I do not think he will stay and I make him a place lay in the race at around 2.5 on the exchanges.

3. Dynaste - This is a big step up in class for this horse. His chance lies purely and simply in potential rather than cold, hard form. Do not get me wrong I like him, but none of us know if he is good enough to win at this level. For a seasonal reappearance this is a big ask and maybe connections have been tempted by the prize money that is on offer. He remains the lowest rated horse in the race at 159 and has loads to find to win.

4. Long Run - This fellow is an admirable chaser who, apart from last time out, has always run to a top-class level. Consistency is his main asset and you can rely on him to give his running every time. Unfortunately his career has been blighted by jumping errors and that was his downfall in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby. I can see him bouncing back to something like his best today. Rumours of his demise are possibly premature, but is it not a given that he will make one or two jumping errors and at this level they can be fatal to a winning chance. It has become the done thing for pundits and presenters to praise Sam Waley-Cohen for his handling of this horse and Sam is clearly a nice chap and a good jockey, but he is not as good as Barry Geraghty and other professionals who, in my opinion may have got more out of the horse. I know this will upset many, but it is a game of opinions. Long Run looks set to run well for all that and should make the frame.

5. Roi Du Mee - He has won 10 of his 26 chase starts and seems to be improving. His recent defeat of the non-staying Sizing Europe was impressive. What's more he stays really well and handles the ground. He is rated 9lb superior to Dynaste and yet at 16/1 is twice the price which really does make him each-way value. I like the fact that he is normally ridden prominently and although he will get some pace pressure up front form The Giant Bolster it may well be a race where it is hard to make ground from the rear. He is going to be suited by the nature and conditions of this race better than any other horse that lines up.

6. Silviniaco Conti - He beat Long Run in this race last year where he was allowed to dictate matters in front. That will not happen this time, but he can be ridden in behind as well, as he was in the Cheltenham Gold Cup where he was still going well when falling three out. There is no telling whether he would have beaten Bobs Worth that day, but what we do know is that the last time we saw him he was disappointing at Aintree behind First Lieutenant. There are very few negatives. Of course there is no Ruby Walsh on board, but in my opinion Noel Fehily, who replaces him, is the next best jockey that could have been given the leg up. At 5/2 I am prepared to just let him run, but he looks sure to go well.

7. The Giant Bolster - He ran well in defeat in this race last year, but he does not win enough for me. He has won just three of his 16 chases and, as tough and genuine as he is, he lacks the requisite class to win this. He will always run well when a race shapes up as a dour test, but he lacks the class to grind this type of opposition into the ground.

8. Tidal Bay - I like this horse and he has got his act together of late. He has won four of his nine starts since joining Paul Nicholls and looks certain to give his running again which usually means roaring home from the back to pick up the pieces late on. That tends to be his style over fences because he makes mistakes which mean he gets behind. Over hurdles he travels better and makes few mistakes and thus I think he will struggle to win here. Personally I think he is a World Hurdle horse rather than a Gold Cup contender.

I hope these thoughts help you to clarify your thoughts about the big race. As there should be in such a good contest there are very few negatives attached to the runners. Bobs Worth is the most likely winner, but my two plays in the race are as follows.

Angus's Saturday tips:

  • Cue Card - Lay for a place at 2.5 on the exchanges.
  • Roi du Mee -  Back each way at 16/1.

Enjoy your weekend. 

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