Weatherbys' weekend racing preview
Paul Jones of Weatherbys previews this weekend's televised races. Read his thoughts below.
Alfie Sherrin is the most interesting runner as he has a big reputation at Paul Nicholls' stable having bolted up in a bumper and novice hurdle, but he was only a well-beaten third in a valuable handicap hurdle on his seasonal debut 112 days ago and has not been seen since.
That disappointing effort was the day at Chepstow when a number of the yard's promising horses blew out big style and the word is they are planning an attack on one of the Cheltenham Festival handicaps with him, in which case, why would they want to risk having an attractive mark of 132 risen for a bigger prize? Maybe they think he needs to win to be assured of a run (though being rated 127 would have got in you in the race last year) in which case he is the most likely winner and it will be interesting to read trainer's comments.
Whether he is good value is another matter as I can see a plunge on him. Triggerman would be a suitable each-way alternative as this trip looks ideal for him and the course should suit this long striding galloper ideally unlike at Taunton two runs ago when he was set too much to do and a Kempton last time on a track that would not play to his strengths and over a shorter than ideal distance.
Fredo is in form and consistent so deserves a mention as does Tarateeno who is in a rich vein of form right now but this is a better race than those he has been winning.
We will know a lot more about Long Run's Festival target after this race and his presence has frightened off Somersby meaning that Take The Breeze should be his main rival but Paul Nicholls' grey strikes me as a stayer in the making and definitely one for hock deep ground so two miles at Warwick wouldn't really play to his strengths.
Given Long Run's stamina was in evidence when running away the Grade 1 Feltham Chase over three miles, this two miles could also be on the sharp side for him even though we are told he is blessed with plenty of speed but what would put me off getting stuck into him at odds-on is that he does jump flat and he will be taking those five fences down the back straight that come thick and fast and I could see him potentially finding those a problem like so many other novices in the past.
With an error-free round Long Run should win as the ground is unlikely to be testing enough for Take The Breeze (calling it soft but ideally he wants it bottomless) and they both look a class above the other three who are no mugs but do not have potential to be Grade 1 horses.
It is pleasantly surprising that as many as five horses want to take Denman on but this is his track and anything other than a convincing win would have to go down as a disappointment and the main point of interest should be just how well he goes for his confirmed Gold Cup new jockey A P McCoy.
This is also a good opportunity for Ruby Walsh to get to know Tricky Trickster riding him for the first time in a race ahead of a Grand National bid where he may end up being his ride at Aintree. The winner of last season's NH Chase over four miles at the Festival, even this three mile trip could be too sharp for him.
Ollie Magern has run out of races to run in now that the Charlie Hall Chase has come and gone and Wee Robbie is surely chasing place money and connections probably hoped there may only be three runners which leaves Air Force One and Niche Market as possibles to serve it up to Denman.
The classier is Air Force One but this is his seasonal debut following all sorts of problems and he has also has the Grand National in mind so I would think Niche Market is the one for the forecast on his good third in the Hennessy here though he meets Denman on 29lbs worse terms for being beaten just over seven lengths.
The Grand National is also his aim and the weights are being released next week so how close do Niche Market, Tricky Trickster and Air Force One want to get to Denman?
Manyriverstocross who has the look of a horse who could be well handicapped and he is also proven in big field handicaps on the Flat and will relish running in a fast-run two-mile event as he was pulling too hard over further so is a big player.
The King yard are hoping he is a serious player for the Neptune (formerly the Ballymore at the Festival), in which case he would have to go very close here and it's interesting he was their only entry. If the stable are right that Manyriverstocross is Neptune class he would have to be about a 150-rated horse to place in that race and he runs here off 135 so you can see why they I feel he has a great chance.
Harry Tricker has it to do off a 12lbs higher mark than when splitting Khyber Kim and Medermit in the Greatwood Hurdle even though they are both legitimate Champion Hurdle contenders and the Pipe pair of Mamlook and Ronaldo Des Mottes rather showed their hand last time out when winning competitive handicap hurdles.
Nicky Henderson has won four of these and Stravinsky Dance appeals most of his four contenders as the vibe before her British debut was that a mark of 138 was considerably lower than her homework but she could just be a good worker as she is sprint bred so would probably look good galloping alongside NH-breds.
Her stablemate Spirit River impressed last time but this is a much better race and I just don't know what Takeroc will find off the bridle as it wasn't much over fences but he is well in here compared to his chase mark.
Get Me Out Of Here is the dark one being an unbeaten novice so could be anything. In summary, this is as competitive as usual but perhaps the novice Manyriverstocross has the most to come.
Jonjo O'Neill runs Kia Kaha and Saphir De Bois and the stable are going better now than straight after the big freeze so I could see better runs from that pair and small tracks are likely to suit Heathcote given his size so he can also go well.
Victorias Groom's fast jumping is what has helped him win two of his last three races and jumping, especially down the back straight, counts for such much at Warwick so he would be of definitely interest and is probably the percentage call.
Still a novice, if he attempts to make all and gets into a rhythm again, he will take some stopping around here. The Vicar is a horse with a good reputation at Henrietta Knight's yard but he has been disappointing so far this season.
Buck The Legend is given a set of blinkers for the first time and has his ground and keeps dropping the handicap so you never know this could finally be the time to catch him and Piraya is another horse to watch and was an eye-catcher at Newbury again on his seasonal debut but has been a little disappointing in his two starts after that.
Voy Por Ustedes remains a class act despite two slightly disappointing runs this season but connections are under no illusions he can beat an even 90% right Master Minded (over two miles anyway) as he has lost that basic speed and 2m4f really is his trip now and he is just a better horse in the spring anyway.
I can't see them knocking the kitchen sink out of him to give Master Minded a race so this looks a race to watch for the future. All eyes will of course be on Master Minded returning from his fractured rib and it wouldn't surprise me if his current odds for the Champion Chase was nearer Evens after this race as, I although I am sure we will hear Nicholls tell us he will improve for the run, he is not going to run a champion like him if he is not sure he is fit enough to do a job and I predict an easy win.
It wouldn't totally surprise me if Voy Por Ustedes didn't finish second as this is not his trip anymore taking on two-milers in Fox The Rib and Mahogany Blaze who he will be giving 6lbs and 10lbs respectively but I do think we will see a better horse than the one that jumped poorly at Ascot (is never close to his best first time out) and when he got stuck in the mud over three miles in heavy ground at Leopardstown.