Weatherbys' weekend racing preview
Paul Jones of Weatherbys previews this weekend's televised races. Read his thoughts below:
Formerly a fair Gold Cup trial but this is a weak race and it's all a question of whether you trust Madison Du Berlais. On his William Hill King George VI Chase second placing, he is a cert, but he flopped at Cheltenham last time which is not his course after sulking at Haydock and he is looking like he is starting to go quirky. He should really be having too much class for these but I certainly wouldn't want to steam in on him to find out.
My view is that he needs to dominate on flat tracks so if he gets the better of these in the early skirmishes he should be okay but if he is taken on, then I could envisage an upset as Gone To Lunch is a Grade 2 horse on his day but he does prefer better ground and this is going to be very testing if it beats the inspection. Richard's Sundance is progressive and a course and distance winner so; if I was to take a chance on Madison Du Berlais spitting the dummy out, then it would be with him.
Sadly and predictably Punchestowns has not been declared which leaves five runners headed by his stablemate Burton Port who I would prefer to Knockara Beau as the latter just isn't progressing whereas Burton Port has won both his chase starts with a deal of panache and looks a natural. Whether he is RSA Chase class is another matter but this is a prestigious Grade 2 chase in its own right and I he is definitely the individual moving forward most in the line up and therefore looks pretty solid.
Knockara Beau's form is tailing off for me so maybe Pettifour can chase Burton Port home. He hasn't looked a natural so far but he was a classy hurdler rated in the mid-150s and the break should have done him good as he has a best-fresh profile but I just wonder if they are eyeing the four-miler at the Festival with him so he may find Burton Port too sharp for him.
Lough Derg is the top rated horse but he has a hard job on off top weight over 3m1f as his last six wins have been over 2m4f so I imagine Ascot is his first choice today over that trip. I would fancy Beshabar if he runs here rather than at Ascot because on soft ground this big horse has the potential to go right to the top and he won a competitive quality handicap more easily than the winning margin suggested last time.
In his absence however, I would go for the progressive Bouggler who was a promising fourth in the Cleeve Hurdle last time out which was a strongly run affair so that form looks solid. I would have some reservations about him over this longer trip on testing ground as he looked like he didn't quite get home but they are unlikely to go as fast here and it is not as classy a race. Cloudy Lane looks to be prepping for something else back over hurdles, Afsoun is regressive, Kayf Aramis is only a top class handicapper and the rest look to lack the class.
This is Lough Derg's course and trip and I don't doubt he will run well but it is asking an awful lot for him to win off a mark of 160. I would rather look elsewhere for the winner and that would be Beshabar if he runs here in preference to Haydock as he was an impressive Sandown handicap winner last time out in what is traditionally a good trial for the Festival handicaps. A big horse that has had his problems, he won easier than the margin suggested last time out and given testing ground, I don't think he could be too far off the best stayers by the end of the season.
Zabeel Palace returns from a 92-day absence after impressing in the autumn including over course and distance and is a fascinating runner but Dee Ee Williams also interests me. He certainly seems a lot happier back over hurdles and ran well against Binocular two weeks ago showing more zest back over timber and he did win a decent novice hurdle at this track which could be significant as Ascot since it has been re-laid tends to bring the best out the same horses. At the prices, Dee Ee Williams could represent the best each-way value.
This should be a good race between Wayward Prince and Adams Island who are both lively outsiders for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at the Festival. The former really impressed in a maiden hurdle last time at Doncaster having found Ludlow too tight on his previous run. Prior to that he finished second in arguably the best bumper run in Britain this season at Sandown and is held in high regard by Ian Williams. However, Adams Island was equally impressive last time out.
Rebecca Curtis is making a name for herself this season and you have to sit up and take notice when she books A P McCoy and Adams Island has won his last three starts in a point-to-point, bumper and then a novice hurdle at Newbury where he just galloped and galloped and was eased down to win by six lengths. He could be seriously under-rated given his small but talented yard. Kennel Hill is very well named judged on last weekend's doggy performance and, although talented, he just can't be trusted.
The likely favourite, Planet Of Sound, should take some beating. He should have won the Amlin Chase here in November but for a bad mistake from which point he could never really get back on terms with Albertas Run who was on a going day but the winner was also receiving weight which he isn't today and the ground will be softer and the former RSA Chase winner prefers a better surface. Oh Crick caught the eye when a fast-finishing third over two miles behind Twist Magic last time but I don't have him down as an extended 2m5f horse on soft ground.
Therefore I rate Herecomesthetruth as the main danger to Planet Of Sound as he is at his best in small fields on right-handed tracks. His jumping let him down in the Peterborough Chase but he has had a nice break since then. Monet's Garden has won this race before and beat Tidal Bay first time up at Aintree but I suspect all roads lead to the Melling Chase for him. The Sawyer has won two cracking handicaps on his last two starts but this is a different ball game.
I would fancy Coe to run a big race as he always does as Haydock. Second in this race last season as a novice, he is 6lbs higher but he deserves it especially for finishing second in the competitive Rehearsal Chase and I wouldn't read too much into his Welsh National sixth as I don't think the undulations suited him. He is slow, flat-track, mud-loving, out-and-out galloper so 3m4f on heavy ground should be right up his street at Haydock and he has an ideal racing weight of 10st 6lbs.
My view is that this has been his aim all season being the most valuable staying handicap chase at the track and given the owner's love for big winners here. Miko De Beauchene won this race two years ago and was third last season for the Alners and is now with Venetia Williams. He has caught the eye this season suggesting a big prize awaits him and we know he stays all day and handles the ground so I rate him the main danger. Le Beau Bai is progressive but I just wonder if this track will suit him as well at Chepstow where he impressed in December before running third in the Welsh National. The pair that beat him that day were Dream Alliance and Silver By Nature but they had hard races and have been hit by the handicapper since so wouldn't be for me.
This looks a two-horse race between Punjabi and Starluck and connections of the former will be desperate the race goes ahead either here or at Ascot as he is a stuffy horse that needs another run before the Festival. If the race is run at Wincanton, that will increase Starluck's chances of beating Punjabi which are pretty good as Wincanton should suit the grey ideally like Kempton did at Christmas when beaten a short-head by Go Native whereas it is really too sharp for Punjabi.
However, Wincanton is abandoned and the race is switched to Ascot, which would be less in Starluck's favour and therefore a toss-up job as I am sure Nicky Henderson is still going to be leaving plenty to work on with Punjabi before Cheltenham like last year when he was only third in this race before winning the Champion Hurdle.