There’s plenty of good racing in both codes today as Ayr hosts the Scottish Grand National and Newbury has its Greenham meeting. I’ve had a look at some of the ITV races at both tracks, along with the flat card at Naas and a couple of interests in the evening at Wolverhampton.
1:25 Ayr – Handicap Chase – 2m½f
Azzuri was a non-runner in the Red Rum at Aintree last week and I did fancy him for it. The key to his form is spring and summer – over jumps, his record from March to September reads 312212113110 – 6 wins and another 3 places from 12 starts. He hasn’t been up to much on his first three starts for Dan Skelton, but they came between February 2nd and March 2nd so he could just be reaching his peak now. Those three starts have also seen his rating drop down to 132 from 144 when he arrived in the yard – he won a grade 2 handicap chase in Killarney by 10 lengths off 131 for Richard O’Brien last July, so he looks to be well treated now. He’s a real good ground horse (5 wins from 8 on good ground over jumps and 1 win from 12 on softer), so pulling him out at Aintree and waiting for today may have been a shrewd decision. 3/1 isn’t a wild price but it’s just about big enough for me to support him.
Azzuri – 1pt win 3/1 (general)
2:20 Naas – Maiden – 5f
Capel At Dawn looked like one to keep an eye on when running on well to finish 5th on her first run at Naas when running green from a bad draw. I would have thought that better ground and possibly a step up in trip would have suited and while she doesn’t step up in trip today, she will have a nicer surface, will have come on for the run, and has a nicer draw. I wasn’t particularly excited about her from a betting point of view as I thought that she’d be found in the market but 9/2 seems like a fair enough price for a small interest.
Capel At Dawn 0.5pt win 9/2 (Paddy Power, Betfair)
2:25 Ayr – Scottish Champion Hurdle Race (Handicap) – 2m
Mister Fisher has some strong form to his name in the novice hurdling division this season – at Christmas he finished 5 lengths ahead of Thomas Darby at Kempton, who went on to run a brilliant race to finish 2nd in the Supreme, and at Haydock in January he beat Bright Forecast with quite a bit of ease despite giving him 3 pounds. The latter went on to finish 3rd in the Ballymore at Cheltenham and is now rated 149, whereas Mister Fisher comes here off a mark of 145. This is due to a more disappointing performance in the Supreme, but he seemed to just pull too hard that day on ground which may not have suited, and if they can manage to get him settled here he might just turn out to have a bit more class than his mark suggests.
Mister Fisher – 1pt win 11/2 (Bet365, Unibet)
3:15 Newbury – The MansionBet Spring Cup (Class 2 Handicap)
The Spring Mile at Doncaster won by Petrus looks to be good form, and Exec Chef ran very well from off the pace to finish 2nd that day. There was a bias towards more prominent runners, so I would think that that form can be upgraded slightly. He looks to be the pick of the bunch here. In the same race, Gulf Of Poets was another few lengths back in 5th. I fancied him that day, particularly considering his form at the beginning of the season, but I reckon the ground was just a bit quick for him and he should be more at home here with a little bit more ease underfoot. His form in April reads 311111, and he looks slightly forgotten in the market at around the 20/1 mark.
Exec Chef 1pt win 8/1
Gulf Of Poets 0.5pt e/w 20/1 (William Hill, 5 places, 1/5 odds)
3:25 Naas – Handicap – 6f
Verhoyen received a good bit of market support last time out at Leopardstown and ran a much better race than he had on his previous few starts. This was over 7f, but his best form is over shorter so I’m glad to see him drop back to 6f today. He ran an excellent race to finish 2nd in a 5f handicap at the Curragh last August off 74, so it’s interesting to see him run today off 67, with a 5 pound claimer on board. His last run suggested that he might just be beginning to find form and if he does return to something near last August’s level of form, he would be very interesting.
Verhoyen 0.5pt e/w 12/1 (general, ¼ odds 4 places)
3:35 Ayr – Scottish Grand National – 4m
It’s easy to see a case for a lot of these at the top of the market – Vintage Clouds, for example, had obvious claims in the Grand National and never got the chance to run his race, so if you fancied him there, you would have to like him here too. Big River absolutely stormed up the hill in the Ultima, making up a lot of ground to finish 4th – however, that was after a break of 86 days which I reckon might be key to this horse. His form after over 30 days off is 12121131F4 (5 wins and 3 places from 10 starts), whereas his form back out within 30 days is 15P26 (1 win and 1 place from 5 starts). He comes here after a break of 32 days, so you could argue that it’s enough of a break, but I’m happy to leave him alone and wait until he appears somewhere else as a slightly fresher horse. Beware The Bear also has obvious claims based on the Ultima form, but again I’ll leave him alone considering his hefty weight.
18 pounds lower in the weights, we’ll find my selection (admittedly not going unnoticed in the market) – Crosshue Boy for Sean Doyle. There are two key points which stand out in his form. Firstly, when back out within 2 weeks of his previous start, he has 5 wins and another 2 places from 12 starts, with form of 115B21046113. After a longer break, he has won just twice from 20 starts, one after a break of 73 days and the other coming just 20 days after his previous start. The second of those wins was at this meeting last year, when he won the 3 mile novices handicap chase in what was probably a career best performance. This brings us to the second key point in his form – he has won 6 times and places another 5 times from 15 starts in the months of March and April, with his form in those months reading 221901113153. The last two starts came this season, when he was 5th after a break of 99 days on St Patrick’s Day at Wexford, before running at the same track the day before the Grand National, catching the eye as he ran on well into 3rd in a handicap hurdle over 2m 4f. It would appear that he has been laid out for this race since his win at the meeting last year. It’s now his time of year and he has had his run to shake off the cobwebs, so it looks like the plan might just work out.
Crosshue Boy – 1pt e/w 12/1 (Bet365, ¼ odds 5 places – you might choose to go with one of the other firms paying out on 6 places, but I’m happy to give up the extra place in order to get ¼ odds).
6:30 Wolverhampton – Handicap – 5f
With such intriguing action over jumps and on the flat in both the UK and Ireland today, it’s strange for me to have an interest in the card at Wolverhampton. However, there is one that I’m very interested in, in the 6:30. Super Julius really caught my eye finishing 5th at Navan last time out. He was dropped 2 pounds for that start to 62, although he runs on the all-weather this evening off a mark of 59. On his handicap debut, this horse was rated 88, and his rating has been in the 80’s a few times since. His last two wins were off 77 and 82, and he looked like he was finding form again last time, so it’s reasonable to think that he could now be a few steps ahead of the handicapper. His 2 wins in England for his old yard were his first two starts with cheekpieces, which he then wore for 9 of his next 11 starts but hasn’t worn on his 4 starts so far for his new connections. He dons them again today for the first time, and is running over 5f, his optimum trip. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him put in a massive run.
Super Julius 2pt win 13/2 (general)
7:30 Wolverhampton – Handicap – 1m½f
This is a bit of a mad one, and he’s not a horse that many people will have an interest in backing these days. However, I didn’t think that Gabrials Kaka shaped all that badly last time out at Newcastle for a 33/1 shot, and he’s a big price again today at 20/1. He wouldn’t be my most confident shot of the day, but he’s down another 2 pounds for that run and I think he’s worth a very small each-way bet.
Gabrials Kaka 0.5pt e/w 20/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair, ¼ odds, 3 places)
Ante-Post – Punchestown Gold Cup
When Paddy Power and Betfair put up an ante post market for the Punchestown Gold Cup, Bellshill’s price of 5/1 caught my eye. For that reason, I was delighted to see Ladbrokes put him up at 7/1. For one thing, this race doesn’t usually have a massive field – in 2016 and 2017 there were just 6 runners (from 20 entries in 2016 and 19 in 2017) and last year there were 12 (from 29 entries). This year there are 22 initial entries, 9 of which are also entered in the Irish Grand National just over a week before this race. In other words, it wouldn’t be a major shock if the field was fairly small on the day.
It sounds as if both Kemboy and Al Boum Photo are being aimed at the race, and although they deserve their places at the head of the market, I reckon that running fresh probably played to their strengths on their last starts. Bellshill jumped very poorly in the Gold Cup but this was hardly a major disappointment as it’s no secret that he doesn’t like Cheltenham, with his career form away from the track reading 122111132111F15141 – the 5th was in the Irish National when he could well have won but got into trouble at the last fence, and the 4th was in an unusual Savills Chase (won by Kemboy) when he put in a great run. His Punchestown form is 111, all in grade 1’s, including this race which he won last year. His Cheltenham form, on the other hand, is 003P. I’m more than happy to excuse his last run and 7/1 looks like value in a race that could cut up a lot.
Bellshill 2pt e/w 7/1 (Ladbrokes, 1/5 odds 3 places)
That ante post bet aside, today’s bets are:
1:25 Ayr – Azzuri – 1pt win 3/1
2:20 Naas – Capel At Dawn 0.5pt win 9/2
2:25 Ayr – Mister Fisher – 1pt win 11/2
3:15 Newbury – Exec Chef 1pt win 8/1
3:15 Newbury – Gulf Of Poets 0.5pt e/w 20/1
3:25 Naas – Verhoyen 0.5pt e/w 12/1
3:35 Ayr – Crosshue Boy – 1pt e/w 12/1
6:30 Wolverhampton – Super Julius 2pt win 13/2
7:30 Wolverhampton – Gabrials Kaka 0.5pt e/w 20/1
Total staked: 10.5 points