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Select repeat at Sandown for Younevercall

Younevercall repeated his victory of two years ago in the bet365 Select Hurdle at Sandown, in a race of changing fortunes.

Kim Bailey’s 10-year-old landed the last renewal of the race in 2019 and having shown some solid form this season, headed the market at 5-2.

It was far from a straightforward victory, however, as Call Me Lord, On The Blind Side and Indefatigable all looked likely at one stage or another.

Younevercall usually likes to make all, but while he was headed at various stages on this occasion he never dropped out of contention.

On The Blind Side was the first one to crack and then when Call Me Lord made a hash of two from home his chance was gone.

David Bass resisted in throwing everything at Younevercall until after the last and he saw the trip out really well to beat Indefatigable by half a length.

Bass said: “This race was the perfect one for him because even though he’d won it, that was two years ago and he didn’t have to carry a penalty so he was well-in at the weights.

“He likes to be fresh and I thought he looked amazing in the parade ring.

“The race didn’t always go as I’d hoped, but he really thrives on a right-handed track and saw it out well.”

Festival beat suits drummer turned jockey Bass

David Bass might have been in a band had he not been a jockey – but Kim Bailey’s man surely made the right decision, based on the strength of his book of rides at the Cheltenham Festival next week.

Bass and Bailey are racing’s odd couple. At differing ends of the political spectrum they may be, but Bass’ forward-going style in the saddle seems to suit Bailey’s horses, and this year their partnership is flourishing.

With a Grade One in the bank thanks to “winning machine” First Flow in the Clarence House, they have four realistic chances at the Festival.

It could all have been so different, though, for Bass – whose musical tastes may not meet with the weighing room’s universal approval.

Bass has struck up a great partnership with Kim Bailey
Bass has struck up a great partnership with Kim Bailey (Simon Cooper/PA)

“I was probably more of a ‘pop punk rocker’, ” said Bass.

“Our band weren’t modelling ourselves on the Sex Pistols or the Clash, anyone like that – we were more modern-day pop/punk, like Green Day.  As I got older I got into more of the punk from the 70s.

“I was a drummer. I was average. I didn’t practise enough – but if I wasn’t a jockey I could possibly have been a musician. I loved playing live.”

Bass is also more vociferous than some regarding jockeys’ mental health and in particular their diet. He himself is a vegan.

“Our job is diet and nutrition, and I always find it interesting how a lot of jockeys cope differently with their weight,” he said on a call hosted by Great British Racing.

“I’m one of the heavier lads and have always struggled with my weight. I probably cope better now than I ever have.

“I just find it interesting, and the whole vegan thing can lead on to that. I’ve been doing it for over two years. I’d like to think it has helped, because ever since I’ve started the diet I’m so much more knowledgeable about what I’m eating and always looking at what is in certain foods.

Imperial Aura and David Bass were successful at the Festival 12 months ago
Imperial Aura and David Bass were successful at the Festival 12 months ago (Simon Cooper/PA)

“I do feel since I’ve been on the diet it is as healthy as it has ever been – but in saying that, when I first started it was pretty bad. I would eat the wrong things and also binge and then lose weight quickly. I wasn’t healthy when I was younger.”

Bass and Bailey’s association began at Towcester one day in May 2014 – and it got off to a flying start.

“I rode a horse for Kim at Towcester one day, Crazy Jack. It came about because a  friend of mine, Ed Cookson, worked at the yard at the time,” explained Bass.

“I went to give him the saddle, and Kim said ‘I’ve never heard of you, I don’t know who you are, but Ed says you can ride’ – and luckily he won, and not long after that I started riding out for him. The rest is history, I suppose.”

Imperial Aura is the arguably the pair’s biggest hope next week, in the Ryanair Chase, but he does need to put an early exit at Kempton last time out behind him.

Bass said: “At Carlisle I was really excited about what I felt – it felt like he’d improved a lot since I last rode him in a race, and that day I felt he could progress to being a genuine Grade One horse.

“At Ascot he was progressive again. You could pick holes in that form, but he couldn’t have done it any easier.

“At Kempton, while I hate making excuses – the horse made a mistake, and I got unseated – but I’m convinced he was looking at the shadow on the wing. He’d jumped out to his left earlier too, so he was looking at something.

“He’s schooled brilliantly since, and I find his jumping is better the quicker he’s going, so the way the Ryanair should pan out will suit him.

“I think he’s good enough to win and I’m excited to ride in the race.

“It can only be a positive the he’s had three good runs there and won last year. Cheltenham form is a big boost.”

Vinndication had other options next week but has recently been confirmed as a runner in the Stayers’ Hurdle.

“He’s a horse that people have probably got bored of me banging on about, how good I think he is. I’ve got so much faith in him, but he’s obviously been fragile to train,” said Bass.

“Last year I thought he was a certainty in the Ultima. But he hadn’t run since November, and we couldn’t get a racecourse gallop into him, and he just got tired.

“This year we got a racecourse gallop into him – because he hasn’t run since the Ladbrokes Trophy – and as far as the hurdling option, we had a discussion and felt he was just physically finding it hard over fences.

Vinndication will be back over hurdles next week
Vinndication will be back over hurdles next week (Tim Goode/PA)

“We gave him a school over hurdles, and he seemed to really enjoy it. He’s the type who could run well in the Stayers’, because he races behind the bridle. I think that track will suit him as well.

“We also have Younevercall in the race, who was fourth in the Long Walk, and there wouldn’t be much between them. I hope Vinndication can prove to everyone how good he is.”

Happygolucky is favourite for the Ultima Handicap Chase on the first day of the Festival, and Bass struggling to come up with a negative.

“I think he’s got a great profile for the race,” he said.

“I’ve always really liked him, and he’s a true professional. He’s a good traveller, he jumps well – and while it’s his first handicap chase, I’m not concerned about that because he has a great temperament.

“He ran a very good race in the Martin Pipe last year, and was fourth, but he’s always been crying out for three miles. We stepped him up last time, and he won at Cheltenham. He’s so straightforward and handles any type of ground.”

First Flow is already in bonus territory. Bass does not feel he needs soft ground to be seen at his best any more – but he has some formidable opponents.

“He won’t be frightened, he’s a great horse but a bit of a freak to be honest,” he added.

“I rode him the other day, and he tried to kill me when I was tacking him up. I’m told by everyone at home that is a sign he’s in really good form.

“He’s a horse with loads of character – he has his own routines at home, like always needing to be at the front of the string. He’s a credit to the team and has turned into a winning machine.

“I think if you ask the lads that rode at Ascot the day of the Clarence House they’d say it was no worse than good to soft, so I’m not too worried about the ground.

“As for the track,  I know he disappointed on his only run at Cheltenham, but he wasn’t right when he ran in the Supreme – he came back all wrong. He’s won at Doncaster and Wetherby the last two years, but he does seem more comfortable going right-handed. I hope he handles the track.

“Look, it’s a Champion Chase – they are all very good horses, but ours knows how to win and he’s progressing, so we’ll give it a go.”

With Bass also set to ride Moonlighter for Nick Williams in the Grand Annual, it could turn into a special week.

“I’m excited more than anything,” he said.

“I want to try and enjoy it. I feel very lucky to be riding the horses that I am at the best meeting me have. I’m just going to make sure I enjoy riding good horses against the best.

“I’d have to say Imperial Aura is my best chance. All of mine have got a chance – of course I’m going to say that – but Imperial Aura has the course form, and I think he can prove he’s a genuine Grade One horse.”

Monday Musings: Two Major Contenders from Left Field

At the age of 25 back in 1978 Kim Bailey took over the training licence from his father Ken at their family farm in Brackley, Northamptonshire, with the experience of having learnt his trade from three training greats, Humphrey Cottrill, Tim Forster and Fred Rimell, writes Tony Stafford. In 1995 he enjoyed the almost unthinkable achievement of winning both the Champion Hurdle, with the novice Alderbrook, and the Gold Cup with Master Oats.

Until Saturday they had been the only Grade 1 wins on his card. Now, 26 years later and in his 43rd year as a trainer, the still-boyish Bailey, greatly to his own surprise, can refer back to a wonderful performance by the nine-year-old, First Flow. After an end-to-end battle he emphatically saw off reigning Champion Two-Mile Chaser Politologue in Ascot’s Clarence House Chase.

Kim Bailey has, over the years, gone through a number of transformations and training locations as well as a major domestic upheaval and a Henry Cecil-like slump. That must have caused this consummate horseman to question whether he should continue to pursue his career.

Throughout, Bailey has always had the respect of his fellow professionals, even in the darkest days. The same was true of course for the future Sir Henry before the arrival of Frankel and the subsequent great loyalty – hardly surprising one might say – of Prince Khalid Abdullah. The recent passing of Prince Khalid could have significant implications for the future of many of the present-day’s leading Flat-race trainers.

Bailey’s own darkest years came in the first decade of the present century when in the four seasons between 2004 and 2008 he won respectively only six, six, nine and finally three races. Those three in 2007-8 came from 131 runs and produced earnings of a little over £29,000. Nowadays he characteristically has one of the higher strike rates, operating at close to 18%. Less than three per cent must have given him kittens!

The Racing Post statistics for each trainer includes a section at the bottom entitled Big Races Won. Between March 2002 and November 2012, a full decade, none of the Bailey winners qualified for entry in that section.

In more recent times, he has built up his business again at a modern farm in Andoversford, 15 minutes or so from Cheltenham. A great adherent to modern technology, he was moving around his snow-covered 70-strong yard on Sunday morning, reflecting by video on the previous afternoon’s exploits by one of three chasers that could be lining up in the top races at Prestbury Park in six weeks’ time.

As he progressed with his commentary, all the time he was sharing the credit, principally to David Bass, whose opportunist ride on First Flow he described as “one of the best rides I’ve ever seen”. Also earning his gratitude were various key members of his staff. If ever there was a benevolent boss, it is Kim Bailey, who stresses that any success achieved by Thornfield Farm is very much a team effort.

That attitude will undoubtedly bring loyalty from the staff and he certainly has managed to keep a number of owners, among them First Flow’s, Tony Solomons, with him over many years. “Tony was one of my first owners all those years ago and I’m so happy for him. First Flow was not an expensive buy and he’s done so well for us,” says Bailey.

He certainly has. Saturday’s win for First Flow was his sixth in succession and his tenth in all from only 16 races over obstacles. The race was worth a few bob short of £60k and represented a nice early birthday present for his owner.

Tony rarely has more than a couple of horses in training but the retired banker also had tremendous success in recent years with the staying Flat handicapper, Nearly Caught. That smart gelding, trained by Hughie Morrison, won nine races and was placed 15 times.

His last win, as an eight-year-old, came on his final appearance when he easily won a Newmarket Listed race from an official rating of 107. That was his fourth Listed win, to which he could add a Group 2 victory at Deauville as a six-year-old. All of his five stakes wins and eight places came in his final three seasons’ racing.

While Bailey had some sparse years where major races were concerned, that could not be said of 2020 when he earned seven entries in that category. First Flow is joined by Imperial Aura and Vinndication as fellow high-class performers and Bailey hopes all three will make it to the Festival.

He regards Vinndication as a potential Gold Cup candidate. The eight-year-old is still lightly-raced and although he has yet to win going left-handed, he ran a blinder when only two lengths behind Cyrname in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby when starting out the present campaign at the end of October.

Bailey aimed him at the Ladbroke (ex-Hennessy) Handicap Chase at Newbury the following month and the gelding was still very much in contention when unseating David Bass five fences out (his only non-completion) under a big weight. The trainer hopes he will be able to prepare him in time to participate.

Until Imperial Aura’s unexpected early exit from his Kempton Grade 2 target a couple of weeks back he had been carrying all before him, adding two nice wins to his Cheltenham Festival novice handicap chase victory in March. Another eight-year-old, like his two stablemates he also has an enviable win ratio, seven from 12.

Nothing succeeds like success. From the dark days Bailey has now put together seven highly rewarding seasons, all bar last term’s 32 (for obvious Covid) reasons bringing between 43 and 61 wins and at least £400k in earnings.

With £450,000 already this term and more than three months to go, he could even get close to the £696,000 of the extraordinary Master Oats/ Alderbrook campaign when he had 72 wins from 312 runs, especially if things work out at the Festival.

It is hard not to be excited by First Flow, but one other horse produced an even more eye-opening performance the same afternoon. The Venetia Williams-trained and Rich Ricci-owned Royale Pagaille turned the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock Park into a rout and must be followed over a cliff for the rest of the season and beyond.

This race has had a proud heritage since its inception in 1981, with its early winners including the three Cheltenham Gold Cup victors, Little Owl, Bregawn and The Thinker. Jodami made it four a decade later, while its best recent champion has been Bristol De Mai, also a three-time winner of the Grade 1 Betfair Chase over the same course and distance.

Royale Pagaille was bought as an experienced four-year-old by French agent Guy Petit out of the Francois Nicolle yard in November 2018 at Arcana for €70k. He had won one of ten starts, a minor hurdle race at Pau, although he did have plenty of experience over fences after that victory.

Sent To Venetia, it was more than a year before he saw a British racecourse and his two runs last season before racing was summarily curtailed were hardly  earth-shattering. First, in a two-runner Chepstow novice chase he found the 150-rated Vision Des Flos predictably too good, trailing home almost ten lengths behind. Then, in a three-runner chase at Huntingdon he was miles behind the lower-rated pair Equus Secretus (Ben Pauling) and Lies About Milan (Fergal O’Brien) who fought out a close finish over the near three-mile trip. Those performances gave little inkling of what was to come.

Hence when Royale Pagaille reappeared for this season at Haydock on December 2, the son of Blue Bresil was the 11/1 outsider in a four-runner novice chase over two miles and five furlongs. He confounded those odds, very easily coming from the back to draw clear of the Kim Bailey-trained favourite Espoir De Romay, who carried a 5lb winner’s penalty.

After that, on the second day of Kempton’s big Christmas meeting, his winning margin of just over three lengths might not have been extravagant, but the style of the victory off his revised mark of 140 was such that the chase handicapper raised him 16lb to 156.

At no stage on Saturday did it appear likely that Royale Pagaille would have any difficulty in defying his new mark, travelling and jumping with utter authority. Conceding 20lb to the proven staying handicappers Just Your Type and Potters Legend, he was already a long way clear of the pair at the last fence in the heavy ground and it seemed as though Tom Scudamore could have doubled the eventual victory margin of 16 lengths over Potters Legend had he wished.

That suggests to me the chase assessors will struggle to keep his new mark below 170 and at the present rate of progress, further improvement could easily be forthcoming. That already takes him right into the top echelon of chasers. For the record, in its 41-year history the Peter Marsh Chase has never been won by a horse younger than seven, Royale Pagaille’s age.

Bookmakers are quoting Royale Pagaille for four races at the Festival, but if he was mine I would find it difficult to disregard the big one. There are many instances of trainers thinking their emerging horses are not quite ready but with the number of pitfalls that can assail them, those delaying plans often prove fruitless with the horses never actually making it to a later Gold Cup. And this one already has eleven chase starts to his name, so is hardly an inexperienced novice.

I’m suggesting you take the 12-1 (unless you can get better) for the Blue Riband of the meeting.  If you prefer to be safe, he is 8-1 non-runner no bet.

First Flow magnificent in Clarence House victory

First Flow put up a remarkable performance to outrun a clutch of established Grade One stars for victory in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House Chase at Ascot.

Kim Bailey’s nine-year-old mud-lover was stepping up to the top level over fences for the first time in his career, but extended his winning sequence to six – taking on reigning Champion Chase hero Politologue from a long way out and staying on to win by seven lengths at 14-1.

First Flow, ridden in trademark style by the dynamic David Bass, was also providing the popular Bailey with his first Grade One success since Master Oats won the 1995 Cheltenham Gold Cup for him.

Paul Nicholls’ 11-8 favourite Politologue led early, and First Flow was always his nearest pursuer – as the pair built up a sizeable lead over the rest of the eight-strong field in the back straight.

Relishing the soft conditions, First Flow took over on the turn towards home and stayed on with great determination to repel all challengers, with Politologue second and Waiting Patiently just holding on for third ahead of the closing Fanion D’Estruval.

Bailey was quick to praise Bass, saying: “You have to hand it to that guy on top, who knows him so well. We realised we couldn’t take on Politologue for the lead from the start, but David took the bull by the horns.

“I was absolutely staggered, to be honest, because we both felt the ground wasn’t going to be soft enough and that if he had finished third he would have done very well. I admit I didn’t expect him to improve like that.

“He had a hard race at Wetherby (Castleford Chase on December 27), but we gave him an easy week, and that’s what’s happened. I’m so pleased for the owner Tony Solomons, who is my longest-standing patron. He’s 92 and has been with me for 40 years, showing that loyalty is a great thing in life.”

First Flow powered home
First Flow powered home (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The Champion Chase obviously enters the equation for First Flow, and Bailey said: “Regarding Cheltenham, he has only been there once before when he ran in the Supreme (of 2018), but I wouldn’t mind going back there.

“If it’s soft or good to soft at Cheltenham you would have to think about the Queen Mother very seriously.

“Getting back to David, I had an irate punter ring up and criticise him to me, and I am so pleased that he has had to eat his words, because David got some of the best jumps out of the horse I have ever seen from him. He (Bass) never lets us down – he’s got better and better, and adores the horses.”

He added: “I never thought (First Flow) would get to Grade One level, but I feel we should give it (Cheltenham) a go. We have eight to 10 pounds to find, but he is obviously improving. It’s quite an emotional moment. This horse can’t school over fences at home and jumps over tractor tyres.”

Bass said: “I have always seen him as a proper two-miler, and he has a touch of class and can handle most types of ground.

“I didn’t really want to be too close to Harry (Cobden, Politologue), but he winged the fences down the hill – and then, between the third-last and second-last, I let him fill himself up so that he had something left for the finish.”

David Bass and First Flow were dominant at Ascot
David Bass and First Flow were dominant at Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Bass admits First Flow’s improvement has surprised him – but he is emboldened after this victory to head for the Champion Chase.

“Why not? Let’s have a go,” he said.

“Let’s take on the big guns again, and hope for a bit more improvement.

“I’m still a little bit surprised he put up that performance. I knew that he’d improved, and was on a real winning streak.

“He’s really stepped up again, and I can’t believe he won as he did.

“He jumped so well – he was brilliant down the hill, and just made up so much ground jumping.

“We’ve had two or three quiet weeks, and we were starting to get a little bit concerned. But there’s nothing like a Grade One winner to let everyone know our horses are still in good form.”

First Flow’s jumping was pinpoint precision throughout – in direct contrast to most of his practice with Bass back at Bailey’s Cotswolds yard.

“I promise you – he’s frightened the life out of me at home,” added the winning jockey.

“I think I got a fall off him last year, schooling – he’s very average jumping at home, always has been.

“He wasn’t a natural. But on the racecourse, he’s been brilliant – and today was as well as he’s ever jumped.

“Knowing the horse as I do, I’m conscious in my head to either really go forward and attack a fence or take him back and get him underneath me. I said to myself, if I was meeting those fences right down the hill, then really attack them.

“That’s what I did. I was seeing good strides, and he was really winging them – and I didn’t want to disappoint the horse. He was enjoying it, and so was I. We were here to give it a go, and I wanted to be positive.”

First Flow also demonstrated that he does not necessarily need bog-like conditions to show his best form.

Bass added: “I think Kim’s given me a bit of stick, because I’ve always said he loves heavy ground – but he’s a classy horse, and he obviously handles soft, good to soft ground, which I thought it was today.

“I’m really pleased for the horse. He’s a real character, and a yard favourite.”

Bannixtown glory for Bass and McCain at Kempton

David Bass continued his recent good run in the saddle after Bannixtown Glory completed his second double in the space of three days with victory at Kempton.

The 32-year-old again demonstrated he is riding at the top of his game with an enterprising front-running victory aboard the Donald McCain-trained 12-1 chance in the Listed Racing TV Mares’ Hurdle.

Despite facing a host of challengers late on in the extended three-mile prize, the six-year-old rallied gamely under Bass before defeating recent Hereford scorer Getaway Totherock by a length and three-quarters.

McCain – who won the race in 2009 with the smart Whiteoak – said: “There were plenty of question marks over a lot of them regarding the trip, but one thing you can rely on with her is that she turns up every time and the ground and trip were fine.

“We were hoping to get a little bit of black type and between the last two I thought we would be hard done by if she didn’t get it, but she got more than we hoped for and is set for life.

“I would imagine Charlotte (McCracken) will breed from her and that makes a big difference to her CV. She deserved that win, as she is as tough as nails.”

Kim Bailey equalled last season’s total of 32 winners after Ajero (10-11) – who is a half-brother to the yard’s Grade Two winner Charbel – got the ball rolling for Bass when getting the better of Captain Morgs by a length in the EBF Stallions “National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Bass said: “I was absolutely delighted with that. He relaxed lovely in front and his jumping was at its best over the last two when they were going quick. He picked up really well down the straight. Although he hung right it was nowhere near as bad as Ludlow.

“He is not as big as Charbel as he is a bit more compact. He is by a sire (Red Clubs) that is all about speed. It is nice to have a proper two-miler in the yard.”

Few people will have left the track as happy as Zac Baker who not only celebrated his first winner of the season, but reduced his claim from five to three pounds with a front-running success aboard Supakalanistic (14-1) in the Wise Betting At racingtv.com Handicap Hurdle.

Baker said: “That’s my 5lb claim gone. I’d been stuck on 39 winners since March. I’m delighted to do it on this horse though as I’ve had three wins on him now.

“Thanks to the owners and Nigel Twiston-Davies for putting him on me. When he goes out again hopefully I might get the call up.

“He is a lovely little horse. He has got a really good gallop and really good stride so I thought I might as well send him on.”

Fergus Gillard was another to enjoy a milestone winner when riding out his 7lb claim on the Alexandra Dunn-trained Thahab Ifraj in the conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle, which the 8-1 shot claimed by a length and three-quarters.

Gillard – who enjoyed a big-race win with Main Fact at Haydock on Saturday – said: “I’m delighted to get down to 5lb and long may it last. Thanks go to David Pipe and my dad (Mark Gillard) as they have been my biggest supporters.

“He won well today off a very light weight which was a big help against the second horse who was carrying top-weight.”

Bass confident Imperial Aura can be Grade One star

Finding a horse able to compete at the highest level can be a challenge, but David Bass believes he has struck gold with Imperial Aura judging by his victory in the Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase at Ascot.

Having followed up last season’s Cheltenham Festival triumph in a Listed event at Carlisle on his return, the Kim Bailey-trained seven-year-old took another step forwards with a dominant display in the Grade Two, which he claimed by five lengths.

With the ceiling of Imperial Aura’s ability yet to be established, Bass, who rode dual Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Sprinter Sacre, among others, on the gallops during his time with Nicky Henderson, expects the gelding to take a step up to Grade One company in his stride.

Bass said: “It’s hard to compare any horse with Sprinter Sacre, and even some of the other horses I was lucky enough to sit on at home at Nicky’s, but Sprinter was something else.

“Take nothing away from this horse though, as I do think he can compete at the top level. I think the most exciting thing is you don’t know how much he can improve.

“What I’ve felt in his two runs this season, I’m confident he can compete at the top level and do us proud and win a Grade One.

“He is probably one of the most exciting horses I have got to look forward to.”

On official ratings, Imperial Aura still had work to do with two of his four Ascot rivals if he was to continue his progression, although Bass was confident going into the two-mile-five-furlong contest that he would be able to cope with such demands.

Bass added: “We came into it having the utmost respect for all the other horses in the race, as there were Grade One winners in there that had strong form. We were confident our horse was in good form. We knew that our big asset was his jumping.

“The way he jumped down the back the second time was brilliant. That is going to stand him in good stead when competing at the top level.

“I felt he had improved at home from Carlisle. I was confident he was going to run a big race and take a lot of beating today. He was having a good look around in front and I think there is more improvement to come from him.”

Quite often there are signs from an early age as to whether a horse has potential star quality, and Bass feels Imperial Aura is no different.

He added: “He was a good bumper horse and he went to Carlisle for his first hurdle race. I remember then thinking ‘this is a good horse’. That season he was plagued with sore shins. We’ve given him time to mature and get over that, and I think it is paying off now.

All roads will now lead to a Festival return in March for Imperial Aura, with an outing in the Ryanair Chase the intended target, but given the way he finished at Ascot, Bass hopes he could progress even further once stepped back up in trip.

Bass added: “I think in time he will get three miles, but for now I agree with Kim and we have to stay at this trip. If that means we end up in the Ryanair, so be it.

“Imperial Commander won a Ryanair and then a Gold Cup in the same colours. They are a great bunch of owners who have another serious horse on their hands.”

Imperial Aura is impressive in Colin Parker Memorial

Kim Bailey admits he has some thinking to do over future targets after Imperial Aura made a faultless return to action in the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at Carlisle.

A winner at the Cheltenham Festival in March, Imperial Aura was sent off 7-4 favourite in a strong field of six well-regarded horses.

David Bass was happy to take a lead for the first two miles, with Sam Brown and Black Op keen to get on with things.

As the field turned into the straight, Imperial Aura moved upsides, and some spectacular leaps took him to the lead – which he was not to relinquish as he powered up the hill to beat Windsor Avenue by two and a half lengths, with Sam Brown losing little in defeat in third carrying a penalty.

The victory means Imperial Aura will pick up a penalty for this month’s Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham – for which he is 6-1 joint-favourite, and would almost certainly be top weight, leaving Bailey with a big decision to make.

“He was very impressive, and I’m absolutely delighted with him,” he said.

“Hopefully he’s going to improve for the race as well, so we’ve got lots to think about.

“The weights for the Paddy Power come out on Tuesday – but he’ll get a penalty, so I have to sit and think where we’ll go.

“We ran him over three miles last year, so I have no issue at all about stepping him up to three miles.

“When I was watching it I couldn’t believe it when he came back on the bridle four out – I’m really pleased. I’m also pleased for Ian Robinson (of Imperial Racing syndicate, who own Imperial Aura) – because he’s a big part of the yard, so it’s great to have a good horse for them.”

Earlier Rose Dobbin enjoyed a nice double on the card – with Le Cheval Noir (9-1) in the Join Racing TV Now Novices’ Hurdle and Rath An Iuir (7-2) in the Gordon Richards Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

Both were ridden by Conor O’Farrell.

Racing Insights, 31st October 2020

Matt standing in for Chris again. Friday's race went largely as anticipated, though the winner - flagged here yesterday - was a rotten price in the end! Lezardrieux made him battle and Lucky Lodge came home fourth, almost completing a trifecta from four horses in the summary (the other was sent off at 66/1 and ran like it).

We'll crack on with Saturday.

It's a terrific day of racing where the jumpers really come to the fore, and the awesome TJ Combo report is the free feature.

Meanwhile, the six free races are...

  • 12.32 Ayr
  • 14.40 Newmarket
  • 15.35 Down Royal
  • 15.40 Ascot
  • 15.50 Newmarket
  • 17.30 Wolverhampton

I've set up the Course 5 Year view on the TJ Combo report and, because there is so much good racing, I've gone with an ultra-demanding IV of 2, meaning a trainer/jockey pairing must win at least twice as often as the average at the tracks in question. That narrows things down to a workable number.

 

Let's take them in order, starting with the Nicky Richards/Brian Hughes combo and their 41% hit rate at Ayr in the last five years. Clicking on the row shows today's qualifier and clicking the little 'up arrow' to the left of the trainer name reveals the historical qualifiers:

There are more qualifiers than I'm showing in the above, but we can clearly see that a lot of these winners have occurred recently: five from eight in 2020 alone. However, note that Castle Rushen was beaten in a bumper here in March. Having looked at the race I'd say he's a very good chance to win (duh) and his price is about right. About right is not a value proposition to me, so I'll let him go.

Next is the hot Bailey/Bass team, who combine for two runners at Wetherby. Vinndication is a classy chap but he's in deep tomorrow, against Cyrname and co, and - again - his price is tight enough; in fact, it's a bit on the skinny side for my tastes.

But their other runner, Hes No Trouble, has a case to be made for him beyond the TJ Combo angle.

Below I've highlighted my Report Angles (the red '3' and accompany trio of rows) and QT Angle (the blue '1' and accompanying row). These tell me that Bailey/Bass are in great recent form as well as having great long-term course form; and I also note that Bailey is one of my trainers to mark up with runners on their first start after a wind op (see the W1 by the horse's name).

Also note the t1 - first time tongue tie - which implies this fellow has been struggling quite badly with his breathing.

Looking at his form, it might also be he's been struggling with distance and ground: after a win on a similarly flat track over a similar trip on similar ground and off a similar mark he was then beaten over half a mile further, on softer ground and in higher grade.

This is still a Class 3 race but he gets a shorter distance and faster turf; and of course he gets the wind tweaks. There's enough there to make 10/1 look big enough for all that it's a competitive race with plenty of other (shorter priced) options.

And I was able to make a value case for the McCain/Hughes partnership's Ayr runner, Goobinator, too.

This time it is because, rightly or wrongly, I want to be against 5/2 ish second choice, Calva D'Auge. The form of that one's wins has worked out terribly (note the 'Then What?' section on the right hand side) - the only winner from 39 subsequent starters from the Wincanton victory was... himself next time out; and there have been no winners from 19 from that Plumpton run since.

Of course,  it's a new season and Calva has a heavy ground score but he's making the market for me.

Similar to Bailey and Bass, Goobinator represents strong recent TJ form as well as longer term TJ track form, as can be seen from my Report Angles in the image below.

Their other runner goes in the 'newcomers' bumper, in which - as the name suggests - none of the field has run before. Not for me, thanks.

And the final contender from my strict TJ Combo shortlist is the Mark Johnston/PJ McDonald pairing at Newmarket. They saddle Reams Of Love, a nursery handicap debutant in a field full of unexposed types. We can see that both trainer and jockey have a great track record, together and individually: that's perhaps because Newmarket favours front-runners and most of Johnston's are ridden from the front.

Although it's far from assured, with so many yet to established a pattern to their preferred run style, what we do know is that the Johnston horse has led in both starts to date. He'll make a bold bid under a jockey that rides the course very well.

Summary

Even deploying a seriously demanding Impact Value parameter of 2 on the Trainer Jockey Combo report, I still get plenty with which to work. A number of these look degrees of interesting at the prices. I will be backing Hes No Trouble for small stakes each way at around 11/1, and may have a small win bet on Reams Of Love, too, the 13/2 in a place (BOG if you can get it with 365) feeling like a sliver on the generous side (and, in this case, it really is no more than a feeling).