I was reasonably pleased with the way today's race panned out. I got the first two home the wrong way round by trying to beat the market and one of the two I though might be involved at a price finished third at 14/1.
Not perfect, but not a disaster and now I switch focus to Saturday, my last piece of the week on a day where the excellent Trainer/Jockey combo report is a free for all, whilst we also open up the following full racecards to all members...
- 12.00 & 1.36 at Fairyhouse
- 12.40 & 3.00 at Newbury
- 1.08 & 3.28 at Doncaster
Matt's recent videos highlighted the importance of shortlisting (something I do regularly for you on this column) and race selection and I couldn't agree more. Faced with the above half dozen races, the one that appeals most is the first of the two at Newbury, which looks a really good contest.
Before I dive in, I'll explain my own race selection here. The Fairyhouse races are a 13-runner chase for lady (mainly 7lb claimers) jockeys followed by an 18-runner maiden. I'm not into conditional jockey chases (irrespective of the sex of the riders), I'm not into races of more than 12 runners and I'm not into maiden hurdles either!
The second Newbury race is an excellent quality of race, but again there are 18 runners, whilst at Doncaster I'm serving a mares' novice hurdle and a bumper : I don't do novice hurdles or bumpers either!
So, partially by default and partially because on first glance it looks a good race, we're going to try and unpick the 12.40 Newbury, a 6-runner, Grade 2, Novices Chase for 4yo+ over 2m7f on Good ground worth £17,085 and here's the card filtered by speed rating...
As I often do, I'll work through the card from left to right making notes on the pros and cons of each column, something like...
Pretty much all of them have plenty of good form in the history, but Hold The Note and One For The Team haven't won for a while, so they'd be negatives here.
Positive : Next Destination is the only one not stepping up in class.
Negative : Up 1 class : Southfield Stone. Up 2 classes : Kalooki, Acey Milan, One For The Team, whilst Hold The Note is up three classes
Acey Milan and One For The Team are previous winners here at Newbury and the latter has also won over today's trip, as has Next Destination whilst Kalooki has a course and distance win to his name
All the trainers bar Mick Channon (Hold The Note) are either in good form and/or have good past records here at Newbury.
Positive : Kalooki, Next Destination & One For The Team
Negative : Southfield Stone and Hold The Note
The four with ratings are fairly close together (4th's rating is 90.8% of top rated), whilst the other two have no chasing form to rate : one's a debutant and the other unseated on debut LTO.
With just six to consider, I've no need to discard any right now, but Hold The Note featured in the negatives a little too often for my liking. Perhaps Instant Expert will show him in a better light?
Southfield Stone clearly likes Good ground, which not all chasers do (many prefer some cut in the ground) and he seems happy in these small fields. Acey Milan has 2 wins from 5 at Class 1 (albeit in Listed Bumpers, one of which was here at Newbury) and was a runner-up in a Grade 3 Hurdle this time last year. The 0 from 4 at the trip is a little misleading, though, as he won't lack stamina having won over 3m1f on Soft last time out.
Hold The Note has little there of note, if you pardon the pun, but he did make the frame two of those three Class 1 defeats, including a runner-up finish (bt by half a length) over 3m in another Gr2 Novice chase earlier this year. Kalooki has lots of green albeit from small sample sizes, but his record over these longer trips catches the eye (he was second over 3m on heavy in the one he lost!).
Next Destination is clearly the class horse here, having made half a dozen appearances at Class 1, making the frame every time and winning four of them including 2 Grade 1 successes over hurdles (chase debut today), whilst One For The Team again fails to excite. In fairness, there's plenty of amber, but he's outdone by at least one rival in every column. His highlights are probably 1 win and 1 place from 3 at this venue and a win plus 2 places from four in the distance range.
I'll still not do any discards, as six is very workable, but at this stage, I'd still be reticent about backing Hold The Note and One For The Team is heading in the same direction.
Could the possible pace make-up of the race save them?
Of the 24 races considered, 19 of them (79.1%) have been won by horses who have prominently (33.3%) or led (45.8%) putting Kalooki and Southfield Stone in pole position, so to speak. I think that one of the other four will have to make a move earlier than expected to avoid the pace-setters nicking the race from a long way out, but these jockeys are no mugs, they'll know what they're doing.
At this point, I've seen enough about Hold The Note and One For The Team and I think they'll be the last two home. I also think that this will be too tough for Acey Milan, even though he did win at Aintree last time out. I just feel the jump from beating a 127-rated horse by a length and a half at Class 3 to tackling a Grade 2 is a bit much.
So, as I like it to be, I have three, who are alphabetically...Kalooki, Next Destination and Southfield Stone.
Kalooki has finished 1121 in his last four outings and won a chase here by 12 lengths over course and distance last time out, albeit at Class 3. He was, however, a runner-up at this level two starts ago at Haydock in a Gr2 hurdle contest.
He is 41121 over obstacles including 411 for jockey Richard Johnson, 121 in fields of 7 or fewer runners, 4121 going left handed and 1 from 1 over fences.
Next Destination looks the class horse on paper and has made the frame in all nine starts to date, including his return to action at Wetherby four weeks ago when shrugging off the effects of a 920-day absence to be a runner-up in a Grade 2 hurdle!
His hurdling record reads 111312 including a win over 3 miles, that win at Grade 2 and a couple at Grade 1. He is 11132 going left handed, but is 0 from 2 here in the UK and has never run on ground quicker than soft.
Southfield Stone is ultra-consistent with 14 top 3 finishes from 15 runs, winning six times. He's 1212 over fences this year and was only beaten by three quarters of a length in a Grade 2 in February and has previously won a Grade 2 hurdle.
He likes quick/good ground, has a win and a runner-up finish from two starts with today's jockey, he's happy in these smaller fields, was third on his only previous effort over fences here at Newbury and has finished 11232 in November.
Any of the three could win this, but I can't back Next Destination at 2/1 with my concerns about this being his chase debut and him needing to recover from the exertions of running so well after such a long lay-off, whilst I think the ground might be too quick for him : it's certainly an unknown variable and I don't like those at 2/1! I think Kalooki might well beat him here if he runs like he did when hosing up here over course and distance last time out on chase debut.
He was well clear that day (12 lengths ahead of a subsequent winner) and although this is a major step up in class, he should come on for the experience and hopefully go well here again at a current price of 11/4, which I think is fair.
And if we're talking about experience, then we have to look at Southfield Stone who I think might just have too much for both of them this time around. The other teo are probably more promising/talented and at 8yrs old, this one has put the miles in. He's a proven jumper, having completed all 15 races he has started and his experience might just see him home. Kalooki's jumping needs to improve here and if the pace charts are right, Southfield Stone will be applying pressure and that might just affect the younger horse.
13/2 looks very fair to me, so I'm siding with Southfield Stone ahead of Kalooki.