Nigel’s star duo will make you Twiston shout

The Friday NAP, White Moon, went in for followers of the blog and what an impressive winner he was. Despite drifting to 7/4 before the off, the Tizzard runner jumped and travelled well alongside favourite Dan McGrue throughout before showing his rivals a fair amount of distain in the final furlong, powering away for a six-length win. He’s definitely one for the tracker and could well play a hand in the Neptune or Albert Bartlett come festival time.

Today (Saturday) it’s fair to say for most the attention is on Flat affairs at Ascot, where surely Order of St George is one of the best bets for a while at only a touch of odds on in the first. There is still some quality jumps action to be seen, however, with some big stars on show at Stratford, Ffos Las and Market Rasen.

It’s a particularly big day for Nigel Twiston-Davies with his two biggest stable stars both strutting their stuff. At 3.00 last season’s Gold Cup seventh Bristol De Mai goes back down into handicap company at Stratford. He takes on Paul Nicholls’ Romain De Senam, who is undoubtedly a very well handicapped horse, as he showed at Chepstow last week, but he’s not a Gold Cup horse. He’s been dropped seven pounds since running off 166 in the Denman Chase in February and is now running off a mark just five pounds higher than when bolting up by 22 lengths the last time he ran in handicap company, in the Peter Marsh at Haydock in January. At 9/2 he is surely a cracking bet here, considering you can back him each way.

Then, later in the afternoon The New One runs for the trainer in the Welsh Champion Hurdle over at Ffos Las. The nine-year-old has been a superstar over the years for Twiston-Davies finishing in the first five in the last four Champion Hurdles at Cheltenham and winning multiple Grade 2s. I was in the camp that wanted him to step up to three miles last season, and he may well end up still doing so this time around, but for now he is certainly good enough to win a race like this over two. He’s won first time out every single season he’s raced and with new jockey Zach Baker taking off five pounds, he can continue that run today.

Elsewhere, West Approach brings some very good form from last season over hurdles into his new career as a chaser. He may not be quite as good as Thistlecrack, who runs in the same colours, but as a novice he finished a close third in the Cleeve at Cheltenham in January behind Unowhatimeanharry and should be good enough to make a winning chasing debut at Ffos Las. And over at Market Rasen, Capitaine is another horse making his first start over fences. Paul Nicholls’ runner won the Grade 2 Kennel Gate last term and should make an even better chaser.

Selections:

3.00 Stratford – Bristol De Mai 9/2ew

3.20 Ffos Las – West Approach 13/8

4.00 Market Rasen – Capitaine 4/5

4.25 Ffos Las – The New One 11/4 (NAP)

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Get ready for a crackerjack of a Thursday

A bumper Thursday of jumping action lay ahead, with two big highlights – the hurdling debut of Samcro and a crackerjack Grade 3 featuring Minella Rocco, Outlander and Sub Lieutenant among others. While elsewhere it promises to be a very good day for the Skeltons.

So, let’s start with Punchestown where Samcro is a very warm order in the 2.05. Already advised on these blog pages for the Neptune (as I will keep calling it until forced otherwise), Gordon Elliott’s five-year-old went unbeaten last season in three bumpers, impressing on each occasion, and should have no problems dispatching his rivals today. A clear round is the order of the day and that should be enough before sterner tests to come.

The 2.35 and 3.10 are both handicaps where I fancy one at bigger prices. The first, a 2m hurdle, features Champagne Pat, who can now be backed at 16/1. This is a horse whose form at first glance doesn’t look anything special, but if you look closer he was running in some of the top juvenile hurdles races last season, finishing sixth in the big Grade 2 at the Leopardstown Christmas festival. Nothing else in this field has run in anything like as competitive as that and he’s worth an each way punt.

This is followed by another hurdle contest, this time over half a mile further. Oscars Den for Ted Walsh is the selection off a feather weight and with the in-form Donal McInerney taking off a further seven. This one has already been backed down since I put him up last night and should be primed to run a big race after making his seasonal debut a couple of weeks’ ago. Off the track for three years before his return earlier this year, his form before his injury was top class, finishing second ahead of Vieux Lion Rouge in a Cheltenham novice hurdle back in 2014 when under the care of Tim Vaughan, a race won by the classy Garde La Victoire.

You would have to fancy Death Duty to follow up his debut success the other week over fences at 3.40 (although I really hate his low head carriage) and then we come to that cracking chase over the extended three miles at 4.10. Last season’s Gold Cup runner up, Minella Rocco, gets eight pounds or more from all of his main rivals so should be good enough to win, however he’s never been the most assured of jumpers and has saved his best form for the end of the season the last twice, so it’s certainly a bet fraught with danger. He has to be the selection, none the less, and whatever happens it should be a cracker to watch.

Then at 4.45 King’s Song is the selection for Gordon Elliott. This is a amateur riders race, so if you have someone of the class of Jamie Codd involved it gives you a huge edge. The horse makes his debut for Elliott here after moving across the Irish Sea from David Dennis and I expect it to be a winning one.

At Uttoxeter, Dan Skelton has a great chance of extending his lead at the top of the trainer’s championship. His Cause Toujours actually started favourite for the championship bumper at Cheltenham and despite disappointing in ninth surely has the class to make a winning start over timber today. Then at 3.25 No Hassle Hoff brings some very solid form into the new season, having been placed in three Grade 2s before ending his 2016/17 campaign with a fourth place at Aintree’s Grand National meeting.

He can then bring up a treble with today’s NAP, Get On The Yager, who is very fairly priced at 9/2. He makes his chasing debut here and having won both of his points in Ireland before going to Skelton, should be very much at home over the bigger obstacles. A three-time winner last season, he was last seen in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices Hurdle at Aintree, where although disappointing, his very presence in the race shows you the regard he’s held in.

Selections – 

2.35 Punchestown – Champagne Pat 14/1ew

3.10 Punchestown – Oscars Den 12/1ew

3.15 Carlisle – I Just Know 7/2

3.25 Uttoxeter – No Hassle Hoff 5/4

3.55 Uttoxeter – Get On The Yager 9/2ew (NAP)

4.10 Punchestown – Minella Rocco 7/4

4.45 Punchestown – Kings Song 7/2

4.50 Carlisle – Report to Base 10/3ew

5.00 Uttoxeter – Bambi Du Noyer 6/4

5.25 Carlisle – Mary Eleanor 10/3ew

Treble on Samcro (2.05 Punchestown), Cause Toujours (2.55 Uttoxeter) & Death Duty (3.40 Punchestown)

Duo due for a change of luck at Wetherby and Punchestown 

The Tuesday NAP, Audacious Plan, went in for us at 11/8, making it two on the bounce and I’m hopeful of that run continuing today as racing returns to Punchestown and Wetherby. 

Today’s NAP is Ben Pauling’s Cyrius Moriviere, a hugely talented individual who is due a change of luck over fences. The seven-year-old ran five times over the bigger obstacles last term and only completed once, when probably out of his depth in the Grade 1 Manifesto Novices Chase at Aintree. The trainer has gone on record as saying he opted to go for that race to give the horse’s owners ‘a day out’ and keep his novice status for the start of this campaign. Earlier in the season he was hugely unlucky a couple of times however, in particular at Doncaster in January when the jockey’s saddle slipped two out when he was seemingly booked for victory, six lengths clear. If he can put it all together today he has to have a great chance of finally getting that success, having seven pounds in hand on current favourite Minella Aris. If he does, something like the old Paddy Power at Cheltenham could well be his next target.

Talking of unlucky horses, few have more hard luck stories to tell than Campeador. Gordon Elliott’s five-year-old has fallen the last twice with big pots at his mercy, firstly in the Fred Winter at the 2016 Festival and last time at Fairyhouse in December. If he can stay upright today he can get that deserved success before moving onto better things.

Campeador could be the first of a quickfire double for Elliott, who then runs 13-length Fairyhouse Easter Festival bumper winner Cracking Smart in the 3.10. He should live up to his name in the Gigginstown silks before the owners’ Petit Mouchoir makes his chasing debut an hour later. Last season’s Champion Hurdle third has already been tipped up by me in my big Cheltenham antepost piece (click here to read) and I really strongly advise you take some of the 12s still available on the grey for the Arkle.

Then at 4.45 one of my favourite horses in training makes his return to the track – As De Pique. This fella has been so consistent over the last few years, getting placed more often than not and always at big prices. The 25s on offer when I tipped him up last night have now gone but you can still get 16s and the only course and distance in the field is gauranteed to give you a run for your money.

Selections:

2.35 Punchestown – Campeador 11/8

2.45 Wetherby – Cyrius Moriviere 2/1 (NAP)

3.10 Punchestown – Cracking Smart 10/11

4.10 Punchestown – Petit Mouchoir 4/9

4.45 Punchestown – As De Pique 25/1ew

5.25 Wetherby – Ballyalton 12/1ew NR

Previously advised: Arkle – Petit Mouchoir 14/1 (now best price 12s)

Chepstow reflections and Tuesday selections 

It was a brilliant weekends racing at Chepstow to get the new jumps season properly going and for me there were two horses to take from it who we could well see battling it out for glory come Festival time. One is pretty obvious – Finians Oscar, who despite a sketchy start to his chasing debut really warmed to the task and won as he liked in the end. I know that the race was ruined somewhat by the slip up of Alcala, but I still think we would have seen the same conclusion – the Tizzard horse waltzing home on the snaff. For me it was a very satisfactory first start over fences and he’s definitely the one they all have to beat in the JLT, as long as he stays sound.

The other horse to really impress was Gumball, who even at this early stage looks a bonefide Triumph contender. After his demolition job on debut in this country at Stratford, it was hard to know how good he was as that was a pretty poor affair. However, now we know – he’s smart, very smart. For me, there were real shades of Defi Du Seuil early on in his season last year, in the way his jumping sometimes left a lot to be desired yet he still powered on, showing a real turn of foot. We will probably discover the second, Paul Nicholls’ Malaya, is also a very tidy juvenile but he had no answers to Gumball, who won in the end by eight lengths. It goes without saying that most of the main Triumph protagonists won’t be seen for a while yet, and I’m not usually one to dabble too much in antepost on this particular contest, but the 25/1 currently available could well turn out to be money well invested. How good would it be too, if a grey in the Terry Warner yellow and black was to taste victory, 15 years on from the great Rooster Booster’s Champion Hurdle romp.

Tuesday’s jumping action takes place at Huntingdon and Worcester. Here are my selections, all from the former…

3.50 Cajun Fiddle 11/4

4.20 Soupy Soups 5/1ew

4.50 Audacious Plan 11/8 NAP

5.20 Carlos Du Fruitier 5/4

Antepost: Triumph Hurdle – Gumball 25/1ew

Sunday selections at Chepstow & Cork

1.40 Chepstow – Gumball 11/10

2.15 Chepstow – Elegant Escape 5/1ew

2.40 Cork – Moyross 2/1 (NAP)

2.50 Chepstow – Vision Des Flos 7/2ew

3.25 Chepstow – Potters Cross 14/1ew

3.50 Cork – Tell Us More 14/1ew

4.00 Chepstow – Elgin 7/2ew

4.35 Chepstow – Village Vic 9/2ew

5.10 Chepstow – Deyrann De Carjac 10/1ew

5.30 Cork – Dasmyhoss 9/1ew

More than Just A Thought at Chepstow 

I hope you took heed of my early selections last night, in particular the NAP, Just A Thought which has been hammered from the advised 8/1 into 3/1 as I write this. Of course, today’s Chepstow meeting is the traditional curtain-raiser for the new season and a fine weekend of jumps action lay in wait, the highlight being the debut over fences of a potential superstar in Finians Oscar. 

So, back to today’s NAP. Just A Thought was twice an impressive winner of bumpers last season before ending her campaign finishing third in a hot mares listed contest at Sandown behind Cap Soleil and Petticoat Tails at Sandown. Rebecca Curtis’ charge finished ahead of Oscar Rose that day, a mare that went on to be second in the big grade two at Aintree, and they reoppose today over hurdles. Current favourite is If You Say Run for Paul Nicholls, who won her only bumper here at Chepstow in April. It was an impressive 13-length success but what she beat has to be questioned and I’d much rather take the rock solid credentials of Just A Thought.

I do fancy Nicholls to get one on the board in the opener, however, where he runs Dynamite Dollars, a horse that was a close third in the listed bumper at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. That is good form and you would expect him to improve for an obstacle being from the Nicholls yard. Captain Simon has been made favourite for the Skeltons but I really don’t understand how the bookies have reached that decision as all that one has to show for himself is victory, and only a neck one at that, of a much lower grade bumper at Taunton in April. 

The 3.05 is a non betting race, with Finians Oscar hopefully making a good start over fences, although as previously advised in my Cheltenham antepost blog I would definitely take the 10/1 on offer for the JLT beforehand. Click on the green text to read my assessment of his credentials for the 2m 4f Novice Chase at Cheltenham.

I’m not getting involved in the 3.35 either – a very difficult looking 2m handicap hurdle – but the Silver Trophy that follows I certainly am and the one I like is River Frost. Wholestone is favourite and a worthy one on his third in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival, but I’m afraid the runs of Flying Angel and Ballyoptic for Nigel Twiston-Davies yesterday have put me off. In contrast, Alan King has had a very solid start to the new campaign and his unexposed five-year-old also ran a cracker at Cheltenham, finishing ninth in the Coral Cup (ahead of the likes of Perigrine Run and Thomas Hobson). Before that he was a three-time winner last term and I’ve got a feeling we haven’t seen the best of him yet on his mark of 142.

Meanwhile, 2m 7f handicap chase at 4.45 could go the way of Rock the Kasbah, a horse who loves it at Chepstow, having won there on his last two visits and having never finished out of the first two in his four appearances overall. 

Elsewhere, there are two staying flat races of interest. I gave my Cesarewitch tips earlier this week and with up to eight places available from some generous firms think both Swamp Fox and London Prize are both cracking bets at 18/1 and 25/1. The good to firm ground is a bit of a worry for Swamp Fox but won’t bother London Prize at all, while another one I wanted to put into the mix at a big price who will love it is Oceane, currently available at 50/1. That one goes for Alan King, who also has a cracking chance at York with Coeur De Lion, who just missed out on the big one at Newmarket.

Selections – 

1.55 Chepstow – Dynamite Dollars 3/1

2.30 Chepstow – Just A Thought (NAP) 8/1ew 

3.40 Newmarket – London Prize & Swamp Fox (both previously advised) plus add Oceane 50/1ew

4.10 Chepstow – River Frost 10/1ew

4.45 Chepstow – Rock the Kasbah 7/2ew

5.00 York – Coeur De Lion 11/4