(Free tips 2016: +75 points ; 2017 18/185, +79.5; 2018, 9/85,24p, +70.5, Members Festival Tips: +152)
Geordie Des Champs – 1 point win – 9/1 (gen) UP (ran well to a point and then flattened out, thought my improve for step up but has ran as if hasn’t quite seen that out)
Relentless Dreamer – 1 point win – 14/1 (gen) 3rd.. has run his race, no complaints there. Not good enough on the day. Taking on a Skelton horse clearly didn’t work! He has done it well in the end. I wasn’t sure as to the level of his form, and thought something may improve past him for these conditions but I’ve got that wrong and he’s clearly at the top of his game. He’s relished the extra yardage here.
I was lucky enough to find the winner of this race last year at 12s and with any luck I can do the same this time around. It has been a few weeks since I looked at a 3m+ handicap chase and it’s always been the case that it’s quieter on that front at this time of year. Let’s crack on…
Geordie Des Champs… I have gone double handed with Rebecca Curtis runners and maybe i’m all misty eyed still after tipping (on the free posts) and backing her 40/1 winner of the Scottish National. She knows how to train a staying chaser and given her decimated string (for now) you’d like to think she will be very clever with what targets she picks out, making sure they are primed for the big day. With £42k in the prize fun today, this is a race worth winning. Anyway, this one is the only one in the race to my eye that is really in the ‘could be anything’ category over fences, but also with some chase form to his name already. I was intrigued to seem him over 26f on decent ground and there was just enough juice in his price. He does seem best fresh, given that he’s 3/5,4p after breaks of 60+ days, and surely this has been the plan since Sandown. He ran well there, his jumping warming up as the race progressed, and he pinged the last few. He travelled strongly that day but just lacked a change of gears over that trip, and having watched it back, I think he was always having to do too much just to keep tabs on the leaders. Eventually this took it’s toll but it was still a promising run. I think he will appreciate the better ground here and he does have a touch of class, having chased home Rather Be in a G3 handicap hurdle at Aintree last year. Going LH over fences is a question, but it’s more of an unknown and i’m happy to pay to find out. Hopefully his jumping is on point from the off, as I don’t think he will be far away if it is. He was the one horse in this race that I thought could improve for conditions and have a bit in hand. Last year’s winner had a similar profile and given how many old warriors line up, I wanted one at the other end of the spectrum.
Relentless Dreamer… I tipped this one LTO when running with credit in the big end of season showpiece at Sandown. That was a decent race, given how unexposed the front two were, and the field was well spread out come the death. The ground went against this one on the day as he is much better on a sound surface. In that context I thought he ran very well I think that’s probably the best piece of recent handicap chase form on offer here. In the weeks before Sandown he’d returned to some sort of form. This is a class drop/weaker opposition than his last two races and like his stablemate I thought 26f on good/firm ground may see another step forward. He is unexposed over fences in these conditions I think and could be well handicapped still. There is also plenty of pace on paper that he can track and it isn’t impossible plenty of these fall in a hole and he can just outstay them all. I thought he was a few points too big and looked most interesting of the outsiders in this. With any luck both of these can get a handy position just off the pace, and won’t have any excuses. Time will tell!
Of the rest… Winter Lion and Good Man Vinnie were high up on my list…Winter Lion is unexposed in conditions but has to prove his class and his stamina, although I suspect both will be just fine given how he has run over 25f. But, I just thought he felt about the right price. 7s didn’t seem overly generous in such a competitive race on paper but he arrives fit and in form, and going the right way as a chaser, so I won’t fall off my seat if he wins. I looked at Good Man Vinnie but decided I didn’t think he would be good enough. However, he is a CD winner who is fit and in form, and that can count for plenty. Of the bigger priced ones he’s the one that would annoy me the most were he to go in. In general I was happy to leave most of the older horses, aged 10+, and if one beats me then fair enough. Stella Notion looked interesting but I had a stamina niggle in a test like this. Henllan Harri was a beaten fourth in this race last year from the same mark, and I wasn’t sure why he should improve on that this time. But, he’s in form, races on the pace and generally jumps well. He may give it a good go. Virgilio needs to step forward again from LTO and I wasn’t convinced he would. But clearly if I think Winter Lion may go close, in theory he shouldn’t be far away, if he can transfer his love of Aintree to here. It’s possible I haven’t mentioned the winner, which would be rather shoddy, but there we go. If younger legs don’t take this, it does become a rather open race to my eyes, and if one of the old timers does it, I can still cheer them home.
GL with any bets,