Great Britain & Ireland Preview: Spot Plays for Saturday
With the Breeders’ Cup in the rear view mirror, it’s mostly about jumps racing for British and Irish bettors. The path inexorably leads toward Cheltenham in March, Aintree in early April, and Punchestown in late April, and there are numerous good races to follow on that path.
This weekend sees Graded jumping races at Cheltenham in England and in Ireland at Naas on Saturday. All will have some impact on the features at the Cheltenham Festival, in particular.
Though flat racing on the British turf takes a back step for the next few months, the all-weather racing continues, and there are a couple of Listed races at Lingfield, where all races are subject to TwinSpires’ Rest of the World Bet Back offer for those that opt in.
With those in mind, let’s have a look at some spot plays.
Cheltenham, Race 1, 7:35 a.m. ET: Prestbury Juvenile Hurdle (G2), 2 1/16 miles, 3yo hurdlers
Not a massively easy one to work out, given that most of these three-year-olds have barely set foot on a racetrack. However, it’s hard to overlook French import #2 Blueking D’Oroux. He has run in black-type hurdle company in France, finishing fourth in a Listed event, before being bought by clients of leading English trainer Paul Nicholls, the man who prepared champions Kauto Star and Denman. He looks a very good prospect for here.
#1 Medyaf has won twice over hurdles, both times fairly comfortably. He does have to give five pounds to his opponents here, but he looks good enough to handle it; don’t overlook #5 Mr Freedom either, as he was travelling on a par with Medyaf at their last start before interference pushed him out and forced him to miss a hurdle.
#10 War Correspondent, a winner at Punchestown last month, and #7 Scriptwriter, who was taking on the best two-year-olds on the flat before winning his hurdling debut Oct. 16, are others to look at for exotics.
- $10 win/$20 show: #2 Blueking D’Oroux ($30)
- $1 trifecta: 1, 2 with 1, 2, 7 with 1, 2, 5, 7, 10 ($12)
Naas, Race 3, 7:55 a.m. ET: Fishery Lane Hurdle (G3), 2 miles, 4yo hurdlers
Just five hurdlers line up here, but there are some very good ones among them. #3 Brazil was good enough to win the Fred Winter (G3) at Cheltenham last year and began his campaign nicely when second to Champ Kiely in the Woodlands House Hotel Novice Hurdle (G3) Oct. 2.
My preference, however, is for #1 Fil Dor; he was clearly the second-best juvenile hurdler last season behind Vauban, filling the second position three times behind that high-quality horse. Without Vauban to contend with, he looks hard to topple.
- $20 win: #1 Fil Dor
Cheltenham, Race 3, 8:45 a.m. ET: Arkle Trophy Trial Chase (G2), 2 miles, novice chasers
A pretty good-looking group of novice chasers take on this race here. A number of them were top-class hurdlers, among them Aintree Hurdle (G1) runner-up #4 Monmiral, Unibet Hurdle (G2) winner #7 Tommy’s Oscar, Cheltenham Festival winner #1 Banbridge, 2019 Triumph Hurdle (G1) winner #5 Pentland Hills, and Grade 1 hurdle placegetter #3 Glory And Fortune.
When in doubt in these races, I tend to lean towards the Irish, and therefore I’m supporting Banbridge. From the Joseph O’Brien stable, he was very impressive winning his steeplechasing debut at Gowran Park Oct. 1, and though two miles could be shorter than he prefers, he looks a good option to me.
- $20 win: #1 Banbridge
Naas, Race 5, 9:05 a.m. ET: Poplar Square Chase (G3), 2 miles, 4yo and up chasers
This features the return of Ireland’s leading two-mile novice chaser of last season, #1 Gentleman De Mee. He won his final three starts last season, including a notable triumph in the Maghull Novices’ Chase (G1) at Aintree over Edwardstone, who had won the Arkle Trophy (G1) in Gentleman De Mee’s absence at Cheltenham.
He will no doubt be hard to beat, but the odds are likely to be short so I’m going to have a go on #2 Coeur Sublime. He was only narrowly beaten in the Barberstown Castle Novice (G1) at Punchestown in April, and as he gets nine pounds at the weights with Gentleman De Mee, he can threaten the favorite at reasonable odds.
- $20 win: #2 Coeur Sublime
Lingfield, Race 6, 9:35 a.m. ET: Golden Rose Stakes (Listed), 6 furlongs, 3-year-olds and up
A very interesting race, featuring some turf sprinters of stakes or high-quality handicap status – most notably #8 Summerghand, winner of the Ayr Gold Cup. The eight-year-old is in some of the best form of his career, following his Ayr victory with a second-place finish in the Bengough Stakes (G3) at Ascot. He’s also run 10 times on all-weather tracks for four victories, so the surface should not be a problem.
To his advantage is the fact he has drawn barrier five. Though turf sprints in Britain are normally on straight tracks, the six-furlong start on the Lingfield Polytrack is more akin to a turning North American track and with a very short run to the first corner, inside draws are ideal.
The biggest danger looks to be Irish visitor #4 Logo Hunter, who finished second to the in-form Manaccan in the Mercury Stakes (G3) on the Dundalk Polytrack Oct. 21. He has a slightly tougher task from gate seven but should still go well. The pair look a good option for an exacta.
- $10 win/$30 show: $8 Summerghand ($40)
- $5 exacta: box 4, 8 ($10)
Lingfield, Race 7, 10:10 a.m. ET: Churchill Stakes (Listed), 1 1/4 miles, 3-year-olds and up
There’s some pretty serious quality here, most notably last year’s Belmont Derby (G1) winner #4 Bolshoi Ballet. He’s having his first start since a disappointing run in the Hong Kong Cup (G1) in December last year, and is unknown on artificial tracks, so you’d need to take him on trust.
#9 Missed The Cut looked like a horse going places when he won the Golden Gate Handicap at Royal Ascot in June, but he hasn’t run since finishing fifth on wet ground in the Prix Guillaume d’Ornano (G2) Aug. 15. Being by Quality Road, there’s a decent chance he’ll handle the Polytrack and he’d be a very good chance if he’s in his Ascot form.
#2 Algiers was a little disappointing last time at Newmarket but before then was a winner at York, and earlier this year won the Jebel Ali Mile (G3) over the testing mile at Jebel Ali in Dubai. Back on the all-weather, I’d include him in exotics, along with last year’s runner-up #6 Harrovian and #5 Forest of Dean.
- $10 win/$30 show: #9 Missed The Cut ($40)
- $1 trifecta: 9 with 2, 4, 5, 6 with 2, 4, 5, 6 ($12)