Great Britain Preview: Spot Plays Nov. 26
The British jumps racing season hots up on Saturday in a serious way. Two of the most exciting hurdlers in Britain – both from the same stable – square off in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, while one of Britain’s richest handicap steeplechases takes place at Newbury.
Some quality horses and some exciting racing will be on display. Here are some spot play suggestions for the big races.
Newcastle, Race 5, 9:10 a.m. ET: Fighting Fifth Hurdle (G1), 2 miles, open hurdlers
Leading trainer Nicky Henderson wanted to start #1 Constitution Hill, his superstar novice hurdler from last season, at Ascot last week, but withdrew the horse when the track came up too firm. He decided the best alternative to start a campaign aimed at the Champion Hurdle (G1) at Cheltenham was in this race at Newcastle – even though it meant a clash with high-quality stablemate #5 Epatante, who races under different ownership.
Epatante won the Champion Hurdle in 2020 but has since found herself in the shadow of an even better mare in Honeysuckle, finishing second in the race last year. But Constitution Hill emerged as a potentially stronger challenger to Honeysuckle when winning the Supreme Novices Hurdle (G1) at Cheltenham by 22 lengths, and he will be strongly favored to win here.
Epatante dead-heated in this last year with #2 Not So Sleepy, while #3 Tommy’s Oscar is another quality hurdler. But it’s hard to go past Constitution Hill, and exotics are probably the best option.
- $4 trifecta: 1 with 5 with all
Newbury, Race 5, 9:30 a.m. ET: Gerry Feilden (Premier Handicap), 2 miles, open hurdlers
Only eight horses paid up for this premier hurdle handicap, but it looks a very even affair. The best-performed horse is #1 First Street, who finished second to the highly-regarded State Man in the County Hurdle (G3) at Cheltenham. He found Jonbon too good in the Aintree Top Novices’ Hurdle (G1) but this is easier company, though he is conceding weight all round.
Henderson, who trains First Street, has another strong contender in #2 Theatre Glory. She won three hurdle races for novice mares last season and improved throughout her first campaign. Don’t be surprised if she’s improved again over summer.
The horse that could test the Henderson pair is #5 Pikar. He performed respectably when beaten by Jonbon at Haydock in January, and returned in style with an easy victory at Chepstow Oct. 25. With 149 pounds on his back – 19 pounds less than First Street – he can make a serious challenge. But I’m prepared to stick to First Street.
- $10 win/$30 show: #1 First Street
Newbury, Race 6, 10:05 a.m. ET: Newbury Gold Cup Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) 3 1/4 miles, open chasers
With more than £250,000 ($303,000) in purse money, this is one of the richest handicap jumps races in Britain, and as always it’s attracted a very good and deep field, with 16 runners going to the post. The field is even enough that the favorites in some UK markets were as high as 7-1 a couple of days before the event.
Two horses that figured prominently in this last year are back again: #2 Fiddlerontheroof, a close second, and #9 Remastered, who was challenging for the lead when he fell four fences from home. Both have taken the unusual path of using hurdle races as preps for this event, but both ran well and they look to have great chances. Remastered, with a 13-pound pull in the weights, may be the better prospect.
A lot of people will be supporting #7 Corach Rambler, winner of the Ultima Handicap Chase at Cheltenham last season. He was OK when resuming at Carlisle, finishing fifth, but the 2 1/2-mile trip was too short and he should be better here. #11 Gericault Roque, second to Corach Rambler at Cheltenham, also has prospects.
#3 Threeunderthrufive is in open class this year after running well as a novice, winning at Grade 2 level before finding L’Homme Presse too tough in the Brown Advisory Chase (G1) at Cheltenham. He resumed with a nice third in the West Yorkshire Hurdle (G2) and should enjoy the return to big fences.
Irish visitor #5 Busselton remains in good form and can’t be ignored, nor can another last-start winner in #8 Le Milos. But I’m going to give Remastered the chance to make up for his fall last year by winning in 2022.
- $10 win/$20 show: #9 Remastered
- $1 trifecta: 7, 9 with 2, 7, 9 with 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11
Newcastle, Race 7, 10:25 a.m. ET: Rehearsal Chase (Premier Handicap), 3 miles, open chasers
While the big money is on the line at Newbury, there’s a decent handicap chase in Newcastle as well in the form of the Rehearsal Chase. Like the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, this looks like it can fall to another horse that missed last week due to heavy ground.
#1 L’Homme Presse was the most exciting novice staying steeplechaser in Britain last year, scoring a decisive victory in the three-mile Brown Advisory Chase at Cheltenham. He was a little disappointing at his season-ending chase at Aintree, but he’d already had a busy season and should be refreshed after his summer break.
He faces some handy opposition, not the least of which is the fast-improving #9 Into Overdrive. He has now won his last four races over big fences, the latest a Premier Handicap at Wetherby Oct. 28. This is his toughest test to date, but with a 26-pound pull in the weights, he must have a strong chance.
#3 Happygolucky is another interesting runner; he hasn’t raced since winning a Grade 3 handicap chase at Aintree in April 2021. The market will give a good indication of his readiness, but I find it hard to have him against the likes of L’Homme Presse and Into Overdrive.
- $10 win/$30 show: #9 Into Overdrive
- $2 trifecta: 1, 9 with 1, 9 with all