Yet another cracking days racing in store for us tomorrow with the Hennessy at Newbury taking centre stage and The Fighting Fifth at Newcastle providing a tasty appetiser,
Activial was a disappointment today but Top Gamble ran a fine race under top weight to finish a close 3rd and give us a 1/2 point profit on the day. So on to tomorrow...
The Cleeve team
14.05 Newcastle - StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle (Grade 1) (CLASS 1) (4yo+)
It is a shame that this Grade 1 has only attracted seven runners but the runners are of decent quality. Wicklow Brave and Identity Thief have crossed the Irish Sea and represent top connections and have Ruby Walsh and Bryan Cooper up. Wicklow Brave has run well in a number of Grade 1 races but has failed to win apart from a Grade 3 and 7/4 looks plenty short. Identity Thief looked very good winning a Grade 2 at Down Royal last time and if coping with the tough finish at Newcastle will be thereabouts. Irving won his second race of the season last weekend and it was a tough battle so I think he may need a break now.
The horse Irving beat in that tough race was Top Notch, who was having his seasonal debut and wasn’t put under too much pressure when he ran out of gas in the final stages. That race should have put him spot on for this and I am sure that Nicky Henderson would not run him if he was not in tip top shape after last weekend. I would have done him each way but with only two places up for grabs I have gone for the win.
14.25 Newbury - bet365 Long Distance Hurdle (Grade 2) (CLASS 1) (4yo+)
Another disappointing turn out but a good race all the same with Cole Harden, Whisper and Thistlecrack. Cole Harden is the best horse in the race having won the World Hurdle; however his best form has been on good going even though he handles shorter distances on soft. Whisper has never won before late December and will probably need the run tomorrow. The vast majority of his wins have been post New Year.
Thistlecrack was on our list of horses to follow for the season and even though he needs to improve to beat the top two, his performances when stepped up to the distance suggest he will not be far away. It is certainly worth wagering a point and I maintain that he will be a horse to follow this season.
14.40 Newcastle - At The Races Rehearsal Chase Handicap (Listed Race) (CLASS 1) (4yo+)
My top three rated are Virak, Wakanda and Cloudy Too and l expect that Virak and Wakanda will fight out the finish. Cloudy Too is probably past his best and can be discounted here. The main challengers are likely to be Final Assault and The Last Samuri; however I think they have place claims at best.
Virak beat Wakanda last season off level weights and Wakanda meets him on better terms here even taking Harry Cobden’s seven pounds claim into account. I ended up by not being able to split the two as Virak is still running off a decent mark. Wakanda was a winning selection for us first time out and I think he will be even better over further on this demanding course. Rather than going each way on one of them I have backed both to win and will be surprised if we do not collect.
15.00 Newbury - Hennessy Gold Cup Chase (Handicap) (Grade 3) (CLASS 1) (4yo+)
I would have really fancied Coneygree for this race if he had not been withdrawn due to spreading a plate and subsequently having a poor gallop. That means that Saphir du Rheu now has to give weight all round. I think on the likely heavy going that his task is very difficult and he may be pulled up if not looking like winning. Paul Nicholls record in handicaps at this meeting is not great and that is another negative. Bobs Worth has been all the rage in the market since his comeback win; however without Barry Geraghty to assist him and the bounce factor I can’t see him winning. Smad Place performed well last time and jumps slow and steady; however he has been a horse which promises a lot but can fail to deliver in a tough race.
I ended up with two horses; If In Doubt and The Young Master and ended up going for the former as he has more scope to improve and managed to run well at Cheltenham behind Don Poli in a Grade 1 despite it only being his fifth chase start. His jumping is not always fluent, but that is probably down to inexperience and I am sure that Philip Hobbs has schooled him extensively since his last run. Barry Geraghty rides Newbury as well as anyone and I expect him to ease If In Doubt round and make the most of the stone he gets from Saphir du Rheu. If his jumping holds up I do think he will definitely provide us with some profit. He has also won first time out so the long break is not of concern.