Paul Jacobs tips today:
This handicap chase, as regular readers know, is right up my punting street. Trying to find an edge for us players is a challenge but if we do locate one it can pay off in handsome style as we saw last week. When I first looked at this 15-runner event I thought that there was plenty of pace on here from the get go and that this could turn into more of stamina test than the extended two and three quarter mile test would normally advocate. The top weight and my back-up selection FALCO BLITZ takes a drop in grade and trip here and has been given a lovely chance by the assessor running off a mark of 135. He has to be settled in rear off a pace otherwise he can be keen and the key to his chance under the superb Conor McNamara is getting into a nice rhythm and just popping away. That achieved, his stamina will come into play on the last half circuit.
He is a saver though behind the likeable FARCEUR DE LARGE who looks like he could really take off this season after a promising first season over fences which included an impressive three length success on his final start last season at Fairyhouse when he readily saw off Flash de Touzaine by three lengths. On his seasonal debut he was behind that very same horse to the tune of nine and a quarter lengths on 5lbs worse terms. But being quite a gross horse he would have needed that run and I expect a big step forward here.
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This looks a fascinating handicap hurdle with several of the nine runners open to significant improvement and a couple of them back down to a winnable handicap mark. John Betjeman falls into the latter category having plied his trade off marks around 115 last term, but with Fergus Gillard taking 3lbs off here, he finds himself set to race off 108. He has the added bonus of arriving here tight fit having run four times since September 26th (last time out three weeks ago). That last run was better than his finishing position suggests as he he led at a steady pace (better with a lead) and only backed out when outpaced between the last two flights. He is respected along with top weight Chanceux and fully 8lbs lower than for his final start last term. But in a competitive event I am rather sweet on the claims of the Jane Williams’ runner MOORLAND RAMBLER who finished ahead of John Betjeman last time out despite looking in need of the experience and indeed the run from a fitness point of view. This will be only his sixth career start under rules, fifth hurdle race, and his stable are in pretty good form to boot.
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There is a lovely shape to this three mile handicap chase and I have my eye on several of these later on in the season. For example, Didero Vallis needs some help from the handicapper and ideally a return to shorter than a stiff three miles ideal. With Freddie Gringall taking 7lbs off, Sizing Cusimano is very fairly treated and has a good record fresh, while the lightly raced Upton Road is a fascinating contender if he retains the majority of his old ability for his very able trainer. But with his horses in such good form I didn’t want to look any further than the Nigel Twiston Davies’ trained charge.
Two from nine over fences, the last of which came off a mark of 119 (runs off 122 here), THE NEWEST ONE, this stoutly bred chaser had a lovely run first time out at Cheltenham at the Showcase meeting when taking a nice blow after running fifth of the 20 runners in the amateur riders handicap chase. I thought that he was given a lovely ride by James Turner that day, creeping into the contest form mid way down the far side before fitness became an issue and he weakened from before the second last, eased, having also lost a shoe in running.
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The big question with all of the Pertemps Qualifiers has to be whether the need to qualify without spoiling a handicap mark is of more importance to connections than actually trying to win a race with the first place prize money just about edging into five figures? Those higher up the weights come into the foremr category and light weights the latter, generally speaking. Reverting to hurdles is an interesting move for the Grand National sixth Longhouse Poet and I suspect that he will be kept to the smaller obstacles until the big day at Aintree in April to protect which will be slightly below the 155 mark he was afforded in the big race
Shewearsitwell had a nice starter for 10 at Galway in September, but three miles is an experiment, while Gordon Elliott’s team of Floueur, the very lightly raced Jaycean and Coventry are all interesting entries.
However, in a typically wide open contest of its kind, I would rather take a chance on TAKARENGO a charge that needs to garner a penalty to get near to getting into the final field. For a horse that is fully 7lbs out of the weights and has a timber record of 1-16 the omens don’t at first glance look good, but there are reasons to support this six-year-old gelding. Firstly, he is thoroughly unexposed over this trip which should suit admirably, has run really well in some top flat handicaps this last flat season and I can see his shrewd trainer having eyed this prize as a long term aim on the road to Cheltenham. True, he will need to win about three races to line up in March, but that could well be the plan and winning from out of the weights here will see him get a massive hike in the weights which seems like a plan and I like his chance here.
Paul Jacobs tips today:
*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change.
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