Saturday 8th December 2018
Author: Jordan Yates (EvRacing_)
A super Saturday of action to get stuck into this week with Sandown and Aintree taking centre stage on a day packed full of National Hunt royalty. I’ll kick proceedings off at Aintree and the Becher Chase which is a handicap that’s contested over a distance of 3 miles, 1 furlong and 188 yards. The race is currently headed by last year’s winner Blaklion who was very impressive in said win last year. He hasn’t been seen since being pulled up at Sandown at the back end of last season, he did come into the race last year with a run under his belt but he’s ran sound enough fresh before though, and he’s the right favourite here albeit a tad on the short side at around 4/1. Ballyoptic is the clear second favourite, he enjoyed a fine season last term and also comes here for his first outing this time around. Following him there’s a whole host of horses that make up the betting clustering generally around the 8/1 mark. These include the likes of Present Man, Don Poli, Vieux Lion Rouge, and Ultragold. All capable of rising to the occasion and going well here.
I’ve actually got a big priced fancy for this though, and that comes in the form of the Robert Walford trained WALK IN THE MILL. He doesn’t really fit the bill for your average winner of this race nor has he experienced the unique and difficult nature of this track before. However he often jumps well throughout his races and he’ll be carrying considerably less than some here. He also comes here with a run under his belt following a solid third placed effort at Cheltenham last time, he’s bound to come on for that run too as he did look slightly rusty despite the good finishing position. He’s a big price and i’m going to chance him each way to outrun his odds.
WALK IN THE MILL – (25/1) (E/W)
Becher Chase – (Aintree) (1.30)
1.50 – Henry VIII Novices Chase (Class 1) (Grade 1) (1m 7f)
Over to Sandown for the first bit of Grade 1 action of the day and it’s the Henry VIII Novices Chase. Is this the strongest of Grade 1’s? I’m not sure it is if truth be told. However it features the highly exciting Lalor who heads the betting following a mightily impressive victory at Cheltenham last time out and as a result of that win finds himelf odds on to take this Grade 1 prize. What does he have to beat? Well that’s certainly the question as judging by the betting the bookmakers seem to think the in form Diakali is the chief threat following his slightly fortunate victory at Cheltenham when he was last seen back in October.
Dynamite Dollars and Pacific De Baune certainly look like they more scope for improvement than Diakali in my opinon and both of these horses currently find themselves hovering around the 5/1 mark in the betting. Defi Du Seuil has looked a shadow of his former self in his last few outings and didn’t seem to take all that well to fences either last time, a big step up on current form is needed should he play a part here. Chesterfield opened his account over the larger obstacles the last day at Kempton and is often a consistent performer however the move into Grade 1 company requires a step up on his behalf too.
“Its tough to see Lalor getting beat here judging on the opposition, if he turns up in the same devastating form that he did the last day when hacking up around Cheltenham I find it tough to see what’s going to get near him. Pacific De Baune looks one who’s certainly got more to give for Nicky Henderson and he is probably the each way selection of the race.”
3.00 – Tingle Creek Chase (Class 1) (Grade 1) (1m 7f 119y)
The showpiece race of the day and weekend has got to be this year’s renewal of the Tingle Creek where we have a star studded four runner field. It seems to becoming a common theme doesnt it week after week that we are having these returning champions taking each other on following fantastic renewals of both the Betfair Chase and the Fighting Fifth in previous weeks. This year’s renewal of the Tingle Creek features Champion Chase winner Altior, nine time Grade 1 winner Un De Sceaux, Shloer Chase winner Sceau Royal and Kingmaker winner Saint Calvados. So as small runner fields go, this one’s alright.
Altior, where to start with him? He looked to be in a slight bit of bother in the Champion Chase back at The Festival in March before kicking on the afterburners and powering clear up the hill, I was there that day and to see that live really was something else. His campaign this time around looks geared up to be an attempt to retain his crown at Cheltenham and he starts off here at odds on of around 4/6 as you’d probably expect. There’s just no telling the heights he may well reach. One of my favourite horses in training is the 2016 winner Un De Sceaux. What a horse he is, he was last seen when putting in one of the best performances of his career when winning the Champion Chase at Punchestown when lowering the colours of Douvan and you can never right him off. I did in that race last time and he proved me wrong in emphatic style. Ruby will be in the saddle once again and don’t be at all surprised if a dominant display from the front is once again on show. Sceau Royal returned to the track last month at Cheltenham when winning the Grade 2 Shloer Chase on the Sunday of the November Meeting travelling strongly throughout and jumping impressively. He’s also been a smart sort and Alan King’s charge certainly looks to have a bright career ahead of him over fences. Finally Saint Calvados concludes the field for Harry Whittington, he had the not so straight forward task of taking on Footpad on his reappearance run last month and he rose to the occasion in some style putting in a very impressive round of jumping from the front, Footpad came down at the last but it’s unlikely that he’d of got to Harry Whittington’s raider in what was a taking performance. Another step up is required in this hot affair however it’s certainly not beyond him.
“I’m going to go all Kevin Keegan here and say i’d absolutely love it if Un De Sceaux won this because to be honest I really would, nothing would make me happier this Saturday than seeing him boss this from the front and if turning up in the same form of that Punchestown win there’s every chance he could. My head tells me this will end in an Altior win though, he was last seen when tearing away up the straight here in the Celebration Chase and this race could well set up nicely for him”
Photo Credits: Racing UK. Sporting Life. Getty Images. ITV Racing.