Today’s racing always seems like a bit of an ante-climax after the Boxing Day action at Kempton but there are some excellent races covered on Channel 4 from both Chepstow and Newbury. Here are my best bets in each race!
This year’s renewal of the Challow Hurdle has produced a small but select field with Timesremembered (7/2 Stan James) one of the more fancied runners. He was impressive when winning a Grade 2 at Chepstow before another solid run in defeat at Cheltenham behind today's rival, Creepy (15/2 Stan James). He is 7lbs better off for a length beating and the soft ground is more likely to suit him than the Martin Keighley trained runner. Current favourite is Oscar Rock (9/4 BetVictor) who tasted defeat for the first time over hurdles at Newcastle last time when never quite able to reel in Ballyalton. The ground that day was probably quicker than ideal for him, an excuse that certainly can't be levelled at him on this likely bog. Captain Cutter (7/1 bet365) has won a couple of weak races as odds on favourite this season and will need to step up on those efforts here but, on a repeat of the form he showed when beating Kings Palace last December in an Ascot NHF race, he would go very close. Shantou Magic (6/1 BetVictor) has won both starts over hurdles with plenty in hand. He has a little to find with a couple of these here on that form but he has looked to be progressing rapidly. The vote however, goes to KAKI DE LA PREE (13/2 Stan James) who is another who looks to be rapidly improving. Official ratings are hard to gauge in Novice contests when participants have been running against other novices but this Tom Symonds trained horse won a handicap off 127 last time with 20 lengths separating second and third. His form has been over a bit further but he can use that confirmed stamina to his advantage here and turn this into a real slog.
The Mandarin Chase kicks off the Channel 4 coverage at 1.15 from Newbury and is another small field competitive contest. Top weight Howard's Legacy (4/1 bet365) bounced back to form over shorter at Lingfield last time, and if on another going day he is entitled to respect but isn't one for maximum faith. Another who falls into that category is the David Pipe trained, Shaking Hands (9/1 BetVictor). A dour stayer and a lover of heavy ground it very much depends on what side of the stable he has woken up on with his last five races producing two wins and three non-finishes. Oliver Sherwood has his string in good form and Financial Climate (5/1 BetVictor) who went off favourite for a similar race at Fontwell last time represents the stable here. Never quite able to get to the leaders that day, he stayed on well all the way to the line and a return to a stiffer track may well help him. Jaunty Journey (10/1 Betfred) is just a pound higher than when bolting up at Uttoxeter in May. He has run poorly both starts this season but if back to form he shouldn't be the outsider in this field. The vote however goes to DENALI HIGHWAY (3/1 Coral) who ran well on his return at Wetherby. No Planning who won that race has put in a couple of solid place efforts since and Caroline Bailey's six year old looks as if he can improve past this field.
Chepstow's coverage begins at 1.30 with a three mile handicap hurdle where the first, second, fourth and sixth from a C&D event at the start of the month re-oppose. The winner that day, MOORLANDS MIST (3/1 Betfred) has 10lbs extra on his back today but he only led at the last on that occasion and the way he put nine lengths between himself and the runner up Brackloon High by the line was mightily impressive. There doesn't seem to be any reason why he can't beat those rivals again as he looked to finish full of running. The one to possibly oppose him from that race is the Seamus Mullins trained Ugly Bug (14/1 Stan James) at a big price. He got outpaced up the home straight that day and ended up well beaten, however his best form has all been on heavy which he will get again here whilst it was good to soft when beaten last time. Pure Science (6/1 Coral) has run with credit against some good novices of late including Creepy and Timesremembered who go in the Challow. On the back of that Cheltenham run he should have done much better but finished weakly again. I'm not convinced a step up in trip on bottomless ground is going to see him in a better light but if adapting to different conditions he is most likely to trouble the favourite.
The Juvenile Hurdle at 2.00 is another where a chance can be given to the majority of the field. Kentucky Hyden (2/1 Stan James) trotted up in a weak Sandown race on his UK debut but didn't find things as easy when turned over by a 33/1 shot at Cheltenham last time. The ground was a feasible excuse for him then and back on heavy here he should go closer but needs to up his game. It's hard to gauge what Le Rocher (11/2 BetVictor) or Solar Impulse (5/2 Betfred) are capable of on their French form. The former ran ok in a Grade 1 over there last time while the latter was massively impressive when encountering heavy ground at Auteuil in June. Violet Dancer (10/3 BetVictor) is unbeaten in two starts over hurdles but it's hard to know exactly what he has achieved beating weak fields. He pulled hard at Sandown on his latest start which would be a worry here with the ground putting more emphasis on stamina. CHOCALA (NON-RUNNER) is the only one of the principals not to have won over hurdles but he loved deep ground on the level and his debut 3rd behind Triumph Hurdle favourite Calipto at Newbury makes him the pick.
The Welsh National looks it's usual difficult self with a whole host of horses who can be given a chance. Jim Dreaper brings over the well fancied Goonyella (8/1 Coral) who is all about stamina. The weather has had a huge part to play in his journey over and if none the worse for a stuttering trip he is of interest for a canny yard. Highland Lodge (10/1 Betfred) has been targeting this race for a while and finished a game 4th in the Hennessy last time with Merry King (10/1 BetVictor) behind in 5th. Both had a hard race that day however and whether they can both produce that same level of form again just a month down the line is debatable. Teaforthree (16/1 Coral) was runner up in this race last year and should go well again as can Well Refreshed (8/1 Betfred) who is another who relishes extreme distances and going. Tidal Bay (10/1 BetVictor) would have to put in a monumental effort to win this off top weight rising 13 but the feeling is that conditions here are perfect for him with the likes of Highland Lodge, Ace High and Knock A Hand all likely to get on with things there should be a decent pace for him to run at. Tour Des Champs (20/1 BetVictor) shaped like an out and out stayer at Cheltenham last time but will need to improve to win this from out of the handicap. A tentative pick then, goes to GOULANES (20/1 Coral) who looked a young chaser with a bright future in staying contests when winning the Towton at Wetherby and ran a solid 6th in the Sun Alliance at the Festival. He didn't run very well on ground too quick for him on his seasonal debut but the addition of headgear here is very interesting and may put him back on the right track.
The final race on Channel 4 sees the progressive GET IT ON (13/2 Stan James) looking to run up a hat trick for Evan Williams. He looks a much stronger horse this season and has bolted up on both starts. A ten pound rise in the weights looks perfectly fair on his latest effort and he is taken to continue his winning partnership with Conor Ring and notch up another Chepstow success. Tranquil Sea (12/1 BetVictor) would be very interesting if able to show anything like his old form for his new stable but just a few days from his twelfth birthday that has to be doubtful. Green Belt Elite (20/1 Betfred) is another who would be thrown in on his old form, now 8lbs below his latest winning mark with the very talented youngster Callum Whillans in the plate taking a further 5lbs off. He certainly has underfoot conditions to suit and a market check is required to see what is expected. Renard (6/1 Stan James) is the first string for Venetia Williams following a recent C&D success and is still on a winnable mark on his old form. Coverholder (7/1 Coral) has been in great form in the North for Sue Smith of late and makes the long trip down as the sole stable representative at the meeting. This does look considerably harder though and a bigger danger to the selection may be Mail De Bievre (7/1 Ladbrokes) who was highly tried when first coming to these shores. He was thrown straight in against Silviniaco Conti at Newbury before taking on Sprinter Sacre at the Festival. This may prove much more suitable for him on ground he handles well whilst a mark of 140 looks fair enough on his form.
Channel 4 tips –
1.15 Newbury – DENALI HIGHWAY (WIN) (3/1 Coral)
1.30 Chepstow – MOORLANDS MIST (WIN) (3/1 Betfred)
1.45 Newbury – KAKI DE LA PREE (WIN) (13/2 Stan James)
2.00 Chepstow – CHOCALA (WIN) (NON-RUNNER)
2.35 Chepstow – GOULANES (WIN) (20/1 Coral)
3.10 Chepstow – GET IT ON (WIN) (13/2 Stan James)
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