Thursday’s cards are especially sparse but I’m on course in Stratford today so that’ll be the main focus for selections. Hopefully there’s no spooky 100/1 outsiders bolting up this Halloween.
The second race on the card in Stratford is a 2 mile 5 furlong beginners’ chase. Couple of well recognisable faces in the field here with LISNAGAR OSCAR and Black Op squaring off.
This is a really tight affair between the two. Both were heavyweights over hurdles and contested high class races. Both featured in the Cheltenham Festival, with Lisnagar Oscar tackling the Albert Bartlett and Black Op going for the Stayer’s Hurdle. The former finished 5th in his 3 mile hurdle race whereas the latter was 12th in his. It’s quite hard to split the two on paper until you start cutting into the nitty gritty stuff between them.
First dissecting Black Op. He started to have a spin over fences last season. He debuted over fences at Exeter back in December. He finished behind 2 recognisable names that day in JLT winner Defi Du Seuil and RSA winner Topofthegame. On paper it’s not bad form but he was sent off joint favourite and was soundly beaten by his two rivals. He came out again New Year’s Day in the Dipper Novices’ Chase and bumped into Defi Du Seuil again, finishing 3rd behind the JLT winner and winner Lostintranslation. This was enough for his chase career to be scrapped. The word “disaster” was thrown around and he was promptly sent back to hurdles. 3rd in the Cleeve hurdle, then nowhere in the Stayer’s Hurdle and finally soundly beaten in the Select Hurdle at Sandown. He was winless last season. Experimented with trips and obstacles and nothing seemed to click.
Lisnagar Oscar on the other hand made an encouraging chase debut 20 days ago. He probably would’ve won that encounter but he got in really tight to the last when his rival put in a big leap. He rallied back on the run in and was denied by a neck. A clean jump at the last and he’d have opened his account over fences at the first time of asking. The form of that race has already had a boost with Truckers Lodge coming out and winning 2 days ago.
With fitness on his side and already looking a solid chaser Lisnagar Oscar gets the nod over a close rival. It’ll be tight between the two of them, if the selection can keep his jumping together for the whole race he’ll be difficult to beat.
A 2 mile 2.5 furlong selling Hurdle is up next on the card. There’s a few interlocking lines of form to dig through here. Mainly concerning the top 2 in the betting, BALLYELLIS and Skeaping.
Another low odds favourite but just another one I’m struggling to see beaten. The quality of this race is worse than poor. Skeaping, Ballyellis and Bossiney Bay are the only runners of note. The first two mentioned have 3 pieces of interlocking form. Ballyellis winning 2 out of the 3 and Skeaping winning the other. A swing in the weights in Ballyellis’ favour for this running makes him most appealing. Losing to Skeaping by a short head last time over 16 furlongs at Fakenham our selection was carrying 1lb more than his rival. This time Skeaping carries 4lbs more. The trip of 2 miles was probably too sharp for the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained 6 year old and a kick up to a course and distance he’s won at looks sure to suit.
Skeaping is about to be turned out for the 3rd time in 13 days. Big ask of a national hunt horse and the amount of runs is sure to catch up with him. The other runner of note is Bossiney Bay. A winner of a class 4 maiden his form has tailed off badly since. Seeing him carry such a low weight makes him of some interest here. Ballyellis was on a hat-trick before bumping into Skeaping last time. On a surface he copes with, a trip he prefers and a swing in the weights with a close cut rival this short price favourite is likely to go in again.
Moving along the card to the 2 mile 3.5 furlong handicap chase. The market is topped by 2 who put in monster performances last season over fences. Timoteo won his first 2 chase runs by a combined 20 lengths. These impressive wins were over 2 miles and on good to soft ground. He likes a bit of cut in the turf but has flopped before on heavy. He’s also flopped over 2.5 miles before which is enough to make me look elsewhere, especially as he’s up 17lbs as a chaser and has never won off the back of a break.
Instead I’m giving my support to BENNYS KING. A switch to the Skelton yard seemed to draw improvement out of him and he won his first 2 starts for his new yard. Last seen bolting up at Market Rasen by 12 lengths on soft ground. He was clear 5 lengths 4 out and kept on well to assert his victory. We know this one goes fresh as he won off a 415 day break when he joined his new yard. He’s had another long lay off but if he’s still in the same form he was last year he’s going to take some real beating. Up a total of 15lbs for his trouble if a long lay off has brought him on even more physically as an 8 year old he could have improved more. He handles the juice in the ground better than his rival and only has to give him 1lb.
The Skelton’s nabbed this race last year with top weight Cobra De Mai, they know how to get one ready for these type of handicaps. The relatively unexposed Benny’s King can take the race for them for the second year running, most likely at the expense of Timoteo. There’s a hard pace on that the selection will just sit off of until it begins to collapse. The distance and hard pace might just stretch Timoteo too much.
The penultimate race on the card is a 2m and half a furlong novice hurdle. Current favourite is Alnadam. A winner of a point to point last year he was picked up for £130,000 and is stabled with the Skeltons. Big connections for a PTP recruit to be associated with and he needs keeping an eye on. Not being seen competitively for 543 days is interesting though. It’s a long lay off for a horse and he might be lacking his competitive edge.
I’m keen to take this one on with 2nd favourite SHESHOON SONNY. A winner of a 2 mile bumper on soft ground, he’s one with a bit of form to latch onto. The form hasn’t had the best of confirmations yet as most of the runners have yet to turn out again since but I’m quite taken with the bumper win. You can only beat what’s in front of you and Sheshoon Sonny did it well. Cruising into the lead on the bridle 2 out, being shaken up saw him start to take a grip of the race. The button was pressed in the last furlong he asserted his victory and showed he still had some more left in the tank to draw clear by 3.5 lengths under hands and heels. Being able to handle some rain in the ground and still have another gear makes this one look really appealing in a weak looking novice event.
There’s no real pace on here. It’ll more likely be a crawl around which quickens into a sprint late on. Sheshoon Sonny has shown the devastating turn of foot to put that kind of race to bed. Most likely at the expense of Alnadam and The Raven’s Return.