Thursday, 12 April 2012

Topham Chase preview

More from aspiring sports journalist Calum Madell, who has his own website, TheYoungRacegoer and can be followed on Twitter @calummadell.

The Topham Chase looks as tough as usual. The handicapper seems really stretched in this with bottom weight coming from 10lb out of the handicap but that hasn't stopped a number of past winners coming from absolutely anywhere in the handicap.

I've not known a race like this where you can almost split the field in two, possibly even three of classy horses rated from 153 to 138, horses from 130 to 127 and the rest that are out of the handicap. Usually you can discount the ones out of the handicap but in a race like this where a number have run well from out of the handicap, you really can't.

I will in terms of previewing, split the races into the three categories. You have 10 horses at the high end of the weights, led by TARTAK who when I saw the original entries stuck out like a sore thumb to me. He had a wind operation in the summer and that was supposed to have a significant effect on him, apparently he was showing a lot at home. But it hasn't really worked out for one reason or another with a number of tame efforts. However on his first run for Tim Vaughan since leaving Tom George, he showed improved form with a good 5th behind Salut Flo in the Byrne Group Plate at Cheltenham. Horses who run well in thay have typically done well in this and he has already shown good form, albeit not over these fences, in the past. He was 4th in the Melling last year which was his last good effort before last time out. Off 153 I can certainly see him being competitive if taking to these fences and it seems Tim Vaughan is keen on his chances. Top weights usually find it tough in these handicaps but two have been palced in this in the past few years and I can definitely see him going well.

Triangular is certainly the least exposed in the field and the one that looks the best handicapped by far. Obviously in this type of race that certainly doesn't make him a certainty, though 8/1 seems a fair price. The form of his Newbury win hasn't really worked out and it was clear that he improved for three miles though and so the step down to 2m5f may not be ideal. He is a solid favourite though and should get involved.

I've backed Chance Du Roy a few times this year and he has served me really well. I'm not sure if he really gets further but his running style suggests he does so in that way he's a bit of an enigma. He looked like he was going to be tailed off at one point at Haydock last time out but found the rail and rallied to win comfortably in the end. I'm not sure this is the right kind of test for him here and although he is a possible, his new mark of 148 could also prevent him from winning.

Off 145 Little Josh is a fascinating runner. He is now 1lb than when winning the Paddy Power Gold Cup in 2011 and he's been running better than his placings have suggested, most especially in the Argento when he travelled beautifully. After two grade 1 efforts he comes here for by far his easiest task so far since that famous win and for that reason alone he must be involved if taking to the fences.

A mention must go out to Always Waining who bids to win his third Topham in a row. Again Aintree has seemed to be his target all season as he's not shown much all season. He won his first off 128 and last year's off 133 and he's up a further 5lb again this season. A bold bid is still likely, though it's interesting connections have opted for this after thinking of going for the big one this year.

The ground may be too quick for Apt Approach meanwhile Fistral Beach who admittedly was hampered last year, was still beaten out of sight without that and is higher in the weights.

It's very tight in the middle range of the handicap and typically the winner comes out of this range. Frankie Figg must go well for Paul Nicholls who does quite well in this. He is one who relishes these fences. He won the Grand Sefton off this mark for Howard Johnson and he must go on the shortlist with Ruby on board too for good measure.

Irish raider Gonebeyondrecall is another who should come into calculations. He was fourth last year, beaten 20 lengths by Always Waining but is 5lb this year and 10lb better at the weights. Plus with the experience on his back now, he could get much closer.

Aimigayle has seemed to have his problems lately but is clearly talented in these races. He was 2nd in the Byrne Group in 2011 but hasn't been seen much since. However he did run well behind Triangular last time and that could bring him on.

Fabalu is on a good mark for shrewd connections who know just how to win at this meeting. He looks to have improved for better ground with a win and 2nd in his past two starts. The only worry is that they were both in small handicaps and this is a much more different test.

In terms of horses out of the handicap, some such as DOUGLAS JULIAN are only 1lb out and that shouldn't hurt his causes. He has had 11 starts over fences but either seems to run badly or win. He has five victories to his name, the last at Ayr just a month ago. He fits well into the trends and Sue Smith is having a superb time lately. His form figures at 2m4f and 2m5f read a highly impressive 1114911 while chase runs at other distances read u87p so with the stable flying and the lightest of weights to go on, I really can see him going close.

I have to say there is not much else to shout out below him. Nicky Henderson has a rare runner in Bai Zhu but he needs to show some improved form before being a betting proposition. The rest I can't see either getting round or I can't see challenging. Giorgio Quercus also runs for Henderson but his mark seems to flatter him and he has the fences to prove. He won a poor race at Haydock two starts ago and was never able to challenge off his mark in the Byrne Group last time out.

Verdict
So many must go in with a shout and the race can definitely be split into three categories of horse. You have your class acts, your closely bunched middle of the range handicappers and your ones out of the handicap. Right at the top though I do like the chances of TARTAK. This will be his 2nd run for Tim Vaughan since leaving Tom George and he always comes to best around this time and ran on really well in the Byrne Group Plate for 5th last time. Little Josh if handling the fences is really well handicapped, now being off the same mark he won the Paddy Power on. Chance Du Roy has a squeak while Always Waining could easily win his third Topham in a row. Frankie Figg and Gonebeyondrecall looks well handicapped and fit in the group where the majority of winners have come from on trends. Aimygayle and Fabalu are two others who can get involved, especially the former who has had troubles and is coming back to form. He ran 3rd behind Triangular over three miles last time though and he goes in with a big shout again. He looks the least exposed of the field but improvement came last time from the step up in trip and he goes back down here again. From just out of the weights, I'm really keen on DOUGLAS JULIAN for the in form Sue Smith yard. His record at this trip is fantastic and he clearly is in great heart. Off the minimum weight, he can go really close if handling the fences, which I feel he will. He usually travels well and that is all important in this.

Advice
Tartak 1.5pts e/w 20/1 Generally
Douglas Julian 1.5pts e/w 25/1 Generally

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