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Betfair Chase + Handicap Hurdle preview

The winter tipsters are out in full force this weekend, I nearly forgot I'd locked in TheYoungRacegoer Calum Madell, @calummadell, for some previews. Does he agree the other guest tipsters?

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The Betfair Chase

Cannington Brook
A Mudlark who has made steady progress over the years in this discipline, with both victories coming over this course and distance on similar ground. Both though came in much lesser contests than this. Last three runs have all been in good races where he was beaten convincingly both times. Started the season with a good pipe opener at Ascot when getting into contention until getting hampered badly three out. Conditions are ideal but his rating of 145 is nearly three stone below the top rated in the field.

Long Run
2011 Gold Cup winner who slightly went off the boil last season despite some good efforts. Outdone by the great Kauto Star last year after coming off the bridle early but got closer to that rival in the King George. However was unconvincing at Newbury in the Denman after that. Only one pace when third in the Gold Cup last time, finishing just behind The Giant Bolster. Jumping wasn’t up to scratch that day and is very prone to hitting a few quite hard in every race, even though he rarely falls. Went well on this sort of ground in France and sets the standard even though he has a little to prove after that Gold Cup effort.

Silviniaco Conti
One of the up and coming chasers on the block for the all conquering Nicholls yard. Progressing well of late with bar a poor run at Ascot, a second to Grand Crus in the Feltham but then wins in the Mildmay at Aintree and on his seasonal reappearance in the Charlie Hall. The latter was by far the most taking of those as he comfortably beat Wayward Prince and a number of other seasonal chasers. Jumps very well for one so inexperienced though he is unproven on ground like this and it would have to be a worry. This will also be his toughest task to date though he clearly has significant potential (rated 168 now). Could be anything but the race may not suit.

The Giant Bolster
Had a lot of jumping problems early on but a considerable schooling and natural improvement over time clicked into place in a big way at the start of this year as he hacked up off 145 in a Grade 3 handicap at Cheltenham. Put behind a poor effort behind Long Run at Newbury when running a career best in the Gold Cup, looking the likely winner before being outstayed by Synchronised, Long run just in behind. That was his 11th chasing start and he's certainly starting to get the hang of things now. Rated 164 but has the potential to improve further this season, along with his underrated trainer who is reportedly training his string harder than ever and the results are there for all to see. Hard to know whether he will go in this ground but a big danger if he does seeing as he can also front run in what may be a tactical affair.

Wayward Prince
Progressive Novice in 2011 but totally lost his form last season when with Ian Williams, so much that he was rated just 142 going into the Charlie Hall. Had regularly had problems of coming off the bridle very early but joined Hilary Parrott (also the owner) this season and started the season with a huge run in the Charlie Hall. was no match for the winner Silviniaco Conti but he travelled by far the better than the rest and was good value for where he finished. Ground is okay and has seemed to have turned the corner but this is still a huge ask.

Weird Al
Fragile type who won the Charlie Hall in 2011 and was only two lengths behind Long Run in this last year. Seems very hard to train though and a number of setbacks didn't help as he pulled up in the Gold Cup and then falling four out in the Grand National. Seems best fresh so should be primed for this again and has just as much ability as all of these on his day. Still extremely lightly raced for his age but that just highlights his problems and he is a risky proposition but a big run cannot be discounted though he hasn't faced ground this soft since his earlier days.

Verdict
A fascinating renewal of the Betfair Chase on pretty heavy ground where despite Long Run having a little to prove after being unimpressive at the back end of last year, Nicky Henderson's charge certainly sets the standard. He was no match for the brilliant Kauto Star in this last year when hitting a number of fences and coming off the bridle early but he always stays on so well for pressure and has never fallen. That means you would either need him to run well below form or not jump well as all his rivals need to improve a good bit to beat him on merit if he bounces back to form. The most progressive types are Silviniaco Conti and THE GIANT BOLSTER. The former was most impressive when beating Wayward Prince last time in the Charlie Hall though the worry is whether he goes in this sort of ground for one so young. He may not be one who can slog it out and that's a worry for backers. The latter meanwhile ran a career best last time when finishing second in the Gold Cup but he hasn't been given anywhere near enough credit for that and he's open to a lot of improvement. He gets the value verdict for the main reason that if he was trained by a bigger name he'd be half the price. The fragile Weird Al ran Long Run to within two lengths last year but the ground is much softer and that may not suit either, while Cannington Brook has his ideal conditions but should be outclassed in this sort of grade.

Advice - The Giant Bolster 2pts win @6/1 generally

2:30 Betfair. Don´t Settle For Less "Fixed Brush" Handicap Hurdle

I’ve had SIVOLA DE SIVOLA down for this race ever since his eyecatching run at Cheltenham last time. He wasn’t unbacked that day but was one of the first off the bridle only to run on well for fourth. I’ve always been convinced he doesn’t enjoy Cheltenham and his record there now is 75404 while away from Cheltenham it reads 82111. Off 132 he could be extremely well handicapped as he is well regarded by connections, who took a big handicap last week with Olofi and are in great form. Cheekpieces are on which should suit and may prevent him from coming off the bridle so early. A real slog of 3 miles on bottomless ground looks absolutely ideal for him and I expect him to run a huge race.

The competitive nature of this means the price isn’t too bad. David Pipe has won this in the last two years with Grand Crus and Dynaste and he runs Katkeau off bottom weight while Knight Pass has come in for support. The former makes his British debut so could be anything. His French form looks smart and he will be at home on this sort of ground but you have to ask why Tom Scudamore opts for the latter who went off the boil later in the year after showing promise. Whether this test will suit him is a real question mark though there must be improvement in him and he’s not ruled out.

Saphir River comes back over hurdles after winning over fences at Uttoxeter last time and he should run a good race, just like he has in other hurdle races of a similar type. The ground and break is a worry for Barrafundle who is having his first run since the 2011 Festival and I think he may struggle. Holywell has potential but must improve for this extra trip as his form so far is not ground breaking while American Spin won a good handicap here in May and is only 4lb so if he goes on the ground he may be the e/w value. He looked a little held latest so may not be as well handicapped as most. A number of these will have other aims, mainly over fences, such as the Sue Smith two Lackamon and Mr Moonshine. Both have run well over hurdles before though and should be okay on the ground but a place is probably the best you can ask for.

Meanwhile Grand National runner up Sunnyhillboy will surely have that race in mind again and all his hurdle runs have ever really seen him in his best light. Katenko is another French import having his debut over here so a market check is needed for an the in-form yard of Venetia Williams while Trustan Times also has an e/w squeak though more may be needed in a competitive race off top weight. Son Of Flicka took the Coral Cup at the Festival but has disappointed since after being well beaten last timer and falling in between. This will more or likely not be his seasonal aim and he prefers a sound surface. Arctic Court and Los Nadis would both be surprise winners for Jim Goldie and Mad Moose is still 2lb higher over hurdles though he did run well latest and should stay on okay.

Advice - Sivola De Sivola 5pts win @11/2 generally

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