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Newbury preview - Sportingbet Handicap Chase

Closing out the day's racing at Newbury, and the Scoop6 which has rolled to a total prize pool around £1.25 million, is a tricky handicap chase. Best call in an expert with so much money on the line - Matt Bisogno, @mattbisogno, from GeeGeez has kindly shared his wisdom on this one. Read more on his website...

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3.40 SPORTINGBET HANDICAP CHASE (FOR THE JIM JOEL MEMORIAL TROPHY) (CLASS 2)

And the lucky last is upon us. As trappy as you’d expect, there are fifteen scheduled to start, adding further salt to what may be punters’ weeping wounds as there will be but three places on which to recoup invested funds. We’re racing over the extended two miles this time and it’s going to be soft underfoot.

Recent history has a score card of Nicholls 3, Hendo 2, Venetia 2. Although ‘The Chemist’ swerves the race this time, the Denizen of Ditcheat and Lady Venetia are represented by Ulck du Lin and Renard respectively. Both are of immediate interest.

The former is dropping back in trip after palpably not staying last time. He tried this trip before, albeit fading up Sandown’s stiff uphill finish, and this track looks likely to give him a better chance of lasting to the lollipop. He’s very much the young man of the party at just four, and has a commensurately light weight to carry.

Ulck du Lin is bound to get stronger over time, and has had a good rest since that last effort. I’d think he’ll be thereabouts.

Renard made hay this time last year, starting from a very low base, and then paid for it as the handicapper showed no mercy with a rise from 109 to 144. His last win was off 135, and he’s only four pounds higher here under optimal conditions – potential class question aside – and might be expected to give it a ‘right good go’.

But… I have a niggling reservation about his ability to compete in a big field handicap. In previous British races of a dozen or more runners, he’s got form of R45PP. Not for me on that basis.

Gus Macrae is the likely favourite, and that’s fair enough. After all, he has won three of his last four, including a Listed handicap chase last time out. Trip, track and turf look fine too, and Patrick Corbett – aboard for the last two wins – claims his big ten pound allowance, bringing the horse down from a nicely weighted 11-03 to a very nicely weighted 10-07.

The fact that Gus seems to doss a little when he gets to the front means he doesn’t win by far (five wins by an average of 3.4 lengths), which in turn means it’s tough for the handicapper to fully assess the merit of his ability.

In short, he ticks a lot of boxes and the 4/1 available as I write is at least fair, and perhaps even mildly generous, in my opinion.

David Pipe won this in 2009 with Consigliere and my old mate turns up again here. He’s starting to get expensive to follow, and it’s a mug’s methodology in any case, but I can’t desert him just yet. The case for the defence is robust enough: flat track bully, seventeen furlongs on soft ground optimal, Class 2 his level. But he’s probably still too high in the weights – four pounds more than his last win – and I’m sure the Pipes will let us know, via a quick plummet in the odds, when his day is due.

I backed Consigliere the last day at Cheltenham and I backed Takeroc in the same race. This lad left the Paul Nicholls yard in May for 24,000 guineas, and has done nothing in two starts for Chris Gordon. But it may be too early to give up on him, and a soft ground extended two miles with some pace up front might be the key.

He’s back to his last winning mark and has form to win this as recently as three starts ago. 33/1 reflects that recency bias again.

Of the rest, most want further or faster, and are working their handicap marks down for the big Christmas/Festival prizes (but I didn’t just say that). But one other with close to ideal circumstances is Oh Crick. A winner of the Grand Annual and the equivalent handicap chase at the Aintree Festival back in 2009, he’s mostly paid for that big spring since, with just the one win – over seventeen soft furlongs in February this year – from nineteen races since.

With so few having obvious chances, Oh Crick could nick some place money at least.
Selection: Gus Macrae
Best each way: Oh Crick
Outsider with a squeak: Takeroc

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