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Betfred Classic Chase preview

Less rain, lots of wind this week means we might get some decent racing this weekend in Britain! Warwick hosts one of its best meetings of the year, and taking up the challenge of the preview is @tenembassy. For weekly previews and reviews, and a monthly Eyecatchers service from him, send an email to for more details.


Betfred Classic – Warwick 11th January

Hot on the heels of the Welsh National comes another staying chase with good prizemoney, with over 34k to the winner here. Looks like conditions will be stamina sapping, with the course getting another 11mm Wednesday night into Thursday, but it looks set fair from here to Saturday which might well result in that sticky heavy rather than the heavy that we got at Cheltenham last week, where it just constantly rained and horses got through it easily. It’s a race that’s twice been won by Alan King and Paul Nicholls in the last ten years but for various reasons, neither has a runner Saturday. Last years winner Rigadin de Beauchene was the lowest rated at 140 that there’s been for a decade and only once has it gone to the favourite too.

So here’s a preview of Saturday's runners.

Carruthers (11-12, M Bradstock, best odds at time of writing 16-1)
Very popular former Hennessey winner (2011) who showed he was no back number when taking the West Wales National at Ffos Las last February off a 3lb lower mark. Handicapper is being very sensible with him and has no issues with the ground either, but has almost always needed a run and although a decent showing from the front would not surprise, surely a repeat at Ffos Las looks a more likely target, especially if he gets dropped a couple of pounds again after today.

Hey Big Spender (11-8, C Tizzard, 16-1)
Former winner of this race in 2012 off 10lb higher, and another veteran to won this season, taking a decent chase at Newcastle in November (form decent – second and fourth both won previous race and third won last time out) but a laboured effort in the Welsh National, being held up and never getting in it. Seems a bit of a confidence horse, even these days, when his jumping holds up he’s fine but a mistake or two and he lose interest. Has never won after a PU and there are more likely winners.

Master Overseer (11-8, D Pipe, 20-1)
If you believe in sequences then Master Overseer’s 1-PU-1-PU-1-PU in his last six runs will lead you to believe today’s the day. Eats mudpies for breakfast and has won off a long break before but another for whom a share of the front is essential or he can drop the lot. Cheekpieces discarded in favour of a pair of blinkers in an effort to sharpen him up but overall impression is that the handicapper probably has him right where he wants him. Stable also been quiet of late, although a good winner at Leicester in the week might indicate better things are around the corner.

Shotgun Paddy (11-7, E Lavelle, 7-1)
Only had the three chase starts and impressed me in the flesh before his Chepstow victory over Just A Par, where he jumped well and simply ran away from the odds-on favourite in the straight (third in that, Boyfromnowhere, won the Southern National at Fontwell in November, and reopposes today). Didn’t seem to take to the Haydock fences next time (often jumped right) but much better at Lingfield, making the useful Black Thunder do some work for victory. With the promise of more to come over marathon distances and heavy ground unlikely to pose any problems, must go on the shortlist.

Same Difference (11-6, N Twiston-Davies, 20-1)
Made hay last spring with a last gasp victory in the Kim Muir at the Cheltenham Festival off 7lb lower than today (in a first time visor) and followed that up with an excellent second to Quentin Collonges in the Bet365 at Sandown but two runs this term leave a lot to be desired, with mistakes at both Ascot and Newbury costing him any chance. Ground another worry (seems best on good/good to soft) and with stable still struggling in the main, isn’t difficult to pass over.

Vesper Bell (11-4, W Mullins, 6-1)
Only the six chase starts and has already run well twice in big field Irish handicaps, with his best effort coming when trying to give 18lb to Goonyella at Punchestown in April. Fell at the first in the Becher Chase at Aintree but as long as he’s none the worse for that then with ground conditions in his favour he has to be considered. Seems to have limitless stamina and trainer bang in form again (8 winners from last 15 runners at time of writing). Unexposed and more to come, without a doubt, but price reflects this.

Victors Serenade (10-13, A Honeyball, 16-1)
Has a few plus points, namely the ground, which he seems to need, and is unexposed having had only the five chase starts, but stamina a major issue (refused at the last when tried over this trip, never won beyond 3m), trainer form only moderate (some well fancied horses running well below their marks lately) and looks too harshly handicapped after his win at Ffos Las last March.

Noble Legend (10-11, C Bailey, 14-1)
New high mark for him to contend with after victory at Boxing Day at Wetherby (beating perennial runner up Tahiti Pearl) but steadily improving with racing over the last twelve months. This distance a complete unknown, with a well run 2m6f – 3m seemingly his trip. Big plus is the form of the yard though, banging the winners in, and jockey Andrew Thornton riding as well as ever, especially in long distance chases as this. Not completely without hope if he stays.

Any Currency (10-8, M Keighley, 16-1)
Trainer been talking up his chances and interesting he relies on him rather than the more fancied Merlins Wish for this. Seems rejuvenated by the new combination of headgear this season and two excellent efforts over the Cross-Country course would suggest he’s back to something like. However, he’s a dreadfully hard ride (needs stoking along early in his races), has never really excelled on bad ground and could be that the XC course has held his interest, so back on a regular track too, has plenty of questions to answer.

Loch Ba (10-8, Mick Channon, 12-1)
Victory over Welsh National winner Mountainous about this time last year looks all the better now, and two good efforts this winter against improving horses both look solid pieces of form (beat Mountainous again at Bangor when second to Midnight Appeal). Has never tackled a trip this far but has often looked like he might appreciate it (can get outpaced in the final mile of his races before staying on again). Has improved 24lb since Mick Channon got his hands on him, still only eight and might yet have a bit more to come. Not discounted.

Solix (10-7, Ian Williams, 33-1)
It’s only two years since he was trying to give 3lb to Champion Court in the Dipper (got beat 2l) and was rated 150, so it goes without saying he’s well handicapped off 131 if he can recapture some form. Question mark over trip (never tried it, sire hardly an influence for stamina) and well beaten this season (well behind Loch Ba last time). Too many questions to answer but one to bear in mind this spring, possibly when the ground quickens up, as shrewd trainer will place him somewhere.

Boyfromnowhere (10-5, R Curtis, 7-1)
Has 22 lengths to make up on Shotgun Paddy on Chepstow running and had had a run prior to that run, so shouldn’t have failed for fitness, but is 16lb better off here and seemed to improve for the step up in trip next time, staying on strongly over 3 ½ miles to take the Southern National at Fontwell in heavy ground. Tendency to jump right an issue around here but only put up 4lb for the Fontwell win and as an unexposed horse is of interest. Trainer in ordinary form, nothing special.

Emperors Choice (10-5, V Williams, 14-1)
Were it not for the trainers knack of landing big Saturday handicaps you’d probably dismiss this one without hesitiation, given he’s been well beaten by a fair few in the field this season already. Bit disappointing at Fontwell behind Boyfromnowhere, weakening quickly in the closing stages, and another lacklustre effort at Haydock last time, seemingly giving up quickly after mistakes. Coming back down to a winning mark as a result of those efforts, and given trainer in sparkling form, not the biggest shock were he to leave those poor efforts behind.

Safran De Cotte (10-2, H Daly, 16-1)
Remarkably, has been made favourite or joint-fav for 9 of his last 11 runs (winning three of them, once when not favourite) so you can almost expect money again on the day. Disappointing on reappearance at Carlisle in December given he’s gone well fresh in the past, and then was made favourite for the big handicap at Haydock that so many of the runners today took part in, but barely picked a leg up and was one of the first beaten. Possible that something has been ailing him but that’s only speculating, and all in all it looks too much of a leap of faith to assume he will bounce back to form here.

Major Malarkey (10-2, N Twiston-Davies, 16-1)
Dreadfully inconsistent and can be hard work when things aren’t going his way, but was on his best behaviour when sporting a first time visor at Exeter when beating the improved Whistling Senator. That was his first win for three years, and handicapper reacted badly to it, raising him 8lb (looks harsh) and a question as to whether the visor will work a second time remains. Stays well, but pulled up last three occasions he’s met heavy ground, and was tailed off in this race last year.

Royale Knight (10-0, Dr R Newland, 16-1)
Hosed up in the Borders National at Kelso last time, showing hitherto unknown reserves of stamina, but that race not as strong as it looked (effectively a 0-135despite the 0-145 tag) and raised 9lb for it. However, is still unexposed as a marathon chaser and if handling this ground (has won on soft, pulled up on only attempt on heavy) then off a feather weight has a chance for a stable in red hot form (three winners from last four runners). Can be keen so the fact there will be competition for the lead should only help him to settle.

Plenty of these have questions to answer after some poor efforts this season, and it might pay to stick with a pair of improvers from stables in form, namely Shotgun Paddy, who I earmarked for a contest such as this after beating the well-regarded Just A Par at Chepstow. There was no fluke about that effort with the third Boyfromnowhere confirming the form next time, and even with the weight pull I would expect Shotgun Paddy to come out on top again. At the prices the each-way saver is bottom weight Royale Knight. I have reservations about the suitability of the ground but that’s the only reservation, with the race run to suit, possibility of more to come over extreme distances, and trainer could not be in better nick.


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