ANTE POST

Alex Peperell looks ahead to the fi­nal big bat­tles of the Flat – and first of the jumps

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Alex Peperell looks ahead to the last big bat­tles on the Flat

With the Flat sea­son com­ing to a close there aren’t many big days left be­fore the fo­cus switches back to the Na­tional Hunt scene. Cham­pi­ons Day at As­cot all but sig­nals the end of the Flat cam­paign (but we do have the Racing Post Tro­phy the week­end af­ter) and for many con­nec­tions that’s where all roads will be lead­ing to from here on in. But be­fore that we’ve still got some ex­cit­ing ac­tion, es­pe­cially at New­mar­ket.

CE­SARE­WITCH CAN GO TO EX­CEL­LENT DUAL PUR­POSE PERFORMER LON­DON PRIZE

IanWil­liams has got him­self a very ex­cit­ing horse in Lon­don Prize, hav­ing steadily im­proved through­out last year and re­ally show­ing what he can do from the start of 2017. His sec­ond to Nat­u­ral Scenery on the all-weather at New­cas­tle in Fe­bru­ary was a re­ally good ef­fort, but the next time we saw him was ac­tu­ally over hur­dles in the Im­pe­rial Cup at Sandown in March, which he duly won.A sev­enth-place fin­ish in the Scot­tish Cham­pion Hur­dle fol­lowed that and was by no means a bad per­for­mance.

The next time we saw him on the flat was at Good­wood where he ab­so­lutely hacked up by eight lengths off a mark of 84.The third that day,Stern­rubin who was over 11 lengths be­hind (he has since won a hand­i­cap by nine lengths) is also en­tered in the Ce­sare­witch and would ac­tu­ally be on 2lb worse terms.

Lon­don Prize then landed the Northum- berlandVase off joint top weight but hasn’t been seen since. I think that may have been a wise move by Ian Wil­liams as to not raise his rat­ing any­more. He has a mark of 95 and at present that would mean car­ry­ing a weight of 8st 9lbs,which is def­i­nitely a pos­i­tive as only one horse in the past eight years has car­ried more than 9st to vic­tory in this race.

He’s a strong stayer that goes on any ground and I think he might have been laid out for the race for some time by his trainer.A price of 20/1 looks very ap­peal­ing at this stage and he rates a very se­ri­ous con­tender in this com­pet­i­tive stay­ing hand­i­cap.

BATEEL CAN COME OUT ON TOP IN THE FIL­LIES & MARES

Come the 21st Oc­to­ber, the chances of rel­a­tively soft ground at As­cot is prob­a­bly fairly likely. For Bateel, the softer the bet­ter. She’s six from six with ‘soft’ in the go­ing de­scrip­tion which re­ally is very good,but that doesn’t mean to say she has to have it that way as she has won on good ground, she just han­dles give un­der­foot so well.

She did take her chance in this race last year on gen­uine good ground but didn’t per­form at all and ended up fin­ish­ing last. That was her last run for David Sim­cock be­fore mov­ing over to Fran­cis-Henri Graf-

fard in France. Af­ter fin­ish­ing sec­ond on her de­but for her new han­dler she has since racked up a hat-trick with Group 3 and Group 2 wins pre­ced­ing a win in the Group 1 Prix V er me ille,b eat­ing last year’s Fil­lies & Mares win­ner Jour­ney in good style by 2½ lengths.

Ob­vi­ously if En­able was to turn up here then that would be a huge worry, but with her lin­ing up in the Arc I can’t per­son­ally see her back­ing up just three weeks later in this race af­ter what has been a rel­a­tively busy cam­paign for the daugh­ter of Nathaniel.

Bateel has re­ally come into her own this sea­son for her new trainer and af­ter get­ting that first Group 1 un­der her belt I think she’ll get an­other one on Cham­pi­ons Day, a gen­eral 6/1 looks a very fair price too. I’ll be do­ing the rain dance for her and the softer the ground the bet­ter!

STRADI­VAR­IUS TO CON­FIRM THE FORM WITH BIG ORANGE IN THE LONG DIS­TANCE CUP

The favourite for the Long Dis­tance Cup is un­der­stand­ably Ai­dan O’Brien’s Or­der Of St Ge­orge. How­ever, he can be prone to throw­ing in a be­low stan­dard per­for­mance, as he did in this race last year.He ran a blinder in the Arc last sea­son prior to go­ing to As­cot and there is a de­cent chance that he’ll go to Chan­tilly again this year.He’s short enough in the bet­ting and will have to con­cede a fair bit of weight to Stradi­var­ius.

Big Orange fi­nally won his well de­served Group 1 at Royal As­cot but he couldn’t back that up in the Good­wood Cup when los­ing out to John Gos­den’s son of Sea The Stars. The pair would meet on 5lbs bet­ter terms in favour of Michael Bell’s charge in this con­test, but the com­bi­na­tion of more im­prove­ment likely from the three-year-old and Big Orange un­likely to get his favoured quick ground,I think the form will be franked.

In the St Leger, Stradi­var­ius ran a blinder in third be­hind Capri and Crys­tal Ocean.There were con­cerns be­fore­hand that he wouldn’t have liked the Good to Soft ground,but he proved him­self ver­sa­tile re­gard­ing con­di­tions. It may have been that the drop back a fur­long and a half just caught him out a bit as the front two were just able to quicken slightly bet­ter than him. He stayed on re­ally strongly to the line in the ground which was great to see and he should ap­pre­ci­ate the step back up in trip for this race. If he takes his chance then I can’t imag­ine there be­ing much 7/1 avail­able on the day.

EARLY JUMP SEA­SON THOUGHTS

We’re not far away from the Na­tional Hunt sea­son get­ting into top gear. Last years Gold Cup Siz­ing John hero looks set for a crack at the triple crown, he’s al­ready 2/1 favourite for the Bet­fair Chase. The more in­ter­est­ing race in my eyes is the King Ge­orge at Kemp­ton on Box­ing Day though.

The one I’ll be keep­ing a very close eye on in the mar­ket for the lat­ter race is Might Bite. If Siz­ing John wins the Bet­fair Chase then I can imag­ine he’ll shorten up fur­ther in the King Ge­orge bet­ting which may even make Nicky Hen­der­son’s RSA win­ner even more of an ap­peal­ing price than he is al­ready. He was sen­sa­tional at Kemp­ton last sea­son be­fore com­ing down at the last and hope­fully the race at Christ­mas will be his pri­mary early sea­son tar­get.

At present there is some 5/1 avail­able for him, which to me does look big. Thistle­crack is ahead of him in the mar­ket but as much as I like him, you don’t know how a horse is go­ing to come­back from an in­jury like he’s had.When he got beaten by the ill-fated Many Clouds at Chel­tenham in Jan­uary, it was a gru­elling race and it can be hard to ever make a full re­cov­ery fol­low­ing those kinds of ex­cur­sions.

Even though Might Bite will likely have plenty of com­pe­ti­tion in the King Ge­orge, his blend of speed and stamina will be so hard to beat around Kemp­ton. At this stage that’s the only real ante-post bet I fancy in the Na­tional Hunt world, but I’m sure that it won’t be the only one for very long!

Bateel

Lon­don Prize (left)

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