Alex Peperell looks ahead to the final big battles of the Flat – and first of the jumps
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!
London Prize (left)