Paul Ferguson likes the look of Tom George’s hope at Newbury
Resident tipster with his fancies for December’s big races
Runner-up at both the Cheltenham Festival and at October’s Showcase Meeting, SINGLEFARMPAYMENT is fancied to finally land his big prize at Newbury on December 2.
Tom George’s seven-year-old made a pleasing start to his chasing career last term and progressed steadily throughout the season, winning with plenty in hand at Cheltenham last December. Brought down when well supported for a valuable novices’ handicap at the same track on trials day, he was beaten a short-head by Un Temps Pour Tout at the festival, form that has been advertised this season by the fifth Go Conquer.
He moved like the best horse in the race on his recent reappearance and, as he seemed to need his first outing last term,it is hoped that he is spot on for this assignment in the Ladbrokes Trophy.
The market is headed by the Willie Mullins-trained Total Recall who bolted up on his debut for the stable in Limerick’s Munster National, form that was franked by the recent success of Alpha des Obeaux, whilst Phil’s Magic (18 lengths third) wasn’t far away at Cheltenham’s November meeting.He races off 18lbs higher at Newbury, but he is completely unexposed as a staying chaser and the eight-year-old warrants plenty of respect.
The other one towards the head of the market is Harry Fry’s American who looks absolutely tailor-made for a race of this nature, or possibly the Welsh National over Christmas. Unbeaten in three starts over the larger obstacles, he gave Rock The Kasbah 6lbs at Uttoxeter when last sighted in March and that rival made a winning reappearance off the same mark at Chepstow during October. He relishes soft ground and hails from an in-form yard – at the time of writing in any case – but I just have a slight reservation about his official rating. Despite that most recent piece of form reading well,I can’t help but feel a mark of 157 is high enough.
On the same card, Nicky Henderson is expected to unleash Charli Parcs in the Gerry Feilden Hurdle, an intermediate handicap that the yard has taken with L’Ami Serge and Lyvius in recent seasons, and going back even further with the high-class Bacchanal.A bloodless winner on his British debut at Kempton last Christmas, he looked in trouble when falling two out in the Adonis Hurdle before finishing sixth in the Triumph.
Given that far-from-ideal festival preparation, it is probably safe to assume he could be better than he showed at Cheltenham and he begins the season on an attractive looking handicap mark.
The same connections are also likely to be represented on the same day by Champion Hurdle winner Buveur d’Air in Newcastle’s Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle.
It doesn’t look like it will be the strongest of tests for Nicky Henderson’s six-year-old – Apple’s Jade (see below) is likely to remain on home soil and Defi du Seuil heads to Ascot the week before – and it will be a huge shock if he is beaten on his seasonal reappearance.
The following day (December 3) Fairyhouse stages a trio of Grade 1s, including the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle in which Apple’s Jade is likely to bid to join the likes of Limestone Lad and Solerina as a multiple winner of the valuable prize. Last year’s heroine made a pleasing winning return in the Lismullen Hurdle recently – gave weight and a beating to a race-fit rival – and being only five, there is every chance she has yet to reach her peak. Gordon Elliott’s likeable mare looks sure to be difficult to beat over this sort of intermediate trip.
The mighty Faugheen also holds an entry in the Hatton’s Grace, but that contest comes just a fortnight after he made a winning return in the Morgiana. Assuming he comes out of that race well – and let’s hope he does – he is likely to be next sighted over Christmas.
In the same colours, I wouldn’t mind seeing Apple’s Jade’s stable-mate Samcro taking his chance in the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle over the minimum trip. A high-class bumper performer last term, the chestnut seems to be on everyone’s lips this autumn and he duly won his maiden hurdle with the minimum of fuss,
beating Mind’s Eye (won recently) by an effortless 15 lengths. While he is a winning pointer and is bred to get much further, the son of Germany is not short of speed and is up to winning at the top level over 2m, in my opinion. He will no doubt have a clutch of possible targets in the coming weeks – the ‘Monksfield’ Novice Hurdle and the Navan Novice Hurdle obvious races over 2m4f – but this would be where I would send him, if he were mine.
Noel Meade’s unbeaten Red Jack is another for any shortlist, despite the fact that he only looked workmanlike in the end when winning a Naas maiden hurdle recently.The ground was bottomless that day and I would be prepared to forgive any youngster on such a surface; it probably blunted this horse’s speed at the business end of the contest.He is another who looked destined for much better things when winning both bumpers last term and he remains an exciting prospect.
The third and final Grade 1 on the card is the Drinmore Novice Chase, in which Death Duty and Footpad are expected to clash.The former has won both starts over fences to date, jumping well when coping with the drop back to 2m2f at Punchestown last time and this intermediate trip on soft ground looks just about ideal.If he is to be a Grade 1 winning novice this season – as he was over hurdles last term – it might well be in the middle of the winter when he gets his favoured ground.
Willie Mullins’ Footpad was a stunning debutant winner at Navan recently ,where he was electric over his fences. Post race, the trainer suggested that he would be campaigned with the Arkle in mind, but the Drinmore was his likely next port of call and there is no trip concerns given that he won in France over 2m3½f and he finished third over 3m at Punchestown back in April.
Visually, he was very impressive on debut and if he jumps similarly he could
just have too much pace for Death Duty, given that he was beaten just a length by Petit Mouchoir in the Irish Champion Hurdle.It should be a cracking match up,if both horses do indeed make the race.
Footpad’s stable-mate Rathvinden also deserves a mention, given that he would have a distinct advantage in terms of experience, having now run in seven chases and won four times since July. Impressive last time, his rider might attempt to put the jumping of the other pair under pressure by pressing on from an early stage.
Finally, with regards to the Drinmore, I can’t not give a mention to Monalee who also created a deep impression on his chase debut at Punchestown recently. That success came just 15 days before this Grade 1 contest so it seems highly unlikely that he will line up – not really Henry de Brome had’s style – but he looks a classy novice and one that would deserve much respect wherever he lines up. The 3m contest at Leopardstown over Christmas is likely to be next for him, however.
The following weekend (Dec 9) Sandown stages the Tingle Creek and, with the recent news that Altior is to miss the contest, it could offer Fox Norton the ideal opportunity to bag another Grade 1 prize. With Douvan’s participation also up in the air, Colin Tizzard’s seven-year-old is very much the one to beat judged on his recent reappearance success in Cheltenham’s Shloer Chase.He won that race a year ago but was then forced to miss the middle part of the season; on soft ground, he is the most likely to capitalise whilst Altior is on the sidelines.
Paul Nicholls’ Haldon Gold Cup winner Politologue is the other leading UK-trained performer that seems sure to be aimed at the Sandown showpiece. The grey travelled supremely well at Exeter and had the race in safe-keeping some way from home, only to idle after the last. The prospect of him attacking the Railway Fences is something to look forward to and, whilst that will stand him in good stead as he goes back up in grade, he will need to step forward once again if he is to trouble Fox Norton, who looked as well as ever on his reappearance.
It’s back to Cheltenham the following weekend for the December meeting, where Finian’s Oscar is expected to return, following his success at the track in the Steel Plate And Sections Novices’ Chase.An indifferent round of jumping on debut at Chepstow was bettered at the November meeting, where he showed a fine turn of foot to outpace Movewiththetimes after the final fence. Though a strongly run race over the minimum trip was mentioned by trainer Colin Tizzard, it seems likely that he will make his third start over the larger obstacles in the 2m5f Ryman Novices’ Chase (16th).
On the same card, look out for Venetia Williams’ Gardefort who caught the eye with the way he travelled on his reappearance at Aintree recently. The eight-year-old moved really well over 2m4f and it could have been the combination of the longer trip and it being his seasonal reappearance. The Raymond Mould Handicap Chase over 2m½f immediately sprung to mind as a likely target for the Grand Annual runner-up, who doesn’t appear to have an issue with handling testing ground. Keep him onside wherever he turns up next.