ROBERT COOPER WRITES

TV man picks his fan­cies for the week­end

The Racing Paper - - Front Page -

SOME­TIMES the bla­tantly ob­vi­ous is not as crys­tal clear as you first thought. Rak­ing au­tumn leaves can of­fer some peace­ful think­ing space, so while gath­er­ing na­ture’s au­tumn de­tri­tus, I pon­dered long and hard over to­day’s Bet­fair Chase.

With only five pos­si­ble win­ners, it should be a piece of cake, shouldn’t it? The five can be whit­tled down to four as CLAN DES OBEAUX surely is up against try­ing to turn round Ain­tree form with both MIGHT BITE and BRIS­TOL DE MAI.

And what about the one time won­der-horse, THISTLE­CRACK, who hasn’t won for nearly two years? Ok, it was the King George when he beat CUE CARD, but he’s got a bit to prove.

I think it’s the bet­ting that’s throw­ing me off bal­ance as surely on Gold Cup form NA­TIVE RIVER should beat MIGHT BITE, who in turn should beat BRIS­TOL DE MAI af­ter get­ting the bet­ter of him twice since the Twis­ton Davies grey won this race last year. The ground will suit MIGHT BITE but surely the bet­ting is too lop-sided in his favour.

This is as near to live news­pa­per tip­ping as you’ll ever get; stream of con­scious­ness in ac­tion. Where were we? Oh, yes, CLAN DES OBEAUX and THISTLE­CRACK are re­jected. BRIS­TOL DE MAI boasts an un­blem­ished three out of three wins at Hay­dock but surely reader(s) he’ll need a del­uge to gal­lop this lot to sub­mis­sion, and ac­cord­ing to the Met Of­fice very lit­tle, if any, rain is ex­pected.

So farewell BRIS­TOL DE MAI; an hour ago he was the se­lec­tion but no longer.

It’s shap­ing up as a Gold Cup re­peat, but can MIGHT BITE turn around a 4½ length deficit?

I think not, so NA­TIVE RIVER [3.00 HAY­DOCK] is my [rea­son­ably] con­fi­dent choice to win the Bet­fair Chase – but the clinch­ing fac­tor is this – and it’s funny how you re­mem­ber lit­tle snip­pets of in­for­ma­tion from months ago when re­peated re­quests from Mrs Cooper for me to get a flu jab have through both ears and yon­der into outer space.

When in the ATR stu­dio prior to the Chel­tenham Fes­ti­val, my col­league Mick Fitzger­ald de­liv­ered this gem: he told view­ers when NA­TIVE RIVER won the Den­man Chase over three miles, on the same day that AL­TIOR won the Game Spirit Chase over two miles, NA­TIVE RIVER com­pleted the fi­nal cir­cuit in a faster time than AL­TIOR. Even in a world sat­u­rated with stats, you will ap­pre­ci­ate that is a race clincher if there ever was one.

It has cer­tainly re­solved my dilemma – I could eas­ily have come to the wrong con­clu­sion but I’m stick­ing with the champ and take NA­TIVE RIVER to repel all raiders.

In­ci­den­tally, I should at this stage in­form Mrs C that I plucked up courage to have the flu in­jec­tion on Thurs­day – she sel­dom reads be­yond the half way point of the column so she’ll be de­lighted to know it’s jab done!

Luck has cer­tainly not been with KALONDRA [1.15 HAY­DOCK] hav­ing failed to com­plete his two most re­cent starts. Last week­end he un­shipped Noel Fe­hily in the Vic­tor Chan­dler Gold Cup when trav­el­ling eas­ily, and the time be­fore Neil Mul­hol­land’s chaser was poised to chal­lenge at Galway, be­fore crash­ing out two from home. There’s no doubt that his jump­ing is a worry but in the main he looks pretty safe.

CAP­TAIN REDBEARD [3.35 HAY­DOCK] was qui­etly fancied to run a big race in the Grand Na­tional, but un­for­tu­nately parted com­pany with his jockey Stu­art Coltherd early on. His form fig­ures at Hay­dock read 31212; he won the Tommy Whit­tle Chase and was run­ner-up in the Grade Two Peter Marsh Chase, so he clearly likes the place. He should be spot-on for a bold show af­ter a sat­is­fac­tory pipe opener over hur­dles at Carlisle ear­lier this month.

There’s also a crack­ing card at As­cot, the fea­ture be­ing the £100,000 Co­ral Hur­dle. It’s a shame that Wil­lie Mullins hasn’t de­clared LAU­RINA but there will be other days.

Along the lines of the Bet­fair Chase, we’re left with a fas­ci­nat­ing re-match be­tween Nicky Hen­der­son’s WE HAVE A DREAM [2.40 AS­COT] and Harry Fry’s IF THE CAP FITS.

The pair filled the places be­hind VER­DANA BLUE at Win­can­ton a fort­night ago. WE HAVE A DREAM started favourite but per­formed like a damp squib; on the other hand there was plenty of prom­ise from IF THE CAP FITS. He won three novice hur­dles last sea­son and looks poised to win in this higher grade.

The form of CHAR­BEL’s [2.05 AS­COT] Chep­stow vic­tory could hardly have worked out any bet­ter – con­ced­ing 12 pounds he beat [by a head] last week­end’s Bet Vic­tor Gold Cup win­ner BARON ALCO.

Kim Bai­ley’s chaser looks back to his best – it was only 18 months ago at Chel­tenham that he headed the mighty AL­TIOR in the Arkle only to come a crop­per two from home.

He also hit the deck be­hind AL­TIOR this year in the Champi­flown on Chase, but at a much ear­lier stage of the race. De­spite those tum­bles, jump­ing doesn’t ap­pear to be a prob­lem; he jumped im­pec­ca­bly at Chep­stow and I know his trainer thinks him well ca­pa­ble of win­ning a few de­cent chases this win­ter – this £70,000 chase would be a good start.

POLITOLOGUE will start a wor­thy favourite but although it’s not a golden high­way to in­stant riches, I’m opt­ing for value with CHAR­BEL.

I’ve checked the pos­si­ble side ef­fects of a flu in­jec­tion; they in­clude nau­sea, sweat­ing and shiv­er­ing (was there any point rolling up my sleeve?), also a sud­den fall in blood pres­sure – all the well-worn signs of a rough day at the races – a cure for this com­mon ail­ment is still baf­fling medics.

“It’s shap­ing up as a Gold Cup re­peat, but can MIGHT BITE turn around a 4½ length deficit? I think not, so it’s NA­TIVE RIVER”

Con­fi­dent choice: If The Cap Fits

ROBERT COOPER

Top stat: Mick Fitzger­ald

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