ROBERT COOPER WRITES
TV man picks his fancies for the weekend
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
Top stat: Mick Fitzgerald