As I have mentioned countless times before this is one of my favourite meetings of the year; sadly, and for the first time in years, I won’t be trackside. Some spectators will be there though which is great news and if you are one of the lucky ones good luck to you! I will have a bit of a sulk Saturday morning no doubt but all being well the usual suspects Mr Wilson, Mr Griffiths and Mr O’Leary, depending on his behaviour and a pass for the love of his life, will be back in 2021 for our annual pre-Christmas shindig. For 2020 it will have to be a 'virtual lads days' at least Mr Wilson and Mr O'Leary won't have to rush to beat their respective beloveds curfews!The going is Chase: soft-good to soft in places; hurdle: heavy-soft in places. I of course was already on Altior for the Grade One Tingle Creek Chase at 10-11 ante-post NRNB but sadly he doesn't run with the ground too soft. Henderson told the PA news agency: “It is with a heavy heart we have decided that Altior is not going to run. We simply don’t want to bottom him again given what happened last year." There is still plenty to enjoy.
They get underway at 12.05 with the 2m Betfair Free Bet On The 1.50 Introductory Juvenile Hurdle and it’s a real puzzle with next to no hurdle form to go on, there is a bit from across the Channel though and it is hard to ignore. Paros makes stable debut for Nicky Hendeson having won his sole start which was a race at Dieppe, France and if simply for those two facts the chestnut gelding is considered. He runs in the Middleham Park Racing colours and the blurb on their website about the horse is encouraging: ‘He sauntered home in his only race to date at Dieppe by a comfortable 2 lengths, jumping for fun and sprinting clear in the straight to win his 3yo hurdle. His current connections have been telling Peter and Toby Jones (Bloodstock agents) since January, that he is a future Champion Hurdle horse, well before the horse even set foot on a racecourse.’ The horse he beat at Dieppe, Jeu De Paume, has since placed in Listed and Grade Three company. Henderson might have a potential star on his hands with this one. Reportedly he has told the owners ‘He looks just like the type you would want for the Triumph!’ I have to be on today at the 8-11 overnight as I have been boring people about this horse all week, possibly down to a drop of lockdown fever, I am also on at 20-1 ante-post for the Triumph! All being well he'll win hard held today and onwards to the Festival we go.
At 12.40 we have the 2m My Oddsboost On Betfair "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle. I was hopeful Adrimel a track and trip winner last month in the Esher Maiden Hurdle might line-up but he doesn't. That leaves the race at the mercy of Grand Mogul who moved to Nicky Henderson from Gordon Elliott and has been running over further here in the UK. Very interesting dropping back down in trip he is long odds-on at 2-7 but looks solid to say the least!
Its two-mile again at 1.15 for the Read Paul Nicholls On Betting.Betfair Novices' Handicap Hurdle. Another race in which a number I was considering don't run! In the end the beast with the burden of the Triple G cash is Chasamax at 100-30 overnight. His recent third at Cheltenham has been franked by the second and the eighth winning on their next starts and a small rise in the weights shouldn't prove to much of an anchor. He is still a maiden after six starts for Nicky Henderson but it is hoped he will have too much pace for Fifty Ball, who is feared, dropping back in distance after winning over 2m4f at Ascot.
The first of the Grade One action is at 1.50 for the 1m7½f Planteur At Chapel Stud Henry VIII Novices' Chase. This has been won by some fair types down the years, including of course Altior. The entire field arrives in good form and this could be a cracker. Allmankind was very impressive winning at Warwick on Chase debut and the second that day has won a fair handicap since. A Grade One winning Hurdler he looks to have a future over the bigger obstacles but might play second fiddle here. Hitman won what turned into a race of attrition at Ffos Las on the soft on his UK debut – three of the five didn’t finish – and he nearly took a tumble two out! It was a strong pace throughout on the going and he can be forgiven for a tired mistake late on when out on his own; his jumping was good for the rest of the race. Nicholls looks to have another of those French imports on his hands and as they are likely to go a fair pace in this on rain softened ground the four-year-old gelding is the one for me in this. I have the 5-2 BOG this morning.
The big race the Grade One Tingle Creek is off at 2.25. With Altior not here some of the gloss has been taken off the race. Politologue becomes the obvious pick for me now, and I have the 5-4. I would expect to see the grey dominate from the off and he has every chance of leading every yard with Altior staying at home.
At 3.00 we have the marathon 3m5f Betfair Exchange Back And Lay London National Handicap Chase. Another race with a number of the entries not here. Crosspark went well in the Veterans' Handicap Chase over three-mile here last time and has plenty of form over extreme distances. He appears in good form, last season having been a little disappointing. The old boy should be staying on when the others cry enough and with this likely to be a real slog he is the pick at BOG 5-1. Cloudy Glen is feared.
The lucky last at 3.35 sees us back on the two-mile hurdle track for the Listed Betfair Exchange December Handicap Hurdle. Solo is an interesting entry bearing in mind some of the races he has been aimed at. Paul Nicholls four-year-old has a little to prove for the time being and is best watched. Mister Coffey really caught the eye winning here over track and trip a month ago. He came up the outside two-out cruising and put the race to bed in a matter of strides despite a slight mistake at the fence. I think he may have a fair bit in the tank yet and could still be ahead of the handicapper. He is the pick at 7-4 which I took late last night with Solo feared if bouncing back to form.Be lucky