STAR PREVIEW Sat: Sandown and Aintree

2020 Betfair Tingle Creek Chase & Becher Chase
Sandown and Aintree
Live on ITV1 HD and ITV Hub from 1.15pm and Racing TV from 11.45am

It is an absolute joy to have crowds back at British racecourses – and how well behaved they’ve been too – although it is a shame they won’t get a chance to see Altior in the Tingle Creek (2.25) this year, due to the testing conditions at Sandown. That we won’t see Nicky Henderson’s chaser is a disappointment, but based on the finishes yesterday at the Esher venue it looks to be the right call. Hopefully we get to see him before the Festival – and perhaps beyond, this season, as for a horse rising 11, he has had a relatively light chasing career.

In his absence, Politologue ought to be hard to beat going from the front, but there is no value in his revised price; Stablemate Greaneteen, a progressive 6-year-old chaser who ran well in the Grand Annual on his final start last season and then justified favouritism in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter (2m1f, good ground, won off a mark of 151) must have a big shout. Had the ground been anywhere close to decent, then Rouge Vif, who marked himself out as a Champion Chase contender with his wide margin in at Cheltenham in October – if he gets good ground. His remote Arkle third on a testing and sticky surface suggests we won’t see the best of him today. Brewin’upastorm had yet to be asked a question when blundering and unseating four out in the Arkle, having been 2-2 over fences previously, and will have his chance albeit after a dire run at Carlisle in the Intermediate Chase on heavy ground.

The selection – assuming a halfway decent surface – would have been Rouge Vif, who won made a mark of 156 look like he was carrying noting but fresh air when bolting up at Cheltenham on his return, but the ground looks sure to be too soft for him to show his level best. The pick in the race for value purposes may well be Castlegrace Paddy, who relished heavy ground when beating Ornua in the Webster Cup and who showed a fine attitude to get the better of A Plus Tard in the Fortia Chase at Navan; It is not hard to imagine him running a major race.

The Henry VII Novices’ Chase (1.50) looks to be a proper treat, where Allmankind is a worthy favourite after his excellent display at Warwick when he smashed subsequent Newbury winner Zanza by 13 lengths. The ground will be no problem – he destroyed the opposition in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle last season – and he looks a worthy favourite, but he could well face hot opposition for the early lead in the shape of Ga Law, who was so impressive in the Rising Stars Novice Chase. Ga Law – like every contender in the race, all of whom won last time out – can be given a more than fair chance, and perhaps the race profile could suit Hitman, who was so impressive at Ffos Las last time out. Phoenix Way and Tamaroc Du Mathan also couldn’t be discounted.

Last year’s London National (3.00) was declared void last year due to confusion among the remaining riders who raced on when a stop-race flag indicated otherwise, and hopefully things go better this time. Cloudy Glen, an impressive and gutsy winner of the Southern National at Fontwell when Doing Fine was behind, ought to take the beating but he’s 7/4 now and one could give Classic Ben and Crosspark a strong shout at the chances, so maybe that race is best left as well.

The bet on the card could be with a veteran in the December Handicap Hurdle (3.35) – where Mister Coffey is highly respected but surely just setting up the market for each/way plays. Jolly’s Cracked It defied higher marks in what were arguably better races than this at Ascot in 2015 and 2018. He’s not as good now, but he plied his trade in decent company last season and on his return at Aintree, he was travelling smoothly before the extra distance told and with Kevin Brogan now taking 7lbs off and the benefit of a run under his belt, he could be better handicapped as well.

There’s also a top class card at Aintree, where our attention will be focused over the national fences first with the Becher Chase (1.30). As ever, it looks to be a fantastic renewal with so many having a realistic chance the first choice is Ramses De Teillee. The 2018 Welsh National second, he was also runner up in that season’s Haydock Grand National trial and was going swimmingly until making a mistake at the Canal Turn in the 2019 Grand National itself when his reigns snapped and he then had wind surgery before taking two graded novice hurdles earlier this year. He disappointed in the Albert Bartlett but he ran very well in the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil, and he showed the benefit of that when short heading Yala Enki in a Grade 3 at Cheltenham’s November Meeting. That form appears to be very sound and he went around the course more than well enough in the 2019 National; He can take the beating here, and Yala Enki is also worth backing on that form.

20/1 shot Smooth Stepper shaped well on his return and won the Grand National Trial at Haydock the time before, whilst the front three in the market of Le Breuil, Walk In The Mill, and Kimberlite Candy all have very strong claims on their best. Walk In The Mill has won this for the last two years and finished fourth in the Grand National, so would be preferred; going forward, the best National candidate may be Kimberlite Candy, a ten length winner of the Classic Chase last season who was robbed of his chance this year.

If that wasn’t enough, the Many Clouds Chase (2.40) is another belter, with last year’s Gold Cup second Santini taking on the 2018 Gold Cup champion Native River, who won this by a mile last year before taking the Denman chase and missing the rest of the season. Both could be usurped by Frodon, who looked as good as ever when deifying a mark of 169 in a Cheltenham Handicap on his reappearance. A winner around the Mildmay course here, he will be ready to rock and could set a hell of a standard, even with Santini and Native River deserving of huge respect – 9/4 feels big about his chances in relation to the first two.

There are several of interesting contenders in the Grand Sefton (3.15) with persuasive cases made for Might Bite and Diedro Vallis in the Zoom Room which can be found here, but for me the Becher and the Many Clouds Chase has the horses with the appeal.

The Best Odds Guaranteed Fillies’ Juvenile Hurdle (2.05) looks a really interesting contest with Bellatrixsa, Army Of One, and Her Indoors all of interest on debut against favourite Megan.

There’s a belting day’s action on Sunday too – on both sides of the water, and with ITV covering the best of it all – and one has to give a mention to the brilliant renewal of the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase (1.40). Min, Chris’s Dream, Allaho, Samcro, Battleoverdoyen, Melon, Le Richebourg and Tornado Flyer all take each other on in a race to be savoured.

The Peterborough at Huntingdon (2.25) also looks excellent, with Al Dancer, Mister Fisher, Top Notch, Fannion D’Estruval, Dolos, and Nuts Well all taking each other on. On this season’s form, Nuts Well – who has given weight and a beating to Aye Right and Clondaw Castle on his last two starts – looks overpriced at 6/1.

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK Ramses De Teillee 1 pt win in 1.30 Aintree at 7/1 with
BACK Yala Enki 1 pt win in 1.30 Aintree at 9/1 with
BACK Frodon 1 pt win in 2.40 Aintree at 9/4 with
BACK Jolly’s Cracked It 1 pt win in 3.35 Sandown 1 pt at 13/2 with
BACK Nuts Well 1 pt win in 2.25 Huntingdon (Sunday) at 6/1 with
BACK Kimberlite Candy 2021 Grand National, 1 pt each/way at 33/1 with

PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 95.76 points
(Excluding Cheltenham 2021 antepost, Premier League 2020/21 Ante Post, Champions League Ante-post, 2021 Grand National recommended bets 14 Nov 2020, 5 Dec 2020)