Dunwoody: Brook no argument in Peter Marsh
Richard Dunwoody previews the weekend's action in the hope that racing can beat the wintry weather.
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As the week progresses we could have some more fixture casualties due to the bad weather sweeping the country, but let's just hope Ascot escapes the worst of it so we can all see the exciting Sprinter Sacre strutting his stuff once again.
He's the long odds-on favourite for Saturday's Victor Chandler Chase at the Berkshire track as he continues his preparation towards the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in eight weeks' time.
The fact that one firm has priced up a market without Sprinter Sacre tells you everything you need to know about how they rate the chance of Henderson's superstar this weekend. He's around 1/6 in the main market, while the horse he thumped in the Tingle Creek, Sanctuaire, is the 11/8 jolly in the 'without' market, with last year's winner, Somersby, next best around 13/8.
Having already won twice at Ascot , albeit over hurdles and in a NH Flat race, then the course should pose no issues for the market leader, but the way he jumps his fences I wouldn't be worried about him negotiating his way around any course. I've said it before, but he's one of the best I've seen in this division for a long time and although as we all know nothing is certain in this game even the 4/9 on offer on him winning the Champion Chase could look a big price come March!
Yes, there will be some punters that will be willing to take him on, most notably with Paul Nicholls' Sanctuaire, who bounced back to form in a big way when winning the Desert Orchid Chase over Christmas by 13 lengths. He ran a funny race that day as he looked cooked turning for home after making most of the running, but the way he came again was very encouraging and maybe he just needed that first run in the Tingle Creek in early December. I think he'll give the favourite plenty to think about, as will last year's winner, Somersby, who is rated very closely to the Nicholls horse, but on their official marks they are still 12 and 14lb inferior to Nicky's horse and will both, therefore, need to step up again.
The other big race of the weekend, again weather permitting, is the Peter Marsh Chase up at Haydock. The race has been called off three times since 2000, so it has been a bit vulnerable in recent years - fingers crossed they get it on.
The Sue Smith and Donald McCain yards have done well in the race recently with two wins a-piece, and at this stage have Gansey and Our Mick entered. If you're a believer of following the past trends then with all of the last 10 winners being aged eight or older then you might want to think twice about siding with the well-fancied pair Bold Sir Brian and Katenko, who are both just seven years old.
The last horse to win the race aged seven was Scotton Banks back in 1996, while since the race was first run in 1981 there have been just three winners aged younger than eight. That said, I know both the Venetia Williams (Katenko) and Lucinda Russell (Bold Sir Brian) yards think the world of these horses - the very fact the Russell camp sent their horse as far south to Sandown last time for a decent prize says it all.
The race is also often billed as another Grand National pointer, but we are yet to see a horse take this contest and then land the Aintree marathon in the same season, although the 1995 winner, Earth Summit, did go onto take the National three years later. In fact, the last six winners of this race to go onto run in the Grand National all failed to hit the frame - five even failed to complete!
In terms of weight carried this is more often than not a gruelling affair in desperate conditions so it's no surprise that nine of the last 10 winners carried 11-3 or less, while six of the last 10 had no more10-12 on their backs - something to make a note of when the final declarations appear.
At this stage, for me, Colin Tizzard's Cannington Brook looks the value call. Yes, we'll have to see if he makes the final line-up, but a 6lb rise for a win at the track last time doesn't look too harsh. He'll love the ground, but more importantly he seems to also love the Haydock track - he's won here three times from just four runs and that only defeat came in the Betfair Chase behind the likes of Silviniaco Conti and King George winner, Long Run.
Have a good week
Peter Marsh Chase Trends
10/10 - Ran within the last 6 weeks
10/10 - Won before on ground described as soft or worse
10/10 - Won by a horse aged 8 or older
9/10 - Won at least 3 times over fences previously
9/10 - Ran within the last 31 days
9/10 - Carried 11-3 or less in weight
8/10 - Officially rated 140 or higher
7/10 - Won between 3-5 times over fences previously
7/10 - Won at Haydock (fences) previously
7/10 - Won previously (fences) over at least 3m
6/10 - Went onto finish unplaced in that season's Grand National
6/10 - Winners from outside the top 3 in the market
6/10 - Favourites unplaced
6/10 - Ran at Wetherby last time out
6/10 - Won by a horse aged either 8 or 9 years-old
6/10 - Won by an Irish-bred horse
6/10 - Carried 10-12 or less in weight
5/10 - Finished in the top 3 in their latest race
5/10 - Raced in the Roland Meyrick Chase (Wetherby) last time
4/10 - Winners that went onto run at that season's Cheltenham Festival (no winners)
3/10 - Won over fences at Haydock previously
2/10 - Won by the McCain stable
2/10 - Won by the Sue Smith stable
1/10 - Won their latest race
1/10 - Favourites that won
Average winning SP in the last 10 runnings is 10/1
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