1pt win L'Homme Presse in 1.50 Newbury at 14/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair, William Hill)
1pt win Gaelik Coast in 2.25 Newbury at 10/1 (General)
1pt win Slate House in 3.35 Newbury at 20/1 (General)
There’s no doubt Paisley Park is the headline act on day one of Newbury’s Winter Carnival.
He won the Ladbrokes Long Distance Hurdle two years ago and went down fighting behind Thyme Hill 12 months ago but it was hardly a smooth passage in between, or since, those efforts and Emma Lavelle now reaches for first-time cheekpieces in order to reawaken the nine-year-old, who has always looked a prime candidate for such headgear given how he generally hits a flat spot mid-race (wore a visor once in the past without success).
Paisley Park should be sharper physically after a comeback run at Wetherby and he’s 6lb better off with last month’s West Yorkshire Hurdle conqueror Indefatigable, but at this point in his career I’m far from convinced he should be as short as he is in the betting.
The other mare in the race, Paul Nolan’s Pertemps Network Final winner Mrs Milner, is possibly the bet getting weight from everything as she’s still open to loads more improvement and made a decent start to the campaign with a Listed win at Limerick.
I’m slightly put off by her hurdling technique at times, though, and that is going to come under scrutiny like never before if she’s in the thick of the action late on here. She’s also no more than a fair price around 9/2 so I’ll stick to the handicaps on the card when it comes to parting with my cash.
Boothill is unsurprisingly attracting plenty of attention ahead of his chasing debut in the Ladbrokes Daily Odds Boosts Novices’ Handicap Chase and it’s probably going to take a smart performance to beat Harry Fry’s horse, despite him having to run off a mark 1lb higher than if this race were next week.
He ran a perfectly satisfactory third on his seasonal debut in a handicap hurdle at Ascot last month but after runner-up Leoncavallo, and fourth Megan, let the form down rather since, the assessor on Tuesday dropped Boothill to 135 from 136 for future engagements.
That means he’s technically 1lb ‘wrong’ here but I’m more interested in the depth to the race and his relatively skinny price, so I’ll be taking him on first time out over fences in public.
Gary Moore’s Fifty Ball shaped quite well behind Minella Trump at Sandown, while Solo has also had a run now and no doubt his supporters will be keeping a close eye on the Grade Two at 12.40 to see if Nassalam can frank their form from Ascot.
However, at the prices I’m willing to take a chance on another having their first taste of competitive action over fences – namely L’HOMME PRESSE.
Admittedly, he may as well have beaten a bunch of trees when winning by 28 lengths on his UK debut in a weak novice hurdle at Chepstow on April 10, but it was the subsequent handicap debut run at Sandown that really caught the eye as it was a warm enough race and probably came soon enough after the wide-margin win in Wales.
He travelled menacingly towards the head of affairs for much of the contest but kept jumping away to his left and ended up tiring on the uphill finish to end up sixth (reopposing Solo was further back in the field). I suspect he’s much better than the bare form of that effort and the assessor dropping him 2lb looks a bit hasty.
We can assume he’s not too hard to get fit (Chepstow came after 773 days out of action), dropping from two and a half miles back to the minimum looks a wise move and trainer Venetia Williams – whose horses are in good nick generally - has a tidy record (2-9) with chasing debutants at Newbury during the months of November/December.
In fact, the past two ‘qualifiers’ have won so there are enough positives to draw me into a bet at the 14/1 on offer.
One of those Williams-trained Newbury winners was Fanion D’Estruval in the same novices’ handicap chase two years ago and that horse is back at the meeting for a crack at the Get Your Ladbrokes £1 Free Bet Today Handicap Chase.
He’s down 1lb for a running-on fourth in the Old Roan Chase, form which has already worked out well with third Midnight Shadow winning the Paddy Power Gold Cup, and he’s got a pretty obvious chance if able to stay in the hunt a little longer here.
Umbrigado and Morning Vicar are other course winners who look likely to go well too but I’d rather have a bet on 10/1 shot GAELIK COAST for the red-hot team of Donald McCain and Brian Hughes.
He’s one of the most progressive horses in the line-up – if not the most progressive – and would surely be a point or two shorter were he not trained in the north. McCain has never had a brilliant record at Newbury but he seems to be sending out winners all over the place at present and Gaelik Coast is versatile in terms of underfoot conditions, and course configuration.
He at least matched the pick of last year’s form when a shade unlucky to lose out by a head to Whoshotthesheriff at Wetherby in mid-October and stepped up again to win well at Musselburgh from a 3lb higher mark. He’s gone up another 5lb for that but was dossing in front after the last in Scotland and I’d be amazed if they’ve got to the bottom of him yet.
The seven-year-old travels really sweetly for Hughes and should get a decent pace to chase with Colorado Doc and Morning Vicar likely to be gunning it from the off.
SLATE HOUSE looks the obvious one who is potentially over-priced in the concluding Play Ladbrokes 1-2Free On Football Handicap Hurdle as he wouldn’t be the first Colin Tizzard representative to come back to form this season after a spell in the doldrums.
I can forgive him the run when effectively given a bit of an away day against really classy opposition at Wetherby last month and the handicapper dropping him another 3lb to 137 is a bonus on the back of that. He’s thrown in on anything like the pick of his old form and has only had the three starts in total since pulling up when quietly fancied (12/1) for last November's Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham.
The recent pipe-opener was his first run over hurdles since contesting a Grade One novice at Aintree in 2018 and, looking a little closer at his more recent form, the nine-year-old wasn’t at all disgraced when third behind Capeland from a mark of 150 in a handicap chase in January this year.
He's far too well treated to ignore slipping into 0-145 company, especially with the yard back firing on all cylinders again this autumn/winter, and is preferred to Dan Skelton's quirky outsider Shannon Bridge who is possibly one to watch until the headgear returns.
Published at 1400 GMT on 25/11/21
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