Left to right: Matt Brocklebank, Ben Linfoot and Andrew Asquith
Left to right: Matt Brocklebank, Ben Linfoot and Andrew Asquith

Weekend Racing: Expert Panel on Shishkin, Constitution Hill, Jonbon and more Saturday fancies


Our expert panel of Ben Linfoot, Andrew Asquith and Matt Brocklebank answer some of the key questions heading into the weekend's racing.


Constitution Hill v Shishkin could be fun… what do you expect to see unfold in the rescheduled Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Sandown?

Ben Linfoot: Well, it would be great to see Shishkin set off after what happened at Ascot last time, though if he does he isn’t expected to be a threat to his better-behaved stablemate who should take this without fuss as he begins his path towards Champion Hurdle number two. It’s great the Fighting Fifth has been saved, we need all the opportunities we can to see Constitution Hill, and while it’ll be one of the more bizarre King George preparations, this could be just what Shishkin needs to tune-up for Kempton. It looks essential viewing.

Matt Brocklebank: I’m not sure fun is the word but the two stablemates are miles clear of the others from a ratings perspective and the whole thing just smacks of a Nicky Henderson benefit to me. A lot will depend on whether Shishkin turns up mentally, and whether Constitution Hill turns up at all seeing as there’s more rain forecast and Henderson won't want to run him through soup ahead of the Christmas Hurdle. You couldn’t back Shishkin with pretend money after his Ascot refusal and I’ll probably watch the race with a view to You Wear It Well having a nice run around before being prepared for the Betfair Hurdle – that’d be my idea of fun anyway.

Andrew Asquith: It’s good to see that Constitution Hill will take his chance following some uncertainty – well, on the Betfair Exchange anyway – as to whether he would or not earlier in the week. As the betting suggests, I expect this to be another straightforward task for Constitution Hill, who has by far the best form in the field, and his stablemate Shishkin does have something to prove following his antics at Ascot and back over hurdles for the first time since winning the Supreme at the Cheltenham Festival over three years ago.

Don't miss the latest from the team on all the hot topics in racing
Don't miss the latest from the team on all the hot topics in racing


Not a huge field but an intriguing race for the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase – is odds-on Jonbon home and hosed?

Ben Linfoot: I wouldn't say home and hosed, although I would be keener to take him on had the bold-jumping Captain Guinness been declared against him. To be to fair to Jonbon, he has amassed an almost flawless CV, losing only two races in his career when second to Constitution Hill and El Fabiolo. That explains his prohibitive odds, but for me he can be a bit flighty in the preliminaries and he just looks like the kind of horse that might get turned over at short odds one day, so perhaps Saturday will be that day? For all that his form says he should win this easily, I might have a pop against him.

Matt Brocklebank: I was really hoping to see Captain Guinness in this spot too so hopefully all is well with him but this now looks Jonbon’s race to lose, as the odds imply. Haddex Des Obeaux is clearly still something of an unknown and Gary Moore thinks he’s a bit of a monster when the mud’s flying but he’ll need a career best – and a clear round – by some way to trouble the hugely talented favourite.

Andrew Asquith: Again, nothing out of the ordinary here, but it will be hard for any of these to lower the colours of Jonbon on the back of his emphatic success at Cheltenham last month. He had the reopposing Edwardstone and Nube Negra well beaten on that occasion and Jonbon looked better than ever in doing so, travelling with plenty of exuberance and well in command in the closing stages. Jonbon won the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase on this card 12 months ago and he sole defeat over fences has came at the hands of El Fabiolo. This should be another straightforward success.


Give us another name to note on the Sandown card?

Ben Linfoot: ARQOOB runs from 2lb out of the weights in the 2m handicap hurdle at 2.25 but it’s no surprise trainer Lucy Wadham isn’t too concerned about that. He loves Sandown, as he showed last time out when winning with plenty to spare, and though he is effectively 7lb higher for this it looks a really good spot for him from the bottom of the weights. Impose Toi looks a horse seriously on the upgrade, and he could be tough to beat, but if there is one in there to give him plenty to think about it could well be Arqoon in receipt of 10lb.

Matt Brocklebank: UNEXPECTED PARTY. He's officially the highest rated of the six runners in the Henry VIII Novices' Chase and looks the wrong price to me. Dropping back to a strongly-run two miles on soft ground looks just what he's after and I do think he's one that shouldn’t be underestimated, especially with Stage Star’s form working out well all over the place this year.

Andrew Asquith: I’m looking forward to seeing PETIT TONNERRE over fences again. Admittedly, he would have been well beaten by JPR One had he stood up on his return and chasing debut in a Grade 2 novice at Cheltenham last month, but Petit Tonnerre was given a considerate introduction and looks a sure-fire improver now. He could still finish only second on that occasion, but you would think he’ll come on a great deal for that run fitness-wise, and you can also argue that the Jonjo O’Neill yard is in better form now. Petit Tonnerre is all over a chaser on looks and I expect him to be more competitive in the Henry VIII.


Who will emerge on top in what promises to be a thorough test in Aintree’s BoyleSports Becher Handicap Chase?

Ben Linfoot: Ashtown Lad certainly deserves his place at the top of the market given he’s just 2lb higher than when winning this race so impressively last year. The ground is likely to be much more testing 12 months on, however, and with that in mind I do like the claims of Nigel Twiston-Davies’ UNDERSUPERVISION, even though he's slightly out of the weights. He looks well handicapped off his mark in the mid-130s on his best form at Doncaster and with that in mind the configuration of Aintree looks set to suit. He bounced back with a good effort at Cheltenham last time, a track that he’s never really liked, and this strong stayer will relish the test of stamina. His trainer has a fine Becher record and if he takes to the fences he could go really well at a big price under Sam Twiston-Davies.

Matt Brocklebank: At the odds, I’ve had UNDERSUPERVISION right at the top of my shortlist since the start of the week as he’s still only seven, has strong form on flat, left-handed tracks and looks the type to improve again for a true test like the Becher. However, Coko Beach standing his ground means Nigel Twiston-Davies’ horse is 2lb out of the weights which is clearly not ideal. I could still see myself backing him if the price is right as Sam T-D looks like getting down to his minimum for the ride and the yard has such a good record in the race.

Andrew Asquith: I was disappointed that Mister Coffey wasn’t declared for the Becher this morning having put him up earlier in the week, and his price was starting to contract on Wednesday afternoon suggesting he would run. Coko Beach is keeping five of them out of the weights, most notably last year’s third, Percussion, so he has it to do on these terms. Ashtown Lad, the winner from last year, has to be of interest, but he has failed to complete on his last two starts, which is a concern. I probably won’t be getting involved financially now, but there was a fair bit to like about HIGHLAND HUNTER’s return from a lay-off on debut for Fergal O’Brien at Kelso in October, and he figures on a handy mark. If he goes the right way from that run, he seems sure to be involved.

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Any what about a tip for Wetherby, Chepstow or anywhere else from Britain and Ireland this weekend?

Ben Linfoot: I’m interested in CHUZZLEWIT for Kevin Ryan in the Boost Your Acca At BetMGM Handicap over seven furlongs at Newcastle on Saturday evening (6.15). The son of Showcasing looked a bright prospect for the season when running a career-best at this track in the Listed Burradon Stakes way back in April, but two poor runs at York after that ensured a gelding operation. He’s interesting back in handicap company off a mark of 90 after the surgery and if the price is right I can see myself taking a chance on him.

Matt Brocklebank: Can I bend the rules a bit here and recommend an early start on Sunday to watch WARM HEART win the Hong Kong Vase...? This is the race the British and Irish tend to do best in over there which makes perfect sense and the Yorkshire Oaks winner is going to love getting back over a mile and a half following her highly creditable second to the classy Inspiral in America. She’s not been over-raced this year and Ryan Moore should have every chance to pop out and lead them all a merry dance from the front having been handed stall one.

Andrew Asquith: There is a bumper all-weather card at Newcastle on Saturday and I’m interested in the claims of AL AMEEN in the six-furlong handicap (19:15). He was well backed to make a winning start for James Fanshawe at Kempton in October and he shaped just as well in defeat at Lingfield last time. He was beaten only by an unexposed three-year-old from the John & Thady Gosden yard on that occasion, but was comfortably on top of the remainder and he remains a horse to be interested in. Al Ameen has run well at Newcastle before, has a good draw in stall 9, and the more galloping nature of this track should see him to good effect.


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