Weighed In: Dan's the man | Statistical insight and horses to follow

Find out which horses have caught Ben's eye this week
Find out which horses have caught Ben's eye this week

Ben Linfoot looks at the Ladbrokes Trophy trainers' record in staying handicap chases and picks out a couple of eyecatchers from the recent action at Ascot.

Statistical Insight - Skelton rules

We’re heading into big-staying-chase-handicap-every-week territory with one of the flagships of the genre, the Ladbrokes Trophy, taking place at Newbury on Saturday.

This year it doesn’t look a vintage renewal of the race formerly known as the Hennessy, with no sexy second-season chaser heading the betting having won the RSA or something similar.

The RSA horses have swerved the race for one reason or another, the first three home anyway, with Nicky Henderson’s OK Corral, last seen being pulled up in the four-miler, heading the betting.

The lack of a superstar novice does at least give the race an open look, it has a nice punting feel to it, and one thing I’d like to point out is the record of this year’s Ladbrokes Trophy trainers in staying handicap chases, both overall and at this time of year.


Handicap Chases over 2m7f+ since 1997 UK & Ireland: Saturday’s Ladbrokes Trophy trainers only

Table 1
Table 1

Table 2
Table 2


The tables above show data taken from handicap chases run in excess of 2m7f and the record that stands out a mile is that of table-topper Dan Skelton.

He really excels in staying handicap chases from a fair chunk of evidence and when isolating his qualifiers in November and December his record gets even better.

Skelton has only ever had one runner in the Ladbrokes Trophy, but it’s exactly the sort of race he’ll be targeting in the years to come and he has two potential runners at the five-day stage this time around.

Bennys King has several options this weekend and may not turn up in the big one, but the interesting one is TWO TAFFS who is an intriguing contender at around 16/1.

He was a good novice chaser in 2016-17 and was sent off 7/1 for the Close Brothers Handicap at the Cheltenham Festival, where he was hampered on his way to a close-up third.

An easy winner at Ayr after that off a mark of 142, he was sidelined after his only subsequent run over fences, a novice chase at Cheltenham in the October of 2017, with a ‘niggling foot problem’ that kept him off the track for 735 days.

Having had over two years off when he should’ve been in his racing prime, Two Taffs returned at Wetherby on November 2 in the Grade 2 bet365 Hurdle and he ran a belter, finishing a 20/1 third on the tail of Unowhatimeanharry.

"His comeback run was better than we thought,” said Skelton. “I'd done plenty of work with him, but I hadn't been to the well with him.

"He ran a lot better than expected, truth be known."

The question for punters now is whether Two Taffs can come on for that run, second outing after a long absence (and wind operation), as if he does he’s a big player off a mark of 146 in an open renewal.

And after a bit of digging, there is plenty of evidence that Skelton also excels with horses running second time out after a long break, eliminating some of that bounce factor fear.


Dan Skelton 2nd run after long break examples

Table 3
Table 3

With this in mind, Two Taffs will certainly be on the radar when I revisit the Ladbrokes Trophy on Friday for Value Bet, as will plenty of Skelton handicappers in staying chases in the weeks and months ahead.


My Stable Eyecatchers

HIGHEST SUN (Colin Tizzard)

The handicapper took a positive view of the Horse Racing Ireland Chase (one of those novices’ limited handicaps) at Ascot on Saturday with the winner, Pym, bumped up 12lb to a mark of 149.

Trainer Nicky Henderson has won this race twice before in recent years, with Big Hands Harry and Beware The Bear, the latter winning a Newbury novices’ handicap on his next start before being sent off at 9/2 for the four-miler at the Cheltenham Festival.

Pym’s target could rank a bit higher than that if he continues to improve, as 149 is a hefty rating after just two chase starts, and he’s 33/1 generally for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham.

Henderson has the RSA Chase favourite in his yard, as well, thanks to Champ, a horse HIGHEST SUN was third to on his chasing debut at Newbury on November 7.

Colin Tizzard’s strapping horse shaped well there and the step up in trip to three miles looked very much in his favour on Saturday. He was no match for Pym in the closing stages and was beaten three lengths, but he was seven lengths clear of the rest and is worth tracking.

I thought he did incredibly well to get as close as he did considering how keen he was in the early stages, while he jumped to his left slightly, too, losing a bit of ground now and again when he did so.

Now rated 142 after a 6lb rise, he could well enjoy the tempo of a big-field handicap, as well as the cover, and is worth monitoring over the winter with a spring target like that in mind.


SKY PIRATE (Jonjo O'Neill)

SKY PIRATE travelled like the best horse at the weights in the Creativevents Handicap Chase at Ascot on Friday and it could be worth trusting Jonjo O’Neill to find the key to him.

He cruised into contention looking like the winner, trading at 1.58 in-running on Betfair at one point, before finding nothing off the bridle as Flying Angel ground out an eight-length win.

That finishing effort will put some people off him in the future, but if you take the winner out of this, a horse who was well-handicapped on his Grade One-winning novice form, then Sky Pirate would’ve won this extremely easily.

He was 16 lengths clear of the rest, but because he found zilch the assessor has left him alone on a mark of 132, with Flying Angel put up 6lb.

Better ground could be the key, or Jonjo might find something else, but I’m in no doubt he has the talent to win a handicap off his current rating and I’ll be keeping an eye on his entries throughout the season.


Weighed In: My Stable Horses To Follow

LISP made his chasing debut at Warwick last Wednesday and finished third behind two good horses in Torpillo and Mister Fisher.

That’s a tough jumping test for a first go over fences and a couple of mistakes crept into Lisp’s performance. He looks the type to get better with experience and he might run at Plumpton next Monday.

He’s worth keeping an eye on, with handicaps further into the season something he could potentially exploit.

DORKING BOY could run at Taunton on Thursday after his eyecatching effort at Ascot last time out, while MAGIC SAINT could indeed drop in trip at Newbury on Saturday and he’s very much on the radar now back over two miles.


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Our racing expert Ben Linfoot tackles the two handicaps over the Grand National fences at Aintree on Saturday while he has two selections at Sandown as well.

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Simon Holt: Fine bet

Our in-form tipster and leading commentator has two Saturday fancies including an 18/1 chance at Sandown.

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