2.05pm Newbury Tips & Betting Preview 2017

Ten year olds are the youngest entries in this race meaning plenty of form to work on and a decision to be made over who is still holding their abilities and who is sadly going downhill with age. Three and a quarter miles give or take a pace or two will take some getting if the going is as soft as seems possible looking at the latest weather forecasts, so stamina will very much come in to play and the early punters seem to think those conditions will best suit Harry Topper (9/2). Kim Bailey’s ten-year-old gelding has won over close to this trip and also at this track, ticking two important boxes, and on going from good to soft all the way up to heavy as well. His earlier form was top class and includes a twenty-five length defeat of Al Ferof at Newbury but that was back in 2014 and seems a lifetime ago. Lightly raced since with just the five starts, he has had his issues and only completed in two of them having pulled up in the other three, but put up his best effort in a while last time when fourth to Perfect Candidate at Exeter, just five and a quarter lengths off the winner, and as that was only his second run of the season there may well be more to come, though as his form figures show, backing him clearly comes with the obvious risks.

With the value about Harry Topper a thing of the past, the one to be on seems to be David Pipe’ trained Shotavodka (8/1 Each Way)  who sits nearer the bottom of the weights off a rating of 128, two pounds lower than when he finished seventh of twelve at Exeter last time out. He has won off a rating as high as 141 in the past (at Haydock back in 2014) but hasn’t scored since March 2016, a run of six races with two third places the best of them behind Bennys King at Uttoxeter in December last year. With the Pipe yard doing a bit better with a 16% strike rate in the last fourteen days, it would be interesting to see where the early money emanates from that has seen his odds shrink quite dramatically in recent days and off his new and perhaps generous mark he looks a major player here who should prove hard to keep out of the frame at the very least.

O’Faolain’s Boy (5/1) is another who belongs near the top of any race preview and at his best would perhaps win this with his head in his chest. Rebecca Curtis is in change of the ten-year-old who has won three of his ten starts over fences with victories over horses of the calibre of Smad Place, Sausalito Sunrise, and Many Clouds so is clearly right out of the top drawer on his day, though he can’t be guaranteed to produce that race on race. Last time out at Ascot he was pulled up behind Tenor Nivernais in the Listed Swinley Chase, a race he would win at his peak, tailed off at the time though in his defence that was his first run in eleven months and he may well have needed it more than expected.  Prior to that run he had finished seventh in the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup behind Don Cossack and is clearly a very useful beast at his best, though any enthusiasm for his chances needs to be tempered with the poor 7% strike rate in the last two weeks for the Rebecca Curtis horses.

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls is never a man whose runners can be easily written off for obvious reasons and he will be hoping for a big run from Rocky Creek (8/1) here despite the added burden of top weight. Now an eleven-year-old, stamina seems to be his strong suit hence three attempts at the Grand National (without success), but he also has bits and pieces of top class form including a second to Don Cossack in 2015.  Tailed off last time out when a forty-four length sixth to Urgent De Gregaine at Cheltenham over three miles six furlongs, he has won six times over three miles of so and once over three miles five so is unlikely to have any issue with this trip, yet his rating of 148 still seems that bit too high, and he may struggle to enhance his trainer’s 24% strike rate this afternoon carrying eleven stone twelve.

Meanwhile, the trainer profits in the last two weeks are topped at present by Neil Mulholland with close to twenty points profit to level stakes, and he has entered Goulanes (16/1) here who is worthy of consideration. Previously in the care of David Pipe, he wasn’t seen on a race course between March 2014 and December 2016, so it seems fair to suggest he may well have needed to blow away a few cobwebs at Chepstow in the Welsh Grand National. Held up pit the back he did move in to midfield before unsurprisingly weakening before being pulled up before the seventeenth fence but then again, that was a huge ask after such a long lay off. Dropped another four pounds for that effort, he will clearly be a lot more race fit this afternoon and could run a lot better than his price suggest though he may also need another race to put him straight and would be a risky suggestion.

Loose Chips (7/1) has been well backed in the early markets for Charlie Longsdon and does arrive her in far better from than most after a run of a win and three places in his last five starts, though his best form is all at Sandown or Kempton. Last time out he finished a good second to Otago Trail at Sandown in a Class Two handicap over three miles, running on well at the death, and if he improves again for the step up in trip (he is yet to win beyond three miles after six attempts) then he has as good a chance as any at these weights.

Katenko (12/1) ends our preview for trainer Venetia Williams and is another who has come in for some early money from the moment the odds came out. The stable continue in good form with a 21% strike rate and six winners in the last fortnight but he will need to do a lot better than his recent eighth at Exeter if he wants to get involved. That was only his second race since last season’s Grand National where he fell at Becher’s on the second circuit, and he may well improve for it having pulled up behind Bristol De Mai at Haydock but he hasn’t won since 2013, a run of elven races and it takes a good imagination to see him winning here even off his new rating of 130, four pounds less than last time out.

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