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Wednesday 18 March 2015

Thursday Preview – Nothing Pretentious About Pentiffic

In the Rockwool Open Hunters’ Chase (4.50) at Chepstow on Thursday, Pentiffic did well to win over 2 miles 4½ furlongs on his reappearance at Warwick eleven days ago, on his first start since May, and appears to have bright prospects of following up. The 12-year-old gelding was outpaced halfway down the back straight at Warwick, but rallied before the second last, eventually overhauling Sergeant Dick on the run-in to win by 1½ lengths.

The step back up to 3 miles, on rain-softened ground, seems sure to play to his strengths and he’s reasonably treated by the race conditions. It’s worth noting that he was thought good enough to contest the Fox Hunters’ Chase at Aintree last season, when in the care of Venetia Williams, and he looks decent value at around 7/2 in the early price lists. He’s unlikely to be improving as he enters the ‘twilight’ of his career, but he still has 10lb in hand of his nearest market rival, Kirleigh, and looks the sort with whom his new connections can have some fun.

Top weight Bobs Law would be 6lb better off if this were a handicap, but turned over the odds-on Universal Soldier, on 6lb unfavourable terms, at Ffos Las last month and could be the one who gives Pentiffic most to do.

Selection: Chepstow 4.50 Pentiffic to win

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Preview

Andoversford trainer Kim Bailey has saddled just one winner from 29 runners over fences at Cheltenham in the last five seasons, but A.P. McCoy has a 7-12 (58%) strike rate on steeplechasers for the yard in the same period, so his booking for Un Ace in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (4.40) on Thursday may be significant.

The champion jockey was aboard the 7-year-old gelding when he was beaten 1½ lengths by Champagne West in a novices’ chase over course and distance in December but, granted the winner is now rated 152, Un Ace looks well handicapped off a mark of 144.

Indeed, he may still be open to improvement after just three completed starts over fences and, while he’s done all his winning on good to soft going, he ran well enough on his sole attempt on good going to suggest that faster underfoot conditions won’t be a problem. He has an absence of 89 days to overcome, but won on what was effectively his seasonal debut at Huntingdon in November and clearly goes well fresh.

Obviously, in a field of 24, he’ll need luck in running, but he appears to have an outstanding chance and the 10/1 available with William Hill may not last long.

Selection: Cheltenham 4.40 Un Ace (10/1 with William Hill) to win

Monday 2 March 2015

Tuesday Preview – Finish The Story Can Open A New Chapter

Finish The Story steps up in class and distance in the Devon National Handicap Chase (3.30) at Exeter on Tuesday but, from a handicapping point-of-view, is difficult to ignore. The son of Court Cave carries just a 7lb penalty for beating McGregor by 50 lengths, over 3 miles 2 furlongs, at Southwell nine days ago, so it’s easy to see why connections are keen to strike again while the iron is hot.

The marathon distance of 3 miles 6½ furlongs, on heavy going, represents a different test for Johnny Farrelly’s 9-year-old, who’s done most of his winning on sharp, flat tracks. Nevertheless, he has winning form at up to 3 miles 3 furlongs, and on soft ground, so it’s not hard to envisage him being involved in the finish once again. He appeared to improve significantly on his previous form at Southwell last time but could, conceivably, improve again after just four completed starts over regulation fences.

The fact that Dougie Costello, who rode him to victory at Southwell on his one and only ride for the yard, travels to Exeter for just one ride on Tuesday is highly encouraging. All in all, Finish The Story has plenty going for him against largely exposed rivals and looks a decent bet at 9/2 with Bet365 and William Hill to continue his progress.

Selection: Exeter 3.30 Finish The Story to win