'Fallen leaves lying on the grass in the November sun bring more happiness than the daffodils' - Cyril Connolly
As a punter, November is always welcome as the National Hunt season kicks in properly and the Flat winds down for another year. We still have the November Handicap at Doncaster next week to officially bring the curtain down on the summer code but for the most part, attention now turns to finding winners over obstacles.
It's not that I prefer the jumps, I simply find September and October tricky from a betting point of view as it can be difficult to focus on both codes with the seasons overlapping. Interestingly, November has proved the most lucrative for punters lately compared to any other month over jumps. In the past decade, National Hunt favourites had a win rate of 38pc in November, compared to their average win rate of 35pc. September is one of the worst months for backing National Hunt favourites, with just 32pc of jollies going on to win.
Speaking of favourites, Sizing Europe should reward his backers in the first Grade One of the season at Down Royal (2.25), priced around 2/1. The JNwine.com Champion Chase will be associated with now retired Kauto Star, which won the 2008 and 2010 renewals -- and the list of past winners is impressive, including Florida Pearl and Beef Or Salmon.
In the 12 renewals since 1999 (the race was abandoned in 2005), six favourites went on to win and Sizing Europe should add his name to that list following on from a handy enough victory in the PWC Champion Chase at Gowran Park last month. Last year, Quito De La Roque (3/1) took the selection's scalp in a dour affair on soft ground, but Colm Murphy's gelding has had a number of problems in the meantime and hasn't raced since coming third in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown -- so it's hard to tell if he's fully fit.
At Wetherby, a chance is taken on Phillip Hobbs' Planet Of Sound at 5/1 in the Grade Two Charlie Hall Chase (3.25). While Silviniaco Conti looks the best of the lot on paper, there's not much value left at 5/4. Planet Of Sound goes well fresh and his 12th place in the Aintree Grand National doesn't do him justice as he was travelling very well before making a blunder four fences out.
At Ascot, Puffin Billy should give a good account in the bumper (4.15) at 11/4. A promising sort, he never came off the bridle winning his debut race at Fontwell in March and a number of horses he beat that day have since gone on to win.
Frisco Depot makes appeal at 10/1 in the United House Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot (3.10). Racegoers may remember seeing the gelding win a couple of races for Dessie Hughes in Ireland, including a Grade Two novice chase in Limerick back in April. He's since moved to Charlie Longsdon's yard and with the handicapper giving him a fair chance this afternoon, his new stable will be disappointed if they go home empty-handed.
1.05 Wetherby: Falcarragh
1.55 Newmarket: Desert Image
2.25 Down Royal: Sizing Europe
3.10 Ascot: Frisco Depot (e/w)
3.25 Wetherby: Planet Of Sound
4.15 Ascot: Puffin Billy