Apple's Jade to put up fight at Newcastle
I don't know how it's crept in lately, but this Black Friday thing is starting to get on my nerves. Nearly every ad on the radio this week was advertising some sort of Black Friday sale for yesterday, but considering we don't celebrate Thanksgiving in Ireland, it's all a bit of a farce.
The idea, in the United States at least, is that lots of workers have the day off after Thanksgiving and go shopping with their families. Hence the reason the shops offer good value and big sales to attract the customers.
As it happens, today is the actual date that Thanksgiving was officially declared by George Washington and while I didn't bother going shopping yesterday, I reckon there's a few bargains on offer at Newcastle today including No Planning, which should go off around 8/1 in the At The Races Rehearsal Handicap Chase (3.30).
The Sue Smith-trained gelding was below form when sixth of eight runners in a handicap at Kelso last time but it was his first run since April so I'm going to let him away with that one, although the handicapper has dropped him 1lb to a rating of 133.
This time last year, he was rated 139 but his last winning race was at Ayr in March off 132 so he should be able to make his presence felt here, with a fairly low racing weight of 10st 4lbs.
Stablemate Wakanda won this race last year and takes a chance again today. However, he's up 7lbs since then and considering his form has been up and down at bit lately, I reckon the 11st 9lb burden will do its job of holding him back.
Likely favourite Definitly Red has strong claims although is a little short in the betting around 3/1. He won a handicap hurdle at Carlisle last time and is somewhat unexposed over fences.
Of course the Grade One StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle is the feature race of the day and I'm quite keen on Gordon Elliott's raider Apple's Jade, which is available at 9/4 at the time of writing.
An outstanding 41-length winner of the four-year-old juvenile hurdle at Aintree, she followed up in a Grade One at Punchestown in April. She was later moved from Willie Mullins' yard due to the dispute with Gigginstown but was beaten at 1/2 on her debut for Elliott in the WKD Hurdle at Down Royal earlier this month.
Connections initially suggested she'd be stepped up in trip so it's interesting to see her remain at the two-mile distance - although the soft ground should suit compared to the good ground at Down Royal.
Gigginstown manager Eddie O'Leary told this paper that she wasn't quite fit and should see the benefit of that run - and as the only female in the field, she'll get a 7lb allowance which should help a little.
Sceau Royal is the obvious danger to the bet for Alan King's yard. Although beaten by the selection at Aintree, he's two from two this term including a Grade Two at Wincanton last time, and he's becoming an exciting prospect as he gains more big-race experience.
In the opener at Newbury, a chance is taken on La Bague Au Roi which was chalked up at evens in the early markets for the Listed Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Mares' Novices' Hurdle (12.20).
With five wins from six races, Warren Greatrex's mare is definitely going places and impressively defied a penalty to land a novice hurdle at Wetherby recently at the expense of Whatduhavtoget. It's interesting to see that Timeform have a capital P beside her name which means they feel she has a serious amount of improvement to come, and a good test here against Alan King's Dusky Legend will give us a fair idea of where she's at right now.
That horse is going for a hat-trick and already beat another one of today's five rivals Copper Kay over this course and distance earlier on this month.
In the Bet365 Novices' Chase (12.55 Newbury), Thistlecrack had an initial forecast price of 1/25 yesterday but I don't think he'll be that short at the off and may go off around 1/10 so it's still obviously a no-bet race.
Purely out of interest, I was looking up the stats for horses with an SP of 1/20 or shorter and there were 22 winners from 23 bets since 2008.
The rogue horse was the Mark Johnston-trained Triple Dip, which was beaten in a maiden at Lingfield priced 1/20 in 2015.
That made her the shortest-priced loser since 1948 and although just about anything can happen in this sport, it's surely going to be a case of Tom Scudamore schooling the Gold Cup favourite around the Newbury fences since his mount has scared off any meaningful opposition.
While he did make a couple of mistakes at 1/7 last time out at Cheltenham - perhaps jumping a little too boldly - he has really serious potential as a chaser so it will be good to see him in action today albeit with a dead betting market.
Priced around 33/1, the market doesn't expect Nicky Henderson's Triolo D'Alene to do much in the Hennessy Gold Cup Chase Handicap (3.10 Newbury) but I think that price is a little unfair considering he won a Listed chase at Kempton back in January.
He was well out of his depth when fifth to Silviniaco Conti in the Ascot Chase in February and I suppose he wasn't disgraced when finishing 14th in the Grand National at 50/1.
The handicapper has dropped him 5lbs to 150 and I reckon he can run a little better than the markets suggests. Henderson also runs Vyta Du Roc which should be right up there at the top of the betting alongside Colin Tizzard's Native River.
12.20 Newbury: La Bague Au Roi
2.40 Newbury: Who Dares Wins
2.55 Newcastle: Apple's Jade
3.10 Newbury: Triolo D'Alene (e/w)
3.30 Newcastle: No Planning