Friday 15 December 2017

Stay calm and keep the faith in Capitaine

Capitaine goes in the 3.25 at Kelso. Photo: Adam Davy/PA
Capitaine goes in the 3.25 at Kelso. Photo: Adam Davy/PA

Wayne Bailey

I was watching one of those science programmes recently where they put conventional wisdom to the test, and it seems that in some cases there's a little bit of truth to the phrase 'the calm before the storm'.

In order to grow, most storms need warm moist air, and warmer air is generally more stable. As the air is drawn into the storm, it leaves a temporary low-pressure vacuum in its wake and that can give a sense of calmness before the storm actually kicks off.

Well, that's as far as I understood it anyway, but I apologise to any Met Éireann employees who might be reading today if I've got that totally mixed up.

For the next week and a bit, we are in calm before the storm territory in the horseracing world as we all gear up for the Cheltenham Festival which is, of course, the highlight of the year for racing fans.

With most of the good horses now under wraps, the quality of racing takes a dip for a short while and the Grade Two Totescoop6 Premier Kelso Novices' Hurdle (3.25) is about the best we have on offer today.

Disappointed The racing may not be great but that won't matter if I'm visiting the 'pay out' counter this evening and I reckon Paul Nicholls' Capitaine is the one to side with, priced around 9/4 yesterday.

Regular readers will know that I backed Sam Twiston-Davies' mount (below) last week at Kempton in the Grade Two Dovecote Novices' Hurdle, and I must admit I was quite disappointed with his fourth place at 7/4 - but he has got talent and is worth another chance in a five-runner field.

Cheltenham is now off the agenda and he'll probably end up a better chaser than hurdler, but he's still got a few pounds in hand against most of his rivals today even though he carries 11st 8lbs with the rest on 11st 5lbs.

When push came to shove at Kempton, he looked a little awkward but he has won a Grade Two before and I'm going to overlook that race and hope he builds on the experience.

Malcolm Jefferson's Mount Mews will most likely go off as favourite. The six-year-old has won a couple of novice races but I wouldn't read too much into that.

As the old saying goes, he can only beat what's in front of him but it's fair to say his latest race at Doncaster was a low-quality affair and we didn't really learn much from his success at 4/9. He remains with potential but this is a reasonably big step up.

A little earlier at Doncaster, Happy Diva is my idea of a good value favourite around 11/8 in the Listed BetBright Mares' Novices' Hurdle (3.0). She seems to like the softer conditions we'll have today, and she bolted up in two handicaps at Fontwell and Wetherby in December and January respectively which forced her trainer Kerry Lee to move her up in class following a hike in the weights.

She was a little out of her depth but certainly not disgraced when second in a Grade Two at Sandown last time, and this afternoon's Listed race looks there for the taking under jockey Jamie Moore.

The one that beat her, Colin's Sister, is a decent sort and although the selection was a little bit keen, she'll have learned quite a bit and should come on for the run.

Lastbutnotleast looks the best of the rest for Donald McCain. If you look beyond the bare form figures, you will see that she won a mares' point-to-point at Toomebridge back in October and she's progressed well under rules and was successful in her two novice hurdles so far. I'm nearly certain she has more to come but I've a strong feeling that Happy Diva will have her measure here.

On the Polytrack at Lingfield, the progressive Second Thought can land the Listed 32Red Spring Cup (4.20) and I'll be happy if I can get odds around the 11/8 mark as listed in some tissue prices yesterday.

Trained by William Haggas, the colt looked a little green on his debut at Salisbury last May but finished well once he got into stride. Following a break until December, he got off the mark at Wolverhampton with the minimum of fuss.

Most recently, he won a decent enough conditions race by a neck to the promising Sutter County, a colt which has since gone on to win a similar race and re-opposes today. There's no real reason the form will be reversed although it wouldn't surprise me if it ended up a match between these two.

Grey Britain is worth a mention around 7/1 and may just manage a place. John Ryan's charge is related to several winners and put in a couple of good performances without setting the world alight in Meydan this month.

He's previously raced in Group Two company but he can be frustrating to follow and connections may need to find a weaker race in order to get another win under the belt.

EACH-WAY

Ten runners go to post for the Grade Three William Hill 'High 5' Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase and a number of horses stand out immediately.

Dan Skelton's Oldgrangewood continues to improve and overcame a 4lb rise in the weights to win a handicap chase off 134 at Wetherby last month, although he's up 9lbs since then and may now find life difficult.

Venetia Williams' Vic De Touzaine also has claims and ran surprisingly well after nearly a year off to come second in a handicap at Wincanton recently.

Paul Nicholls saddles Vibrato Valtat but he seems to have gone off the boil lately and he's now had ten races without a win.

Preference then, is for Dresden which should go off somewhere in the region of 12/1 for trainer Henry Oliver. He's also gone quite some time without a win, but he's coming back to form lately and was a good second to No Buts in a handicap at Warwick last time.

He remains on a rating of 142 which is 2lbs below his last winning mark, and it will be interesting to see how he performs with Richard Johnson on board this time.

TODAY'S SELECTIONS

3.0 Doncaster: Happy Diva

3.15 Newbury: Dresden (e/w)

3.25 Kelso: Capitaine

4.0 Kelso: Tenor Nivernais

4.20 Lingfield: Second Thought

Do the double

Soccer: They will be short enough around 8/13 but Chelsea should beat West Ham when the pair meet in on Monday night. Antonio Conte (right) and his men look almost certain to win the League and most firms have them priced at 1/10. The Hammers have come on a lot in the last few months and they beat Chelsea the last two times they’ve met on home turf, but the big gap in the table doesn’t lie.

Racing: Trained by Venetia Williams, Tenor Nivernais looks a very smart chaser indeed, and put in one of his best performances to date when winning a decent handicap by a country mile with a front-running ride at Ascot a few weeks ago. He’s back in action for today’s Listed Premier Chase at Kelso (4.0) and while he’s short enough around 5/6, this looks like a straight-forward task. He previously placed in a Grade Three at Cheltenham and Le Mercurey looks to be the only real danger.

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