Wednesday 13 December 2017

The Knoxs can help Festival war chest if staying on his feet

Wayne Bailey

WITH just 11 days to go before Cheltenham, the racing world is very much in a 'calm before the storm' mode and, with no Grade One contests scheduled for today, we'll have to settle for handicaps as feature races instead.

Still, it looks like there are a few decent betting opportunities around and, having had a number of maximum bets get turned over lately, I could do with some extra readies to add to the Festival war chest.

My betting pot is not as big as I'd like this year, but that can all change if the Paul Nicholls-trained The Knoxs wins the Greatwood Gold Cup (3.50 Newbury), priced around 5/1.

With an average 2013 win rate of one in four, Nicholls' yard has been firing on all cylinders lately and his record in this particular race is outstanding with five winners and two seconds since the race was established in 2004.

The Knoxs doesn't have too many miles on the clock for a 10-year-old and has won some decent handicaps since coming over to Ditcheat from Howard Johnson in October 2011, although it is a little concerning that he's fallen more than once. Hopefully, the work that Nicholls has been doing with him over the winter will pay off.

He was a smart hurdler in his day and has taken well to the bigger obstacles, winning the valuable Hillhouse Quarry Handicap Chase at Ayr back in April, which was his sixth career win from 14 races.

He was disputing with Bless The Wings in a Handicap Chase at Newbury last time before coming down at the last, but he was going the best of the two and I'm fairly confident he would have added a seventh win to his record, had he not taken a tumble.

At first glance, the fall looked a little nasty and he was left winded on the ground for some time, but Nicholls has given him plenty of time to recover and the horse usually goes well fresh. He looks well handicapped at just 2lbs higher and provided he stays up, he'll take all the beating this afternoon.

David Pipe's French import Garynella is likely to attract support, but his foreign form is hard to assess, so the one I'm most worried about is the Alan King-trained Midnight Sail.

He's remarkably consistent and is rarely out of the placings, although the handicapper may have his measure and he's getting no favours up 7lbs on his latest win to a career-high of 134.

At Doncaster, Lienosus looks a good bet at 2/1 in the Crabbies Spiffing Alcoholic Ginger Beer Novices' Hurdle (4.05). Successful twice in point-to-points, he managed to place in both a Listed and a Grade Two race in his only starts under rules and that connections have entered him in good quality races straight-off says a lot about their confidence in the seven-year-old.


Carrying a stone less than top weight Calgary Bay, the Sue Smith-trained Mr Moonshine catches the eye at 8/1 in the William Hill Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster (2.55). Second to Cape Tribulation in a Grade Three handicap chase at Wetherby on St Stephen's Day and at 140, the handicapper's wait-and-see approach gives the gelding more scope for improvement.

While it looks competitive, he'll like the distance and can be trusted to give punters a good run for their money.

Today's selections

1.45 Doncaster: Ma Filleule

2.55 Doncaster: Mr Moonshine (e/w)

3.50 Newbury: The Knoxs

4.05 Doncaster: Lienosus

4.15 Kelso: BallaBriggs

Irish Independent

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