1.30 Newbury, Friday, November 27

race-tipsQualifiers for the Pertemps Network Final at the Cheltenham Festival are invariably fiercely competitive and the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (1.30) at Newbury on Friday is no exception.

Billy No Name returned from nearly two years off to win a 0-130 contest over 2 miles 3½ furlongs on soft going at Wetherby last month and, if he can build on that success, may be able to make an impact in this slightly higher grade. He’s 5lb higher in the weights this time, but his revised rating of 120 is still 1lb lower than that before his time off, so he still looks feasibly weighted. Furthermore, he ran well on both attempts beyond 2 miles 5½ furlongs, so should be suited by stepping back up in distance.

On the downside, the Westerner gelding is only small and, as a result, probably doesn’t want any deterioration of the already soft going at Newbury.

Interestingly, Paddy Brennan, who won on him at Wetherby, once again comes in for the ride, despite Billy No Name being set to carry 10st 1lb, or just 1lb more than his minimum riding weight over the last 12 months.

Selection: Newbury 1.30 Billy No Name

6.40 Chelmsford, Friday, November 6

chelmsfordIn the Totepool Supporting Sport You Love Handicap (6.40) at Chelmsford on Friday, it’s been a while since Shifting Star won at 0-80 level, but John Bridger’s veteran was only beaten a neck in a similar contest at Epsom in August, off a 6lb lower mark, so is far from a forlorn hope. Of course, the Night Shift gelding is unlikely to be improving in leaps and bounds at the age of ten, but ran well enough when second at Lingfield, off a 4lb lower mark, and when winning at Windsor, off a 2lb lower mark, on his two most recent starts to suggest that he may well be up to the task.

Shifting Star is making his sixteenth start of the season and, although still nowhere near the rating of 99 he achieved as a 3-year-old, he has officially improved 10lb since the turn of the year and appears to have found his level once again. In a race where recent winning form is thin on the ground, he must have a decent chance of becoming John Bridger’s first winner at the Essex track.

Selection: Chelmsford 6.40 Shifting Star to win

3.10 Newmarket, Friday, October 30

newmarket-raceUnusually, the Racing UK Handicap (3.10) at Newmarket, run over 2 miles, is one of the most competitive races of the day on Friday. The four 3-year-olds in the field are obviously well treated by the race conditions, but there are one or two of the older brigade who could go well despite less evident credentials.

At the time of writing, the going on the Rowley Mile is good to soft but, with rain in the forecast for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, stamina may be at a premium. One who lacks nothing in that department is See And Be Seen, whose last two victories have come over 2 miles 2 furlongs, in the Pontefract Cup in June and the Cesarewitch Trial on this course last September.

Sylvester Kirk’s 5-year-old remains 5lb higher in the weights than for either of those successes, but was far from disgraced when eighth of 20, beaten 4¾ lengths, in the Irish Cesarewitch over 2 miles at the Curragh off his revised mark earlier this month. The son of Sakhee’s Secret has yet to win on going softer than good to soft, but his abundance of stamina should stand him in good stead, whatever the weather.

Blue Sea Of Ibrox was a maiden after 27 starts for Alan Brown, but got off the mark at the fourth time of asking for new trainer John Berry at Pontefract earlier this month and remains completely unexposed on the Flat. The Subtle Power mare steps up in class and distance off a 6lb higher mark, but has plenty of form on good to soft or softer going and, having been campaigned up to 2 mile 7½ furlongs over obstacles, should have no problem lasting home. She is far and away the most interesting runner in the race and it’ll be fascinating to see how she fares in the market.

Selections: Newmarket 3.10 See And Be Seen, Blue Sea Of Ibrox

Solow so hard to ignore for QEII

race courseBritish Champions Day is looming at Ascot and while there are many stars likely to be on show, few have shone as brightly as Freddy Head’s brilliant miler, Solow, this season. Solow has moved himself to the undoubted position of being Europe’s leading hardened miler. He has racked up a hugely impressive run of victories that now stands at eight following his summer exploits in Britain.

There is nothing to suggest he won’t extend his flawless 2015 campaign to a perfect five from five by taking home the winner’s prize in excess of £623,000 on Saturday afternoon. Given his achievements this season, Solow ranks as the best proposition on the betfair markets as we look ahead to Champions Day.

The gelding has looked unstoppable this year and with a major doubt hanging over his chief market rival for Ascot, the quotes hovering around 2.00 at the time of writing could start to look more than generous. A clash between Solow and 2000 Guineas winner Gleneagles would make for a mouth-watering proposition but it is looking less and less likely the Ballydoyle inmate will stand his ground.

Having won the English and Irish 2000 Guineas, Gleneagles followed up in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. It was an impressive sequence, and at his best he would present a real threat, but Gleneagles has been forced to look on from the sidelines since June. Soft ground has scuppered his participation in the Sussex Stakes, Prix Jacques Le Marois, Juddmonte International and the Irish Champion Stakes. On each occasion there has been a will he, won’t he countdown to race day before, ultimately, Gleneagles was plucked from the line-up.

Solow has not raced on ground worse than good this season but his trainer is on record stating he feels some give underfoot may even bring about more improvement. That is a sobering thought for any of his rivals, even Gleneagles.
The winning margins in the Queen Anne at Ascot and the Sussex at Glorious Goodwood were quite slender – one length and half-a-length respectively – but there looks to be plenty more in reserve should Maxime Guyon need it. Even if Aidan O’Brien causes a shock and allows Gleneagles to line up, the Galileo colt could have his work cut out to lower the colours of this brilliant French horse.

Of the others, the Clive Cox-trained Kodi Bear has been well supported ante-post for the QEII after his win in the Celebration Mile at Goodwood in late August. He justified strong market vibes to land that Group 2 contest and while he has a chance with Solow on collateral form through the runner-up Gabrial, the proven top level performer is readily preferred at this stage. On Champions Day at Ascot, Solow could continue to prove so good – no matter who turns up to oppose him.

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