Charlie McCann: Notebook Additions From The Weekend

Just three weeks and counting to the start of the Cheltenham Festival. We continue our countdown to Cheltenham by highlighting the prospects of a British runner in the Coral Cup as well as a couple more handicappers who I believe will be worth following over jumps in the weeks and months to come.

Good Risk At All: 6-y-old gelding with Sam Thomas

Good Risk At All was one of two gambles – Sizable Sam the other – we landed at the weekend – 6/4 from 15/8 & 11/4 from 6s – and I feel the former is worth following at the Festival next month with the step up in distance from the minimum trip working the oracle at Ascot for a horse who had finished runner up in all three previous starts over timber and two miles.

Good Risk At All dotted up on soft ground off a mark of 127 and is likely to be raised north of ten pounds which should ensure he gets a run in the Coral Cup on the second day of the Festival. He was a listed Bumper winner on soft ground last term and his best performances have come with plenty of give in the ground but good to soft conditions would be ideal and a lack of experience would be more of a concern given he has only had the four starts over hurdles.

That said his hurdling was fast and fluent at the weekend although I would also suggest having Charlie Deutsch on board at Ascot was key to that. Trainer Sam Thomas – who is enjoying such an excellent season – will be hoping that Venetia Williams does not have anything for the Coral Cup although the Martin Pipe conditional jockey’s handicap and Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – 28/1 with bet365 Non Runner No Bet – have also been mooted as potential Festival targets.

We have the insurance of Non Runner No Bet with William Hill on the Coral Cup although I would imagine he won’t go off much shorter – if any – than their quote of 8/1 given it is such a competitive handicap.

By the second day of the Festival, we will have some idea of the respective merits of the Irish horses in comparison to the home challenge and four of the last six winners of the Coral Cup have come from across the Irish Sea. At the time of writing the entries for the handicaps have not been announced let alone the weights, but I do feel there is a big race to be won with Good Risk At All this spring.

Recommendation: Good Risk At All (Each-Way) @ 8/1 William Hill 5 places Non Runner No Bet

Young Bull: 8-y-old gelding with Harry Whittington

Only six went to post for the novices’ handicap chase at Newbury on soft ground on Sunday and two of the sextet failed to complete the course. The winner Nestor Park outstayed the Jonjo O’Neill-trained 5-y-old Yes Indeed in a gruelling finish and the latter went into many a notebook given how well he travelled. The French import was a listed chase winner at Auteuil last spring but had shown little in his sole previous start at Ascot in November.

He will take plenty of beating next time as long as the handicapper does not overreact, but it is the horse who finished back in third – Young Bull – who I will be supporting next time.

Trained by Harry Whittington, Young Bull was having his first start for 456-days at the Berkshire track and I thought he jumped and travelled well until clouting one down the back straight and he was still in there pitching between the last two before fading after the last.

He ran from a mark of 130 on Sunday and you would imagine he will drop at least a couple of pounds in the weights before his next start. There is a valuable 3m handicap chase at Uttoxeter on Midlands National Day next month, which is invariably run on soft ground, which would look an ideal opportunity for the 8-year-old who has not run on anything better than good to soft ground during his racing career.

Harry Whittington is a streaky trainer who has had just the eight winners from seventy-one runners so far this term but when he is hot his string can be very hot. I have given up the ghost with the yard’s Poldark Cross – who the stable insist wants soft/heavy ground, but I disagree – but I do feel Young Bull is worth following next time.

Douglas Talking: 6-y-old with Lucinda Russell

Lucinda Russell brought a couple down from her Kinross base to Sandown last Friday and her novice chaser Douglas Talking gave a bold sight from the front over the 13 fences of the two-mile trip at Esher on heavy ground.

The 6-y-old was running from a mark of just 111 at Esher and only won by 3L but he never looked in any danger although he did tire up the Sandown hill. He won a Bumper over 2m 2f on good ground for Andrew Lynch in his native Ireland, and a modest handicap chase on good to soft ground over 2m 4f for his current yard on his penultimate start.

Thus, he will not be inconvenienced by stepping back up on trip or faster ground, although his excellent trainer suggested he would be kept to the minimum trip in the short term.

If he were mine, I would keep him to tracks where his slick jumping will always be an asset such as Warwick and he is by the same sire as the yard’s top class 3m novice chaser Ahoy Senor. I wonder if he will be targeted at the Scottish National meeting at Ayr which will be run a week before Aintree this year on Friday 1st & Saturday 2nd April.

Only a fool would dismiss him easily if he rocked up in the 0-130 handicap chase at Ayr on the Friday!