THIS is cross-over day. Breeders’ Cup day(s) at Del Mar, November Handicap day at Doncaster, but also Badger Beer Handicap Chase day at Wincanton, Fishery Lane Hurdle day at Naas and, as it happens, Grand Sefton Chase day at Aintree.
The Grand National fences are not what they used to be, they’re not as fearsome as they once were but, even so, a proven ability to handle them is a definite asset to take into the Grand Sefton today.
Cat Tiger took to the fences well in the Foxhunters’ Chase at Aintree last April. He got into a really nice rhythm from early for his owner/rider David Maxwell, and he travelled well over the Canal Turn and down the side of the track. He did make a really bad mistake at the fourth last fence, it was a mistake from which he and his rider did well to recover, and it was to his credit that he was able to get back into the race and travel well again into the home straight, and jump to the front over the second last fence. In the end, he faded from the Elbow into third place as his exertions took their toll.
Neither the winner of the Foxhunters’ nor the runner-up have run again since, but the fourth-placed Clondaw Westie would probably have won a handicap hunters’ chase at Stratford in May had he not jinked to his right at the final fence and unseated his rider, while fifth-placed Billaway was just beaten a nose by Bob And Co – also owned and ridden by David Maxwell – in the Champion Hunters’ Chase at Punchestown in April.
Cat Tiger was beaten at a short price in a hunters’ chase at Southwell on his final run before the summer but, freshened up after a break, you can be sure that he will have been primed by his trainer for today’s race, a race that he has won three times in the last eight years.
The handicapper has dropped Cat Tiger by another 3lb to a mark of 134, which is 8lb lower than the mark on which he started off last season, and that gives him a real chance. His record after a break of 50 days or more since his arrival in Britain reads 211, and the easy ground should be ideal.
It will be fascinating to see how Spyglass Hill goes over these fences, Henry de Bromhead’s horse could really take to them, and Senior Citizen is also a player. Alan King’s horse ran well for a long way in this race last year before fading late on, and he warmed up for this nicely with a good win at Market Rasen last month. But he is a horse who goes well fresh too, and a 5lb hike from the handicapper for that win was not ideal. At a similar price, Cat Tiger may represent better value.
The fact that Highland Hunter and Truckers Lodge have defected means that, unusually, Paul Nicholls is without a representative in the Badger Beer Chase at Wincanton, a race that he has won three times in the last four years, and it may be that Hurricane Harvey will be the answer to today’s conundrum.
Fergal O’Brien’s horse started off last season well as a chaser, wins at Uttoxeter and Doncaster – in a Grade 2 contest – the bookends to a decent run in a three-horse race at Wincanton.
His last two runs last season, up in grade, were disappointing, but he shaped well on his debut this season, in finishing fourth behind Paint The Dream in a handicap chase at Chepstow last month over two and a half miles.
Held up in last place early on that day, he stayed on well from the fourth last fence to get up and take fourth place behind his stable companion.
The handicapper dropped him by 3lb for that run to a mark of 136, and that was more than fair. He should come on for that run, and he should appreciate the step up to an extended three miles today, and the return to Wincanton, on ground that he handles well.
A seven-year-old who has run just six times over fences, there could be more to come from the Doyen gelding this season, and his trainer has his horses in really good form.
Cat Tiger, 1 point win, 2.15 Aintree, 11/2 (generally)
Hurricane Harvey,1 point win, 3.00 Wincanton, 5/1 (generally)