Newbury Saturday

1.15 Betfair Cheltenham Roarcast Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase 2m7f 86yds

It’s interesting that Paul Nicholls should run Bravemansgame here, given previous comparisons to Denman, as this race (then a non-handicap) was Denman’s prep for his romp in what was then the RSA Chase.

There is clearly a question over the Nicholls yard at present, and I’d not want to be going in too hard as a result, but the idea that the weight concession will bring this field together is not one I accept.

It may be true mathematically, but over fences in particular, top-class horses should have no difficulty in conceding weight to those who are palpably inferior, and that is the case here.

Pats Fancy and Grumpy Charley are lovely horses, but they would be a million to live with Galopin Des Champs at Cheltenham, and as long as Bravemansgame is fit and healthy, then he ought to have no trouble conceding a mere 16lb to the pair, particularly as he can dictate his own terms should connections allow him to do so.

1.50 Daily Rewards With Betfair Handicap Hurdle 3m 52yds

Skandiburg would have been my bet here, as Charlotte Fuller’s gelding has been dropped a generous 10lb for a couple of runs over trips short of his best, and he is one to be with in 3m handicaps.

He’s been taken out in order to run at Exeter on Sunday instead, and while I reckon this track suits better, I can understand why qualifying for the Pertemps Final might be more attractive. Keep him onside in any case.

In the absence of Skandiburg, this might set up nicely for the classy The Big Breakaway, who returns from wind surgery. In my experience, Colin Tizzard is slower to go down the breathing-op route than most trainers. When Paddy Brennan first rode Cue Card he told Colin that the horse was making a noise, getting the reply: “Yeah, that’s what Daryl said, ‘n’all.”


Cue Card was transformed by a belated breathing operation, and backing the few horses Tizzard does give the procedure to has been profitable in recent seasons, with backers £662.30 ahead to a tenner at SP.

In recent months, Lostintranslation in the 1965 Chase at Ascot, and 25/1 Wincanton winner The Widdow Maker have benefited from recent surgery, and there is little doubt that The Big Breakaway has the class to beat these rivals on the form he was capable of as a novice hurdler.

He’s clearly had an issue or two of late, looking a horse in need of intervention behind Chantry House at Sandown when last seen, but he would have bustled up Bravemansgame on his previous start but for a last-fence fall at Newton Abbot.

He’s a bit better than this class, in truth, and hopefully the surgery will get him back on track.

2.25 Betfair Denman Chase (Grade 2) 2m 7f 86yds

I think Royale Pagaille can get the better of Clan Des Obeaux here, particularly with a doubt about the Nicholls stable form.

Royale Pagaille showed improved form when landing a second Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock last time, and I was more convinced by that battling effort than his easy win against plodders a year ago. He coped well enough with good ground in the Betfair Chase on his return, and that was before Venetia Williams really hit top gear with her chasers.

Williams typically has her horses in excellent form right now, and that is very much her modus operandi.


There is a lot of nonsense talked about how all her horses are better on heavy ground, but while that may be true in individual cases, they just tend to be kept very fit, and are trained to peak in the mid-winter months, when decent prizes are there for the taking.

Critics of Royale Pagaille point out that he didn’t come up to scratch in the Gold Cup last year, but he was, of course, a novice last season; Clan Des Obeaux has had two tries at the Gold Cup when a fully established chaser, and was unplaced both times, so that’s hardly an effective argument.

The odds are still heavily swayed to the older horse, and that swings it for me.

3.00 Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase (Grade 2) 2m 92yds

Venetia Williams has a decent chance here with Funambule Sivola, who can be forgiven two defeats this term on account of the trip being too far.

He ran well for a long way in the Peterborough Chase, but didn’t see it out as well as might be expected at that sharp track, and he clearly failed to stay an extended two and a half miles at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day.

A cosy winner back at the minimum trip last time, he is building up an excellent two-mile record (he had Shishkin huffing and puffing at Aintree in the spring, remember), and I’m surprised he’s third favourite here.

Alan King returned to form with a double on Thursday, and last year’s winner Sceau Royal heads the market. He is big danger on that form, and is largely consistent, but I’m a little concerned that Kingy went to the well once too often in the autumn with him, and he ran poorly when last seen.

He’s had a break since that flop in the International Hurdle, but I still think there is a chance it will compromise the rest of his campaign.

3.35 Betfair Hurdle (Handicap) (Grade 3) 2m 69yds

The Betfair Hurdle was an absolute cracker a year ago when Soaring Glory won in good style from Fifty Ball, and that pair re-oppose.

A case can be made for both with Soaring Glory not at all helped by a pedestrian pace at Newbury in the Gerry Feilden, and again caught in a tactical race for the Christmas Hurdle. He needs a good gallop to aim at, and should get that for the first time since an impressive winner at Ascot on his return.

I’m convinced he’s a much-improved performer this season, and that can’t be said for Fifty Ball, who shaped well on his chase debut at Sandown, but has looked very sour since. The return to hurdles may suit, and he’s well treated if back to his best, but that is a big ‘if’.

I much prefer Gary Moore’s other runner, Royaume Uni, who I’ve had in mind for this race since seeing him at Ascot last spring.

I think Mr Moore has had similar thoughts, and his campaign this season appears to have been built around an attempt at this race.

Shaped well

A facile win against lesser rivals at Plumpton got him up the weights as required, and he’s shaped well in two starts since, while not having everything thrown at him.

He was a place behind Broomfield Burg at Cheltenham on his penultimate start, and meets that rival on 4lb better terms for three and three-quarter lengths.

I thought Royaume Uni, who was friendless in the betting at Cheltenham, shaped better than the result, with the stiff finish just draining his stamina, and two miles at Newbury on good ground promises to be perfect for him.

He’s as big as 25/1 while Broomfield Burg is favourite, and I think those prices are out of kilter.


The Big Breakaway 1.50 Newbury – 1pt win @ 8/1 (general)

Royale Pagaille 2.25 Newbury – 2pts win @ 5/2 (Paddy Power, BetVictor)

Funambule Sivola 3.00 Newbury – 1pt win @ 3/1 (Bet365, 11/4 Hills)

Royaume Uni 3.35 Newbury – 1.5pts e/w @ 22/1 (SkyBet, BetFred – 5 places)