Debece on a very handy mark

December 2nd, 2016 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

As things turned out there was no need to cover Vicente in the Hennessy Gold Cup last week and it was a case of first thoughts turning up trumps because Native River was a game winner. Between the last two fences I thought the main saver Blaklion was coming to make a race of it but he faded late on. Native River stays further and I imagine he will lack a bit of pace at a crucial stage if going for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Incidentally, I think Thistlecrack, despite his inexperience, represents the Tizzards’ best chance in the race because Cue Card will not stay the extended three and a quarter miles with a stiff finish.

The season before last I thought Saint Are was going to give us our best return in the Grand National for quite a few years. He loomed up like a winner but Many Clouds kept on just too strongly for him. It was still a decent each-way return and I’m hoping for something similar in the Becher Chase on Saturday.

As they get older, many horses reserve their best for certain courses and conditions. SAINT ARE would not win very much around park courses these days but he is no back number at ten and was far from disgraced in a veterans’ chase last time. If the ground continues to dry out he will enjoy himself at his favourite course, with Brian Hughes taking over in the saddle. He looks solid each-way material.

It’s an interesting card, with one or two quite modest handicaps meriting careful analysis. The 2m 4f hurdle sponsored by Betfred will not take a great deal of winning, the handicapper clearly taking the view that Leoncavallo, well beaten last time, is different class with 11st 12lb to carry. That will be reduced by Mr Alex Ferguson’s 7lb claim but he has also ridden him the last twice and it’s not as if Leoncavallo is suddenly presented with an easier task. Right at the bottom, DEBECE will have only 9st 12lb when Alan Johns claims his 3lb and this is a horse with very fair form to his name. Trainer Tim Vaughan keeps knocking on the door in big handicaps at the major venues and Debece will surely think he is running loose here. He was also entered for a much more valuable handicap at Sandown, incidentally.

It’s worth keeping a careful eye on Willie Mullins’ placing of horses. Faugheen misses the big hurdle in Ireland, presumably with Kempton’s Christmas Hurdle in mind, and the trainer relies on UN DE SCEAUX in the Tingle Creek at Sandown, with Vautour kept back for another day.

I’ d have made Vautour a pretty good bet in this but his stable-companion is also very talented and not too much should be read into his defeat in a long-distance hurdle in France last time. He has the legs of Sire de Grugy and God’s Own on separate form lines and I’d say Mullins has got this race pretty well worked out.

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