It’s that time of year again – the National Hunt season is about to kick-off proper at Chepstow this weekend, meaning we sadly have to say good-bye to one of my favourite racecourses in Newton Abbot – until the spring at least! Their finale fixture is always a belter, last year producing the likes of Black Corton and Maria’s Benefit, who both went on to record Graded success thereafter. This year we are treated to another brilliant card, with over £100,000 worth of prize money up for grabs. Headlined by the Class 2 Intermediate Chase, Cheltenham Festival third Benatar is the stand-out entry and it will be fascinating to see how he does on his seasonal return. I will be at Newton Abbot tomorrow live tweeting the event, so be sure to follow me on twitter @JakePriceTips if you don’t already. If you want to read more from me, you can check out my National Hunt Horses to Follow 2018/19 here.

13:40 – “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle (Class 4) 2m1f 

We start the card with a very interesting “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle, won last year by subsequent Grade 2 winner Maria’s Benefit – who runs later on in the card. Connections of Crooks Peak would be delighted if their five-year-old could go on to such lofty heights, having been a winner of the bumper on this card last season when quickening clear to comfortably score under today’s jockey Richard Johnson. Showing such promise on his debut under rules, this son of Arcadio was next seen at Cheltenham in November when winning a Listed bumper from some useful types. Although well tailed off when given a chance to run in the Champion Bumper in March, you can put a line through this as there were a lot of much better horses ahead of him in very testing conditions. Although this Philip Hobbs charge has obvious potential over obstacles, he will still have to take to obstacles to land this fairly strong looking contest. Among the dangers include Harry Whittington’s Rouge Vif, winner of a bumper at Ludlow in March. Whilst he should be winning a contest like this down the line, he was declared a non-runner at Stratford on Monday due to the Good ground, so connections clearly think he will prefer a softer surface. Colonel Custard won a bumper here in May when easily scoring by five lengths, and this course winner would appreciate quick ground. Glen Forsa is an interesting runner for the Mick Channon yard having won his bumper in November 2016 in good style, but he has been off the track since he finished down the field behind Burbank in a Maiden Hurdle in January 2017, so will likely need the run. It’s Got Legs is the final horse of note in my eyes, having already ran five-times over hurdles but yet to get off the mark for Gary Moore.

Selection: Crooks Peak to Win @ 11/8

14:15 – Intermediate Chase (Class 2) 2m5f 

The first Intermediate Chase of the season always attracts some fantastic entries, won last year by subsequent Grade 1 winner Black Corton. This season we are treated to seeing Benatar (149) make his return to action, after an extremely successful Novice Chase campaign. A winner on debut at Ascot in November last season, Benatar showed his class when following up at Plumpton and easily seeing off the useful Keeper Hill (141). Upped into Grade 2 company on his return to Ascot in December, the Gary Moore inmate ran a cracking race to gamely see off the late Finian’s Oscar, with today’s rival Dolos 35 lengths behind the pair. Having had such a successful start to his Chase career, Benatar was given his chance in the Grade 1 JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival this year, finishing a very credible third to Shattered Love despite pulling hard throughout. I’m very excited about seeing this horse back in action, and having already won on Good ground over fences, the surface shouldn’t be an issue. The aforementioned Dolos is Paul Nicholls’ only dart in the race, who amazingly has managed to achieve a 3lbs higher rating than Benatar. Although running a good second behind Theinval at Ayr in April, two-miles seems to be his trip and it would be surprising if he won this even getting 6lbs. Le Rocher recorded a hat-trick over fences last season including when finishing alone in a similar contest to this at Exeter, but most of his form comes on much softer ground than we are likely to get here. The rest will need to improve to get close to the market principles, although the likes of One For Billy and Beggar’s Wishes do have fitness on their side. Rocklander may be seen to best effect over three-miles.

Benatar
Benatar sees off Finian’s Oscar in a thrilling battle at Ascot last December.

Selection: Benatar to Win @ 4/1

14:50 – Handicap Hurdle (Class 3) 3m2½f 

This Handicap Hurdle has cut up a fair amount since the entry stage, so only a field of eight will go to post. Unlikely to work out as strong as last year when Beer Goggles won before landing a Grade 2 at Newbury, the same owners have a horse who interests me from a mark of 127. Unexposed having ran in Novice races last season for Philip Hobbs, this six-year-old makes his Handicap debut today from a fair enough looking mark. Clearly not a horse seen at best effect on soft ground, Vodka All The Way placed at Exeter and Taunton last season before stepping up to 2m7f at Exeter at the end of April. Relishing the longer trip, Vodka All The Way stayed on well to score by three-and-a-half lengths, and he could be one to do well in handicap company. Champion jockey Richard Johnson will take the ride, who boasts seven wins here at Newton Abbot so far this season. Top weight Rolling Maul has been a bit of a revelation of late, hacking up at Worcester and following that with a win at Perth. Considering he has gone up 15lbs for his efforts however, I wouldn’t be wanting to back him here with others looking better treated. Timeforben is another interesting contender having won a Class 2 here last month. 7lbs is a fair enough rise for her efforts that day, and this course and distance winner is likely to get some support having had a successful summer campaign. Secret Door was once a useful operator under the ownership of Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, but hasn’t done as well lately.

Selection: Vodka All The Way to Win @ 7/2

15:25 – Novices’ Chase (Class 3) 2m½f 

Despite there only being four declarations, this is a very high-class Novices’ Chase with three debutants taking to the track. One horse that is certain to be ready is Stuart Edmunds’ Maria’s Benefit, who was due to run at Warwick last week before the ground went against her. Winner of the Novice Hurdle on this card last season, the six-year-old enjoyed a fantastic season which included a Grade 2 win at Doncaster, before finishing fourth in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Getting a 7lbs Mares allowance for her Chase debut today will clearly increase her chances of success, however this is a hot contest. Paul Nicholls’ Mont Des Avaloirs is preferred, as this full-brother to his stablemate Le Prezien (Rated 156 over fences) was very close to getting into my Horses to Follow this season. With his brother coming into his own when going over the larger obstacles – winning the Grade 3 Grand Annual Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival this year – the hope is that Mont Des Avaloirs can also show improvement. The basis of his form is good however, having won twice over hurdles and going close for a long way in the Grade 1 Tolworth Novices’ Hurdle when third to the classy pair of Summerville Boy and Kalashnikov. Nicky Henderson’s Lough Derg Spirit is an obvious danger, having finished second in the Grade 2 Elite Hurdle at Wincanton last season – ahead of today’s rival Flying Tiger. Although his season didn’t go to plan when only sixth in the Betfair Hurdle and Martin Pipe, owners Grech and Parkin will feel that a switch to the larger obstacles could bring new fortunes for their six-year-old. Nick William’s aforementioned Flying Tiger rounds off the classy field of four, and he is the only horse in the field to have jumped a fence in public when second over course and distance last month. Although his experience is useful, I can’t help but feel he could find this difficult up against some very promising sorts.

Selection: Mont Des Avaloirs to Win @ 11/4

16:00 – Mares’ Handicap Hurdle (Class 4) 2m5½f 

The Mares take center stage in this Handicap Hurdle over the intermediate trip here at Newton Abbot, and it looks like a competitive contest. A large field of 14 go to post, headed by the top weight Included. A winner at Bangor at the end of August, this Alastair Ralph charge finished second at Worcester just 10 days ago and this may come too soon, with a further 3lbs rise to boot. Course winner Western Sunrise won over the 3m2f trip when last seen here in September, and has done well over the summer placing three times. A chance here is given to Lucca Lady however, who is still a maiden over hurdles having hit the frame on seven occasions over obstacles. Despite being a frustrating horse for connections, Lucca Lady has form behind some really nice Mares such as Kupatana, Litterale Ci and Make My Heart Fly recently. If running to the same level as when second in a Class 3 at Uttoxeter last month, a mark of 114 looks pretty lenient and Tommie O’Brien takes off a further 5lbs to give a nice racing weight of 11-6. Rosemary Russet was easily seen off over course and distance in May, and Miss Mash could be a danger having ran behind two handicap blots on her last two starts. Amour D’Or won twice here over the summer but seems to have reached her handicap ceiling.

Selection: Lucca Lady Each/Way @ 13/2

16:35 – Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase (Class 4) 3m2f 

One horse in particular has really caught my eye in this Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase, and that’s Mick Channon’s Heydour. Third on his last three runs, this five-year-old has showed promise in Novice Hurdles behind the likes of Haul Away and Push The Tempo here at Newton Abbot. Running on good-to-soft ground on both occasions, this son of Presenting is a big scopey individual, and if you watch his last run here then you can see just how much of a size difference there is to his rivals. Travelling strongly and taking it up leaving the back-straight, he was eventually headed by Push The Tempo and didn’t have the speed to go on with the winner. Switching his attention to the larger obstacles is clearly going to suit this big horse, and the step-up to 3m2f shouldn’t be a problem. From a mark of 113, this Adrian Heskin ride looks very well treated and should go extremely close if taking to his new sphere. The obvious danger is Dan Skelton’s Ange Des Malberaux, who won over hurdles at the course in July very easily. Under usual rider Harry Skelton, the pair won a similar event to this at Perth last month in dramatic style, getting up in the final strides to win from a mark of 108. Now upped another 3lbs, the eight-year-old might struggle to find further improvement. Another interesting runner is Nicky Martin’s The Two Amigos, who recorded five point-to-point wins last season. He may find 109 a high enough mark on his return to racing under rules however, and was declared a non-runner at Exeter in May due to Good ground. The Flame won well over course and distance at the beginning of last month, but a hefty 10lbs rise could be enough to see his progress halted here.

Selection: Heydour Each/Way @ 13/2 Non-Runner

17:10 – Standard Open National Hunt Flast Race (Class 5) 2m1f 

We end the day with a very competitive looking National Hunt Flat Race, which has been won by some smart horses in the past such as Misterton and Copper Kay. Their trainers Harry Fry and Philip Hobbs have won two of the last four races between them, and both have entries again this year. Winningseverthing is likely to be a warm-order on his first start for Harry Fry in the colours of Paul and Clare Rooney, and the four-year-old is a half-brother to Edmund Kean, once rated 140 over fences. Philip Hobbs will attempt to make it back-to-back wins with Ninth Wave, who won a point-to-point flat race in very taking style before joining his Minehead yard in the famous colours of Trevor Hemmings. Richard Johnson is set to ride this four-year-old – preffering him to stablemate Dark Episode – and he could well go off as the favourite for this contest. Jakamani has a very similar profile to Winningseverything, being a half-brother to Kentford Grey Lady, who was retired on a Hurdles rating of 141. The Mark Bradstock debutant will benefit from the ride of Nico de Boinville, and makes the shortlist. Enrilo is a very interesting runner for Paul Nicholls in the colours of Martin Broughton. Although not having much pedigree of note, he is by the same sire as Al Boum Photo and quite a few stablemates at Ditcheat. Harry Cobden will take the ride and it will be interesting to see how he gets on. With this being such a competitive race, it is hard to have a strong opinion but point-to-point bumper winner Ninth Wave gets a tentative vote having had the benefit of running well in a race of this nature before, and has an inform trainer/jockey combination (Hobbs 25% here and Johnson 40% in the last 14 days).

Below is a video of Ninth Wave‘s point-to-point win:

Selection: Ninth Wave to Win @ 7/4Non-Runner.

Once again a big thank you to Newton Abbot racecourse for putting on yet another great summer of National Hunt racing, and for putting up such good prize money. I hope I have been able to pick out some winners, and that everyone enjoys the great racing on offer. The next stop for me will be Cheltenham’s ‘Showcase’ meeting at the end of the month! As mentioned previously, be sure to follow me on twitter @JakePriceTips for daily horse racing tips, news and views. If you haven’t already, then please go and check out my 54 page PDF containing my National Hunt Horses to Follow 2018/19!

– Jake Price

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