The Duke’s Weekend Preview

The big betting race of the weekend is the November Handicap at Doncaster, while there is also decent jumps action at Wincanton.

Let’s start with the November Handicap, which is a notoriously tough race, both for horses to win and for punters to select the winner.

Top Tug for Alan King has ability but would have preferred a sounder surface, so I’m not entirely convinced with him. Dance The Dream beat Top Tug at Leicester recently and I’d prefer her claims on this ground. She’s the first one I’ll put in to the betting options.

Cohesion is another who has the requisite skills. He pulled a muscle which caused him to miss the Ebor but assuming he is over that niggle then he would have a chance at 20/1.

Minotaur wears first time cheek-pieces which Jonjo O’Neill will hope can generate the necessary improvement.

Wild Hacked has a degree of ability based on his third in the September Stakes at Kempton, but the reason he was a non-runner last year at Haydock was because soft ground was deemed unsuitable.

The ground might also be a concern for Euchen Glen, while I’m not convinced this is the right trip for Chelsea Lad or Syphax.

Joe Tuite trained Litigant to win this in 2015 and he’s represented by Machine Learner. Based on his second in a big field handicap at Leopardstown in September, he’s another with a squeak at big odds.

Sepal will love the testing conditions but having had such a fine improving year and rising up the weights as a result, this may be a little tough. Saunter made a decent start to life with Ian Williams with a second at Newmarket and he’s well-touted in betting circles for this.

The ones that most interest me are Towerlands Park and Royal Line. The latter is going to be favourite unless there is a big gamble.

Royal Line was disappointing at Newbury in an awkward three-runner affair last month but he’s got a much better chance in a truly run race with other horses for company. The ground will not be a problem, he’s got a nice pedigree and a mark of 96 could seriously underestimate his ability.

Finally, Towerlands Park is also worth putting in to the portfolio. He was given a sighter at Newbury a couple of weeks ago which should have put him spot on for this. He’s a strong traveller and I expect him to be right there at the finish. So three in the race for me, Dance The Dream, Royal Line and Towerlands Park.

Wincanton must be seriously disappointed at a three-runner field for the ‘Rising Stars’ Novices’ Chase. While the adage is to back the outsider of three, I think Modus will probably justify odds-on favouritism.

The Elite Hurdle also takes place at Wincanton, with seven options to choose from. Old-timer Melodic Rendezvous won it in 2013 and while the sentimental part of me would love to see him win again, the betting brain suggests it isn’t very likely.

London Prize ran a blinder in the Cesarewitch on the level last month, while Lough Derg Spirit remains with potential. At the odds though, I’m going to side with Zubayr who could be a bit of value.

Paul Nicholls is leading trainer in this race with seven wins and a master at placing his horses. He will not have forgotten Zubayr ran well until falling at the final flight in this race last year. It’s a shame there aren’t eight in the race for an each-way option, so I’ll just play a small win bet on Zubayr in an open looking contest.

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