Ben Linfoot picks his way through the new BHA handicap ratings following action at Ascot and Haydock over the weekend, featuring a few My Stable eyecatchers and plenty of points of note.

Good ground was still prevailing around the country at the weekend giving Betfair Chase day at Haydock a strange look, one that was exacerbated by a spate of fallers, given conditions at the track at this time of year are usually testing.

Much has been made about the size and stiffness of the fences, but they didn’t stop Bristol De Mai recording his second win in the race in a thrilling renewal of the feature in a time 33 seconds faster than when he had prevailed in a bog, by 57 lengths, the year before.

Up 4lb to 169, Bristol De Mai’s rating continues to fluctuate from race-to-race, but that’s not the case for his Betfair Chase rivals as Native River (176), Thistlecrack (165) and Might Bite (172) remain on the same figures with only fourth home Clan Des Obeaux (up 3lb to 160) improving slightly.

It looks a fair assessment to conclude that Bristol De Mai was excellent at a track he loves again while taking a watching brief on the others who could improve.

Native River wants a more suitable track, Thistlecrack needs to jump better, Clan Des Obeaux is still a young horse and Might Bite, well, Might Bite is the head scratcher. He needs to rediscover the Might Bite of last season and Nicky Henderson might have a job on his hands to find the key there.

Away from the Grade One centrepiece there were some good handicaps on the Haydock undercard with Bishops Road this week’s main eyecatcher, with two horses selected for your My Stable trackers from Saturday’s action.

There were plenty of points of note from a good meeting at Ascot, as well, while this week’s big-race analysis focuses on the Gerard Bertrand Hurst Park Handicap Chase from that track as novice Caid du Lin struck for Dr Richard Newland…

My Stable Eyecatchers

BISHOPS ROAD >>>> Up 2lb to 137

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It has been a bit of a barren spell for Kerry Lee. She’s had no winners since April from 35 runners and will be one of the many trainers hoping a wet spell is around the corner.

Good ground at Haydock on Saturday certainly wouldn’t be the ideal conditions for her BISHOPS ROAD, but with that in mind he ran a very nice race in the Betfair Each Way Edge Handicap Chase over 3m4f and a bit.

A winner over the course and distance in the Grand National Trial back in 2016 off a 9lb higher mark, Bishops Road is now winless in 14 goes since then but has dropped 19lb from 154 to 135 in that spell.

He’s well-handicapped now, there is little doubt, and a 2lb rise to 137 probably won’t stop him from recording his sixth career win when the ground eventually turns in his favour.

Richard Johnson hadn’t really gone for him in the straight and must’ve been saving his energy for a late charge when he was forced to switch around Red Infantry with two to jump.

A mistake at the last ended his hopes, though, the patient tactics looking the wrong ones in hindsight, but this was clearly a good effort and a return to form at a track he likes.

Staying chases in the mud are his bag and a return to this track for that Grand National Trial he’s won before is likely to be on his agenda. But he’s worth noting wherever he goes for the time being.

Bishops Road: Can flourish when the ground turns soft

DOUX PRETENDER >>>> Up 5lb to 134

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Nicky Henderson has had some high-profile setbacks recently but the bulk of his horses continue to run well and he’ll have been pleased with the effort of DOUX PRETENDER in the Molton Brown Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday.

This looked a good race with Stoney Mountain the form pick on the back of his defeat of the 145-rated Aye Aye Charlie at Ascot last month, while Alan King’s Senior Citizen was one from one over hurdles and Paul Nicholls’ Trevelyn’s Corn was a winning pointer making his Rules debut.

The quartet pulled clear of their other three rivals in the straight and Doux Pretender was last of the four two out, looking the least likely winner at that stage.

At the last there wasn’t much between any of them, a slight stumble from Trevelyn’s Corn ending his chance, while Stoney Mountain wandered under pressure when looking the most likely winner (traded at 1.15 in-running on Betfair).

So it was to his great credit that Doux Pretender pulled this out of the fire, even if being manoeuvred to the stands’ side rail by Noel Fehily helped.

He needed every yard of the extended 2m5f trip, but this looks good form and he could well improve again when encountering three miles or even a big-field handicap scenario over this sort of trip.

With that in mind the Lanzarote at Kempton in January could well be on his agenda. Henderson has won this race twice in the last six years and last season he ran Diese Des Bieffes (finished fifth), a novice under the same ownership as Doux Pretender.

A mark of 134 in that sort of race could well attract connections, but, wherever he goes, this talented five-year-old is worth keeping an eye on.

Cry me a River at Haydock

Poor old River Wylde. Not only did he crash at the last at Haydock when looking like he was producing a winning run, but he’s gone up 6lb for his troubles as well.

Activial won the Cash Out In-Play With Betfair Graduation Chase, but he was getting 4lb from River Wylde and did look like he might have to play second fiddle to the Nicky Henderson-trained horse when he was left clear at the final obstacle.

Still, it was a really encouraging run from River Wylde, his first run in a year and his first since wind surgery, while this was just his third chase start.

He could have a big handicap in him at some stage, even if he is now up to 150 on the back of this last-fence fall.

River Wylde: Fell at the last and went up 6lb

Not beyond the Realms

Two nice horses looked to pull clear in the Winning Post Bookmakers Bristol Chase at Ascot, a limited handicap for novices, with King Of Realms leading home Spider’s Bite, the pair 10 lengths clear of the third.

Both were making their chasing debuts and both look to have bright futures, with talk of the JLT or RSA Chase for the winner in the aftermath. Up 7lb to 139 after this, I wonder if the Timeform Novices’ Handicap at Cheltenham on trials day in January might be a target.

Spider’s Bite is up 5lb to 132 and he looked the likely winner jumping the last when briefly heading the winner. He wandered about a bit under pressure, but he’s forgiven that on just his first go over fences.

Given how well he jumped, he also looks to have the tools to go well in this sphere.

King Of Realms

King Of Realms: Made a lovely debut over fences

Harry Fry and the Racing Welfare Handicap

Harry Fry loves the Racing Welfare Handicap at Ascot (if it’s still called that, I’m not sure?) in December. He usually targets the race formerly known as The Ladbroke and he won it when Jolly’s Cracked It dead-heated with Sternrubin back in 2015.

That horse had only run once since that victory until Ascot on Friday, where he took advantage of a mark lowered in part by his absence to win as he liked off a rating of 138.

Up 9lb to 147, another crack at the Racing Welfare looks likely for him, though he is 6lb higher than when he won it now.

It probably won’t happen, but I wonder if the same race might come under consideration for the same stable’s If The Cap Fits after he stayed on a rating of 150 following his victory in the Coral Hurdle on Saturday?

The Christmas Hurdle at Kempton was mentioned in post-race discussions at the weekend, but the Ascot handicap hurdle is worth £20,000 more to the winner and the stiff nature of the track and just-about guaranteed stronger gallop would play to his strengths.

He looks to need further really, but if connections do want to keep him at two miles for now then a return to Ascot looks much more ideal than a Boxing Day trip to Kempton.

If The Cap Fits

If The Cap Fits: Stays on 150 – could he take in a handicap?

Little between top novices

Didtheyleaveuoutto and Thomas Darby fought out the finish of the Introductory Hurdle at Ascot on Friday and there was only a head between them off level weights.

That’s reflected in their opening hurdle marks, with Didtheyleaveuoutto considered 1lb better than Thomas Darby at this stage on 139.

Both have had just two runs over timber, but the pair could well be likely types for the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury in February, although both sets of connections have also stated they probably wouldn’t want deep winter the ground in the next few months.

A watching brief is advised, with both horses needing one more run to qualify for the Newbury handicap.

Didtheyleaveuoutto could go for the Sky Bet Supreme Trial back at Ascot next month first, while it wouldn’t surprise if either or both horses developed into Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ candidates as the season progresses.

Big-race analysis: Gerard Bertrand Hurst Park Handicap Chase

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They went hell-for-leather in the Gerard Bertrand Hurst Park Handicap Chase over almost 2m1f on Saturday, with the novice CAID DU LIN staying on best of all to land the spoils.

It was a good, ground-saving ride from Sam Twiston-Davies as he sat well off the fierce pace but never moved far from the rail and that paid dividends in the final furlong.

Speredek set a strong gallop and did tremendously well to see off everything bar the winner, with Gardefort crying off early on his first start in over a year and Ozzie The Oscar dropping to fifth late on after trying to keep up.

Caid du Lin is up 5lb to 144 and the Arkle was mentioned by Dr Richard Newland afterwards, but he’s probably best served by a rip-roaring big-field handicap gallop at this trip so the Grand Annual and Red Rum Handicap Chase could be more suitable spring targets.

Speredek loves Ascot but he’s going to remain hard to place up 3lb to 154, with the Clarence House Chase back here in January, a race he was second in last season, a likely target.

Marracudja was a bit of an eyecatcher. He was held up way off the pace but crept into contention nicely for third, only beaten just over four lengths at the line.

He remains on 135, a mark 12lb below his best, and it should be remembered he’s only had four starts for Dan Skelton. His trainer can be trusted to find a suitable opportunity in the coming months.

San Benedeto ran his usual race but a 2lb drop to 150 might not help him end a losing sequence that now stands at 12 anytime soon, but Ozzie The Oscar’s effort can be marked up.

He was one of the few that managed to keep tabs on Speredek and he held every chance until tiring after the last. A 1lb drop to 153 isn’t much on the face of it, but he handles smaller fields well and could well find his head in front again soon granted a suitable opportunity.

Principal BHA Ratings alterations from the weekend November 23-24

  • Activial >>>> Up 1lb to 146
  • Bishops Road >>>> Up 2lb to 137
  • Black Mischief >>>> Up 6lb to 142
  • Bristol De Mai >>>> Up 4lb to 169
  • Caid du Lin >>>> Up 5lb to 144
  • Chti Balko >>>> Up 3lb to 147
  • Didtheyleaveuoutto >>>> Introduced at 139
  • Doux Pretender >>>> Up 5lb to 134
  • Favorito Buck’s >>>> Up 6lb to 135
  • Flying Angel >>>> Up 4lb to 146
  • If The Cap Fits >>>> Remains on 150
  • Jolly’s Cracked It >>>> Up 9lb to 147
  • King Of Realms >>>> Up 7lb to 139
  • Marracudja >>>> Remains on 135
  • Mr Medic >>>> Up 9lb to 143
  • Mr Antolini >>>> Up 3lb to 141
  • Ozzie The Oscar >>>> Down 1lb to 153
  • Paisley Park >>>> Up 5lb to 152
  • Politologue >>>> Remains on 168
  • Red Infantry >>>> Up 5lb to 137
  • River Wylde >>>> Up 6lb to 150
  • San Benedeto >>>> Down 2lb to 150
  • Speredek >>>> Up 3lb to 154
  • Spider’s Bite >>>> Up 5lb to 132
  • Stoney Mountain >>> Introduced at 133
  • Thomas Darby >>>> Introduced at 138
  • Vintage Clouds >>>> Up 3lb to 146
  • Wenyerreadyfreddie >>>> Up 3lb to 148

The ‘Weighed In’ My Stable

  • Born Survivor (added 6/11/2018)
  • Go Conquer (added 6/11/2018)
  • Larry (added 6/11/2018) – (Fell, 19/11/2018)
  • Smaoineamh Alainn (added 13/11/2018)
  • Warriors Tale (added 13/11/2018)
  • Royal Vacation (added 20/11/2018)
  • Doitforthevillage (added 20/11/2018)
  • Theatre Territory (added 20/11/2018)
  • Bishops Road (added 27/11/2018)
  • Doux Pretender (added 27/11/2018)

Previous ‘Weighed In’ columns

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