CeeBee previews Friday's racing from Doncaster and Newbury and he has likes Kings Bandit on first start for Oliver Sherwood, while he is keen on Major Milbourne and Little Jon at Newbury.
13.20 Doncaster – 2m3f Handicap Chase
Leaving Donald McCain’s yard to race for another has proven to be a successful move for many this season. Dan Skelton has been the most prolific with the likes of Sir Mangan and Abricot de L’oasis but here we have one who’s joined Oliver Sherwood. A yard that’s had three winners this past week.
Kings Bandit made two reasonable efforts in 2013 bumpers but really took off over hurdles in the spring of 2014. He won 3 from 3 on ground varying from soft to good and from 2m up to 2m3f. He made all each time and the form was decent. He gave the now mid-130s rated King Edmund 12lbs and a 3L beating at Taunton. Whilst at Ludlow he had 8L to spare over Simply a Legend who then won his next two. Those three efforts suggest Kings Bandit is an above-average sort and that this 2m3f trip on good ground will be no problem to him.
He only saw the track once last season when a disappointing 3rd of 3 finishers at Plumpton. Behind two decent horses to be fair but he wasn’t anywhere near his best, like many of McCain’s.
Now in the care of Oliver Sherwood he made his seasonal debut at Wetherby four weeks ago. He only got as far as the fifth. Despite this short effort as it was his first run in 8mts and 2nd in 18mts he should improve from it. Having his first start for the new combination of Sherwood and Aspell, I’m sure they will have learned plenty from it also. A revert to the aggressive tactics which worked over hurdles may suit as he was held up when unseating last time.
With just the two bad starts over fences Kings Bandit is quite an unexposed type but if he gets it together he’s on a decent mark of 132. Those three hurdle wins may be a long time ago but he hasn’t done anything in the meantime to suggest he can’t get back to that level for his new handler.
The favourite here, Voix D’eau, is the sort I’m always eager to oppose. The unlucky loser – consistently overbet next time out. Voix D’eau was hampered when narrowly defeated at Ascot last month however he’s been handicapped accordingly and is now 8lbs higher. Two of those in behind that day have run again since and neither has boosted the form significantly, Astigos was 3rd beaten 4L next time whilst Vikekhal was pulled up at Lingfield since. Harry Fry’s gelding started the season very well handicapped but he’s now 16lbs higher so will need to be decent to go in again off 138.
1 point win Kings Bandit at 10/1 with Stan James and Betway
12.55 Newbury – 2m2f Handicap Chase
Somewhat like Kings Bandit above, Major Milborne needs to discover past glories to have a say here. He has plenty of things going for him however.
After two poor efforts to start last season cheekpieces were applied and they brought about some improvement with his form figures reading 3132 before tailing off in the spring. The ‘1’ and ‘2’ both came over course and distance, 2m2f at Newbury so nothing to worry about on that front. All his best efforts have come with some cut in the ground so that may help explain the two below-par efforts last spring.
He now has blinkers applied for the first time. Given headgear has worked on him before I’d like to think a change of headgear may have a similar effect.
His last win came off a mark of 112 and he subsequently placed off 120 so today’s mark of 114 is most definitely workable if the return to Newbury and addition of blinkers bring him back to his best.
1 point win Major Milborne at 11/1 with Betfred, Stan James and William Hill
14.40 Newbury – 2m4f Handicap Chase
I was very hopeful that Little Jon would make the cut in the Paddy Power Gold Cup as I fancied him to run a big race there. He missed out, narrowly, and takes in this handicap chase instead. This obviously won’t take as much winning. His handicap mark of 137, ignoring the fact Jamie Bargary takes off another 5lbs, is extremely lenient for what he has promised as a novice last season.
Five times he ran at Cheltenham last season. He made too many mistakes when 3rd to Dunraven Storm in a G2 at the Open meeting. Followed that by running out when in the process of running a big race against Champagne West at the December meeting and then fell when in contention against Ptit Zig in the Dipper. His fourth effort in a handicap chase (off 140) against experienced horses, including Annacotty, was a much better effort. He finished 4th and it looked like he just didn’t get home. 2m5f on soft was a little too much. Back to 2m4f and a flatter finish today will suit.
At the Festival (off 138) he made a few mistakes but none worse than the mistake at the last. He was bang in contention up until that point. Had he jumped the last well he’d now be racing off 5 or 6lbs higher. He finished the season with a morale boosting novice chase win at Uttoxeter, proving he can jump a full course successfully. Luckily for connections his handicap mark didn’t budge as a result.
His reappearance at Stratford was decent as a prep race for something bigger. He travelled and jumped well before a lack of fitness kicked in.
His two career wins have come of soft ground and 2m4f looks within his ability (just about). There’s more than a few pieces in his formbook that suggest his current mark is exploitable. Take the 9/1
1.5 points win Little Jon at 8/1 with William Hill, Ladbrokes, Bet365 and Paddy Power