Denman Chase Tips: Phil your boots

A Toi Phil makes his first start for the Gary Moore team on Saturday.
A Toi Phil makes his first start for the Gary Moore team on Saturday.

Nick Seddon previews Saturday’s Denman Chase at Newbury, which is headlined by the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Native River, and picks out an each-way selection in the race…

Unlike last month’s Cotswold Chase, which featured a hair-raising battle between an emerging force in Santini and one of the members of the old guard in Bristol De Mai, Saturday’s Denman Chase is unlikely to tell us too much about this year’s Gold Cup picture – unless the heavily odds-on favourite Native River fails to deliver, of course.

As a result, it leaves the feeling that this race is perhaps one of the lesser trials for the blue riband on offer, though a look at the roll of honour will show that it is certainly worthy of respect; with the likes of Kauto Star (2007), Denman himself (2008), Long Run (2012), Silviniaco Conti (2013) and Coneygree (2015) winning it this century.

Native River has won each of the last two renewals in 2017 and 2018 (last year’s race fell victim to the equine flu outbreak), and it seems almost certain that he will complete a hat-trick here barring any blunders, having looked a class apart when dominating in the Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase on reappearance at Aintree in December.

That four-runner contest was blighted by the early departure of Might Bite, who re-opposes here, but the manner in which Native River was able to trounce two smart yardsticks in Black Corton and Outlander by some 33 lengths suggested that his ability is still very much intact. It is no secret that Native River needs some cut in the ground to be seen to best effect, though a real feather in his cap is that he is ultra-consistent, and in what looks a wide-open year for the staying chasing division, he is one of the very few who will pitch up at Cheltenham with rock solid claims. Saturday’s race should be no more than a formality, and it would be no surprise should connections be eyeing up a tilt at the Grand National alongside regaining the Gold Cup.

It essentially means we’re playing for each-way terms, and although Might Bite is second in the betting at the time of writing, it’s difficult to fancy him. The 11-year-old was unable to stick around for long enough to provide his old rival with a race on Merseyside, and he is quickly building the profile of one who is losing interest in the game with every passing day, looking far from interested when pulled up on New Year’s Day at Cheltenham. There’s no doubt that he was a top-class performer at his peak, and he would have more than enough ability to trouble Native River should he be able to bounce back here, but it would take an awful lot of trust to support him at present. The same can be said for the veteran Valdez, who looks firmly out of his depth here.

Of more interest is The Two Amigos, who looked a stayer to follow when winning the Sussex National at Plumpton in January 2019. He’s been shaping as though he’s been building up to something, finishing fifth in an attritional renewal of the Welsh National at Chepstow last time out, though he would need more on his first foray into graded company here, and may need a stiffer test of stamina to be seen to best effect. Meanwhile, the Tom George-trained Activial hasn’t shown quite as much as his aforementioned rival in two starts so far this term, though he produced some solid efforts last season – including when sixth in the Ultima Handicap at Cheltenham – and may be one to consider for the runner-up position if granted a soft lead.

That seems unlikely, however, and several are likely to be jousting for the lead in the early exchanges, including the Paul Nicholls-trained Secret Investor. He was a Grade 2-winning novice from last season, but failed to follow up a solid reappearance at Down Royal in November when fading away in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham a month later. Paul Nicholls is the master of finding opportunities for his horses, meaning that it would be no surprise should Secret Investor be fully firing here, though he’s fairly-priced to hit the frame at present – at around the 8/1 mark.

At a much bigger price, it may be worth chancing A Toi Phil, who’s due to make his first start for the Gary Moore team. Admittedly, he’d rather lost his way for Gordon Elliott and the Gigginstown operation, but he was a smart performer at his peak, and was regularly performing with credit in graded company as recently as 2018. His last start was a winning one, too, capitalising on a drop in grade when striking at Limerick in September. He will need more on the back of an 148-day break here, but he’s won on the back of an absence in the past, and the change in yards may well squeeze out some more of his old ability. It’s a notable sign that Moore is willing to pitch him straight into this company on his first start, and bearing in mind that there are several front-runners here, things may play into this hold-up performer’s hands - and he could be worth chancing to swoop late and pick up some prize money for his new connections.

Selection

Denman Chase, Saturday 8th February 2020 – back A Toi Phil each-way at 33/1

Denman Chase
A Toi Phil silk

A Toi Phil (EW)

lost
Cheltenham Tips
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