The November Handicap Meeting at Doncaster is the traditional final meeting of the turf season on the flat and this year’s renewal is typically competitive with 23 runners declared. However, we’ve an each-way fancy for the big race, as well as a tip for the Wentworth Stakes.
Meanwhile, Wincanton’s Badger Ales Trophy Handicap Chase is seen by many as the first significant handicap chase of the National Hunt season. We’ve also got a tip for that, as well as tips for the Rising Stars Novices’ Chase and the Elite Hurdle.
This looks a high-class renewal of the Listed Wentworth Stakes, with group race winning sprinters Donjuan Triumphant and Librisa Breeze both kept going after running in Ascot’s Qipco Champions Sprint. That may be because both horses have endured winless seasons, but it’s possible that a tough race last time may have left them vulnerable to a fresher horse.
The horse that could fit the profile is Laugh A Minute who, after being off the track for 11 weeks, could well have been laid out for this decent prize having won on both his previous visits to Doncaster. His trainer Roger Varian has also been banging in the winners in the last couple of weeks.
Wentworth Stakes Free Tip: Laugh A Minute @ 4.50 Bet365
Trainer Paul Nicholls usually targets the Rising Star Novices’ Chase and has won six of the last 10 renewals. His runner this year is the improving Secret Investor, and it’s interesting that he had a prep race four weeks ago, a pattern that Nicholls has followed with those six winners, five of which also won their prep race.
However, there’s a sneaking suspicion that he’ll be better over further in due course, whilst he probably didn’t achieve as much over hurdles as Bags Groove. Harry Fry’s seven-year-old has also proved himself over fences already, as he won a novice chase on his seasonal debut at Ffos Las, beating some useful horses in the process. It could also be significant that he improved a lot for his seasonal debut last season before winning twice at this time of year. A winner four-times going right-handed, he looks the value in the race.
Rising Stars Novices’ Chase Free Tip: Bags Groove @ 2.50 BetVictor
We Have A Dream is still in the could be anything category, but last year’s English juvenile hurdle form has been consistently let down so far. It could be a case that he could only beat the horses that he raced against but, with four-year-olds also only winning one of the last 10 renewals of the Elite Hurdle, the temptation is to look elsewhere.
Nicky Henderson also runs a second runner in Verdana Blue and it could be significant that Henderson considered this good ground loving mare could be a Champion Hurdler contender on decent ground. Her form has taken a few knocks too though, and the horse that looks the least exposed in this field is If The Caps Fits. Beaten just once in six runs, there’s a fair chance this unbeaten hurdler would have been rated much higher if a slight injury hadn’t stopped him from running at last year’s big festivals. There’s a chance he may need the run, but he has the most scope for improvement, is unbeaten going right-handed, and looks the value-bet.
Elite Hurdle Free Tip: If The Cap Fits @ 3.25 SkyBet
It’s often an advantage to be drawn low on the round course at Doncaster but, as the front-runners often get racing far too soon in the November Handicap, the statistics suggest it pays to back a horse drawn wide that likes to be held up. The last 10 renewals are a perfect example, with all 10 winners drawn between stalls 9 and 22, whilst it could also be worth noting only one of the last 10 winners has carried more than 9-2.
One horse that fits those stats is Erik The Red and Kevin Ryan’s six-year-old looks like this has always been his end-of-season target after just four runs this season. He started the season on a mark of 99 but has slipped to 96, a mark just 1lb higher than when second in the 2016 renewal and just 2lb higher than when successful here in 2017. He’s vulnerable to any potential handicap snips but should give us a good each-way run for our money.
November Handicap Free Tip: Erik The Red (each-way) @ 17.00 WilliamHill (7 places)
Paul Nicholls is three-handed in his attempt to make it five wins in 11 years in the Badger Ales Trophy Handicap Chase. Last year’s winner Present Man is again ridden by the impressive Bryony Frost, though the pair are up a few pounds in the handicap and have significantly more weight to carry. At the other end of the handicap he has Captain Bucks, though this is a step-up in class for him. Therefore, it could be significant that Nicholls pitches El Bandit into a handicap chase on just his second run over fences, the first being a facile odds-on win in a three runner novices’ chase nearly 18 months ago. That may not be an ideal prep for a competitive handicap, but El Bandit won several times over hurdles on decent ground, including when twice carrying over 11-0 in handicaps.
Badger Ales Trophy Handicap Chase Free Tip: El Bandit @ 7.00 WilliamHill
Odds Correct at Time of Publication