Brian Healy looks over Saturday’s Newbury racecard and gives his Denman Chase preview as he assesses the potential field for the Grade Two feature at the Berkshire Track.
Going to post at 3.00pm on Newbury’s racecard on Saturday, the Denman Chase is one of the highlights of a cracking afternoon of jumps racing action at the Berkshire venue where a potential field of eight runners goes to post for the three mile contest.
The race often serves as a Cheltenham Gold Cup preparation run for some Blue Riband hopefuls; but the race unfortunately often cuts up and the valuable prize has been blighted in recent years with small fields.
That again could be the case, but the race is worth following as several Gold Cup winners have come out of the contest. Kauto Star, Denman, Coneygree and Native River all took this prize before going on to Cheltenham Gold Cup glory in the same season; while Long Run won this prize the season following his Gold Cup heroics.
Other notable winners include King George VI Chase winner Clan Des Obeaux, Houblon des Obeaux, Silviniaco Conti and Madison du Berlais.
The race boasts a first prize of almost £30,000, and the Grade Two feature will be covered live on ITV Racing’. Brian Healy looks over the potential field of runners to give his Denman Chase preview and verdict.
2020 DENMAN CHASE SELECTION
DENMAN CHASE PREVIEW – RUNNER BY RUNNER
NATIVE RIVER (1/3, Paddy Power)
Dual-winner of this race, taking the spoils in 2017 and 2018 and going on to lift the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the latter year with a game success over Might Bite.
Colin Tizzard’s charge wasn’t at his best last season, failing to win in three starts including his Gold Cup defence. He finished around ten lengths’ fourth behind Al Boum Photo having been beaten in both the Betfair Chase and King George VI Chase previously.
He probably needed his first outing at Haydock, and the ground allied with the sharp nature of Kempton wouldn’t have played to his strengths. Despite never really travelling and running in snatches in the Gold Cup, he did well to finish where he did and he made a winning reappearance in the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree in December.
That was a relatively straightforward success however as his main rival Might Bite – with whom he had that titanic 2018 Gold Cup battle with – endured an early exit and he was simply too good for his two other rivals. He’s likely to prove a very tough nut to crack here, and while the ground might not altogether be ideal he should hold too many guns for his rivals.
MIGHT BITE (13/2, Coral)
High-class at his best and has won a host of Grade One races, scoring four times as a novice over fences which include a dramatic RSA Chase win where he showed his quirkiness in trying to run off the track and relinquishing the lead only to battle back for the win.
Also an Aintree winner following that win, he won three of four races in the following season which included the King George VI Chase and Aintree Bowl either side of his duel at Cheltenham with Native River.
However, he’s been a shadow of himself since and he disappointed in all three outings last campaign, pulling up in the Gold Cup; while he has shown few signs of a revival in his two starts this term, checking out tamely over hurdles when last seen at Cheltenham on New Years’ Day.
Nicky Henderson’s charge would be a live threat to Native River if he were to recapture his very best form, especially with the dryer ground in favour of the Scorpion gelding.
But, he has been increasingly temperamental and unreliable and he isn’t one to trust at present that he’ll bounce back so he comes with definite risks attached for backers looking to him to produce something of his best from previous years.
SECRET INVESTOR (9/1, Bet365)
Hasn’t always been the most convincing of jumpers, but that didn’t stop him from registering three wins during his novice campaign which included a Grade Two contest at Ayr on his final start of the season.
Paul Nicholls’ charge might have needed his return to action behind Real Steel when sent to Ireland for the Grade Two Daily Mirror Chase at Down Royal; but he failed to build on that promising return when finishing down the field in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup where he finished last of those who completed the course.
A step up to three miles might well see the Kayf Tara gelding in a better light now, and he showed improved form over this longer trip over hurdles; while his sole start over three miles over fences saw him only beaten six lengths behind Ok Corral at Warwick last January.
He certainly has more on his plate now and while he gets 3lbs from Native River in this contest he is rated 19lbs inferior to the 2018 Gold Cup winner. But the step up trip could unlock some improvement and if he can brush up on his jumping and keep the mistakes down then he could post a big run and may emerge as the main danger to Colin Tizzard’s star.
ACTIVIAL (16/1, Paddy Power)
Tom George’s smart hurdler took well to chasing last term, winning on his second start over fences at Haydock having gone close on his debut over the larger obstacles; he subsequently was denied only by a short-head by Kildisart at Ascot.
The Lord Du Sud gelding produced very creditable performances under big weights in competitive Grade Three handicaps in March and April at Cheltenham, finishing sixth both times and latterly over three miles in the Ultima Handicap Chase. He possibly wasn’t suited by the Grand National fences on his final outing of the campaign in the Topham Chase although he completed the course, and he might have needed his return behind The Bay Birch at Chepstow in October.
He sustained a minor injury in that contest, and his subsequent run at Cheltenham is forgiven where having unseated his rider he was reported to have bled as well as losing a shoe.
This will certainly be an even tougher test, but returning from a break he could post a decent run for all he has a fair bit to find with Native River and Might Bite should the latter come back to his best form.
THE TWO AMIGOS (16/1, Paddy Power)
Won three of his five starts over fences last term following his switch from the point-to-point sphere, although all those wins came at a much lower level than this.
Nicky Martin’s charge rounded off last season with a fall in the Grand National Trial where he was still travelling well, and having needed his reappearance over hurdles at Uttoxeter he ran a solid return to action behind One Of Us at Fontwell back over the larger obstacles in the Southern National.
That run was followed up by a very creditable fifth in the Welsh Grand National, but this stiff hike in class is likely to find him out and he has a mountain to climb to get competitive on these terms. He does remain with scope as a chaser, but this will demand a significant step forward against proven Graded performers.
A TOI PHIL (20/1, Paddy Power)
High-class in his younger days when trained by Gordon Elliott, winning three Grade Two contests in his prime years but now makes his first start for Gary Moore in this contest.
The Day Flight gelding rounded off his time in Ireland with a win at Listowel from The West’s Awake, but that was his first success in more than eighteen months having scored his previous win in the Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles in January 2018.
That said, he has remained capable of a decent level of form. But there is evidence he’s not as good as he was although he did run a creditable fifth back over hurdles in last season’s Pertemps Final. He then completed the Grand National Course behind Tiger Roll but had little chance at Aintree.
There’s a chance he’ll need this first start for new trainer Gary Moore while his record when fresh isn’t promising. He may no longer be up to this level of competition nowadays and he will likely find this too hot.
VALDEZ (25/1, Paddy Power)
Very useful but fragile chaser and deep into the veteran stages of his career as a 13-year old.
Alan King’s charge is relatively low-mileage for one of his age and he showed he was no back number when winning at Hereford in November. He failed to back up that effort next time at Wincanton where he beat only one home behind Gala Ball.
The Doyen gelding has a decent record here, but he tries three miles for the first time and isn’t certain to see out the longer trip if turning out.
As a veteran he’s unlikely to have much scope for improvement now despite a lightly-raced career. Even if the step up in distance does see him in a better light he’s hard to make a case form at this level.
RATOUTE YUTTY (250/1, Paddy Power)
An Irish hurdles winner who has yet to get off the mark for Dan Skelton and recent efforts suggest she won’t be breaking her duck here. She could now try this level having been turned over in a Class Three novices’ handicap at Uttoxeter last month.
Beaten more than 20 lengths on that occasion, the Midnight Legend mare is rated fully 64lbs below Native River yet would only receive 13lbs from the former Gold Cup winner. As such she has no conceivable chance on all her known form and she is impossible to fancy.
Having made the frame just once in five chase starts she would be thoroughly out of her depth if lining up in Saturday’s feature.
NATIVE RIVER should collect a third Denman Chase with a clear round of jumping, and Colin Tizzard’s charge is likely to be very hard to beat if turning out at his best following a winning reappearance in the Many Clouds Chase where he faced a fairly straightforward task.
Might Bight fell in that race to continue his spell in the doldrums, but Nicky Henderson’s charge would have claims if coming back to his best. That’s a very big IF however and it might be Paul Nicholls’ Secret Investor who emerges as the principal threat to the former Gold Cup winner.
The Ditcheat handler won this race twelve months ago with Clan Des Obeaux, and while his representative here isn’t in that class he is nevertheless capable of very good form when putting everything together.
He was unable to build on his promising return in the Irish Daily Mirror Chase when failing to beat a rival home in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. But if he can jump with more fluency here then he could go well for last season’s winning trainer.
With doubts remaining over Might Bite he could emerge as the main challenger to Native River’s bid for a third Denman Chase.