The Grimthorpe Handicap Chase run over three miles two furlongs at Doncaster is the highlight of the day for punters who like a decent run for their money (3.35pm Saturday live on ITV4). Brian Ellison’s yard is performing well but his 11/4 favourite, Definitly Red, seems ungenerously priced especially as his jumping is far from perfect.
We last saw this eight-year-old struggling with the pace in the Peter Marsh Handicap Chase at Haydock in January even though the ground was soft. He made a number of mistakes that ruined his chances before he was hampered when under pressure and unseated Henry Brooke. He had no such issues on his previous start at Wetherby on Boxing Day when he won a Grade 3 handicap chase off a mark of 141, beating Wakanda, trained by Sue Smith (pictured), by seven lengths.
His mark has risen 8lb since which makes life tougher for him but his jumping has been intermittently sketchy and he occasionally hangs to the left suggesting a physical issue. He is difficult to fancy at his current price, even though he is ok on the stamina front, having won a novice chase over three miles one furlong.
A more reliable jumper and the ultimate stayer in the field is The Last Samuri (7/2), the 2016 Grand National runner-up and winner of this race last year off a mark of 149. This game chestnut looked to need his first run this season in November’s Champion Chase at Down Royal when he got tired and was beaten nearly 30 lengths by Valseur Lido. His next effort in early December was impressive in the Becher Chase when he finished third at Aintree, beaten a length by David Pipe’s Vieux Lion Rouge when shouldering topweight.
We can trust The Last Samuri to run well but he is not the biggest individual and, now rated 159, is lumbered with topweight again here. His trainer Kim Bailey has his horses in good order at the moment but the 10lb rise in this nine-year-old’s mark must make him vulnerable to better treated runners.
Venetia Williams’ Yala Enki is fancied to do well at 5/1 but he’s another runner that seems up against it after an 8lb hike in his handicap mark to 147. He was beaten nearly 30 lengths by Definitly Red at Wetherby on Boxing Day and, like many of Williams’ horses, appears to need mud to score. His last two wins have been on soft ground, the most recent of them in the Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase at Haydock in mid-December off a mark of 139 with Charlie Deutsche claiming 5lb. Deutsche will be on board again but claiming 3lb.
Since Present Man was scratched for this race Paul Nicholls’ chances rest with Vivaldi Collonges, the outsider of the field at 14/1. This eight-year-old son of Dom Alco (sire of the National winner, Neptune Collonges) has been disappointing in his two runs this season. He started as the evens favourite on his debut at Sandown in November under Sean Bowen but was beaten nearly 60 lengths by Amore Alato into third.
Next time at Warwick in a three mile five furlong handicap in mid January it was even worse, Vivaldi Collonges weakened quickly after the 16th of the 22 fences and was pulled up soon after. Nicholls said before the race that he feared it was ‘mission impossible’ to do well giving lumps of weight away to all bar one of the field off a ‘harsh mark’ of 152. Starting off the slightly lower mark of 148 and shouldering nearly a stone less than The Last Samuri, this should be a less severe task. Vivaldi Collonges has worn a tongue tie for years and presumably has a breathing issue which makes him difficult to follow with confidence.
Looking Well (5/1) carries the bottom weight of 10 stone 2lb for Nicky Richards. This eight-year-old was last seen finishing as the runner-up, beaten three lengths by Alan King’s very useful Ziga Boy here in late January in a three mile listed handicap chase. Looking Well stayed on but was outpaced by the winner on the good ground when rated 5lb lower than he is here. It was an impressive effort after a seven month absence and presumably an unexpected one as he started at 18/1 under the 5lb claimer, Ryan Day.
Looking Well has proven stamina, winning over this distance at Kelso in his previous run in May, albeit in lesser company. Nicky Richards’ yard has not been flying in the past fortnight but has an enviable strike rate of 24% in chases this season. Ryan Day will partner Looking Well for the second time and retains his handy 5lb claim.
Alan King’s Sego Success (7/1) finished fourth in this race last year, 17 lengths behind The Last Samuri. A string of unimpressive efforts since have resulted in his mark being lowered to a more manageable level and he carries only 1lb more than Looking Well here. Sego Success has not won since he took a three mile chase at this track in December 2015, the run that wrecked his mark.
We last saw him pulling up in the same race as Vivaldi Collonges at Warwick in first time blinkers. In his previous run here in December he never managed to get into the race and was beaten 10 lengths, looking one paced. Sego Success has been tried over marathon distances and failed to get home but seems to need just over three miles to be at his best. This appears to be his optimum trip and if the first time visor sharpens him up, he could perform well under Tom Cannon.
Wakanda (12/1) should not be overlooked based on his performance on Boxing Day when he was runner-up to Definitly Red. He was giving Definitly Red 8lb and reopposes on much better terms, giving him 1lb. In his only run since his jumping fell apart and he found the distance of three and a half miles too much at Haydock in mid-February, pulling up.
Sue Smith must have had high hopes for Wakanda, trying him in the Cotswold Chase and the Betfred Bowl last season but he pulled up on both occasions. This looks to be more his level and his string of placings at Doncaster suggest that he enjoys the track. Wakanda’s usual partner Danny Cook has presumably chosen to ride Definitly Red. Cook may find he is on the wrong horse.
Our Preview’s Grimthorpe Chase Betting Tips’ Verdict
This is a typically tricky handicap but Definitly Red holds little appeal. The Last Samuri looks certain to give a good account of himself but is up against it under topweight.
This preview’s preference for the Grimthorpe Handicap Chase betting tip is WAKANDA, who likes the track and offers some value at 12/1. Back him each-way at a best price of 12/1 with Bet365, William Hill or Paddy Power.
Fiona Derek is our Reality TV and horse racing expert. The only time you won’t find her riding or mucking out a racehorse is when she is watching Reality TV or racing on the box.