Sky Bet Chase Preview: Frank the form at 20/1

venetia williamsThe Sky Bet Chase is a competitive high-class handicap and we have unearthed an interesting 20/1 each-way betting tip hailing from an in-form yard  (3.15pm, Saturday, Doncaster).

Former champion trainer Paul Nicholls has a good record in this race, winning in 2009 with Big Fella Thanks and in 2005 with Colourful Life. He looks to have a very decent chance again this time. He sends out the 9/2 favourite, the six-year-old French-bred, Unioniste.

This son of Dom Alco was found wanting in the Grade 1 Lexus Chase at Leopardstown at the end of December. He was second to last but only 11 lengths behind Nicky Henderson’s Gold Cup star, Bobs Worth.

He won his previous start at Aintree earlier in the month in a listed race over three miles and one furlong, beating Philip Hobbs’ Wishfull Thinking by seven lengths. Nicholls has said that bottomless ground suits him. He looks certain to get it.

Only one six year old has won this race in the past 13 renewals, Micky Hammond’s Heidi III in 2001 – another French-bred. Nicholls’ nephew, Harry Derham takes a valuable 5lbs off his back.

A much smaller trainer with a serious contender is Dr Richard Newland. He sends out the nine-year-old Mart Lane. This former GP has proved his credentials with a relatively small string of horses and has a strike rate of 37% in chases this season.

Mart Lane, previously trained in Ireland by Shark Hanlon, won his first run for Newland in October. He bolted up in a two and a half mile handicap chase at Stratford on soft ground in a manner that suggested he would relish further. He beat Richard Lee’s Simply Wings by three lengths.

Mart Lane won his latest start over course and distance on December 29 in a handicap chase off a mark of 132. He carried the top weight and beat Keith Reveley’s Categorical by seven lengths.  He starts off a 10lb higher mark on Saturday. He will need to be extremely progressive to overcome it.

Another recent course and distance winner is Keith Reveley’s Night in Milan (7/1). This eight-year-old made all in a handicap chase to beat Sue Smith’s De Boitron by six lengths on good ground here on December 14. Mart Lane stayed on in the closing stages to finish third by 13 lengths, looking outpaced.

He opened his account this season in a three and half mile handicap hurdle at Sedgefield in October. He started as the 9/4 favourite but finished third, 12 lengths behind Jonjo O’Neill’s winner, Abnaki. It looked as if he didn’t quite get the distance. In November he finished with only one horse behind him in a Grade 3 Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle at Haydock. He was prominent early but weakened on the soft ground.  He looks to be well handicapped but his recent form suggests that he needs a surface no slower than good to soft to show his best.

In contrast Donald McCain’s Kruzhlinin (9/1) looks unlikely to be troubled by testing conditions. He posted two wins on heavy over shorter distances last season. This German-bred seven-year-old comes into the race on the back of two victories in handicap chases on good to soft at Kelso. In December he carried top weight to victory (off a mark of 138), beating Sue Smith’s No Planning by five lengths. In November he beat Patrick Giffin’s Maggio by two lengths.

He looks to be progressive and could well overcome the inconvenience of a 6lb higher mark here.  He has to be one for the shortlist.

Another interesting contender is Niceonefrankie (20/1), trained by in-form Venetia Williams (pictured). The gelding began this season with an impressive victory at Ascot in late November. He beat Nigel Twiston-Davies’ very useful Double Ross (the 15/8 favourite) by 13 lengths in a two mile three furlong handicap chase.  A week later he was a disappointing favourite in a two and a half mile handicap chase at Newbury. He was racing off a 6lb higher mark and finished 15 lengths behind Paul Webber’s Cantlow in fifth.

That race might have come too soon for him and we haven’t seen him since. Now an eight-year-old, he has only once been tried over three miles but seemed to have no trouble with this trip. He was outpaced rather than outstayed when finishing 14 lengths behind Nicky Henderson’s Hennessy hero, Triolo D’Alene in fifth at Huntingdon in April.

Emma Lavelle’s eight-year-old Gullinbursti (8/1) has attracted more support.  He also triumphed on his seasonal debut in a novices’ handicap chase at Market Rasen in November. He beat Steve Gollings’ Bar De Ligne by 27 lengths on soft ground over two miles six furlongs.  He started as the favourite for the Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle two weeks later but finished fifth by nine lengths.

Most recently he was a beaten favourite again in a four runner graduation chase over three miles at Newbury in December. He finished three and a half lengths third to Nicky Henderson’s Hadrian’s Approach, appearing rather one-paced on the good to soft ground. Testing conditions should suit him but the yard’s recent form is a concern.

Solix (25/1) has only scored once since being bought for 90,000 guineas in October 2012 by his trainer, Ian Williams. He was rated 150 when at his best as a novice chaser for Nicky Henderson. His four runs this season have been lacklustre.  He was last seen finishing a distant fifth to Newland’s Night Alliance at Haydock in December in a three mile handicap chase off a mark of 133. He has been dropped 2lb since and is only mentioned here because a visor is being used for the first time. It will need to deliver considerable improvement. Cheekpieces have already been tried with little effect.

Blinkers are being worn for the fourth time on Dan Skelton’s ten-year-old Baile Anrai (16/1).  He won his latest start in a two mile handicap chase at Leicester in December, beating Nick Gifford’s Christopher Wren by a length.  He previously finished 14 lengths fourth in the three mile handicap chase at Doncaster won by Night In Milan on December 14. His chances looked compromised by a blunder four out.

Baile Anrai won a three mile novice chase on soft ground in 2012 when trained by Ian Williams and ridden by Dan’s brother Harry. Skelton learned his trade as assistant to Paul Nicholls. His success with Willow’s Saviour in the Ladbroke suggests that his runners are worth considering in valuable handicaps.  His brother Harry takes the ride.

Another runner with headgear is Andy Turnell’s The Druids Nephew (10/1).  In his latest outing he finished half a length behind Philip Hobbs’ De La Bech in second in a three mile chase at Chepstow in December.  He previously fell at the first in similar contest at Newbury and was a beaten favourite in his seasonal debut. He finished nine lengths fourth behind Mart Lane at Stratford in October.  He looks to be well handicapped and the yard is in unusually good form.

Sky Bet Chase Betting Tips Conclusion

Nicholls’ Unioniste looks a likely winner, especially if conditions deteriorate, but is unattractive at 9/2. Venetia Williams’ NICEONEFRANKIE looks a much more interesting prospect and has to be our pick each-way, best priced at 20/1 with William Hill and Stan James.