Once again, Brexit negotiations have reached deadlock despite David Davis’ admission that the UK’s representatives in the discussions have made ‘creative compromises’ to help speed along the process.
The Brexit secretary suggested that while some of the 27 member states of the EU had accepted the UK’s offerings and wanted to press forward with the break-up plan, others were not so taken by the terms served up by Davis and co.
As has been the case since day one, it is the three hot potatoes that are stopping Brexit from moving forward: the ‘divorce bill’ size, i.e. how much the UK will pay to leave the European Union, the rights of EU citizens already in the UK and the question of the Irish border.
Davis once again ensured the electorate that it is ‘incredibly unlikely’ that a ‘no deal’ vote will be passed, but then again he didn’t deny it outright either.
It looks like we’ll all have to play a waiting game as far as Brexit is concerned, but that’s okay because it’s not as if it’s an important, era-defining decision or anything!
So let’s take our minds of the uncertain political future by enjoying a spot of high-quality racing this weekend.
There’s a corking little meeting at Punchestown on Sunday, with the undoubted highlight there being the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle – a race in which Faugheen will make his long-awaited return.
But with the weather taking a cold turn, the temptation must be to spend a pre-Christmas madness weekend curled up on the sofa with a blanket and watching a few bets come in. Thankfully, the November Meeting at Cheltenham has got you covered.
Running for three days from Friday November 17 to Sunday the 19th, the November Meeting is one of the standout fixtures in the early going of this National Hunt campaign and features a first-class Grade 2 renewal in the BetVictor sponsored Gold Cup.
From a punting perspective, it’s Sunday’s card that really catches the eye and specifically the Shloer Chase, a race that should really get the juices flowing.
Double Trouble for Fox Norton?
The Cheltenham Chase, as the race was known before that producer of fine liquid refreshment got involved in sponsorship, is a Grade 2 affair run on Cheltenham’s Old Course, with 12 fences to be overcome across the two-mile layout.
The conditions of the track are changeable, with an official mark of good-to-soft, although with a full day of racing on Friday and Saturday – plus some rain around in the area on the latter day – by the time the Shloer Chase comes around at 2:25pm on Sunday.
The reason why this is fancied as a better betting heat over the Morgiana Hurdle this weekend is because the latter features Faugheen, an outstanding horse who is presented at an odds-on price by the bookmakers. If he shows up in good spirits after a lengthy injury break he will take some stopping.
So that renewal at Punchestown could well turn into a one-sided outing, whereas this Shloer Chase feels far more open.
The bookies favourite, and defending champion no less, is Fox Norton, a classy campaigner who appears to be getting better with age.
The Colin Tizzard trained seven-year-old took the honour’s in last year’s Cheltenham Chase by some nine lengths from Simply Ned, with Special Tiara a further nine lengths back in third. It was as dominant a victory as you are likely to see in a high-profile two-miler.
Special Tiara, who is in the field here, had his revenge in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Festival back in March, but that was in springtime conditions and on firmer ground. For my money, Fox Norton has the edge when the footing is slightly stodgier.
Fox Norton’s last pair of outings resulted in dual Grade 1 wins in April: firstly in the JLT Melling Chase by six lengths from Sub Lieutenant, followed by a fantastic turn at Punchestown to take the BoyleSports Champion Chase. There he bested the outstanding Un De Sceaux, and it was a run which suggested plenty of good things for the horse in 2017/18.
All of the boxes have been ticked by Fox Norton, with few – if any – question marks about his pedigree. At a best price of 11/8, punters will tuck in with gusto in the next 24 hours or so.
Best of the Rest
As mentioned, Special Tiara (11/4) has been well beaten before by Fox Norton in these softer conditions, and it would take a brave punter to wager against a repeat result occurring.
So for a longer priced, each way jolly, take a chance on Cloudy Dream at a readily available 5/1.
bizarre set of circumstances have unfolded in which the five-year-old was entered into the BetVictor Gold Cup before erroneously being withdrawn due to an admin error, and with declarations still open for the Cheltenham Chase at that point he was re-routed into Sunday’s festivities instead.
Typically favoured over longer distances, Malcolm Jefferson’s steed has run well over shorter lengths in the past – including a second to the exceptional Altior over 15f in the Arkle back in March.
Cloudy Dream has finished ether first or second in each of his last eight starts, including a Grade 2 affair at Ayr in April, and the feeling amongst his connections is that this is a horse ready to make the step up to the big time.