I’m very much a “here and now” kind of bloke – live for the day and all that – but I must be getting daring in my old age (or should that be optimistic?) in that I will still be around to collect on a bet a few months down the line?
I put up my first Cheltenham Festival recommendation on Monday, and thankfully I had the foresight to advise an ante-post wager on Greaneteen at 20/1 for Saturday’s Betfair Tingle Creek back on November 2.
Nicholls’ excellent record could prove significant
The reason for the latter long-range punt was Paul Nicholls’ excellent record of doubling up from the Haldon Gold Cup to Tingle Creek with young and improving 2m chasers and Greaneteen duly got the job done at Exeter a day later, with this race immediately namechecked.
And here he is, just over a month later, trading an industry-best, fixed-odds price of 5/1 on the Betfair Sportsbook, but two points bigger on the win-only Exchange. The fact that he currently trades at 8.07/1 is fair enough.
To be honest, I was expecting a little more from him at Exeter.
He was ridden with a lot of confidence, admittedly, but he only won narrowly in what appeared a far-from-vintage renewal of that valuable handicap – though I appreciate none of the first four home have effectively raced since, with runner-up Moonlighter an early faller at the weekend – and he still has some way to go to reach the level of Altior (who is 14lb higher) and stablemate Politologue (11lb).
In fact, the 7lb rise he got for that neck victory, taking him to an official mark of 158, probably flatters him.
However, we are obviously dealing with an improving six-year-old who has just five chase starts under his belt (four of them wins, and the other an excellent fourth in the Grand Annual after a troublesome passage), and Nicholls clearly thinks he has a potential Grade 1 horse on his hands.
The way in which he jumps and travels certainly gives you hope he can cut it in the highest grade, but a price of around 7/1 on the Exchange accurately reflects the stern challenge that awaits him on Saturday, for all he faces just a maximum of seven rivals now.
However, it sounds like it could be six if the weather forecast is correct, and Sandown gets all of the rain that is due from Wednesday night onwards, as that could put paid to fourth-favourite Rouge Vif lining up.
That would be good news for the rest as he looked a serious tool when running away with a Cheltenham handicap off 156 on his return, but connections are adamant he wants decent ground to shine, and he was pulled out of the Shloer Chase last month due it turning soft.
Conditions could suit Greaneteen
Testing conditions would not inconvenience heavy ground-winner Greaneteen or the Champion Chaser Politologue, but I’d say Nicky Henderson would want as decent a surface as possible for Altior for his return, for all his star 10-year-old clearly acts well on soft.
It’s hard to argue with Altior being a shade of odds-on on a course where he is five from five (including when winning this race on soft ground in 2018) but he is verging on 11 now and has had his issues in recent years, and he could just be vulnerable to a young buck like Greaneteen, who has had the benefit of a run.
It is 20/1+bar the top four in the betting on the exchange, and that looks fair enough, although the outsiders could have a big bearing on the tactics of the race if the likes of First Flow try to go on and try to harry Politologue, if that one decided to try to make all as he did at Cheltenham in March.
But we can revisit the pace possibilities and the betting once we know who lines up (and Brewin’upsatorm may want better ground, too). At the moment, those who took the 20s are sitting on a good bet, anyway.
We are blessed with plenty of good-class racing this weekend, with ITV covering three consecutive days from Friday to Sunday, and I am inclined to keep my powder dry until I see the white of the eyes of the confirmed runners later in the week.
But ante-post punters have been ridiculously well served with the Betfair Sportsbook pricing up 20 races from Friday onwards.
Us oldies remember when you used to be lucky to get a couple of contests priced up by 10am on the day of the race in the 1980s and 90s!
Sandown and Exeter take pride of place on Friday (the highlight is clearly the Weighed-In 2m3f handicap hurdle), with the Esher track and Aintree filling the ITV slots on Saturday, while Huntingdon and Kelso are thrown into the mix on Sunday.
That rules out any post-Lockdown, Tier 2 social life for me then! (if any exists).
Cracking action at Aintree this Saturday
You have to love Saturday’s Aintree card with the Becher and Sefton offering cracking handicap chases over the National fences, and it could be quite some spectacle too if the ground rides very testing, as seems possible.
You can fully see why Le Breuil has been all the rage for the Becher – he was a rogue 12s in a place on Monday and a general 9/1 – and he is into as low as 9/2 with the Sportsbook.
He was only seventh in the race last season but he shaped well on his comeback on good ground at Kelso, and is now down to a mark of 141.
That is 9lb lower than last year and the 2019 National Hunt Chase winner will love the expected deeper ground, but the price has clearly gone with him.
Aso is also in the Becher, which is a shame as I really like his chances if he goes down the 2m5f route of the Grand Sefton later in the card, for which he is a 25/1 chance.
That weekend double-entry is bad enough but he also has an engagement in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham a week on Saturday (a race in which he has finished second before) so I have to sit tight where he is concerned.
I imagine this is a week where many people will be content to fire a lot of ante-post bullets with those 20 races being priced up, but we practice what we preach here and that is not a scattergun approach.
Never tip what you are not willing to (or indeed, will) back yourself – and never go too hard, too early – so it is powder dry for now. It is not a matter of responsible gambling as such, but simply common-sense marshalling of your funds.
I’ll be back with bets on Thursday, Friday and Saturday though, and that much is a near 1.01 poke. Providing I last that long, that is.
Good luck and good health until then.