A lot of races to get through, so no waffly intro this week.
I put up Senior Citizen at 8/1 – each-way, four places – for Newbury’s Greatwood Gold Cup on Tuesday and I was happy to read Alan King being relatively upbeat about him in his Weekender column a day later, the trainer saying that “he’s been pleasing me with his build up in the last few weeks.”
That suggests to me he should be straight enough here – although the Topham at Aintree next month seems to have been the long-term target – as that was a minor concern given the horse hasn’t been seen since finishing a 28-length seventh in the Grand Sefton in early December.
I say minor, because this is a horse who excels when fresh.
He won first time up at Chepstow in 2019, split The Big Bite and Caribean Boy on his reappearance last season and he beat a next-time-out winner at Newton Abbot in September.
So we know catching him off a break is generally very good news and what we have seen from his since suggests he could be well handicapped too off a mark of 134.
He jumped really well was vying for the lead between the last two at Aintree last time, when perhaps his stamina faltered over that 2m5f in soft ground in a deep handicap, so I think you can mark up that run.
However, it is his second to Espoir De Romay in a novices’ chase at Huntingdon before that which strongly hints that his mark could be generous.
He was only beaten 2 ½ lengths trying to give the winner 10lb that day, and Espoir De Romay then only failed by 7 lengths to give a certain Royal Pagaille (now rated 166) 5lb at Haydock next time.
He remains a bet at his current price, so I am going in again at 9.08/1 or bigger win-only in the 13:50.
He could have probably done without the 7mm of rain that fell on Wednesday night, but the ground should be nigh-on perfect for him anyway and some dangerous rivals from the five-day stage (chief among them Canelo) have not turned up.
It’s still a deep race and plenty you can fear – The Russian Doyen, who I also mentioned in my Tuesday ante-post piece, on his debut for Jeremy Scott is very interesting and temptingly-priced at big double-figure odds, as is Born Survivor – but I am happy to stay loyal to the ante-post tip.
Farm and Village are two vets to bet
As I mentioned in my piece on Tuesday, Singlefarmpayment and Shantou Village were the two that appealed to me in the Veterans’ Chase at 13:15, but both were doubly-entered and the latter’s price was cut from 14s to 8s before I had time to file and publish.
So it will be especially annoying if Shantou Village does oblige then.
The question is do I stick to my five-day guns, and back the pair of them now they have turned up? The answer is yes.
Millie Wonnacott may not have done the business for us on Fingerontheswitch last Saturday but she rode out her 7lb claim when winning on a 16/1 chance for the yard at Wincanton on Wednesday (the stable had a double on the card, so that is another box ticked) and a quirk of the system allows her to still draw that amount for the last time today. She rode another 16/1 at Taunton on Thursday, too.
The horse is effectively 2lb well-in, and he comes here on a fair mark regardless, 1lb lower than when a close fourth to Present Man at Chepstow in October.
He ran like a drain in that red-hot Kempton handicap won by Royal Pagaille last time – after unseating at the first in the Rehearsal – but decent ground is the key to this horse and it was soft that day.
Back him at 11/2 with the Betfair Sportsbook.
Strangely, there was some 9/1 knocking about first thing on Thursday afternoon (in a couple of places) but I am not going to let that rogue price influence my decision.
He is a bet at 9/2+ as I don’t think this is a strong race at all.
He is on a winning mark, as is good old Singlefarmpayment. Everyone knows the score with him in that he is a weak finisher who hasn’t won for over four years and has pulled many a defeat from the jaws of victory (yes, I know but it does the job).
I probably should have binned him after I backed him at Doncaster last time and he failed to deliver yet again, yet the ground that day looked atrocious (it was good to soft but badly churned up by the time he raced) and he had earlier shaped really well at Sandown on his first start for Henry Oliver despite his saddle slipping from 3 out.
He has his ground off a mark of just 134 now, his record says 3m2f is also his optimum trip, and there is plenty of pace I here to sit off.
You should always consider an in-running lay with him – though the problem with that strategy is that everyone will be thinking the same – but one last, last, last bet him at 8/1 each-way, three places, with the Sportsbook is irresistible for this old softie.
The stable have had a grim 2021, so it was good to see them have a winner at Hereford recently. I may even have a reverse forecast on the pair.
Two to play at Donny
I will be writing this column in geographical order, so we will take in Doncaster next, and then up to Kelso.
The five-day declarations always suggested Doncaster would struggle for runners, and only one of the ITV races has attracted a field big enough for each way 1,2,3 betting.
That is the mares’ novices’ hurdle at 14:20.
Form choice Rayna’s World (on official ratings anyway) will do well to be perky enough to win here after a gruelling fourth at Sandown last time and I expected this race to get the “no bet” dismissal.
But I am going to do something I rarely do – in fact, I can’t recall doing so in recent years – and that is back a hurdling debutante.
Back Phillapa Sue at 20.019/1 or bigger. I’d back her at 16/1+.
She has joined the stable after what appears a private sale after she finished second in a bumper at Punchestown in October, and it is notable that new trainer Graeme McPherson trained her full sister Eyeofthescorpion, a winner at Huntingdon in September.
She was placed in all four of her bumpers, showing a decent level, and her pedigree (she is also a sister to a 2m6f winner who got further) suggests this 3m trip could suit. It could also be important that both of her sisters handled decent ground well.
She has also shaped as very much like a stayer in her bumpers, and had a certain Royal Kahala behind her when second at Punchestown on her most recent start back in October (she was ready to run in January when she was taken out at Newbury because of the heavy ground).
All things considered, I am going to suggest a minimum-stakes bet. The stable hasn’t had a winner in a while but three of the last five runners have finished second (the other pair fell, and were a 300/1 poke).
No opinion in the 2m handicap at 14:55, but I seriously toyed with Red Infantry in the 2m3f handicap chase at 15:30, before making a final decision.
My angle into him, in addition to a rapidly-falling handicap mark and guaranteed stamina, was the total lack of front-runners in the race. And a glance back at his form in previous seasons suggests he could go well forward here, as some of his best career performances have come when ridden aggressively.
The issue is whether he is in the form to successfully switch to those tactics again, even if his run here last time was his best in a while. There hasn’t been any notable zest from him of late.
I was going to leave the race alone but that handicap mark is begging to be exploited (he was racing off an 11lb higher five starts ago when seventh in the Scottish Grand National), and the stable is in pretty good form too.
I won’t be going mad but I am going to back him at 8.415/2 or bigger and hope to see him gunned out from the front. A base price of 13/2+ is the recommendation. I probably fear 2019 winner Chidswell most.
Ian Williams (or Charlie Todd), I hope you are reading this…
Hunting for a winner north of the border
Up to Kelso, which houses four of the ITV races. I better not write War And Peace on these contests, as I am already I danger in filing one of my longest Saturday previews yet.
The Grade 2 2m2f novices’ hurdle at 13:30 is a proper cracker despite only seven lining up, but there is little point in going through the runners and concluding there is not a bet to be had. Even if there was a dead-eight, I didn’t see a solid each-way angle anyway given the depth of the race.
The 2m5f handicap hurdle at 14:05 is also very competitive.
Flash Collonges impressed me at Wincanton last time and a mark of 133 looks fair, but he was never going to be missed in the market and he may just struggle as a raw, inexperienced horse taking on battle-hardened handicappers. Taxmeifyoucan probably appealed most at a double-figure price, but I won’t be having a bet as it stands.
Another no-bet smasher in the shape of the six-runner Premier Chase at 14:40, but the 14-runner Morebattle Hurdle is just what the doctor ordered now it has been turned into a handicap.
Hunters Call and Night Edition made my short list, and I suggest you split your stakes and back them at 12.011/1 and 21.020/1 respectively. Or bigger.
The problem with the former is that he races off a career-high mark but the way that this horse has been travelling and running over 2m4f/2m5f recently does suggest he is in the form of his life.
Olly Murphy’s horse needs kid gloves but if Aidan Coleman can produce him late on the run-in, hopefully after a strong end-to-end gallop, then I think he has another big handicap win in him, having won an 85k pot back in 2017 when beating Silver Streak and Verdana Blue. Dropping him back in trip on better ground could be just the ticket.
Night Edition is far more risky proposition, as his odds suggest, but no way would I be laying him around 20/1 (that is the current price with the Betfair Sportsbook, which is where you are probably best off going here).I’m a backer at 16/1 and up
I know he has been well beaten in his two starts this season, but the handicapper could not have been much kinder in dropping him 6lb for those efforts.
He now finds himself 4lb lower than when a length second in the Boodles three starts ago (he is still in the County and Martin Pipe at Cheltenham, but would need a minor miracle to get in either, even if winning here and getting a 5lb penalty).
The question is whether he is in the form to exploit the generosity, and I am very much inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt – he simply never got into the race in the Betfair Hurdle last time – at these odds.
Back him at 21.020/1 or bigger on the Exchange – or with the Sportsbook, as mentioned – and hope he can travel better, stay in touch, and pounce late off a good pace (five of their opponents are potential front-runners). Along with Hunters Call.
Busy punting day. Good luck.