“There are lies, damn lies, and statistics” – after a hat-trick of winning favourites in the middle of the last decade, but the last three winners have been 9/1, 20/1 and 12/1. How does that tell the whole story when Goshen was sent off 5/2 favourite last year, and should have won by half of Gloucestershire? Who would bet against the first three in the market for this renewal? It is 9/1 ON that the winner will come from the trio heading the market: Zanahiyr, Tritonic and Quilixios. I would love to be on any of them at a big ante-post price, but I’m not and at the combined prices, I will have to take them on! Tritonic looked the proverbial “machine” when bolting up in the Adonis last month and heads the market with some firms (2/1 BetVictor). Anyone remember Redicean or Master Blueyes? Both won the Adonis for Alan King, went off single figures for the Triumph and finished as also-rans. Irrelevant if you’re on at a big price, but enough to put me off at 2/1. I can’t split former stablemates Zanahiyr and Quilixois, so it’s unwise to side with one, and I will have to look for an each-way angle. Another stable companion of those two is Duffle Coat who has not been out again since winning at the Open meeting in November and has not been declared, but his form with the British juveniles is exceptional. He beat Adagio over CD, who went on to win the grade one Finesse in style. Prior to that he won easily at Wetherby from a field including the now 137-rated Cabot Cliffs (Boodles on opening day). Adagio has gone from strength to strength since that defeat to Duffle Coat and is another who is not being treated with enough respect. I am torn between betting each-way now, in case of another Enurgumene /Thyme Hill withdrawal or waiting until the day when bookies will be falling over themselves with place concessions. “You pays your money, and you takes your choice!” I will flag the price anyway:
Adagio each-way @ 8/1 (generally)
County Handicap Hurdle
With so many possible runners having multiple entries, it is difficult to be too confident in the handicaps, especially toward the end of the week, but I suggested a speculative bet on Champagne Gold for the Supreme (not declared), and I think he is interesting for the County. Henry de Bromhead’s novice won a Wexford maiden in October before finishing third in a graded novice next time out over 2½ m. He was a good second in the Ladbroke at the Dublin Festival, giving weight to experienced handicappers. So, he has to be of interest for the County:
Champagne Gold each-way @ 16/1 NRNB (5 places)
Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle
Stattler heads the market, hopefully some members that track the “20 to follow” are on at fancy prices, after I suggested he would be a leading contender in the division. His third at the Dublin Festival to Gaillard Du Mesnil and Gentlemans Game is top notch form, particularly as Mullins said he thought the trip (2m 6f) was too short for him. Fakiera is an unusual contender in that he is a rare second season novice. He has been running well in shorter trips in graded races and looks to have been crying out for three miles. Elliott is 0-7 in the race, Paul Nicholls also has a poor record, yet he has two strong candidates in Threeunderthrufive and Barbados Bucks, the latter has been progressing nicely and is related to the legendary staying hurdler, Big Bucks:
Stattler win @ 5/1 NRNB
Having been on Al Boum Photo for the past two renewals, it seems unwise to desert him now that he’s in search of the hat-trick. I am just beginning to wonder whether last year’s renewal was “all that”. Placed horses Santini and Lostintranslation are barely able to win a race between them, Santini rarely lives up to the hype allowed him by presenters and pundits. It would be a poor race if one of those two won, but Santini could stay on for a place. I would love to see the novice Royale Pagaille win, should he take up this option instead of one of the novice chases. However, I can see him struggling to go the brutal, early pace. It was good to see Native River return to form in style at Sandown, but he is surely vulnerable to younger horses at the age of eleven. I couldn’t rule out Frodon, loves the track and has proven form at 3m but not further. His run in the Ryanair last year when defending his crown was a bit flat, and he is going to get taken on for the lead with Native River who could get him out of his comfort zone. A Plus Tard turned the novice handicap chase into a rout two years ago and has to have a solid chance of Gold if proving to have the stamina required. A win in the Savills Chase suggests he will stay the additional two furlongs, but that Savills Chase was another bunch finish. I still wouldn’t rule out stable mate, and horse to follow, Minella Indo who fell early in that race. He has been out of form so far this season but ran a great race in the RSA last season, where he appeared to get involved in a scrap with Allaho a long way out and set the race up for Champ. Up until I now I considered Nicky Henderson’s chaser to be over-rated as I believed the hype was more to do with all the fuss over him being named after McCoy. However, that staying on win last year proves he has plenty of stamina, and the prep race over two miles last time out was impressive:
Champ win @ 9/2 NRNB; Minella Indo each-way @ 10/1 NRNB
It is safe to say that hunter chasing would not be my specialist subject on Mastermind, but I do like the chance of It Came To Pass to follow-up last year’s win. Paul Nicholls has a good record in the race, and with amateurs not allowed to ride, the prospect of Angus Chileda in the saddle enhances the prospects of Bob And Co. Both are near the head of the market and not original picks, so there is little mileage in the prices at this stage.
Although I am not a fan of the mares’ chase being added to the meeting at the expense of the novices’ handicap chase, this looks a potentially decent race. Willie Mullins has a fantastic record with mares but steering away from the obvious (Elimay and Colreevy) in search of value: Annie MC has done me a few favours already in her career and I believe she still has improvement in her. Grand National runner-up Magic Of Light is an exciting entry and another veteran, Happy Diva has a good record at the track in top handicaps:
Annie MC each-way @ 8/1 NRNB; Magic of Light each-way @ 14/1 NRNB
Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
Similar comments to the County Hurdle in terms of difficult to assess at this stage. I do like the look of the lightly raced Fire Attack for Joseph O’Brien. He has good form in graded hurdles and should make the cut off a low weight. As I am writing this, another “to follow” horse, Langer Dan has just bolted-up in the Imperial Cup and if he were to attempt to land the bonus here, he would probably be favourite, whether or not he makes the cut, even with a 5lbs penalty, is touch-and-go.
Fire Attack each-way @ 18/1 NRNB