Matt Tombs / Friday 8th February 2013 / 13:30
The Betfair Hurdle is a race I often won’t have a bet in, but given that I thought Cotton Mill was a lively outsider for the Champion Hurdle at 50/1, I’ve got to fancy him here off 145, now that, crucially, the ground looks to be drying out. He’s not run over 2m over hurdles yet, but was a Newmarket maiden winner over 10f on good to firm on the flat and the way he was travelling when running out upsides Simonsig in the Neptune, suggests a fast run 2m might be ideal. What’s not ideal is that Denis O’Regan is at Leopardstown, but Jack Quinlan is back on board and is decent value for his 3lb claim, (unbeaten on the horse in 3 runs).
John Ferguson has been really patient, as Cotton Mill has been ready to run since the Open meeting in November but he needs decent ground and after a pretty dry week I suspect the ground could be quicker than the official going (soft, good to soft in places) if previous meetings on drying ground here are a guide.
Favourite My Tent Or Yours looks very short at 9/2 given he has to run off 149 here. To put that in context, the same owner has had two other novices run well in recent times - Get Me Out Of Here won this off 135 and Darlan was running off 146 when falling last year. Both then finished 2nd in the Supreme and My Tent Or Yours looks less the finished article at this stage of his novice campaign than either Get Me Out Of Here or Darlan, so looks well worth taking on off a stiff mark. He looks better value at 10/1 for the Supreme, (last 10 Supreme winners rated between 146-154 in consequence so winning this off 149 is theoretically a harder task).
Of course there are plenty who’ve been laid out for this and potentially look well handicapped, not least the favourite’s stablemate Cash and Go (10/1). However, it’s hard to imagine them on the bridle upside Simonsig 2 out in the Neptune, and Cotton Mill could be a cut above these good handicappers. Whilst Zarkandar won this first time out last year, not having had a run is not ideal and genuinely soft ground or a crawl would be against him, but that’s reflected in his price - I think he should be favourite.
1pt Cotton Mill to win the Betfair Hurdle @ 8/1
At first sight, the Denman Chase doesn’t look an attractive betting heat. Silviniaco Conti is the clear form pick but is 8/13 and the fact Ruby is at Newbury and not Leopardstown is significant. Given the only other horse with any 3m chase form in the same league, The Giant Bolster (6/1), looks a Cheltenham specialist, he really ought to win. However, the Charlie Hall again looked an ordinary race and you could take the view he was beating a Long Run way short of full fitness at Haydock. If that’s the case, and given that the plan is for this run to put him spot on for the Gold Cup, he might not be the certainty he first appears.
Tom George’s ex French Mail De Bievre (7/1) is the wild card here and normally that would be enough to make this a no bet race as I’ve no idea how good he is. However, he was pretty ordinary in bumpers for Alan King 4 years ago and so I wouldn’t be rushing to assume he’s a star.
I’m going to take a chance on Menorah (8/1) who, if getting the trip, has the class to put it up to Silviniaco Conti, with the drying ground to suit. If your first reaction is that a former Supreme winner (2010) isn’t the right type for this, it’s worth noting Noland won this race 3 years after taking the Supreme. Menorah needs to be on a going day jumping wise as he was at Kempton last time, but although that Peterborough Chase win was only over an extended 2m4f, (heavy) he actually raced there for only 5 seconds less than Long Run did when taking this last year. None of that means Menorah will stay the 3m, but it’s realistic to hope he will and given his stop-start chasing career he’s in danger of becoming a forgotten horse.
1pt Menorah to win the Denman Chase @ 8/1
Over in Ireland, the going will be softer than at Newbury but after a fairly dry week it shouldn’t be too bad for Leopardstown’s big meeting. Advanced going reports suggest it will be a fair bit more testing on the chase course.
In the feature event I’m hoping Flemenstar (5/4) can enhance his Gold Cup claims by beating Sir Des Champs (11/8) for the 3rd time in a row. Normally I’d be strongly recommending Flemenstar. Having understandably restrained him in midfield to get the trip in the Lexus, I’d been expecting connections to use this opportunity to see what happens if he bowls along at his own pace and uses his jumping. If that happens, and the ground is quicker or looser than the holding surface he had to cope with in the Lexus, then I’d be confident he’d win.
However, it’s not clear how the ground will ride yet and Peter Casey was talking of trying to switch him off out the back. That would be worth trying next season if front running tactics don’t work over staying trips, but it seems too late to be trying to teach him to settle off a slow gallop this season, with the Gold Cup in mind.
It’s great connections have given the brilliant but fragile Bog Warrior (12/1) the go ahead. He’s been in great form back over hurdles, easily beating top Irish hurdlers Solwhit and Zaidpour in his last 2 runs. Despite falling last time over fences he’s generally been a good jumper and he should improve for going back left handed. Talent-wise I think Bog Warrior could be as good as Flemenstar and may be better than Sir Des Champs. He’s clearly a risky proposition given how fragile he is, and has to prove he can jump in Grade 1 company, but 12/1 is a crazy price and well worth chancing.
1pt Bog Warrior to win the Irish Hennessy @ 12/1
With Un Atout missing from the Grade 1 Deloitte novice hurdle (2m2f) the race has a much more open feel about it. Champagne Fever (5/2) is on a recovery mission after bombing last time (suffering from a respiratory tract infection.) The vibes over the past couple of weeks from Willie Mullins haven’t been strong. Having backed Jezki for the Supreme I’m hoping for good performances from the two he thrashed here at Christmas, Waaheb and Bright New Dawn. Waaheb (3/1) finished 2l ahead of Bright New Dawn on that occasion but Bright New Dawn chased too fast a pace and might well have finished 2nd to Jezki otherwise. The extra 2f will be in his favour and at (6/1) he’s the value.
1pt Bright New Dawn to win the Deloitte Hurdle @ 6/1
There are some other potential plays worth considering. In the 3m novice chase at Newbury, I’m keen to take on Unioniste. It was a really good performance from a 4 year old to win the big open 2m5f handicap at Cheltenham in December, but once all the allowances are taken into account he won off 131. With only 4lb weight for age here and the full penalty, I think he’s vulnerable on his first try beyond 2m5f. Whilst he won a small race on good ground in October, he was well beaten by Dynaste on good to soft and his best form is on really testing ground so it’s possible the drying conditions are against him. He’s a good young horse on the up and could easily win this, but given his profile (put up by Pricewise for the RSA this week), he might start too short.
He faces some really good novices here. Hadrian’s Approach was a fair 2nd to Dynaste in the Feltham and could easily improve for better ground. Our Father hasn’t been able to back a good seasonal debut up yet, but is talented and it may be he got stuck in the mud behind Highland Lodge last time. Same Difference was impressive last time and is progressing. For those who like laying odds-on shots on Betfair, Unioniste might be one to get stuck into.
On Sunday, there’s a cracking novice hurdle at Exeter where I confidently expect Puffin Billy to beat Tolworth winner Melodic Rendezvous.