Matt Tombs / Thursday 13th March 2014 / 09:15
The Thursday is historically the toughest day for punters. The graded events are the lower profile ones and there are 3 really tough handicaps. Thankfully we’re nicely ahead of the game at this point so there’s no temptation to chase it. We have Salubrious each way in the World Hurdle at 25/1. With Big Buck’s having a big question mark over whether he’s still the horse he was after his Cleeve defeat to Knockara Beau and the keen going Annie Power having to prove her stamina, I really fancy him to be in the first three at worst. If you’re not on already Bet Victor's 33/1 is crazy and for those who like to bet each way, thats by far the best value of the day.
The other big race today is the Ryanair Chase. Fortunately Baily Green was in the portfolio NRNB. He fell too far out in the Champion Chase to know whether the switch to the 2m race was the right call. It’s no harm done from the betting point of view and it’s been a race where class has come to the fore. Looking at the runners, I’m struggling to find one at a fancy price to back.
If there is to be an upset it might be Rathlin (22/1) He’s a real good ground horse and beat Hidden Cyclone (10/1) easily at Galway in the summer (2m6f, good), yet he’s twice the price. He was given a break then and has had a couple of runs on unsuitably bad ground to blow the cobwebs away. This is his trip and ground and he could belie those odds, though Bryan Cooper's unfortunate injury is a negative.
Other than Rathlin, I think the market has it about right and the winner is extremely likely to come from the front three in the market. I backed Dynaste (4/1) for the Gold Cup NRNB and I remain convinced that’s his race. He has the single best piece of form this season of any of these, when 2nd to Cue Card in the Betfair Chase over 3m1f, (soft.) He pulled muscles when bombing as favourite for the King George and has been off since, so there is a doubt about his wellbeing. I still think he’s in the wrong race – he was done for toe by Benefficient in the JLT last year and I’d expect the same thing to happen again over just a furlong further. I wonder if connections are unsure about what sort of form he’s in, and want to avoid a hard race in the Gold Cup, with next season in mind.
Al Ferof (11/2) looked fantastic in the Paddy Power last season when winning off 159, form that may well be good enough to win this. However, he then got a tendon injury and missed the rest of last season. He had a hack round in a match on his return and then was disappointing in both the King George and Denman. He might just have got home, but it might be that he isn’t the same horse post his tendon injury. If he’s back to his best I think he’ll win, but there’s real doubt about that.
However, the vote goes to Benefficient (9/2) who won the JLT decisively last season and won an open Grade 1 over 2m1f at Leopardstown at Christmas. He has more toe than these and, unlike the other two at the front of the market, he comes into the race in good form. I think this is his trip - he’s the solid one and the most likely winner. He's continually been underestimated and this could be the day he finally gets the respect he deserves.
1pt Benefficient to win the Ryanair Chase (2.40) @ 9/2
The JLT looks a pretty open race in the absence of Champagne Fever, (who surely would have had a great chance based on his Arkle run when he just gone done for toe.) Ever since it became clear that Felix Yonger (4/1) wasn’t going for the Arkle, I’ve been trying to find a reason to back him for this. I think he’s a class act but I just can’t see him lasting home, especially now the ground is being watered. He was ridden as if stamina was an issue in the Neptune when unable to land a blow behind Simonsig (and Cotton Mill) and bombed over 2½m at Punchestown in the Grade 1 novice hurdle. The soft ground would have been against him at Limerick at Christmas but he really should have been able to beat The Paparrazi Kid over an extended 2m3f. If he gets the trip he wins but there's too much doubt to back him at 4/1.
The English form with Oscar Whisky (7/1), Taquin Du Seuil (9/1) and Wonderful Charm (6/1) all ties in. Oscar Whisky’s jumping has got worse rather than better as he’s gained experience and, high class horse though he was, I think the younger horses are improving past him now.
Oscar Whisky was getting 8lb when just ½l ahead of Wonderful Charm over course and distance in December and I’m confidently expecting Wonderful Charm to come out on top this time at level weights. I’d expected Taquin Du Seuil to be tried at a staying trip this season but he actually ran in the Grade 1 over 2m at Sandown when 8¼l 3rd to Hinterland. He beat Oscar Whisky in a farcical crawl here in November and then was just edged out by the same horse on new year’s day. I suspect he’s just a bit below the top novices and might improve next season when stepped up in trip.
The five year olds Vukovar (9/1) and Djakadam (12/1) have a much tougher task with the unwinding of the weight for age scale leaving them just a 1lb allowance here. Vukovar has run against a couple of dodgepots so far. He was getting 6lb when beaten 1¼l by Mr Mole and was getting 13lb when easily beating Open Hearted. The anachronistic weight for age scale gives a big advantage to precious types, many of them French breds, but he’s no form that gives him a chance here at virtually level weights. Djakadam’s form is stronger. He outpointed Si C’etait Vrai when getting 11lb at Leopardstown on his chasing debut and then beaten Bright New Dawn when getting 11lb in a Grade 2 there. He wouldn’t have won either race if he’d been getting just 1lb and so you really have to believe in the weight for age scale to make a case for backing him.
Sizing Gold (12/1) was a decent novice hurdler last season, but chasing was always going to be his game. He beat the now 136 rated Mullaghanoe River at Navan over 2m4f and then looked to be outstayed by Foxrock over 3m at testing ground in a Grade 2 at Naas. It’s hard to evaluate his form, or whether this rather than 3m is his trip on a sound surface – but he looks talented and is an unexposed horse with a chance.
Double Ross (14/1) is a 152 rated horse so theoretically doesn’t have much to find. He’s been plying his trade in handicaps and has surprised me with how progressive he’s been, winning over course and distance off 133 and 140 and 1¾l 2nd to Wishful Thinking off 148. He doesn’t have flashy graded race form but I’m not sure the novice chase graded form over 2m4f+ is that strong this year. He has each way claims.
This might be the sort of race for an upset though as I’m not convinced there’s a star in this at the trip, and there are a couple of interesting outsiders. Off The Ground (20/1) took his time to get his act together over fences but had won his last two in handicaps off 118 and 133. His last win at Doncaster, (2m3f, good) was visually impressive and the 2nd has run two good races since, including bolting up off a 4lb higher mark. He’s no experience of running in a race anywhere near this class but he is going the right way.
Mozoltov (25/1) looks too big a price for such a talented horse. You’d have to be concerned about his jumping given the way he walked through the first at Naas last time, and then he only jumped ordinarily for the rest of the round. However, he was effectively going round solo and Willie Mullins thought he would be better with some company.
He’s clearly a chancy proposition after that but he was nursed round in the 2m1f Grade 1 at Leopardstown the time before as Willie Mullins made it clear he thought he needed more experience before tackling the top novices. What is clear is that he's a horse with a real engine. A question mark is the ground as he’s only ever run when there’s been ‘soft’ or ‘heavy’ in the description. However, Mullins has said more than once that he’ll improve for better ground.
The one winner I was annoyed for missing last year was Benefficient, because he was a horse I rated, but hadn’t thought he was going to end up in the JLT. By the time he was re-routed I’d backed Dynaste and didn’t look at the race again with him in it. Mozoltov is similar in that I was far from sure he’d be running in this - and I don’t want to make the same mistake. He is very much a win only bet - I can see him hacking up or bombing out, but he's too classy a horse not to back at 25/1.
1pt Mozoltov to win the JLT Novices Chase (1.30) @ 25/1