Matt Tombs / Friday 22nd November 2013 / 14:00
1pt e/w Roi Du Mee in the Betfair Chase @ 20/1
The Betfair Chase has belied the doubters who thought it would fail to attract the top staying chasers. Whilst it has inevitably weakened some renewals of the Hennessy, it’s great to have this sort of race in the north as too many of the top races are held south of the wash. Whilst Kauto Star has obviously been a star turn in many of the renewals, the likely field this year looks to be the best ever in terms of depth.
We have 2 Gold Cup winners in Bobs Worth and Long Run, and open Grade 1 winners in Cue Card, Tidal Bay, Roi Du Mee and Silviniaco Conti. Add in a Grade 1 novice winner in Dynaste stepping into open company and The Giant Bolster who’s been placed in a Gold Cup - and it’s a great race. The ground is soft, good to soft in places with no material rain forecast and it didn’t look too bad in the early races today.
Last season’s Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth is inevitably favourite (23/10) and has won all 7 of his races going left handed (5 at Cheltenham and 2 at Newbury.) He only ran twice last season when winning the Hennessy off 160 and then, having looked beaten, grinding past very tired horses to win the Gold Cup. He’s got a cracking record but he’s racing over 1½f less here and, whilst the additional furlong this year will make this race more of a test of stamina, that drop in trip could make a big difference to a horse whose real weapon is stamina rather than a turn of foot. Plenty of Nicky Henderson’s big guns haven’t fired first time out so far and I think he’s vulnerable.
The most likely winner is Silviniaco Conti (13/5) who won this last year, goes well fresh and was going best in the Gold Cup when falling 3 out. Whether he’d have prevailed in the desperate slog up the hill is questionable but we know this test suits. Paul Nicholls has highlighted that some of his horses are running badly for no obvious reason though and stable jockey Daryl Jacob goes to Ascot to ride Al Ferof and Zarkandar. Last season Silviniaco Conti was primed for an autumn campaign. I wonder if his sole focus is the Gold Cup this time. His price is about right.
Dynaste (13/2) represents last season’s novices, which look only an average crop at this stage. Dynaste was the pick of the British staying novices and, a blip in the Jewson apart, looked a top class prospect last season. Given he was a 3 miler over hurdles it may be as simple as the trip beating him in the Jewson and he was especially impressive in the Feltham. Connections turned down what looked an ordinary Paddy Power last week off 159 to come here. The concern is that the vibes during the week were that he might not run. There isn’t another suitable race before the King George, which implies he may not be flying at home. Given that he’s shorter for the King George than Silviniaco Conti, even given their respective course form, I’d be backing him here at 13/2 if the vibes were better.
I’d strongly fancied Cue Card (7/1) to win the Haldon off 172 and was disappointed that he was brushed aside so easily, especially with his perfect record when fresh. His dam ran in the National and he’s always threatened to stay so I wouldn’t be too put off by his not staying in a heavy ground King George last season. His Ryanair win was that of a top class horse and he’s definitely good enough to win this. He comes from another yard that isn’t yet firing on all cylinders and presumably some of the others will try and run the finish out of him.
Tidal Bay (9/1) is an extraordinary horse by any standards. The Arkle winner 6 seasons ago, he’s been rejuvenated by a move to Paul Nicholls and comes out a better horse than Bobs Worth at the weights in last year’s Hennessy. He then mowed down the best of the Irish horses close home in the Lexus. He proved his wellbeing with a Grade 2 win over hurdles at Wetherby a fortnight ago. If the ground gets really testing then he’d be the value as he loves passing horses. Similarly to Bobs Worth, I’m not sure this test, with more of an emphasis on speed, will suit as well as the Hennessy would have done.
Long Run (12/1) was desperately disappointing in the Charlie Hall. For all the analysis that his mistake down the back was worse than initially thought, it looks more likely that a series of hard races have taken their toll. He’s never been at his best for Nicky Henderson in the autumn and looks to need more of a test of stamina now, so is easy to pass over.
The Giant Bolster (50/1) has been 2nd and 4th in the last two Gold Cups but hasn’t looked the same force away from Cheltenham. Better ground than he was running on last winter may help, (he can be forgiven his run at Aintree just 3 weeks after a slog through the mud in the Gold Cup,) but nothing suggests that he is up to winning such a strong Grade 1.
Normally with such a strong race I’d be working on the principle that one of the top horses will run to form and so wouldn’t be looking for a long priced horse. However, the mixed form of some of the top stables and the test not ideally suiting some of these suggests the value could be in an outsider.
I like recent Grade 1 winner Roi Du Mee (20/1). He’s run a moderate race on his first completed start for the last two seasons but has been a model of consistency otherwise, being 7/8. Whether he has any chance in this company depends almost entirely on his Down Royal win last time.
Sizing Europe didn’t jump with his normal fluency, but it wasn’t as if he made any blunders. In beating him by 13l, Roi Du Mee became only the 2nd horse after Sprinter Sacre to beat Sizing Europe by 8l or more, (in 25 chases). Prince De Beauchene has been described by Willie Mullins as being good enough for the Gold Cup and was 23l adrift. First Lieutenant may be better going left handed but after his first run of the season was really consistent last term and was beaten only 1l in this. He was beaten 26l this time, just turning round the form with Kauto Stone from the previous renewal.
The conceived wisdom is that all four of them chronically underperformed but you need to make a lot of assumptions to conclude that. The bare form is that Roi Du Mee blew them away and had a 2nd season chaser like Dynaste put in that sort of performance he’d be a short price for this.
Sometimes staying chasers improve significantly when seemingly relatively exposed. For example, Tidal Bay had won the bet365 Gold Cup over nearly 3¾m on his final run of the 2011/12 season, (his 21st chase run) but, rising 12, then stepped up hugely to come out the best horse at the weights in Bobs Worth’s Hennessy and win the Lexus.
Roi Du Mee is only 8 and it might just be that he is improving rapidly. Although he’s raced mainly on right handed tracks, he has form going left handed and he jumps so well that you’d hope a new track will hold no fears for him. With doubts about Cue Card’s stamina its possible he’ll get his own way in front.
Unlike most of the others, I’m confident he’ll run his race. If you take a positive view of his Down Royal form then he should be right in the mix. 20/1 is a bit of an insult for a horse that has just run away with a Grade 1 and he’s cracking each way value in what promises to be a fantastic race.
There’s some fascinating fare at Ascot and I’d be optimistic that Annie Power is good enough to take advantage of the 11lb she gets from Zarkandar, but the market has them about right now. It’ll be great to see Al Ferof back on the racecourse in the Amlin Chase, but its hard to know how straight he’ll be for this and, getting 4lb from Captain Chris, the race revolves around him to some extent – so I’ll be watching with interest rather than betting.