Matt Tombs / Thursday 4th December 2014 / 15:45
Inevitably plenty has changed in the month since I placed my start of season accumulator. In particular we’ve seen stacks of novices running and, whilst working out their targets is often fraught with difficulty, we have at least seen the vast majority of the likely big guns in action.
To put that in context, in the seven all-aged, level weights novice races at the Festival – 81% of the winners in the last decade had run over those obstacles by the end of November. There are relatively few of the obvious contenders, (Josses Hill, Pont Alexandre and Whisper are the main ones,) in the novice chases who we haven’t yet seen. The novice hurdles are different. Willie Mullins has about a dozen potential Festival Grade 1 novice hurdlers still to unleash.
Later on in the season, there’s often value in trying to work out the likely targets of novices. Come January you’ve got loads more information and can try and complete the jigsaw puzzle of what’ll run where.
What we’re looking for in a novice chaser at this stage is a horse with a definite target or one that is a crazy price and worth taking the risk he runs in something else – I like one of each. The one with the virtually certain target is Un De Sceaux (6/1), who I think could develop into one of the great 2 milers. He has stacks of pace, jumped really well on his debut before coming down at Thurles and is described by Ruby Walsh as intelligent, which is an excellent attribute for the Arkle.
Of course it’s far from ideal that he tipped up on his fencing debut. Any horse could lose its confidence and his incredibly bold style of racing will always leave such a fall a possibility. However, he looked a natural until then, which is what’s important. Some of the best two mile chasers like Moscow Flyer, Big Zeb and Well Chief were on the deck from time to time, (Moscow Flyer also came down on his chasing debut.) I’m not at all discouraged and think his being pushed out from 4/1 to 6/1 is a massive overreaction.
Willie Mullins has said he likes plenty of cut but his breeding suggests he might want quick ground. I’m not sure it means much but he did win on good to soft on his debut in France. The others in this accumulator all go on good ground and I’m happy to chance that he will too.
I’m convinced that if all goes well with Un De Sceaux and Vautour, that Willie Mullins will keep them apart. Mullins and Ruby Walsh keep saying Un De Sceaux is a pure 2 miler and Vautour can go any trip. I’m expecting Un De Sceaux to have beaten the main Irish challengers, (such as Gilgamboa,) in races like the Irish Arkle and I can see him going off close to even money on the day, (assuming Vautour doesn’t run.)
Normally I’d be looking to include Vautour as his target is likely to be interdependent on Un De Sceaux’s. He’s pretty short at 3/1 for the JLT though, given he could run in the Arkle, (or even Champion Chase.)
It’s 10/1 the field in the RSA which tells you that there’s been no stand out performer as yet. Kings Palace looked good when beating Sausalito Sunrise at Cheltenham. Valseur Lido was brilliant in the Drinmore and would have a strong chance if he stays. Champagne West looks talented but it was a farce of a race he won at Cheltenham and I want to see him run in a proper contest before considering him. Rule The World was giving a promising mare 20lb when chinned at Fairyhouse at the weekend, which was probably strong form. All look interesting, but none scream value at the current prices.
The one to be on at a massive 33/1 is Shanahan’s Turn. He beat the talented Wounded Warrior comfortably at Punchestown, (who then got slightly closer to Don Poli on his next run – Don Poli is 12/1, despite being aimed at the 4 miler.)
He then won what looked beforehand a strong Grade 2 at Punchestown (2m6f). That race, (the Florida Pearl,) is usually a hot contest, with Morning Assembly beating Don Cossack last year and Back In Focus and Last Instalment winning the previous 2 renewals.
The actual form is harder to weigh up as Very Wood disappointed and Lots of Memories broke a blood vessel. Shanahan’s Turn was a comfortable 4¾l winner from Indevan, (who gave 3lb). Ruby Walsh has said Indevan isn’t a Grade 1 horse and I’m sure he’s right.
Whilst the bare form might not be special, Shanahan’s Turn looks to have the rare combination of staying well but having a real turn of foot at the end of his races, (recovered from a mistake at the last here to sprint clear close home). He puts his RSA credentials on the line in the 3m Grade 1 at Leopardstown at Christmas, (the risk is he doesn’t look a stayer there and runs in the JLT instead).
On form he should be in the bunch at about 16/1 – 20/1. I’d been tempted to back him in a single but he doesn’t run again until Christmas and it makes sense to hold fire. He’s an ideal component of an accumulator.
Of the championship races, the horses at the front of the Champion Hurdle market look strong contenders. I’d be an each-way player at the moment so that’s out as I only do win accumulators, (the essence of an accumulator being to win a fortune for a small stake.) More Of That’s flop has opened up the World Hurdle. I’m still keen on Briar Hill but he’s in my November accumulator and ideally I’ll avoid having the same horses again – as one injury then knocks both accumulators out.
I’m therefore playing in the open chase markets. I’m waiting to see what happens in the Tingle Creek and Hilly Way this weekend in the 2m chase division, so the first is the Ryanair. Earlier in the week I put Caid Du Berlais up at 25/1 and with the price still available I want to include him.
The Gold Cup looks there for the taking and, at the prices, I’m tempted by Al Ferof (33/1). He’s always been a class act and his Paddy Power win off 159 two seasons ago suggested he was up to championship level. He’s had injury problems since and been treated for ulcers, but was really impressive on his seasonal reappearance at Ascot recently. He gave mid-160s horses Somersby and Wishfull Thinking 4lb, and beat them easily, (2m3f, soft).
He obviously has to stay in one piece and hold his form, but I think he’s got as much ability as any in the field and he’s exactly the sort worth chancing in an accumulator as I think he’ll stay on decent ground. His owner is determined to go for the Gold Cup rather than the Ryanair, and Paul Nicholls has agreed to that, (having overruled the owner on the issue last season,) so we know his target.
He will be 10 come March and horses aged 10 and over have a dreadful record in the four championship races, (Cool Dawn in 1998 is the last to win the Gold Cup). That has to be a concern, but he’s lightly raced for his age after just 11 chase runs, (22 starts in all.) If there’s a horse to buck that age-stat its him.
I’ve mentioned before the importance of checking the maximum payout rules of different layers. Most of the big firms have sensible maximums, but this would be a classic case of getting a life changing accumulator up and not being paid out. For example, Racebets are top price but their maximum payout is €10,000. William Hill are next best, and for a bag of change at the current 137,903/1 you could hit a million pound payout.
Un De Sceaux (Arkle) – 5/1
Shanahan’s Turn (RSA) – 33/1
Caid Du Berlais (Ryanair) – 25/1
Al Ferof (Gold Cup) – 25/1