Matt Tombs / Monday 9th March 2015 / 15:26
The make up of this year’s ante-post portfolio suggested that the best chances of profits would come on the first two days of the meeting. It was a fantastic day one with Un De Sceaux and Cause Of Causes winning and Arctic Fire and Polly Peachum reaching the frame. Hopefully we're set up for similar luck today.
Day 2 kicks off with the Neptune, and having put up Nichols Canyon at 6/1 I’m sticking with him now in a race that has cut up to just ten runners. He looks a strong favourite in a race where favourites have a good record and surprises are rare. I think Outlander and Windsor Park are stayers and I'm not sure how strong the Challow form represented by Parlour Games and Vyta Du Roc is. The Irish had the first 3 home in the Supreme yesterday and it wouldn't surprise me to see something similar here. After Willie Mullins 4 timer on the opening day, I'm surprised Nichols Canyon is as big as 4/1 and if you're not already on, that's great value.
In the feature event of the day, the Champion Chase, I put Simply Ned up each-way at 33/1 in the autumn. He’s now 20/1 and on the drying ground I think he has a fair each-way chance in what looks a wide open race.
I’d happily lose my stake to see the great Sprinter Sacre (7/2) back to his best, but that’s unlikely. Dodging Bullets (11/2) is the form horse and could be being underrated as Sire De Grugy was off a similar profile last year, but the value has gone. Its hard to know what Mr Mole (10/1) achieved in the Game Spirit but I just can’t believe he can win a Champion Chase. Champagne Fever (5/1) is tempting as his course form is so strong and the previous season’s Arkle is such a good guide.
The field is much more competitive than I’d anticipated a couple of months ago and whilst I think Simply Ned will run well, I fear that one of the big guns will bring their A-Game and be too good for him. I was tempted to back Sire De Grugy (7/2) as he was impressive at Chepstow last time off 172 and is capable of taking hard races. It was a close call but I’m going to pass on another bet.
Elsewhere the portfolio has a couple of decent chances. The Bumper is obviously a hard race to predict but having put Moon Racer up at 12/1, I wouldn’t swap him with anything. The Irish will provide formidable opposition and it wouldn’t surprise me if Willie Mullins’s 7th string wins it. However, vibes in the last day or so are a good guide to this and its great to see Moon Racer really strong in the market as 9/1 2nd favourite. He could be a fair bit shorter by the off.
Many will be in the bar when they are going round and round in ever decreasing circles in the Cross-country, but there are surely only a few who can realistically win what is the ultimate in specialists races. Sire Collonges boasts the best overall course form and has every chance - he is another who still represents value now (15/2).
The RSA has cut up to a field of 9 leaving a very different race from the one most of us were analysing ante-post. The stats boys will be all over this as there are strong trends with which to oppose most of the main protagonists. From a punting point of view it's a pity Coneygree isn't running as it would have been maximum bet time. However, with the ground riding good and rain forecast for later in the week, I can see why they're aiming the 8 year old at the Gold Cup.
Don Poli (2/1) must be the perfect lay for those who base their punting on trends. Its over 50 years since any horse has won this without running in the calendar year. It’s 17 years since any horse won it after just 2 chase runs. Don Poli has had just 2 chases, the last at Leopardstown at Christmas.
Whilst I’m a big believer that recent match practice is crucial, and plenty of experience over the relevant obstacles is a big advantage – if ever a horse is going to defy those stats its this year. Those stats are based on traditional RSAs where there are much bigger fields, often at a really fast pace.
It’s more than 20 years since a smaller field lined up and it’s possible Kings Palace might get a soft lead and they could go very steadily. If that happens, Don Poli’s lack of experience and recent match practice might be much less of a disadvantage. Regardless, I just can’t back him at such a short price.
The Young Master (11/2) has been off the course for even longer, not having run since his handicap win at Ascot off 144 on 20th December. He has had 4 chase runs so has more experience but it would surprise me if he was quite classy enough against some potential Gold Cup horses in this.
I was impressed with Southfield Theatre (15/2) in the autumn but that form hasn’t worked out. He was disappointing when beaten on soft ground by Carraig Mor and was then a slightly lucky winner at Exeter last time. 3m and decent ground will suit him much better and he ought to run his race but I’m banking on something improving past him.
In theory this ought to lead to Kings Palace (4/1) being the right play, but he’s a horse I’m struggling to warm to. He looks to need a soft lead and the two times he’s got taken on he’s ended up on the floor. He fell in a hole last year in the Albert Bartlett and I can see him doing that again unless he gets a really easy lead. The other question mark over Kings Palace is how much of a battler he is. I’m expecting this to be too tough an assignment.
I think this is ripe for an upset and at a much bigger price I’m keen to back If In Doubt (12/1). He won the Great Yorkshire Chase off 139 last time, beating a competitive field easily despite a moderate round of jumping. It looked a case of his not getting into a rhythm early on there, and there’s obviously the risk that happens again - but he showed a huge engine that day, (RPR of 157 makes him joint top rated.) That performance showed he has the raw ability to compete with the top novice chasers.
There is no way he should be 12/1 against these, and he may well find it much easier to get into a rhythm in this small field. He stays every yard and looks a real improver - that makes him the clear value here.
1pt If In Doubt to win the RSA Chase (2:05) @ 12/1