Matt Tombs / Friday 23rd November 2012 / 14:30
1pt Captain Chris to win the Amlin Chase @ 11/4
Everyone knows that last season’s novice chasers have been carrying all before them and it’s arguable, (especially after Al Ferof’s sensational win in the Paddy Power off 159), that their official ratings will generally be too low. Equally, it may be that we’ve seen one or two improve hugely and one or two flattered, with the likely consequence others will be over-bet in the top chases over the next couple of weeks.
I certainly get that feeling looking at prices for the Betfair and Amlin Chases. On even last season’s form Long Run ought to be an odds-on shot in the Betfair, yet is 13/8 with Silviniaco Conti at only 9/4. Yes, Long Run has needed the run first time out for the last two seasons but Nicky Henderson is an old fashioned trainer in the sense he lets the weather dictate how much work his horses do in the autumn. The wet autumn has meant his horses haven’t needed the run so much this season. Clearly some horses will always need a run (or two) to put them straight but Long Run doesn’t look that type, (went well fresh in France.)
However, the going is likely to have heavy in the description and Haydock is a course where that can mean bottomless. A couple of renewals of this have been run on soft ground but none on heavy and this could be a completely different challenge. All 10 of Long Run’s races in Britain have been on officially good or good to soft ground. He had lots of form on testing ground in France and I think he might be well suited by conditions but it’s a concern first time out if you’re thinking of taking a short price.
Silviniaco Conti beat 142 rated Wayward Prince easily giving him 5lb in the Charlie Hall, but that’s miles away from mixing it with Kauto Star at levels as Long Run has been doing. He doesn’t sound the most straightforward as Paul Nicholls has been talking about neither the King George nor the Gold Cup being the right race for him. He’s generally raced on a sound surface and heavy going would be an unknown. He could be a top class performer but he’s priced up as if he has already shown he is. The Giant Bolster is young enough to be improving but has shown all his best form at Cheltenham on decent ground and 6/1 is short enough given he’s unlikely to be at home in the conditions.
13/8 Long Run might well look a gift on Saturday evening but I’m likely to sit this one out given the ground, though if it looks like they’re getting through it tomorrow I may reconsider.
It’s at Ascot where the real value in taking on an underpriced 2nd season chaser may lie – in the Amlin Chase. Finian’s Rainbow is the obvious place to start though - he won the Champion Chase and Melling Chase in the spring and is the only proven Grade 1 horse in open company in the field. Whilst I’m less worried about the Henderson horses needing a run after the wet autumn, he looked as if he took a while to come to himself last season. That may be because they had an interrupted preparation (missed the Tingle Creek after a minor setback) but I’m concerned that he won’t be cherry ripe for this and with the maximum 10lb penalty he’ll need to be near his best. Another concern is the tame way he folded here in January. He was clearly being readied for the Champion Chase that day but it may be this right handed track doesn’t suit him that well so I can take him on at Evens.
The second season challenger here is For Non Stop (7/2) who looked really good in the Old Roan, scooting in off 151 by 23l. He’s up to 162 now which is probably about right as he was beating a mixture of horses in need of the run and some out of form types. Nick Williams’ yard is in much better form than this time last year and he looks an improver, but he gets only 4lb from Finian’s Rainbow and I want to see him do it against fit, in-form, quality horses before being convinced he’s top class.
The one I want to back is Captain Chris. He looked to have the world at his feet this time last year and I don’t think last season was the disaster many think. He would have probably beaten Medermit in the Haldon giving him 6lb but for unseating at the last, (Medermit’s now rated 13lb higher). He then had an interrupted preparation for the King George before finishing a fair 3rd over a trip there’s no evidence he gets. His last two runs were on a left handed track at Cheltenham and its well documented he’s miles better right handed. The second of those of was a sound effort to be 6l 4th in the Ryanair.
The earliest he’s won in a season has been 26th February but he would have probably won the Haldon but for coming down last season and actually has a decent record fresh. Ascot looks to have missed the worst of the downpours and often rides surprisingly quickly in the winter so he should get the right sort of surface to run on. Philip Hobbs had a couple of winners at the weekend and hopefully the yard is just starting to hit top form. I think Captain Chris could still be a top class horse on a right handed track at this sort of trip and he gets in unpenalised so gets 10lb from Finian’s Rainbow and I think he’s great value at 11/4, though it may get bigger.
The other big race at Ascot is the Grade 2 hurdle over an extended 2m3f. The even money on Oscar Whisky didn’t last long and he looks like he should be an odds-on shot, (now 4/5). Like so many top class performers at an intermediate trip he looks underrated. He’s won the only Grade 1 at this sort of trip (Aintree Hurdle) for the last two years and may well have won this last season, giving a race fit Overturn 8lb, if he hadn’t fallen at the last. He beat Get Me Out Of Here (4/1) easily at Cheltenham last season giving him 8lb. Whilst I’m a fan of Get Me Out Of Here he’s got a stiff task here for a horse who’s looked best in the second half of the season.
Raya Star (7/2) has been really progressive at 2m, winning a handicap off 149 at Ascot. He’s getting 4lb from the big two here but whilst I believe top handicap form is often underrated compared to conditions events, I think Oscar Whisky is a 170 horse at this trip so Raya Star would need to improve a lot to win. Whilst at 2m he clearly wants a strong run race, that doesn’t mean this step up in trip will suit. He’s short enough against a top class opponent. Brampour looks up against it on these terms so Oscar Whisky really should be an odds-on shot and I can’t find a reason to take him on.
Finally, at Gowran in the winners of two chase, Hidden Cyclone has to give 4lb to last season’s RSA 3rd Call The Police. He hasn’t proved it yet but Hidden Cyclone could develop into a top class horse – he’s shown loads of ability, though he’s still a bit immature. If the forecast 13/8 becomes available he’s well worth backing.