Matt Tombs / Monday 7th January 2013 / 14:00
1pt Tap Night to win the Jewson @ 25/1
The dilution of quality at the Festival that’s occurred due to all the new races presents a double-edged sword for ante-post punters. In the novice chase division, the Jewson means a large proportion of the likely Arkle and RSA contenders have a potential alternative target. The increased chance of not getting a run for your money, (as the portfolio is unlikely to with Oscar’s Well in the Arkle,) is a real downside. The upside is that it makes it much more complex for the layers and with many punters deeming the markets too difficult, there are more opportunities to find a rick in the prices.
For example, whilst something may come out of the woodwork, there are only 5 realistic contenders for the Arkle at this stage and only Simonsig is definitely going for the race. Arvika Ligeonniere will probably run it, though he was more impressive over 2m4f than 2m1f out of his two Grade 1 victories. Overturn was running over 2¾m on the flat, which suggests a step up in trip ought to suit. However, he was quick enough to be 2nd in last season’s Champion Hurdle so he’ll probably run in the Arkle too, but I wouldn’t rule out either of them running in the Jewson.
Nicky Henderson is going to run Captain Conan over 2½m to see if he stays so he can run him in the Jewson to keep him and Simonsig apart, but if he doesn’t stay he’ll run in the Arkle. Jessica Harrington seems to think Oscars Well needs a step up in trip so he’ll probably run in the Jewson if he comes to the Festival at all.
It’s easy to see the huge uncertainties and it gets even worse when you try and analyse the RSA, as there are inevitably many more contenders than for the specialist 2m Arkle. Favourite Dynaste has the Jewson as an option and I could see Aupcharlie, Unioniste and Super Duty running in the Jewson as well.
There’s another, less obvious, change that needs considering. Since the financial crash, there’s been a huge concentration of the best horses in a few yards and with a few owners. Prior to that it was unusual for a yard, much less an owner, to have 2 horses good enough to clash in a Grade 1 novice chase at Cheltenham.
This year Willie Mullins has 3 of the first 4 in the RSA market, of which Boston Bob and Back in Focus are both owned by the Wylies. Both look real stayers so it’s not obvious whether he can keep them apart, as the Jewson would suit neither, (could either run in the 4 miler?) Given that, you might expect Mullins to run Aupcharlie in the Jewson and Arvika Ligeonniere in the Arkle. Similarly Gigginstown have Sword of Destiny, Dedigout and Sea of Thunder who could all be RSA horses but could, say, run in the Jewson, RSA and 4 miler respectively.
Of course there’s a lot of water to pass under the bridge before Festival week and some of them will have fallen by the wayside. However, it hopefully illustrates that if you want to bet ante-post these days, you have got to try and work out how big owners / trainers will shuffle their packs.
At this stage you either need a really strong view on a horse so the price is big enough to account for the risk an alternative target is chosen, or a horse whose target is clear, (in the novice hurdle division that was a key part of my rationale for backing Jezki at such an early stage in the season.) Simonsig is the only one in the Arkle I’m sure won’t run in the Jewson, so there’s no angle there and I want some more clues on running plans before dipping my toe into the RSA market.
The Jewson has far less prestige and for most will be a race reluctantly targeted when connections believe their horse can’t win the Arkle or RSA, or where they need to keep their runners apart. Therefore if you can find a horse that is likely to line up with a realistic chance, it’s the sort of race where it should shorten significantly. In that context it’s worth remembering that the recession (especially in Ireland) has reduced the number of horses coming through and so with the addition of the Jewson, small fields might become the norm. Even in last year’s golden season for novice chasers, the fields were 6 in the Arkle, 10 in the Jewson and 9 in the RSA. Such small fields should help shorten up prices by the off.
Looking at the Jewson market, Captain Conan (6/1) and Oscars Well (10/1) are too short to back given the suggestion they might run here has been developed as a reserve plan. I’m not expecting Dynaste (6/1), Arvika Ligeonniere (10/1), Back In Focus (14/1) or Overturn (16/1) to line up so they can’t be backed at this stage.
Aupcharlie (10/1) jumps really well and the vibes from the Mullins team are that he’s a completely different horse this season. He acts on the track having been 3rd in the Bumper 2 seasons ago. He looks really talented but he’s been a weak finisher and 10/1 is too short given I’m only guessing he’ll run in the Jewson, it’s not a confirmed plan.
Unioniste (14/1) looks to have been trained for the handicap he won in December and that was a tough race for a young horse. I wouldn’t want to back him ante-post. Hinterland (14/1) is still a maiden after 3 starts and is unbackable on that form. Module (20/1) beat Colour Squadron (16/1) at Newbury recently, (extended 2m2f, heavy) though the latter’s saddle slipped half way round. They’re both possibles but it’s hard to weigh up Module’s form and Colour Squadron is a bit skinny at 16s. They’re two to keep in mind for nearer the race.
Court In Motion (16/1) took advantage of the 7lb he received from Houblon Des Obeaux in a Grade 2 at Lingfield (3m, heavy) and he’s apparently going to drop back in trip. He was well held previously by the same horse at Wincanton over 2m5f though when getting 4lb and was run over by Dynaste at Newbury. I’m not convinced 2m5f is his trip, (8l 3rd to Bob’s Worth in the Albert Bartlett 2 seasons ago). He’s interesting but I’d want to see him prove he has the pace for this drop back in trip first.
I’m not sure what Super Duty (25/1) beat at Cheltenham last time (2m5f, heavy) but it may have been a smart effort from a good ground horse. The vibes are that he’s going for the RSA though so we need to hold fire for now. Argocat isn’t quoted at the moment but should be as he was an impressive winner of a Grade 2 at Limerick over Christmas, (extended 2m3f, heavy.) He’s much better on good ground and whilst he’s been benefitting from the 4 year olds allowance so far he’s really unexposed. He’ll probably go straight to the Jewson and has the advantage of being aimed at the race so it’ll be interesting to see how he is priced up in due course.
The one to be on at this stage though is Tap Night (25/1). He was really progressive over hurdles winning 4 of his last 5, ending up winning off 140 in November, (didn’t stay 3m in the Sefton, having travelled strongly, in his only defeat). That included beating Captain Conan (who gave 3lb) by 2l in a novice Grade 2 at Kelso, (2m2f, good). They’re closely matched on that form but despite 2m5f on likely good ground seeming to favour Tap Night more, (won going away at Kelso,) he’s 5 times the price Captain Conan is.
Rated 146 over timber, Tap Night got his chasing career off to a good start at Ayr the other day beating a couple of fair sorts on the bridle, (2m, heavy.) He jumped well there and should improve when the ground dries out, (has winning flat form on fast ground in the USA). Lucinda Russell showed she could get one right for the big day when Brindisi Breeze won the Albert Bartlett last year and she’s said 2½m is his trip, so there’s a strong chance he’ll run in the Jewson. Having been purchased by JP McManus before his chasing debut, he now has the added bonus of Tony McCoy riding. He’s therefore worth backing now and, as usual, we’ll look at the race again when running plans are clearer.