Matt Tombs / Tuesday 11th March 2014 / 21:10
Wednesday is often the best days racing at the Festival and this year certainly looks to provide the Portfolio with the best opportunities. As suspected, the ground had really dried out after a week with virtually no rain and the times suggest the ground was good, quick ground yesterday. The lush grass and high water table mean there’s enough give for the soft ground horses but the quick times suggested speed is at a premium.
It’s always great to get a winning first day to give you some momentum for the week. That’s particularly so given the portfolio’s best chance of profit this week is today as we have four horses lining up with real chances, whom we’ve got at fancy odds.
I’m sweetest on Rathvinden who is into 7/1 from 16/1 for the Neptune. As a Heron Island gelding out of a Presenting mare, he could hardly scream louder that he wants good ground. I’m confident he can turn round the heavy ground form with Red Sherlock on 3lb better terms. The key is stablemate Faugheen who could be anything, but Rathvinden has sound claims.
I also like Corrin Wood (10/1 from 14/1) in the RSA. It’s a shame Annacotty lines up as otherwise he looked like getting a soft lead out front. More of a concern though is Jason Maguire's injury. Richard Johnson is a top jockey but Corrin Wood does look the sort who'd take a bit of knowing. He jumps quickly and is a relentless galloper – just the type that tends to win this when there isn’t a star. He can get some of the flashy types in trouble early on in the race.
Whilst I wouldn’t put anyone backing either of them at the current prices, I’m not sure I’d be piling into Arvika Ligeonniere at 8/1. 16/1 was good value, but the ground has dried up against him and with concerns about trip and track it’s hard to argue he’s great value now. If Ruby rides him aggressively then he has a decent chance.
Hopefully by the time we get to the Cross Country Balthazar King (7/1 from 33/1 for the double with the November race) will be running to be the icing on our betting cake. I’m not a fan of this race but with the ground having dried out he must take all the beating in a race when weight doesn’t matter too much as they go so slowly.
The Coral Cup is usually a fiendish puzzle. It’s the only one of the 6 main open handicaps at the Festival where there isn’t an open Grade 1 at the same sort of distance. It can therefore lead to a horse running from a high mark which alters the shape of the handicap. This century, on ten occasions one of those six handicaps has had a horse running from a mark in the 160s, and three of those ten have been in the Coral Cup. That’s not happening this time, with Dunguib (12/1) heading the weights off 154. Dunguib promised to be a top class horse before injury interevened, but he’d still need to be one at 11 to win this - off a 3lb higher mark than any of those 6 handicaps have been won this century. He’s hard to fancy.
My initial fancy was Vendor (16/1). He was backed as if defeat was out of the question when sent off 3/1 favourite for the Fred Winter 2 seasons ago and was a good 2¼l 3rd to Une Artiste. He was hugely disappointing last season but returning from a full MOT was an impressive winner of a good handicap off 130 at Newbury, before staying on well to be 7½l 8th to Splash Of Ginge in the Betfair over an inadequate extended 2m. He should be suited by the step up in trip and looks nicely handicapped, and Alan King had a winner yesterday.
Given the ground is riding on the quick, side, Clerk’s Choice (50/1) comes into this. It’s a tall order off a mark of 147 but this is a horse good enough 3 years ago to be 11½l 6th to Hurricane Fly in a Champion Hurdle, and was a good 2nd at the Grand National meeting last year off 141. He’s fit from the all weather, (won a handicap off 75 in December). He’s a totally different animal on quick ground and he has the ability to win this off that sort of mark given his conditions.
Of those at the front of the market, you have to respect Clondaw Kaempfer (12/1). He was seen as a Grade 1 novice last season but got injured in the Challow (sent off 2/1) and missed the rest of the season. He’s run in a couple of handicaps on soft ground so far and his yard, (that landed a massive gamble with Son Of Flicka in this 2 years ago,) is in better form now. If he retains his ability he could be nicely in off 138 here, but he’s been well found in the market now. The shortest priced winner in the last five years has been 14/1 and unless there’s a horse that has really jumped out at me, 12/1 isn’t the sort of price I want to be playing at in this race.
The vote goes to Ifandbutwhynot (28/1) who was a taking winner of the Gerry Fielden off 133 in November, beating a strong looking field from the front. He’s been held up in his two subsequent runs and was a good second at Musselborough on unsuitably soft ground (off 139) and was then 5th on heavy ground in the Kingwell. Assuming more positive tactics are used again today back on his favoured good ground, then I’d expect him to improve again and a mark of 140 looks lenient. The bonus is that David O’Meara has booked Bryan Cooper which suggests he means business.
1pt Ifandbutwhynot to win the Coral Cup (2.40) @ 28/1
The Bumper isn’t usually a race I’d have a bet on as so much depends on how much these young horses are improving in the weeks running up to the race. That usually makes it too much of a lottery.
If I do have a bet it’s usually because I’ve seen a horse who has looked a top prospect but has been really underrated. At least I can point to last time out winning form as the last bet I had in this was on Dunguib, who’d looked a potential star but coming from a smaller yard, was available at a double figure price in the run up to the race before being backed into 9/2 SP.
This year there looks to have been another underestimated horse in Modus (10/1) from Robert Stephens small yard. He’s been really impressive in 2 bumpers against his own age group so far. Last time he won by 13l at Cheltenham on really bad ground. The 7th and 10th have won since and it might have been a stronger race than its been given credit for.
His breeding suggests that he’ll improve significantly for better ground, (full brother and a stack of half siblings have generally thrived on a sound surface). As a 4 year old he gets 8lb and 4 year olds have a better record than is generally credited. Cue Card is the only one to have won since Dato Star, but New Years Eve, Sophocles, Pressgang and De Soto have finished runners up as 4 year olds in the last decade – so it’s hardly been a race where 4 year olds have failed to flourish.
He has a quality jockey in Tom O’Brien and I think he’s as likely a winner as anything – the market is understandably distorted by the 3 Mullins horses, and he’s been underrated.
1pt Modus to win the Champion Bumper (5.15) @ 10/1