Matt Tombs / Wednesday 22nd October 2014 / 11:30
There are years when you start the season and look at the ante-post markets and it’s hard to find a bet – and there are years when one just leaps out. This season is definitely in the latter category and the horse that seems to have been massively underestimated is Nicky Henderson’s mare Ma Filleule.
The 6 year old was hugely progressive in the second half of last season. She won a handicap over the King George course and distance at Christmas off 137 and then was 1¾l 2nd to Holywell in the extended 3m handicap chase at the Festival off 143, the pair clear.
Holywell was running off 145 there and so should have been conceding 2lb. Talented claimer Nico De Boinville was claiming a further 5lb off Ma Filleule, so in fact the terms were as they’d be in a Grade 1 with the 7lb mare’s allowance. De Boinville was decent value for his claim, (which he’s now ridden out,) but that’s very different from having the likes of Barry Geraghty on board at the same weights.
Ma Filleule had just hit the front going well when hitting the 3rd last and Nico lost his irons - the mare lost a lot of momentum whilst he regained his equilibrium. She was back on the bridle 2 out but pecked there and got run out of it by Holywell close home. Given all that, its arguable she comes out the better horse on Grade 1 terms.
She then went to Aintree and bolted up by 8l in the Topham off 150. Whilst the Topham has only been an open handicap in recent seasons, this is still comfortably the highest mark ever defied in it. Races over the National fences often used to have little relevance to races over conventional fences but they’re now so much softer that the Topham is much more like an ordinary handicap.
To put Ma Filleule’s performance in context, Triolo D’Alene won the Topham by ¾l off 132 the previous season and then won the Hennessy off 15lb higher before going off just 10/1 for the Gold Cup. Ma Filleule earned a 21lb higher RPR in the Topham than Triolo D’Alene, (and gets 7lb.)
She’s now rated 163, which is the equivalent to a gelding rated 170. Holywell is also now rated 163 so has 7lb to find on Grade 1 terms with Ma Filleule, yet is less than half the price for both King George, (not seen as a likely runner,) and the Gold Cup.
She’s won at the track, jumps really well, goes on any ground and 3m around Kempton looks ideal. She’s only 6 and improving fast – I’ve got her down as a single figure price, yet incredibly she’s a 33/1 chance.
Nicky Henderson hopes to get Simonsig back on track to run in the race but he’s said that we shouldn’t discount Ma Filleule. She’s likely to put her credentials on the line in the 3m Grade 1 at Down Royal on 1st November. Down Royal has some of the stiffest fences around which should suit such a good jumper as Ma Filleule and, whilst Nicky’s horses are rarely wound up at that stage, she might be a single figure price for the King George if putting in a taking performance there.
There looks plenty of decent opposition, headed by last year’s winner Silviniaco Conti, (5/1). He won a cracking renewal last season, outstaying Cue Card by 3½l, (soft). His best form has been on flat tracks and with multiple winners of this race common, he’s the obvious leading contender. He’s beginning to look a bit knowing though and he threw the Gold Cup away by going sideways on the run in, and looked quirky again at Aintree. If he trains on again he has every chance, but Paul Nicholls is understandably reaching for headgear and there’s enough doubts to oppose him at 5/1 at this stage.
Cue Card (8/1) is better value. He beat Silviniaco Conti in the Betfair Chase, (although he had the advantage of a run there,) before running out of stamina when looking sure to win the King George. He’s had a wind operation and now has the assistance of Daryl Jacob – if there’s a sound surface then he’s got a good chance of getting home. The problem is that he had a pelvic fracture in the spring and has to prove he retains all his ability.
Simonsig (6/1) has even more to prove. He’s priced up on a well deserved reputation for being a potential superstar. However, he hasn’t run since the 2013 Arkle so we’ve no idea if he retains that level of ability. He pulled really hard in the Arkle and jumped moderately. He’s never run beyond 2m5f, and that was in the Neptune, which is very much a race for speed horses. Unless he’s learned to settle then I give him no chance of getting the trip, and it’s open to question whether he’ll stay even if he does settle, (he did win a couple of points in 2011, but may have simply been outclassing moderate horses.) He’d be the best winner for racing but he’s the worst value of the market leaders.
Rich Ricci recently indicated Champagne Fever (10/1) could well run in this and he’s a fascinating contender. He’s a bit in and out but he’s fundamentally a good jumper who’s been crying out for a step up in trip. I can see him winning but he obviously has stamina to prove, is inconsistent and this hasn’t been a great race for 2nd season chasers, (only Long Run and Kicking King have won this century.) The layers haven’t taken any chances.
I’ve backed Dynaste (10/1) for the Gold Cup and his price looks on the generous side. He was backed into joint favouritism for this last season after splitting the race fit Cue Card and Silviniaco Conti in the Betfair. He pulled muscles when bombing in the King George and wasn’t seen again until winning the Ryanair. With Benefficient suffering a career ending injury it was probably a sub-standard Ryanair, so that form isn’t good enough to win a King George. He’s better over 3m though, and was only 1½l behind Silviniaco Conti in the 3m1f Grade 1 at Aintree. He needs to progress again but can do so with a clear run, and he was very impressive in the Feltham here two seasons ago so there shouldn’t be a problem with the track.
There aren’t many others to fancy, although if Captain Chris (25/1) recovers from his suspensory injury he incurred in the run up to the Gold Cup, he’d be one to look at nearer the day, as he was hugely impressive in a listed race at Kempton and in the Ascot Chase last season. Philip Hobbs recently suggested he’d be unlikely to be ready for the King George.
All the market leaders have question marks and Ma Filleule might well be the best value bet we’ll get all season. Many punters reduce stakes when backing long shots – which is poor logic. Successful betting is obviously about medium and long term results. The size of your stake should depend on how much bigger a price a horse is than it should be. Here Ma Filleule is so much too big a price, I’d suggest a bigger rather than a smaller stake.
2pts Ma Filleule to win the King George @ 33/1