Matt Tombs / Friday 16th January 2015 / 16:40
It’s been a long wait, but hopefully we’ll finally get to see the brilliant Sprinter Sacre again on Saturday in the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase at Ascot. In an era where the best horses seem to take each other on less and less, jump racing desperately needs a superstar headline act to attract people to the sport - and Sprinter Sacre is it. The ground is currently soft, lets hope it doesn’t get any worse and he takes his chance.
With my racing fans hat on I wanted to see him bolt up by 20l – we can all then relish the run up to the Champion Chase and watch him demolish the best 2 milers around as he did 2 years ago. With my betting hat on, the race has a great betting shape to it.
Sprinter Sacre (10/11) was a 190 horse two seasons ago, an incredibly rare thing in racing. I would have thought running to 170 would win this comfortably so he has 20lb in hand in theory. It’s impossible to know how much ability he retains – its probably 50:50 whether he’ll still have enough of his stellar capabilities, so 10/11 looks the right sort of price.
What doesn’t look the right price is the 5/2 about Dodging Bullets. I put him up for a weak Tingle Creek but there are plenty of reasons to oppose him here. He has been very much an autumn horse – his record before the turn of the year over jumps is 1-1-3-1-1-1-3-1. By contrast his record after the turn of the year is 2-4-6-9-7-2-4-5. He also looks to me a horse that only just gets a bare 2m and that Ascot’s stiff 2m1f on testing ground might be too much of a test of stamina for him.
If Sprinter Sacre’s price is right, then at 5/2 Dodging Bullets is odds-on to beat the others if Sprinter Sacre flops. I don’t see it like that at all – I don’t think there’s much between Dodging Bullets, Somersby and Twinlight.
Somersby (7/1) loves Ascot, winning this in 2012, getting chinned by Master Minded the year before and was a good 2nd to Al Ferof over 2m3f in November. He has 2½l to make up with Dodging Bullets on Tingle Creek form but given how well he runs here and the question marks over Dodging Bullets, that’s quite possible, for all he’s 11 now and hardly likely to be improving.
The testing ground is against Somersby though and at the prices I prefer the enigmatic Twinlight (6/1). He’s been very in and out but on his going days he’s a top class performer on bad ground. This season he bolted up in the Fortria, ran no race at all in the Hilly Way and then readily accounted for a good field in the 2m1f Grade 1 Dial-A-Bet at Leopardstown. On a line through Simply Ned he has a bit in hand of Dodging Bullets and I think the Dial-A-Bet is better form than the Tingle Creek.
He’s clearly not a reliable sort but Paul Townend was adamant that he needed riding with plenty of light, having not seemed to enjoy going round the inside amongst horses at Cork. That worked perfectly at Leopardstown and with only 4 opponents here, it shouldn’t be a problem.
To some extent if you bet in this race you’re betting blind regarding Sprinter Sacre’s wellbeing. However, if he doesn’t perform, the market is all wrong about the chances of the other 3 realistic contenders. Twinlight has at least as good form as Dodging Bullets and will love the ground. To some extent its an insurance against the sad truth turning out to be that we’ll never see the real Sprinter Sacre again – if that happens Twinlight can take advantage.
1pt Twinlight to win the Clarence House Chase @ 6/1
The valuable Boylesports handicap hurdle at Leopardstown over 2m on Sunday is one of the most competitive of the season and it’s been a terrific guide to the County Hurdle at the Festival, producing 4 of the last 7 winners. Final Approach (2011) did the double, whilst Ted Veale (2013) and Silver Jaro (2008) were 3rd in the Boylesports and Thousand Stars (2010) was down the field. It’s very much a case of notebooks at the ready with the County in mind.
This is a roughly similar prize to the County though and plenty will have been peaked for this day – you can make a case for stacks of the runners. The ground is going to be testing, (soft to heavy at the time of writing).
Despite being beaten off 121 and 127 in England Clondaw Warrior (11/1) looks a well handicapped horse off 123. He made huge progress on the flat transferred to Willie Mullins last summer, winning off marks between 52 and 86. He looks to need better ground though and whilst the County would look an ideal race for him, he probably needs to win this to get a run, (especially with the County field down to 26.) That suggests Mullins might throw the kitchen sink at him for this, but I’m struggling to see him slogging through the mud.
English raider Snake Eyes (7/1) has always been a bit of a hype horse, but he finally got his head in front in his 6th race in a good handicap at Sandown last month, beating Amore Alato by ½l off 123. He’s only 5lb higher here and if he deigns to put his best foot forward he has a good chance – but it’s quite possible he’ll decide this is a bit tough.
Kylestyle (40/1) ran in some hot maidens last season, splitting Western Boy and Daneking, (Chancol behind,) here, before bolting up at Thurles. He was a bit disappointing behind Real Steel at Naas but looked like he might play a hand in a big handicap at Fairyhouse in April when crashing out 2 from home. He blew away the cobwebs at Fairyhouse a few weeks ago and looks nicely treated for this off 126 – he doesn’t deserve to be the outsider of the field.
Sea Beat (16/1) is clearly well regarded by the shrewd Arthur Moore and he beat the classy Le Vent D’Antan in a maiden in February, (not clear how fit Le Vent D’Antan was at that stage.) He disappointed off 127 in the Ladbroke at Ascot but that was only the 6th run of his life and he’ll be improving all the time. He’s 4lb lower here and is definitely one to consider.
Preference though is for Katie T (12/1) who won a Grade 3 mare’s novice at Limerick in March and was a fair 10½l 3rd to Annie Power at levels at Punchestown. On her handicap debut and only run over hurdles this season, she was rather caught out of her ground when 3rd to Princess Leya in a valuable race at Fairyhouse. That form has worked out well as Princess Leya was winning off only 115 but was then a good 3rd in a mares Grade 3 over 2m4f, (not looking to stay.) Runner up Shantou Ed won off 2lb higher next time and 4th home Strongpoint was a good 2nd off 7lb higher in a valuable event at Musselburgh. Katie T looks well handicapped off 126 and Johnny Burke’s 3lb claim is a rare example of a claim looking something for nothing.
1pt Katie T to win the Boylesports Hurdle @ 12/1