Although the actual ground conditions are a little up in the air at time of writing, there’s a fair possibility that the Esher slopes will be quite arduous following heavy rain during Wednesday and into Thursday, so with that in mind, horses with form on a testing surface at the track may hold the key to this valuable and competitive prize. Following eye-catching performances at Kempton and more predominately in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury recent, it’s easy to see why so many punters are looking to get with the unexposed Affaire D’Honneur.
Predictably, however, bookmakers haven’t missed him either and at 5/1, there’s not much juice left in his price whereas much further down the list, SIROP DE MENTHE (best price 33/1) has completely slipped under the radar and offers terrific value at 33/1 given his recent course form on heavy ground.
Sue Gardner’s charge has improved at a rapid rate of knots this season and, as a result, finds himself on a mark of 130 having started the campaign as a fairly exposed-looking 109 workaday handicapper. Smooth wins at Huntingdon and Lingfield pre-Christmas quickly shot him up the ranks and by the time he shipped up over this C&D in early January he was ready to do battle in a competitive class 2 handicap off a perch of 128. Sent off a well-fancied 13/2 chance to get the better of several high-profile performers, the son of Discover D’Auteuil looked like he was going to plunder his biggest prize to date, but having burnt up plenty of petrol in jousting with and heading the ultra-tough Rayvin Black down the back straight, the six-year-old couldn’t quite see it out up the hill, when his main rival came back at him after two.
Upped in trip at Ascot for his latest assignment, his regular pilot, Lucy Gardner, then got needlessly involved in the hot early pace set by Debdebdeb throughout the first mile and although they finally wore down and saw off the Skelton runner, the exertions in doing so took its toll in the latter stages. To the horse’s great credit, he did manage to keep on for fourth, leaving the impression he may have had a bigger say in the argument had he been ridden with more efficiency.
On the evidence of these two recent performances, this horse clearly has a decent engine, it’s just a simple case of not having right pilot in the cockpit to complement his ability. Although clearly this a major concern, 33/1 does compensate for that negative and as there’s likely to be a big field and strong pace, there’s a decent chance he will get more cover and his run for home can be instigated a little later in the piece.