I started writing this piece on Thursday morning working on the basis of soft-cum-heavy at all three ITV tracks on Saturday – possibly less so Doncaster, though that place always looks like very hard work to me – and I am going to stick with that assumption at this stage.
Then again, looking at the BHA admin site at the same time, the courses were giving a much rosier (that is to say, drier) picture – and some forecasts improved through Thursday – so who knows?
What I am sure of is that with 10 races to get through, I better crack on, and ditch unnecessary waffle on non-betting contests.
Ground, trip and pace all suit Saint D’Oroux
I will start at Kelso, where it is actually, currently good to soft (soft in places), but one site has up to 23mm landing in the next three days, though the course itself is anticipating only 12mm.
Good news and bad news on the ante-post tipping front at Kelso. Current Mood is a no-show in the Morebattle Hurdle – I hate advising non-runners, so genuine apologies for that – but at least One Night In Milan has stood his ground in the 2m5f handicap hurdle.
We will start off with the 100k Morebattle handicap hurdle behind the betting eight-ball then after connections of Current Mood declined the invitation, and clearly there is a case to be made for all of the dozen.
Harry Fry will be hoping all of that 23mm lands for his mudlover (and the favourite) Metier and I like the Cormier-Severance Cheltenham form-line, but I was initially looking to side with Voix De Reve at 20/1.
I like the fact that his handicap mark continues to fall as he gradually returns to form, and the step down to 2m once again is very much in his favour, for all he showed he stays further when third to Saint D’oroux over 2m5f here last time.
The obvious negatives are that his stable is not in particularly flash form and, at 10yo, he clearly doesn’t have the sexier profile of some of these nearly half his age (and Autumn Evening and Balko Saint are 5yos).
The booking of the 7lb claimer Alan Doyle doesn’t bother me (he looked pretty tidy when I went back and looked at his rides at Musselburgh on February 20) but what does is that weather forecast – all his best runs have been on decent ground, and in the end that was the deal-breaker at this stage – and ideally I would have liked to have seen him with no contest for the lead, too.
I toyed with the two out of the weights, Severance and Thereisnodoubt, and then Balko Saint. However, after much hovering, I landed on the 6yo Saint D’oroux.
He brings the recent Voix De Reve form-line into the race, having had that horse back in third when winning over 2m5f here last time, and he still remains well handicapped despite going up 3lb for that win on good ground.
That was his first start for his current trainer and he had some serious 2m handicap form on soft and heavy ground for Gordon Elliott, including a Fred Winter third in 2020 (off just a 5lb lower mark than this) and a similar placing in that very valuable Ladbrokes Hurdle at the 2021 Dublin Racing Festival.
So, deeper ground and a drop down in trip, in a race where there should be plenty of pace, should be ideal.
I know nothing of jockeys but 7lb claimer Mr Ben Bromley (son of the owners’ racing manager) has had 10 winners this season at a strike rate of 20 per cent, so I assume he is up to the job. Back Saint D’oroux at 12/1 each way, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook. Odds of 10/1 would be acceptable.
One last chance for N’Golo
I make no apologies for putting up N’golo at 21.020/1 or bigger in the 14:05. That would be my minimum price, mind you.
I want him alongside my 20s ante-post , win-only, selection One Night In Milan, who now trades at half the price. I obviously remain hopeful about him, as he is falling down the handicap but returning to a track where he has a great record (his course form figures read 1F12, and the two defeats came when he fell travelling well on the inner four out here in 2018 and when a length second to the then 136-rated Aye Right in 2019).
I like One Night In Milan stepping back from 3m too, especially if the ground really does worsen, and he remains a very decent bet at 10/1 each way, four places, if you haven’t played ante-post. In fact, I will put him up again here for those new to the party.
I obviously have a lot of history (and ridicule) with N’golo but the handicapper has dropped him 8lb for his two runs this season, and both have been far better than his beaten distance suggests. He made a bad mistake two out at Haydock and he was then taken on a tour of Ascot High Street. The outside was given to no-one, as they say.
Dropped to a mark of just 131, I am giving this soft ground merchant one last chance. Win-only and small stakes though, as I had hair and (even a happy disposition) the last time Ann Duffield had a winner.
Given his profile, I reckon Exchange players will be getting 30.029/1 and bigger on Saturday if you want to hold fire until then. And the same applies to the 20s with the Sportsbook, but the choice is yours.
ITV opener has depth but no standout
The ITV action at Kelso opens with an exceptionally tricky Grade 2 hurdle at 13:32 but I seriously considered putting up Honneur D’Ajonc at a double-figure price.
The Sportsbook’s opening 14s was quickly taken on Thursday (now 10s) and I can see why, as he is ground -versatile (has won on heavy and quick ground) and is improving, and I liked the way he knuckled down to give weight and a beating to a promising sort under a 7lb penalty at Wincanton last time.
He looks the best value in a race that has depth, but lacks a stand-out, though I’ll stop shy of putting him up in a race with so many unknowns and progressive lightly-raced types. I’d have tipped him at 14s though, so watch and see if he drifts and hits that price again, fixed-odds or Exchange.
I don’t have any betting opinion in the two seven-runner terrestrial races on the card, though I can fully see the case for Seemorelights in the 15:43 – I was taken aback when the first firm up made him 6/1 – and Espoir De Romay is the obvious jolly in the 14:40.
The Newbury forecast actually improved a fair amount on Thursday morning but I am still anticipating pretty sapping ground (and it could always change back, I guess).
Kauto Riko would love plenty of the wet stuff to arrive and he remains on a very good mark in the veterans’ handicap at 13:15, but he is hardly a win machine, he is hard to call right and his jumping is always a drawback. And the re-application of cheekpieces is not seen as a positive, either.
He may well win a race full of ifs and buts and maybes, but he is not exciting me at around 5/1. Indy Five looks much the safest conveyance, but you are paying for that fact with his odds of around 3/1. No bet.
Glen Forsa is the Greatwood bet
You will hear and read about Paul Nicholls’ excellent record in the Greatwood at 13:50 quite a lot on Saturday.
It is obviously a race he likes to win and he has two fair shots at it once again – and the chances of both would improve dramatically if there is no appreciable rain from here on in(Tamaroc Du Mathan was a notable mover on Thursday afternoon) – but Glen Forsa is the bet in here at 13/2 win-only with the Betfair Sportsbook, or a similar price on the exchange (currently 7.6). I’ll take the Sportsbook route.
He is another who probably wouldn’t mind the rain staying away, as the combination of 2m6f and better ground saw him return to winning ways at Musselburgh last time.
He handles soft fine too though, and the further step back in distance, this time to 2m4f, is seen as another positive. A 5lb rise for the latest success was fair, and we all know what a promising horse he was two or three years ago.
Time has passed since he went off 9/2 for the 2019 Arkle – we probably should stop mentioning that now – and he is getting on as a 10yo, but a revised mark of 134 still makes him a handicapper to be feared in this grade, and he ran an excellent third (off a 16lb higher mark than this) on his only start at the track, albeit back in 2019. That wasn’t far off a career-best, in fact.
Good luck if you think Get A Tonic is a bet at 4/5 in the 14:20 at Doncaster, as I personally wouldn’t consider backing her at 5/4.
I get that she is the form horse but she has enough, credible improvers ranged against her in this, not least Holly Hartingo, who I thought was impressive under a penalty over an extended 2m4f in the soft at Huntingdon last time. And the runner-up won next time, albeit at odds of 4/9 in a race she should not have been losing.
These type of races are not usually my bag, but I nearly made an exception for Holly Hartingo, as the ex-pointer does shape as though the step up to 3m could suit her, too.
But she does have a fair bit to find form-wise, and the 10s became 8s on Thursday afternoon, and the (overly) price-sensitive mindset said “you can leave her alone now.”
I was expecting a near double-figure price about Mister Malarky in the latter, given his woeful form this season, but the Sportsbook want him onside at just 9/2, and that ruled me out in an instant.
There is a case to be a made for him given that he has been dropped 12lb this season (he is now thrown in on some of his 20-21 form) and having had a wind op and joined a decent outfit since, but I wanted double that 9/2.
Optimistic maybe, but they say God loves a trier. If she or he existed, that is.
Pace Maps for Saturday’s ITV races
Newbury 13:15pm – Lead/Prominent: Encounter A Giant, Saint Xavier. Christmas In April, Indy Five; Midfield: Aso, Minellacelebration; Held Up: Kauto Riko, Prime Venture
Newbury 13:50 – Lead/Prominent: Paint The Dream, Amour De Nuit, Farinet, Glen Forsa; Midfield: Kildisart, Senior Citizen, Tamaroc Du Mathan; Held Up: Amoola Gold, Kalooki, Dublin Four
Kelso 13:30 – Lead/Prominent: Honneur D’Ajonc, Richmond Lake; Midfield: North Lodge, Bold Endeavour, Datalrightgino; Donny Boy, It’s Good To Laugh, Nells Son; Held Up: Sholokjack
Kelso 14:05 – Lead/Prominent: Hart Of Steel, Get Out The Gate, Democratic Oath. Kaizer; Midfield: Wilde About Oscar, One Night In Milan, Famous Bridge; Held Up: Flash The Steel, Elvis Mail, N’golo, Native Fighter, Aurora Thunder
Kelso 14:40 – Lead/Prominent: Windsor Avenue. Dingo Dollar, Espoir De Romay; Midfield: Nuts Well, Hill Sixteen; Held Up: Big River, Itchy Feet
Kelso 15:15 – Lead/Prominent: Metier, Voix De Reve, Alqamar; Midfield: Buveur D’Air; Autumn Evening, Saint D’Oroux, Balko Saint, Some Reign; Held Up: Faivoir, Cormier, Severance, Thereisnodoubt
Kelso 15:43 – Lead/Prominent: Heartbreak Kid, Gold Des Bois, Seemorelights; Midfield: Hardy Du Seuil? ; Glentruan; Held Up: Dino Velvet, Dubai Days
Doncaster 14:20 – Lead/Prominent: Eureka Creek, Gazette Bourgeoise, Miss Fairfax, So Said I, Sweet Street? ; Midfield: Fonzerelli, Marsh Wren, Holly Hartingo, Starlyte; Held Up: Get A Tonic
Doncaster 14:55 – Lead/Prominent: Cheddleton, The Big Bite, Malystik, Bun Doran, Cedar Hill, Fanzio; Midfield: Return Ticket; Held Up: Gaelik Coast, King D’Argent,
Doncaster 15:30 – Lead/Prominent: Le Milos, Storm Control, Cloth Cap; Midfield: Mister Malarky, Undersupervision, Legends Gold; Held Up: Soyouthinksoagain, Powerstown Park
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