One of the many upsides from being off the booze – November 12 and counting, not that I am of course – is the increased energy and clarity of thought that follows.
Don’t get me wrong, I have never been as bored in my life – my current predicament also means that mixing with the great unwashed is not a sensible option either, so really well done to the Government for ending the requirement for people to isolate when they have Covid – but when I wake up every morning (normally 4am latest at the moment, which is not universally popular) I am fully alert and invariably looking for something to fill the void.
After the Weighed In questions thread went up, Sunday’s 4am focus was the old Racing Post Chase – anyone who worked at the paper in its earlier years will always call it thus – or the Coral Trophy in its current guise at Kempton on Saturday.
And the first thing that struck me was that the weights were going to go up by at least 22lb, bringing all the horses into the weights (including Cap Du Nord at the bottom, who was due to race off 8st 9lb on Sunday).
There were still 33 in the race on Sunday for the revitalized 150k pot, but the first four in the weights were Clan Des Obeaux (on 11st 12lb), Frodon, Saint Calvados and Fiddlerontheroof (all of whom had run recently, the latter pair on Saturday, and so were never likely to be confirmed on Monday), and Good Boy Bobby was fifth in the list on just 10st 4lb.
And the latter (who I will come to again shortly) was also entered in the Eider at Newcastle on the same day, with his place in the Grand National already assured.
The weights were set to go up massively then and, in short, it screamed betting opportunity. Because the market (some bookies were more alert than others, to be fair) bizarrely hadn’t cottoned on to this fact.
As a result, I half-considered going up with this article on Sunday, before Monday’s five-day declarations, such was the betting angle this presented, with Zhiguli (on 9st 1lb) and Cap Du Nord, available at 25/1 and 20/1 respectively, just two that were screaming out at you.
The sensible (and fairest) tipping approach was to wait, though.
If you are recommending others to bet, you’d like the safety net of knowing the horse is fit and well and was entered on Monday, but I will admit here that I personally did take my chances and have a small bet on those two horses on Sunday.
And they remain my starting point for this column, as the case for them is easy to make.
The case for Zhiguli
As with the 155k Betfair Hurdle, which attracted just 16 entries at the five-day stage, I am very surprised that this huge handicap pot has only got only 18 runners, with a maximum possible field of 20.
So, everything that wants a run is going to get it, and that seems more than a touch mad given the huge money on offer.
The price on Cap Du Nord has shortened into 7/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook, but I was staggered to see Zhiguli remained at 25s once the five-day decs came in and the markets re-opened.
Trainer: Gary Moore
Weight: 9st 1lbs
But then I clocked that he was also entered in the 60k novices’ chase on the card and that has attracted just eight entries – Our Power is in both races, too – so I was a bit miffed, to say the least.
I don’t back or tip double-entered horses ante-post – even though he would have a very stiff task in that Grade 2 novices’ chase – so I can’t recommend him, but I think he would be a huge player off 133 in the handicap.
And here is why.
The case for him is actually very straightforward, and based pretty much on his Lingfield win over 2m4f in heavy ground last time.
The ground won’t be as deep here – it is currently good to soft (good in places) with a largely dry forecast, outside of a possible 5mm on Thursday – but that doesn’t concern me unduly, while the step up to 3m is no problem at all given he is proven over a longer trip.
He was raised to a career-high mark of 133 after that Lingfield win last time but that was just his fourth chase start and the form could not have worked out better.
The 4 1/2 -length runner-up Chambard gagged up by 13 lengths off a 3lb higher mark at Fontwell last time, and Cut The Mustard, beaten a further 18 lengths in third, won off a 2lb lower mark at Leicester last week.
A 9lb rise could actually prove to be generous.
However, the fact that the novices’ chase has only attracted eight runners makes my life easier, as I simply can’t tip him ante-post with that option looking large, and I was kind of happy when he was cut from 25s to 14s at around 1.45pm, and then 12s afterwards, as that sealed the deal.
No bet with him, as yet.
The case for Cap and others
Cap Du Nord , rated 15lb lower than when fifth in this race last year, has a big chance at the weights after a decent enough third in the Sky Bet Chase last time, but his price has flown to an even larger degree than Zhuguli’s.
Trainer: Christian Williams
Weight: 8st 9lbs
So I went hunting around at the others.
The fact that Beakstown and Our Power are also entered elsewhere on the Kempton card ruled them out at this stage, and Galahad Quest (who has never raced beyond an extended 2m4f) is in a 2m4f handicap at Warwick on Friday, so that took him out of the current argument as well.
Annsam, Five Star Getaway and The Big Breakaway are the Sportbook’s 6/1 co-favs – actually the former has just been trimmed into 5/1 clear jolly – and the others priced at single figures are 7/1 Cap Du Nord and 8s Phoenix Way.
All have fair claims, as their odds suggest, but nothing to indicate they should be trading at any shorter.
I am not sold on Farinet’s stamina (or Phoenix Way’s in fact, as the step back to 2m5f clearly suited him well last time) and many of the rest are either out of form – Enrilo, Zanza and Potterman were pulled up last time – or from stables under a bit of cloud (yes, that would be Paul Nicholls still) – so my shortlist quickly became very manageable.
Good Boy Bobby is definitely on it, as I think he won the Rowland Meyrick despite the appalling conditions at Wetherby on Boxing Day, and a further 4lb rise for this progressive sort is fair.
He also comes here a fresh horse, having kept out of harm’s way of the handicapper with a tilt at the Grand National on the cards, and of course he doesn’t pick up a penalty for Aintree were he to win here. He is a fair price at 10s.
Trainer: Nigel Twiston-Davies
Weight: 10st 4lbs
Those the same odds as Mister Malarky, which are very surprising.
I was interested in this horse when looking at the race on Sunday, having his first start for decent operator Richard Bandey and now some 5lb lower than winning this race two years ago, but no way should be a mere 10s poke in here coming off the back of three horrendous runs for Colin Tizzard in late autumn.
Tizzard has a big shot at this with The Big Breakaway after a good third over hurdles recently, but surely Ofalltheginjoints was the bet of his pair at 25/1 each-way, four places.
Until the 25s became 14s just before I filed just before 3pm, that is. And he was actually 50s with the Sportsbook on Sunday.
To say I was annoyed would be an understatement, as I had to pull the tip.
The argument for him is very solid though.
Tizzard’s yard is sponsored by Corals, so it could well be that this race (increased to 150k this year) has been on his radar for a while, and the stable are really clicking into gear at the moment, too.
This 8yo was rated 143 after winning at Exeter in late 2020 but he is now down to 130 after an autumn campaign that saw him struggle to put one foot in front of the other.
However, after a wind op and an 11-week break, he reappeared to run a much better race when second to Flegmatik earlier in the month last time, and he could be ready to step on that good effort off the same mark here.
He was soundly beaten by Flegmatik in the end but the winner (who is entered in the opener on the card) is improved since they fitted him with a tongue-tie, and they pulled 6 lengths clear of the third.
Ofalltheginjoints can be a bit of a weak finisher – he actually hit 1.341/3 here last time, and he didn’t find as much as expected when a fair fifth at Aintree last season (off a 11lb higher mark) – but hopefully the wind op has addressed that, and he comes here a fitter horse than 15 days ago.
He won at Exeter after a break of just 17 days in 2020, so he can back up quickly and he likes decent ground, but the 25s became 14s and so did my interest.
So that ended up as a very frustrating and long-winded way of saying no bet for now, but I will be back with another ante-post weekend column tomorrow and hopefully a bet or two.
Damn those changing prices.
DOUBLE-ENTERED HORSES: Beakstown, Zhiguli, Galahad Quest, Our Power
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