I am going to keep my ante-post gunpowder pretty dry this week – this will be the shortest column I have ever filed, I think, which I am sure the sub will be delighted with – but I can’t resist firing off a sizeable salvo in the Betfair Exchange London National at Sandown on Saturday at 15:00.
Only one weekend bet appealed to me at this stage of proceedings, and that was Red Infantry each way at 16/1, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook.
He is worth a decent poke.
For starters, this looks a cracking contest to get involved in now, as 11 of the 22 entries have alternative entries this week, so the potential for this race to cut up is very real.
The race planning this weekend, once again, hardly helps matters as to courses getting a big field in any staying race over fences.
Not only do we have this 0-150 3m5f handicap chase, we also have the 3m2f Becher Chase (and the 3m1f Many Clouds) at Aintree, two 3m handicap chases at Wetherby, the Welsh National Trial at Chepstow, and the 4m Scottish Borders National at Kelso on Sunday. There is also an extended 3m6f handicap chase at Exeter on Friday.
The only surprise is that only half of the field is double-entered at Sandown (D’Jango is declared at the overnight stage at Wincanton on Thursday, with Smooth Stepper set to run at Haydock tomorrow if that beats the freeze).
There are plenty of solid horses towards the top of the market, notably the likes of Christmas In April and Deise Aba, the latter being two from two around here and coming off the back of an excellent return over hurdles.
And then we have the young improver Strictlyadancer, who has now gone up 19lb for his hat-trick of successes. He could easily go in again, but I thought a 7lb rise for his Haydock win last time was the most the handicapper could have given him.
Anyway, let’s cut to the chase and make the case for Red Infantry, for all the 11yo is vulnerable to the more youthful brigade in his advancing years.
And you don’t have to go back too far for a run that gives him every chance here. Indeed, only three starts ago at Doncaster, a race in which Charlie Todd gave him a blinder to get him up off just a 1lb lower mark than this.
As is in their power these days, the handicapper has kindly dropped him 5lb for two fair runs since, and you have to think his Warwick return was a planned stepping stone to this race.
And his record suggests he should come on appreciably for it.
He won first time out here as a 6yo in 2016 but since then he has taken a while to warm to his task, winning third time out in 2017/18 and then landing the 3m4f handicap chase at the Betfair Chase meeting at Haydock in the 2018/19 campaign.
So he is a dour stayer and he handles soft, though ideally he wants the type of going he is likely to encounter on Saturday – good or good to soft – and hopefully he can make a bold bid from the head of affairs, either leading or sitting close to the place.
Back him each way, four places.
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