James Boyle’s Ante-Post Value – The Ladbroke Hurdle
We found one too strong with last week’s December Gold Cup column as Barrakilla finished in second place behind Niceonefrankie but at least the each-way money was landed at a nice price. The selection ran a fairly odd race but given his relative inexperience in the code, I am confident that he has more to offer and hopefully it’ll be on show in the not too distant future. A flatter track might suit him better and given the way he kept on to the line, a tilt at 3-miles would be interesting.
Saturday’s Ladbroke Hurdle – run over 2-miles at Ascot on Saturday – is our next port of call and it looks to be a fiendishly competitive affair containing plenty of horses who are hard to weigh up. A race like this is not exactly top of my list of punting-friendly contests but I shall give it a shot and hope for the best! Top of the market at a general 5/1 price-tag is Activial and as a lightly-raced 4-year-old with only three hurdling efforts under his belt, we most certainly haven’t seen his best yet.
Harry Fry’s son of Lord Du Sud looked a potential top-notch juvenile last term when winning the Grade 2 Adonis around Kempton on testing ground in Februry but skipped Cheltenham the month after that success and wasn’t up to the task at Aintree in their big Grade 1, finishing in mid-division behind Guitar Pete. Things probably didn’t pan out for him there, however, as he was not jumping quickly enough to show his absolute true worth and, added to that, he seems to want properly soft, testing ground to be at his best and it was too quick for him there, unsurprisingly.
It looks as if conditions will be spot-on on Saturday as there’s no shortage of rain about and the ground is already well on the soft side, so connections will be delighted as it’s a huge aspect that’s in their favour. Another might be going right-handed again given what he achieved at Kempton and if enough runners stand their ground, the horse will surely get a genuinely strong pace to chase after; that’d help, as he will get further than this distance in due course. Off a mark of 137, which gives him a weight of 10st 10lbs, he’s potentially a thrown-in performer and there’s very little I can say that is a negative to his chances, bar the fact that it’s his first outing since the Grand National meeting in April. However, what I can say is that I’ve missed the boat as his price has more than halved in recent times and any value is long gone, based on my calculations. As such, I have to take him on this time.
Former second-favourite Sign Of A Victory is unlikely to run on account of the ground being too soft, so Dan Skelton’s Shelford is the next to take a look at. He was useful on the flat, peaking at a rating of 91, and it hasn’t taken him long to get to grips with this game as both of his hurdling runs this term have ended in victory. Last time out, he got the better of Aubusson in the Grade 3 Silver Trophy at Chepstow and that form has taken a huge boost with the runner-up going on to land the Fixed Brush Hurdle around Haydock next time. We must note, however, that the Chepstow race over over 2m 4f, Aubusson improved for the step up to 3-miles and Saturday’s contest sees Shelford drop back to 2-miles for the first time over hurdles since his debut in May of last year. It adds too many elements of doubt for me to side with him and at the current prices of 6/1, I find it fairly easy to look elsewhere.
Although it’s hard to know about his current well-being, BALGARRY (8/1) appeals as a bet. The 7-year-old has been restricted to just two outings since joining David Pipe at the end of 2010 and we haven’t got to see him since the Cheltenham festival of 2012, but assuming he is the same horse and not a shadow of his former self, connections could have a fair amount to work with off a mark of 134. The way that he walloped Nampour (second in the Imperial Cup next time) when debuting for the yard was hilariously impressive and although beaten into seventh of 28 at the festival next time despite going off as the 6/1 joint-favourite, that was in the Coral Cup over 2m 5f and he shaped as if the trip was too far, whilst the “bounce” factor may have played a part to boot. Going fresh won’t be an issue based on past exploits, the question is simply how much of his old ability does he retain. It’s one that we won’t be able to answer until the race is run, but he’s a potential handicap blot for a yard that know how to win this race and I’m happy enough to weigh in with a bet at this stage.
Selection for the Ladbroke Hurdle (Saturday, 20th December; 3:30 Ascot):
Balgarry – 2pts win @ 8/1, available with a few firms.
*Prices mentioned are correct as of Wednesday, 17th December.
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