James Boyle’s Ante-Post Value – The JNWine Champion Chase
First things first, last week’s column didn’t work out too well! I thought that Restorer would be the one to give Elm Park a proper race in the Racing Post Trophy and he did anything but, finishing out with the washing in sixth place. Why he ran so abysmally, I haven’t got the foggiest, and it was simply a poor selection – one that clearly wasn’t a value bet according to the market. Moving on!
Saturday’s Grade 1 JNWine Champion Chase at Down Royal, run over 3-miles, is the next port of call and hopefully things will work out a bit better! Ma Filleule tops the market at the moment and it is interesting to see Nicky Henderson throwing her into a race at the top level instead of heading to the United House Gold Cup handicap at Ascot, as looked the most likely plan earlier this week.
Carrying top weight in a handicap of that nature wouldn’t have been ideal at all and she is getting a 7lbs mares allowance from this lot. On the balance of her form from last season, she’s evidently an improved performer capable of making a mark at a higher level but her real improvement came in March & April when second in a big handicap at the Cheltenham festival off 143 (3-miles) and then when winning the Topham Chase in hilariously impressive fashion at Aintree off 150 (2m 5f).
There’s a minor worry that she might be better in the spring time and although we all know that Henderson is more capable than most at getting them ready when needed, the mare might be vulnerable for now. She’s only a 6-year-old so it’s unlikely that we’ve got to see the best of her yet and there’s a chance that she could develop into a Gold Cup contender, but for now I think there’s plenty for her to prove and quotes of 5/2 will hardly excite many of us. Maybe they should – we’ll know more about that in a couple of days! – but I can’t play ball unless she takes a fair walk in the market. It’s also a minor worry that her best form was over those National fences at Aintree; some horses simply love them and she seemed to.
First Lieutenant holds second favouritism at the moment having been put in as a 3/1 shot and he’s swerving the Charlie Hall at Wetherby to contest this, a race he flopped in last term despite going off as the joint-fav. He had a prep run coming into that as well, something he hasn’t had this time around, and given his less than mind-blowing record when fresh I would be inclined to think that he’s another who could be an ideal candidate to need the spin around. It’s a while since he has managed to get his head in-front, so maybe his trainer Mouse Morris will have him more forward than usual, but for the time being he’s another that represents little-to-no value at the current odds. The talent is there, the price isn’t.
The runner that I do like is ROCKY CREEK at 4/1 as he won’t have any trouble in running to his best when fresh and Paul Nicholls knows what it takes to land this event having done so in four of the last seven renewals. This 8-year-old was extremely lightly-raced last season, only turning up to the track on three occasions. His form looks fairly solid nonetheless, as he finished second in the Hennessy first time up off a mark of 151 and then second in the Argento Chase at Cheltenham when the underfoot conditions were rotten. Giving away 5lbs to The Giant Bolster at his favourite track wouldn’t have made things much easier and I think it was a fine effort in the circumstances, one that he’s capable of improving on.
His next outing came ten weeks later in the Grand National and he was a creditable fifth there, but clearly didn’t get home under a positive ride and again I would suggest that he was better than the bare form would indicate. It’s hard to know what he’s truly capable of and I’m not surprised to see him available at a bigger price than Ma Filleule, First Lieutenant and Boston Bob, but I do think that there’s some untapped potential waiting to come out on the track and Saturday’s race looks perfect, provided that he’s fit enough to do himself justice. The betting will tell us more on the day but for now I’m happy enough to play the 4/1 available with Paddy Power and hopefully it will be worthwhile.
Selection for the JNWine Champion Chase (2:30 Down Royal; Saturday, 1st November):
Rocky Creek – 2pts win @ 4/1, available with PaddyPower.
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