James Boyle’s Ante-Post Value – The Greatwood Hurdle
The Open meeting at Cheltenham is edging closer and The Greatwood Hurdle, on day three, is my first port of call. It’s shaping up to be a bit of a one horse race according to the betting market, with Nicky Henderson’s 5-year-old Vaniteux as short as 3/1 and no bigger than 4’s at the moment.
It’s fairly easy to see why he’s so short, as he was an exceptional third in the Supreme Novices’ in March and the fact that the handicapper has only put him up 4lbs to 147 for that effort makes him of obvious interest. Everything about the race should suit too, as long as there isn’t too much rain.
My issue isn’t with the horse, nor his claims, it’s with the price as it looks overly short. Granted, there aren’t many who could be open to as much improvement as him off their marks, nor do they have such impressive C&D form in the book, but he’s a chaser in the making and isn’t any value.
Willie Mullins, as we all know, is an exceptionally talented trainer of hurdlers in particular and his 7-year-old Clondaw Warrior has shortened from as big as 20/1 into a general 5/1 in recent days. It’s clear that someone fancies the Irish November Handicap winner to transfer his flat form over sticks and I can see the angle as he’ll only have 10st on his back and should have more to offer in this code given his recent improvement on the level. However, it’s possible that he will need further than this trip and as far as I’m concerned, I have missed the value boat.
Others worthy of a mention due to their market prominence include Baltimore Rock and Goodwood Mirage. However, the first mentioned is now rated 140 following his fourth place in a Grade 2 at Aintree when last seen and I thought that it was harsh of the handicapper to launch him up to the tune of 6lbs for the run. It was obviously a cracker but whether he’ll be fully wound up this early on is debatable and he could be one for later in the season. Goodwood Mirage is bound to have more to offer but he got a 10lb rise for winning a weaker contest at Wetherby last month and that, along with a possible preference for flatter tracks, is off-putting. There’s talent there, no doubt, but I’m inclined to look elsewhere this time.
Phil Middleton’s EXITAS, a lightly-raced 6-year-old, is one who has kept on surprising me and under a 5lb penalty for last week’s highly impressive Sandown victory, he looks more than capable of playing a big hand and quotes of 8/1 aren’t too bad. The son of Exit To Nowhere looked nothing special in the first half of this year, but connections managed to get rid of a problem that led to him bleeding regularly and it has transformed the gelding to a two-stone better animal within a few runs and the promise of even more is in place. Whether he’ll be able to take another step forward is the question mark as this is a different kettle of fish, and I do think that he’ll make a chaser, but he must get involved if running to ability.
Selection for the Greatwood Hurdle (Sunday, 16th November; 3:15 Cheltenham):
Exitas – 2pts win @ 8/1, generally available.
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