Today’s Jumps preview with The Value Bettor
How things change…
The Cheltenham executive have build the November ‘Open’ meeting into a mini festival.
For some, it’s the second best meeting of the season (behind the festival itself) – and with excellent prize money on offer for most of the races, it’s no wonder that trainers target some of their better horses at it.
Maybe not too surprisingly, this has had a knock on effect, in so much as many of these better horses are making it to the course in the month before the Open meeting, so they can get in that prep run which will put them spot on for Cheltenham in November.
Festival winner, Taquin Du Seuil made his seasonal debut in an intermediate chase at Newton Abbot yesterday – something which would have been unthinkable a couple of decades ago. Whilst today, Chepstow once again puts on a very decent card, which will doubtless have implications for the rest of the season.
12 months ago, the novice chase on the card was won by Balder Succes: he subsequently won the Maghull novice chase at the Aintree National meeting and will start this campaign high in the market for the Queen Mother champion chase. Whilst the staying chase on today’s card, was won by subsequent Scottish Grand National winner, Al Co.
Ofcourse the big issue with assessing todays races is that we don’t really know how fit the horses are.
This makes betting an even riskier business than normal – but whether you bet in the races or not, I strongly suggest that you watch them all closely, as the first secrets of the new season are about to be unveiled…
Todays card kicks off with 3 novice hurdles (the first of them, for juveniles) – before the main action of the day begins with a compelling novice chase…
This particular race has been run in its current guise for just 3 years – but has quite a roll of honour…
On the first of those occasions, Cue Card was successful, with last years King George VI winner, Silviniaco Conti back in third.
The following year, the race was won by this years Pertemps Network hurdle final winner, Fingal Bay.
Whilst last year, as stated above, Balder Succes came home in front…
What’s more, there is every chance that an equally high-class animal will take todays contest.
Favourite for the race, is the Paul Nicholls trained Southfield Theatre. He finished a nose behind Fingals Bay in last seasons Pertemps final, when in receipt of just 1 pound.
Furthermore, as a 6 year old, he should have plenty of scope for improvement. He goes well fresh – and whilst todays trip of 2m4f is likely to represent his minimum requirement, he will still take all the beating..
If there is to be an upset, I think Monkey Kingdom is the one most likely to cause it…
He actually finished second to Southfield Theatre in a bumper at Cheltenham, a couple of seasons back.
He was trying to give the winner 7lb that day, so strictly on the book, there shouldn’t be much between them today, off level weights. Ofcourse a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then – and the relevance of that form to today contest is debatable – but all the same…
Like Southfield Theatre, Monkey Kingdom is only 6 years old, so should have his best days in front of him.
He also goes very well fresh – and todays trip should be perfect for him.
With Barry Gerraghty the proverbial icing on the cake, he ticks a lot of boxes and is worth a small play at 6/1, to upset the favourite.
Selection: Monkey Kingdom 6/1
The next race on the card, is the 4 year old handicap hurdle…
It’s not a race that I have a particularly strong opinion on, though it does strike me as very interesting that Dawalan is a similar price for this, as he was for the Fred Winter handicap hurdle on his penultimate outing at the Cheltenham festival, last season.
That day, he had 23 highly tuned rivals to beat – today he has just 6 (and it’s unlikely that will all be highly tuned).
Furthermore, he gets to run off a 3lb lower mark..
However, that’s for a good reason. He was massively disappointing in the Fred Winter – and on his subsequent run at Ascot.
If the summer has enabled Nicky Henderson to sort him out, I would expect him to win this.
However, he faces at least a couple of potentially decent rivals in Dormello Mo and Manhattan Swing (plus the interesting looking Bertimont).
I really think that this is a race where the market will tell all.
If Dawalan goes off at 2/1 or less, I think he’ll win – if he’s 7/2 or bigger, you probably want to look elsewhere…
A very interesting handicap hurdle – and one where I will take 3 against the field…
The first of those is favourite, Boondooma. He only joined the stable of upwardly mobile, Dr Richard Newland, in February – but has already made quite an impression.
2 easy wins in novice events, were sandwiched between a couple of excellent runs in very competitive handicaps.
With a summer on his back, I would expect him to build on last season achievements this campaign – and have little doubt that he will ultimately leave his current rating behind.
My biggest concern with him is that he’s a free going sort – who probably only just gets 2m4f.
I would just be worried that if he does too much early on, he might not quite get home today.
Certainly one to keep a close eye on though..
The next one I’m interested in, is top weight, Peckhamecho.
Off a mark 10lb lower than the one he started last season from, there can be little arguing that he is potentially well handicapped.
However, he only ran twice last campaign, suggesting something wasn’t quite right.
The booking of Barry Gerraghty today, could be significant – and if the money were to come, I would definitely take notice,
However, without the benefit of market knowledge, the one I’m going to side with is Highway Code.
Better known as a chaser – and fit from a number of recent runs on the flat – he looks quite capable of outrunning his odds today.
The trip, track and ground should all suit him well, and whilst he is probably vulnerable to a well handicapped rival, an EW bet at 12/1 will make a small profit if he is placed; with the chance of a very good profit, if things don’t fall quite right for any of his rivals.
Selection: Highway Code EW 12/1
As was the case 12 months ago, this is the race of the day – and by some margin !
Unlike 12 months, ago however, todays race seems to revolve completely around one horse – Highland Lodge…
He’s a horse who has always run his best races when fresh and on his seasonal debut last campaign failed by under 2 lengths to give 26lb to a bang in form Standing Ovation.
The third horse that day, was some 28 lengths back – and simply, if Highland Lodge is in the same form today, he will take the world of beating today…
He backed up that run by finishing a fine fourth in the Hennessey – off a mark 9lb higher than he runs off today.
His form tailed off after that – but there is no denying he is a very well handicapped horse, running under ideal conditions.
The early 5/1 last night lasted but minutes – and whilst 5/2 seems ridiculously tight in a competitive looking 15 runner handicap – I’m not sure I would want to lay him even at that price…
Ofcourse, the price does encourage you to look elsewhere for ‘value’ – and in a race, where around half the field are likely to come on for the run, I do think there are some possibilities, at big prices…
I can understand the interest in both Benbens and The Italian Yob, but my expectation would be that they will both be better for todays outing.
Of the more fancied horses, the one I like best, is Trafalgar.
He ran a nice race on debut for Dan Skelton, at the end of August and assuming that has brought him on, he has to be of some interest off the minimum weight today.
However, two at bigger prices, of potentially more interest, are Victors Serenade and Carruthers.
The former went off a well fancied 4/1 shot for this very race 2 season ago – but picked up an injury.
He only race twice last season, but the handicapper has given him a chance and if Anthony Honeyball has managed to nurse him back to form, I could see him running a big race.
The fact he goes well fresh and is Denis O’Regans only mount of the day, just add to his case.
The other one of real interest however, is veteran Carruthers…
He’ll be 12 in a few months time – but fortunately, nobody seems to have told him !
He showed back in January, when runner up in the Warwick Classic, that the fire still burns bright – and off a 4lb lower mark today, if he can repeat that form, he must run well..
He is a horse who will always be at his best when fresh (because he puts everything into his races) and with Nico de Boinville on top, he gets 3lb off his back, for nothing.
Hand on heart, I don’t think he will be good enough to beat Highland Lodge – but as he pays more to finish in the 3 than Highland lodge does to win, I think he is worth a speculative punt !
Selection: Carruthers EW 25/1
Saver: Highland Lodge 11/4
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