Monday, 9 February 2015

Ante-post unravelling

The 2015 ante-post portfolio is now littered with enough wreckage to fill the next expletive-packed series of Scrappers. This was, of course, entirely predictable. I’ve been re-ravelling with barely enough pace to combat the unravelling. (In the pantheon of blunt metaphors employed by this desperate blog, I think that may be the first time I have drawn upon knitting.)

The previously rock solid Gilgamboa was the first to bite the dust. All the promise of his December win evaporated in the Irish Arkle, when beaten out of sight by Un De Sceaux. Connections are talking about the JLT now. He’ll need to improve again, wherever he goes. In looking again at this race, I had thought about getting stuck into Vibrato Vivalt, but prevaricated on the basis of what he had actually achieved. Which is most unlike me in these markets. It’s all about potential, stooped. He who hesitates is lost, of course. The horse is now as short as 5-1 after a convincing win in the Kingmaker. That price doesn’t appeal much right now, although I expect to be on his side nearer the day, in some shape or other.

On the same card as Gilgamboa’s reversal, Carrigmoorna Rock inexplicably folded like a pirate’s hat in a mares hurdle won smartly by Morning Run. She must now be a massive doubt for the Cheltenham race.

And what of my nemesis, the Supreme? The bloody Supreme. Picking the winner of this looks to be as far from my grasp as ever, despite some of my finest rage-punting. During last week, I concluded that Nichols Canyon had been overlooked because of his fall last time out, and that the form of his previous Royal Bond win was more than solid. 16-1 was good enough for me and a decent showing in the Deloitte – the best Supreme trial going – would be enough to ensure his participation. I got the first bit right. In a Deloitte not lacking depth and potential, Ruby pushed Canyon out in front and pretty much dictated the race. The extra two furlongs here are a splendid test for the finish at Cheltenham. His price duly contracted and then Mullins started with this sloppy talk of running in the Neptune instead.  He’s now favourie for the 2 ½ mile race and third best for the Supreme. Second guessing the Mullins’ barn is a dangerous game. Is it any wonder that on those occasions when I come out of Cheltenham ahead of the bookies I feel like dusting myself down after a dog fight?

Dabble, tickle, flirt. I also had a small interest on Fascino Rustico at some fantastic Betfair odds on Saturday. A bit of fun. If he had shown well in that afternoon’s Betfair Hurdle handicap, I might have been sitting on a decent Supreme outsider. He did indeed run well, but fell when looking like he would make the frame. He is an improving horse but his fragile jumping will no doubt persuade connections to find an easier target. I also still have Sizing John, but no sign from the yard that he is a live Festival contender.

Champion hurdle: Garde La Victore did nothing to harm his chances by beating the very progressive, Supreme-bound Jollyallan in the trial at Sandown the other week. Neither did he set the world on fire with his hard fought win. My 66-1 is OK on paper, but reality he’ll most likely head to the County Hurdle. NRNB to the rescue. This effectively leaves me without a proper bet in the Champion Hurdle. Unheard of.

To complete the Day 1 misery, Sausalito Sunrise is a dead bet for the 4-miler. I already have him for the RSA at a better price. I doubled up here because I got nervous when Kings Palace smashed him up a couple of times at the shorter distance. Hobbsy though. Bold as brass. He’s clear about where the animal’s  strongest chance lays and didn’t even enter him over four miles. We’ll see.

Whilst we are rattling on about the RSA, I’ve had to put a line through Champagne West as well. He was found to be injured after falling in the Scilly Isles Novice Chase and is out for the season. My main bet in the RSA remains Valseur Lido. But even that is a doubt. He ran very well over 2m5f on Sunday, beaten half a length by Apache Stronghold. To me, he looks like he’s ready for the step up to 3m. If only ante-post punting were so straight forward. This is another Mullins conundrum, wrapped in a Michael O’Leary enigma. The horse’s true target is about as well signposted as the Elephant & Castle underpass right now. And I’m about to gag on the stench…

Still nothing in the Neptune, beyond confirmation that Out Sam will not turn up. Another damn fool dead saver. Pull your act together, Atkinson. Out Sam remains an entry in the Albert Bartlett, where I have a more lucrative bet,  (plus an interest in the drifting Fletchers Flyer) and I await elaboration from connections about their initial plans to swerve Cheltenham. I could always back Nichols Canyon here. However, I’m not ready to capitulate on the Supreme bet yet. Not at those prices. 

Better news in the Champion Chase. After Shark Hanlon declared Hidden Cyclone for the Tied Cottage Chase over two miles last week, I realised he must have read Pricewise’s positive column about his chances in the big one. So I took the last bit of Betfred’s 25-1 NRNB for the Champion Chase. He won very well and Hanlon confirmed that the Champion Chase was indeed the likely target. I’m in the odd position of having a decent ante-post token about a horse in a race which I think is the wrong target! Dynaste’s injury opens the door in the Ryanair, and if the Cyclone takes up that option instead, I’ll no doubt back him on the day.

The other positive development in a Champion Chase that is cutting up faster than a Turkish barber on piece rate, was Mr Mole’s victory in the Game Spirit. I’d outrageously backed him at 59 on Betfair after the Sandown victory that Master Minded also took en-route to Champion Chase glory. So I’m smugly touting around this 58-1 token to anyone who will listen. He is clearly a player in the Champion Chase now.

Only one other development. I backed Djakadam for the Gold Cup at 16-1 after his eye-catching win in the Thyestes Chase. He remains a general 16-1 shout so this is not a particularly inspired bet.

But there we are. Good money after bad. It’s inevitable.




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