I’ve been dabbling again. But I’ve got my fingers mildly burnt this time. I was looking for a bit of value in the World Hurdle market. I don’t seriously think Big Buck’s will be beaten. Nevertheless, there are a number of interesting contenders in this year’s renewal and as a point of principal, a market leader as short as this must be taken on.
The vague smell of scorched digits permeates the airwaves because I backed Voler La Vedette on Thursday before the Galmoy Hurdle. SportingBet’s stand out 16-1 was too much to resist. I had visions of a cosy win for the much-improved mare forcing a sharp contraction of those flabby odds. As it is, her 1 length defeat to Zaidpour is not quite the disaster for this bet that I first thought. I can point (with slightly charred extremities) to the heavy ground that was massively to Zaidpour’s advantage as well as the slow pace and masterful tactics of Ruby Walsh.
I’m still hopeful that Voler will line up for the World Hurdle. Her other serious option is the Mares race that Quevega has made her own. This is a strong possibility, but I’m banking on the Murphy team leaning towards this more prestigious event. If she did, what of the opposition, aside from BB? Oscar Whisky is improving with every race, but 3m may not be his optimum trip. With Spirit Son out of the Champion Hurdle and a potentially revealing race for Hurricane Fly on Sunday, it’s easy to make a case for Oscar turning up in the hurdle Blue Ribband instead. Well, that’s the case I made in the white heat of a tempting ante-post market anyway. The main opposition is likely to be from her compatriots. Willie Mullins could have four in the line up. Mikael d’Haguenet is interesting now back to something close to his best. But his target is unknown and there will be absolutely no clues from Mullins anytime soon. 3 miles would be a new trip and he hasn’t always shaped like a stayer. Thousand Stars is more likely for this, alongside So Young and Mourad who has some questions to answer at HQ tomorrow. The race has a very open look about it beyond the great Big Buck’s. Or am I just clutching at straws with blackened pinkies?
I’ve also got behind Peddlers Cross for the Arkle. This was a much more predictable, perhaps inevitable, bet. Peddlers has long been a favourite of mine and arguably I should have got onside at the very start of the season when double figure prices were available. In fact I chose to wait, hoping that connections would choose the longer trip. Even more so after his drubbing by Sprinter Sacre. McCain, however, has stuck to his guns, and blamed his Kempton defeat on a small problem with the horse. That first fence blunder wouldn’t have helped him settle at any rate. Plenty of others have made the case that I’m now repeating about Peddlers being suited by a stiffer, galloping track and an uphill finish that seemed to stall Sprinter Sacre in the Supreme last year. I also thought that the time was right for the bet after Al Ferof’s run in the Victor Chandler. Some firms shortened him for the Arkle after his run in open company. Indeed Timeform have come out and given him a whopping old rating. But I wasn’t convinced about the way he travelled, needed niggling early enough and was beaten a decent margin by (admittedly vastly more experienced) average Grade 1 horses. So I’ve put my money where my mouth is, though it may be words I’m eating come March instead. Looking forward so much to this race and I hope Al Ferof runs here and not in the Champion Chase. Of the other live candidates, both Cue Card and Menorah will need to brush up their jumping. The latter positively scares me with his guessy tendencies, giving the impression that his honest trainer has mistakenly applied a blindfold instead of cheekpieces.
For once, I’ve not been sucked into the bigger prices. Though Blackstairmountain has some appeal at 14-1 (he runs on Sunday) and the flakey, raw-talented Kid Cassidy at 25-1 could be a real revelation if he ever decides to settle. He takes on Menorah’s blindfold at Doncaster on Saturday with earplugs and a nose net. I kid you not!
Indeed, the weekend will see a seismic shake up in the Festival targets and ante-post markets. Barely a race will be left unaffected after the completion of really good-looking trials at Cheltenham, Doncaster and Leopardstown. In advance of my RSA hope Hidden Cyclone’s run on Saturday, his trainer has already helpfully cleared up the subject of his Cheltenham bid. There won’t be one. Staggeringly, JJ Hanlon is not sending this stellar prospect to the greatest show on earth because he’s ‘a bit nervous about the ground’ and would prefer ‘another year on his back before we run him on it’. If he dances up on Saturday against Sir Des Champs I will be spitting hot bullets of poisonous vitriol. Prepare to stand back.
Safe to say that I’ll be plunging back into the RSA market once the weekend’s events have been settled. And I fully expect to be dipping crispy digits into a couple of the other markets too.
Enjoy the action. It should be excellent.