We have three fantastic days of racing at Prestbury Park to come across this weekend, day one bringing us potentially a big betting opportunity at a nice price as this year’s Grand National winner reappears in the Cross-Country Chase.
12.40 (3m1f Amateur Rider’s Handicap Chase) – SKY PIRATE
In these amateur rider’s events we can perhaps be afforded the chance to place more emphasis on the jockey than normal as some are considerably better than others at this stage of their careers.
With that in mind, the booking of Patrick Mullins for Sky Pirate can be taken as a big positive and goes hand-in-hand with the improvement shown by Jonjo O’Neill’s horse to create what looks like a good value bet.
Having run second the last twice but got better each time, the 5yo seems capable of another step forward in this race and with that could have too much for last-time-out winner The Young Master who isn’t quite as good as he was though does have the assistance of Sam Waley-Cohen, along with For Good Measure of Philip Hobbs’ yard.
1.15 (2m ½f Novices’ Handicap Hurdle) – DOSTAL PHIL
This one has to go close to being called our bet of the day. Philip Hobbs’ 5yo is having what is only his fourth run under rules and his second after a wind operation and it seems clear we can expect plenty of improvement on what we’ve seen thus far.
A winner on debut at Deauville two years ago, he was a beaten favourite under Barry Geraghty this time last year on his stable debut before another setback meant a break of yet another year. He took a step forward four weeks ago for Hobbs and Geraghty when running second at Uttoxeter and it seems the stable expect much better now.
Normal rate of improvement may see him win this with Nicky Henderson’s fellow French recruit Dream Du Grand Val perhaps next best while the booking of Richard Johnson on Snapdragon Fire may create a betting buzz for a horse capable of the places.
1.50 (2m Handicap Chase) – BUN DORAN
When rating this race we couldn’t help noticing that plenty of them were close together in terms of ability versus weight – Shanahan’s Turn, Movie Legend and Peppay Le Pugh for example all having precious little between them on the numbers.
The two that stood out however were Ben Pauling’s A Hare Breath and Tom George’s Bun Doran and the latter is the selection. A Hare Breath is well fancied for this and it would be no surprise to see him win it, though with a few more years in the bank we can expect more improvement from Bun Doran and he has been equally well backed this week.
Having not raced for 218 days there is a bit of guesswork involved in the selection, but after only 9 chases there is clearly more to come from this one and today could be his day under jockey Paddy Brennan.
2.25 (2m4f Novices’ Chase) – MR WHIPPED
This is the race we’re least confident about so do bear that in mind, though the choice of Mr Whipped appears to have been backed up by the money coming for the Nicky Henderson horse this week.
Four wins and a second preceded his pulling-up here in the Albert Bartlett at the Festival in March and his top trainer has always thought he’d make a chaser. The fact we should see a better chaser than hurdler is taken into account, but how good he is bound to be is an unknown.
After winning 12 days ago on chase debut we have a little more to go on with Count Meribel and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ runner rates second best, while Jerrysback is the intriguing one for Philip Hobbs after winning both his hurdle races hard held. If there is very strong money for him on Saturday morning and/or just before the race – take note.
3.00 (3m6f Cross Country Handicap Chase) – MIDNIGHT SHOT
If the likely short-priced favourite and Grand National 2018 winner Tiger Roll does indeed come back here and win on the bridle it’ll be great to see after his Aintree heroics, however at these prices it’s very easy to take a chance on Charlie Longsdon’s Midnight Shot.
The 8yo has plenty more to give at this stage and despite previously having been thought of as a 2½ mile horse he improved markedly last time for a step up to three miles when scoring at Fakenham. He can be better again over this unique course and distance and in receipt of 21lbs from Tiger Roll his price is simply too big.
Bless The Wings of Gordon Elliott’s probably rates as best of the rest but at 13 years old even in a cross country race it’s conjecture as to what level of form we can expect, especially after more than 200 days off the track.
3.35 (2m5f Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 2) – DOUBLE TREASURE
We finish the day with this Grade 2 hurdle and there is of course a distinct lack of experience on show here, though no little potential.
We can’t help thinking favourite Pym is overrated in the context of this race so at these prices we cannot have him, though Coolanly looks a little more likely among those at the head of the betting market for trainer Fergal O’Brien and a place therefore would be no surprise.
Colin Tizzard’s Darlac is an intriguing runner having won ever so easily on his hurdling debut under Richard Johnson, though that was on good-to-firm over at Fontwell and it remains to be seen whether he’s as good with cut in the ground.
The one to be on though could be Jamie Snowden’s Double Treasure after a successful summer and autumn over timber. He may not be the best of these in 3-6 months time but right now he is overpriced, arguably because he is not from one of the very top yards.