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Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Quality on display at Ludlow

It was a difficult day to witness on Saturday.
When I went through the results on Saturday evening it was apparent that, for a "value" punter like me, there was no value to be had. The winners were either rank outsiders such as Silver Cup winner Regal Encore - for which you'd have needed a crystal ball to consider as a potential winner before the race - or at very short odds such as Top Notch (5/4), Uknowhatimeanharry (6/5), or Battle Of Shiloh (5/4).

I was impressed with Poker School who beat useful yardstick Dusty Lark, and he could well be worth following this season. And nobody could be anything other than impressed with Yala Enki who tore the Tommy Whittle chase apart with a bold front-running display. He was a very useful and consistent hurdler last season, and he looks an even better chaser. Given this was his UK chase debut and his chasing form in France as a 4yo was nowhere near this level, he looks another worth following and could be a 155+ chaser. His trainer Venetia Williams is unlikely to keep him in his stable to protect his handicap mark (even after it has been revised for this win) but he looks just the sort of horse to go well in the 3-mile handicap chase on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.

Today we have a cracking meeting at Ludlow which has a couple of top-class handicap chases. The Class 3, 3-mile chase at Ludlow at 2:40pm is a welcome pre-Christmas bonus. There has been a market move for Fox Appeal overnight, probably due to the booking of Richard Johnson, but this horse has been badly out of form this season and - in my opinion - cannot justify being 9/2 for this on recent runs. The 4yo Calett Mad has huge potential, being a half-bro to high-class chaser Ar Mad, but this is a big ask for the 4yo who will be having only his 2nd chase race having won his debut last month on soft ground. I feel todays ground being good-to soft will be too quick for him. Nicky Henderson's Sugar Baron will likely start the fav, and he does have potential, but falling when under pressure LTO suggests he may not be capable of taking this - also Henderson has not had a chase winner at Ludlow in the past 5 seasons. Daveron did not attempt 3-mile as a hurdler, and did not look a 3-mile chaser LTO when fading 2-out. Cernunnos is well handicapped on last seasons form, but this season his form has been awful. Gentleman Jon is interesting as he still looks well handicapped and this right-handed track will suit him, but the ground may be too soft for him (all best form on good or quicker).   King Of The Wolds does not stay this trip and Gone Too Far is another who will want quicker ground than this. The one that catches my eye is MILAN BOUND trained by Jonjo O'Neill.  This 8yo will be running in only his 3rd chase race, but he won his latest chase over 2m4f when ridden by Richard Johnson. That Johnson is on Fox Appeal is probable reason for MILAN BOUND being 16/1 for this, but he does not deserve to be such long odds.  He stays 3-mile well as a hurdler, and he goes well on this sort of ground. He ran well on his seasonal debut over hurdles in October when O'Neills stable was out of form, and that could (and should) have prepared him well for this. Given the question-marks over some of the market leaders, I'm expecting MILAN BOUND to run well and he looks just the type of chaser O'Neill does well with.

The earlier Class 2 handicap chase over 2-mile at 1:35pm looks very competitive. For me, the class horse in the race is Baltimore Rock and, even with 11st 12lb and giving lumps of weight away, he should go close to winning this.  The doubt is whether he can give 23lb (likely to be 26lb as talented Jamie Bargary will claim his 3lb allowance) to the progressive 6yo novice chaser Colin's Brother. I do not think Sizing Platinum will be far away, but he needs to find improvement to win this and I don't think he has any of that left in him.

Ludlow 2:40pm MILAN BOUND, £5 eachway @ 16/1 (BetVictor and Coral, quarter-odds 1,2,3)

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