It was a very disappointing effort from Duke Of Monmouth yesterday but, perhaps, it may have been down to the awful weather that hit the Market Rasen track in the early afternoon. The high winds were accompanied with driving rain and the ground was fairly soft and, right from the start, Duke Of Monmouth was not happy. He brushed thru' the top of the 1st fence and was soon being bustled along by his rider – the writing was on the wall before they had run a mile. I'm never happy when I don't get a run for my money, but the conditions at Market Rasen looked very testing for this novice chase.
Onto today, and we have a couple of decent meetings at Sandown and Exeter. We also have a few runners from the alert list with BALLY LEGEND in the 3:15 at Exeter, and VIOLET DANCER in the 12:35; FOUNDATION MAN in the 1:10, OSCAR FORTUNE in the 1:45 and ROLLING ACES and HARRY TOPPER in the 2:20, and finally MERRION SQUARE in the 2:55 – all the latter bunch at Sandown.
I think VIOLET DANCER looks a great prospect and this half-bro' to the hurdler Chris Pea Green has a good future ahead. At odds of 6/4, he is too short for me to recommend but, if the fav Sweet Deal was trained by anyone else other than Nicky Henderson, then VIOLET DANCER would be odds-on for this race. I think odds of 6/4 are good value.
The 3-runner "Future Stars Chase" at 2:20 is a virtual dual between HARRY TOPPER and ROLLING ACES, as the other runner Vino Griego isn't up to their ability. On official ratings, ROLLING ACES is a 3lb better horse, but I'd have the difference in ability a bit more than that. I really cannot see ROLLING ACES being beaten in this race, and I snapped-up odds of "evens" on the way into work. I have combined VIOLET DANCER and ROLLING ACES in a small win double.
The 1:45 at Sandown looks a tremendous novice hurdle at this stage of the season and alert horse OSCAR FORTUNE may have his hands full in this. Connections reckon he'll be best at 3-mile and, as such, I'm going to pass over him in this race as (with only 6 runners) he will find it tough to be in the places. I am more interested in the earlier race at 1:10 which has alert runner FOUNDATION MAN. The horse has a lot of potential being a half bro; to Captain Chris and an OR120 rating could be very lenient. His odds tho' are skinny at just 3/1 and I'd prefer another half-point and 7/2. It may seem like I'm being picky, but he is a novice chaser who is having his 3rd run in 7 weeks today.
Finally at Sandown we have alert runner MERRION SQUARE in the 2:55. Before I go on, having a wager in amateur rider races is not my idea of fun as the fortunes of your chance can ebb and flow very quickly due to the inability of the riders. MERRION SQUARE has already been the subject of a wager back on 12th October and he comes into this race well prepared. All his best form is going right-handed, the ground is in his favour and he's dropped 4lb in the handicap to OR129. Currently at odds of 7/1 across the board he looks good value providing his rider stays in the saddle. Paul Nicholls loves Sandown, and these amateur races, so I expect a big run from MERRION SQUARE.
At Exeter we have just BALLY LEGEND running from the alert list in the 3:15. I had a wager on this one when he was 2nd LTO last week at Kempton and, on reflection that was a great effort. Trainer Caroline Keevil always has her horses well prepared to run, and it is unlikely that he won't run to his best today. There is just the one doubt and that is Keevil's record at Exeter which is poor, no other way to describe it. In the past 5 years she's sent 59 runners to Exeter for only 2 winners – both in hurdles. She's not had a winner from her 17 chase entries. It is important to take account of such evidence as clearly she's doing something wrong when coming to Exeter. What it is, I don't know, but it is interesting to note that her best tracks (stats wise) are the Sussex track Plumpton and Fontwell. She does slightly better at Taunton but, generally, if she travels more than 75 miles from her Dorset base her horses don't seem to perform well. Odds of 100/30 are good value when looking at the formbook, but that track record is a worry.
As such, I'm recommending having just the one wager today:-
Sandown 2:55 MERRION SQUARE, £5 eachway & £5 win @ 7/1 (Bet365, BetVictor, Stan James, Ladbrokes etc all go BOG, and are 5th odds a place)
Total Staked = £15
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