What a weekend to look forward to - the first 2-day Cheltenham meeting of the season opens on Friday; and on Sunday we have the "Monet's Garden" meeting at Aintree. Not only that but we have some great supporting meetings at Kelso on Saturday, and Wincanton on Sunday.
Have I missed any out?
There's no rush at the moment and, with my 5 selections to date resulting in 2 x 3rds and 3 x 2nds, I'm looking for a bit of value to bolster the trading account.
The run from our selection Mountain King at Stratford was a little disappointing.
Through the race he jumped fairly well with only a couple of slight errors, nothing to worry about, and he travelled well. He looked the most imposing horse in the race and, when he moved-up to join the leader (and eventual winner Roman Flight) I expected him to go on and win easily.
Unfortunately, when Roman Flight kicked-on after jumping 3-out, Mountain King found little. Sure, he had enough to hold off the challenge of Top Cat Henry (how this horse was the 3/1 fav beats me) but that was not unexpected. What disappointed me was that he looked decidedly one-paced when up against a rival who had recently looked a non-stayer at this level over this trip.
The other race I looked at on Saturday, the Welsh Champion Hurdle run at Ffos Las, went to the one horse running in it from my alert list - Garde La Victoire. Had I known trainer Nicky Hendersons entry, Cardinal Walter, was going to be a non-runner, then it's likely that I'd have put up Garde La Victoire as a selection. Although his hurdling was a bit sloppy at times, he looked a lot better than his rivals over this trip, and the performance bodes well for when he reverts to chasing this season.
Today brings us meetings at Carlisle, Newton Abbot and Ludlow; and there are a couple of likely races that may provide us with a wagering opportunity.
At Carlisle there is a Class 3 handicap chase over 3m2f at 3:55pm.
If you are a new reader of the blog, let me advise you that I do not consider races of lower grade than Class 3 and usually stick to chase races, unless I can see a particularly good value wager over hurdles. Selections have to have odds of 9/4 or longer. There will be no wagers advised on selections at odds of less than 9/4.
We finally have some soft ground at Carlisle, and this 3m2f will take some getting as I consider Carlisle to be a stiff track due to its undulations, even though many in the game reckon the fences on the chase course to be some of the easiest on the racing circuit.
Unfortunately, this looks to be one of the weakest Class 3 races I've come across, and I'm hard pushed to find any in the race that I think are capable of winning it. For instance, I could consider the chance of Nakadam who at 6yo is the youngest horse in the race, and who won LTO back in April if I thought the horse was race-fit. Unfortunately, his trainer does not have many horses in the stable and he took a fair few runs to get the horse fit last season. As such fitness cannot be taken on trust.
Another I could consider is Lord Brendy as although he hasn't run since June 2015 (16 months ago), his form when he was running was fair to good for the grade and he did win a Class 3 chase at Kelso over a similar trip. Will he be fit enough to win this?
The top weight Benzel has some winning form at 3-miles, but it was a slowly run race and he only beat 3 other rivals - one of which lost his rider mid-race, and another was a certain non-stayer.
Morney Wing has, perhaps, a better chance than most as he loves soft ground and stays this trip (and further) well.
Having his 12th race at Carlisle, his 9th at this trip is the 5-time C&D winner Basford Ben. He could be thereabouts had he not gone up 7lb to OR113 for his LTO win here last May. He showed with 2 races last autumn over this C&D (in Class 3) that he's probably out of his depth at this grade.
If push came to shove I'd have an eachway wager on Morney Wing at 7/1, but this race is wide open in my book. I could see all 10 runners priced between 5/1 and 12/1, with 4 or maybe 5 co-fav's at 5/1.
There are no suitable races at Ludlow, although there is a Class 3 novice chase in which I have a runner from my alert list in After Eight Sivola. He managed to win his chase debut LTO after the odds-on fav Old Guard virtually fell at the 1st-fence and was pulled-up. Even so, he was on my alert list from last season as he's a half-brother of Reve De Sivola and likely to be seen at his best over 3-miles when chasing. As such, he doesn't strike me as a winner of this 2-mile handicap chase, but he will (in time) be a lot better than his current OR122 rating.
There is nothing suitable at Newton Abbot either, and I'm going to wait until the Cheltenham 2-day meeting commences on Friday and see what that holds. I'm fairly confident we'll be having a wager or two over the weekend.
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