The purpose of our value plays is not necessarily to find the winner of a Festival race, but the each-way value in strong betting markets where the extra-places gives us an edge.
This year’s race has plenty of questions to answer. Is Champ’s jumping strong enough to withstand the rigours of a fast run RSA Chase and will he deliver under pressure? And if the ground dries up appreciably, can Copperhead reproduce his strong, staying victories this season culminating in an authoritative display in the Reynoldstown at Ascot?
If the answer to one or both of those questions is NO – then it blows this novice staying event right open.
The forgotten entry in this year’s renewal is BATTLEOVERDOYEN @ 10/1 who was pulled up in last year’s Ballymore Hurdle. That day he was very fresh in the parade ring, going to post and in the race proper and not surprisingly Davy Russell reported that he was never travelling.
He has at times looked a little novicey in his races over fences this year. The 2m5f of the Flogas last time out was merely too sharp for him and despite jumping well he was predictably outpaced turning for home.
That run was at least 13lbs below his previous two wins over Any Second Now and Champagne Classic and both of those horses have cemented that form since then.
The son of Doyen is also entered in the NH Chase, but I am convinced this is the race for him and the 10/1 available with Paddy Power non runner money back looks too big to me.
This is the strongest renewal of this staying handicap hurdle for many a year with the likes of last year’s winner Sire Du Berlais and stablemate The Storyteller topping the weights. Both will rightly have their supporters.
You could make a strong case for at least eight of the 24 entries, but the one that makes most appeal at the current prices is the Henry Daly-trained RAPPER @ 25/1 currently in Paddy’s non runner money back market.
Zero from two in bumpers, this lightly raced six-year-old is two from eight over hurdles, but was only ever going to fulfil his potential once he got the chance to race over a distance of ground.
That has only happened recently with an impressive four length win off a mark of 120 at Market Rasen followed by an even more impressive outing in defeat when he ran the smart Skandiburg (could re-oppose) to a length and three quarters over the course and distance on New Year’s Day.
I have upgraded that performance as he was at the sharp end throughout, but off what was no more than a level-paced gallop, it hardly utilised his undoubted staying prowess.
Outpaced by his conqueror between the last two hurdles, the son of Scorpion stuck his neck out impressively on the run for home and was closing down that rival again in the final 75 yards.
I am sure that there is a significant amount of improvement to come and a mark of 136 looks well within his capabilities. He looks outstanding each-way value in a race where Paddy is bound to offer extra places.
A Plus Tard will be one of the strongest Irish contenders this year and with Frodon set to give him a good tow through the contest, everything looks aligned for a massive run.
But his price has fallen through the floor from 20/1 into 9/4 and there is much better value to be had from at least three of the remaining entries.
Best of those has to be last year’s second ASO @ 20/1. The Venetia Williams’ trained 10-year-old had every chance coming down the home stretch last year, but was just outstayed by the French import.
Based on my ratings, his form this year is about 12lbs shy of that run, but Venetia has freshened him up following an aborted attempt in the King George at Kempton, a class too high over a distance too far.
We know Aso goes well fresh and there’s every chance that he could be placed for the second successive year in this Grade One.
Greaneteen is a worthy favourite for this last day cavalry charge, having jumped brilliantly to win three chases in impressive style.
But he does need to settle a bit better to get home in what is usually a race run at an unforgiving pace. His sound jumping technique alone won’t be enough.
But off a rating of 150 I fancy this could be CASTLEGRACE PADDY’S year. His astute trainer has asked a lot of this nine-year-old for the past two seasons having run him in five Grade One events during that time.
The best of those runs came in the Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase in December 2018 when fourth to Simply Ned and then more recently his fourth to Altior in the 2019 Champion Chase when he looked a danger to all coming down the hill, before he was eventually outclassed.
His current mark gives him a huge chance on both pieces of form and the 20/1 about him non-runner money back shouldn’t be ignored on his handicap debut.
Prices and entries are correct at time of publication but can change. All prices quoted are part of Paddy Power’s non-runner money back offer until declarations are made.
- Ruby Walsh’s Cheltenham Festival Cheat Sheet
- Frank Hickey’s 3 horses he fancies who are well handicapped
- Frank Hickey is taking on these 4 favourites at the Festival