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Plenty of long-term prospects in this novices hurdle and with lots of rain predicted in the 24 hours before racing this could really turn into a real slog for these young horses.
I am always ready to oppose novice hurdlers and chasers with a penalty, as they have to be well above average to defy that extra burden. Blue Stello, Flementside and Unanswered Prayers fill that category here and of the trio I much prefer the claims of the first named who just got pipped by the last named at Warwick but was awarded the race in the steward’s room after receiving a hefty bump towards the finish.
All three of the previous winners are respected, but after he’s suffered a long run on the cold list, I am quite happy to play each-way on the Jeremy Scott-trained runner now that his yard are in much better form.
Following a single run when way out the back door in a bumper at Chepstow in November when an unconsidered 33/1 shot, I thought that the son of Schiaparelli ran with a bundle of promise over the bare two miles at Exeter in a maiden hurdle in December.
I have upgraded that run as he was badly bumped when making a mistake at the first obstacle and was given a lovely ride by his young jockey who coaxed him home from the home turn eventually running on strongly to finish a 20 length, fourth of 15. This extra yardage will prove a massive plus as will the likely deep ground and I wouldn’t be surprised if BONZA BOY he were a springer in the market as well.
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I have to say that this meeting at the Esher track is one of my favourites of the national hunt season and testing ground always makes this testing track and unique ask of any jumper.
To my eyes this looked the most interesting betting event on the seven race card and several of these are sure to be suited by the conditions.
As a young horse I was a huge admirer of Chef D’Equipe when I saw him in the parade ring at Aintree way back in December 2018 in a class three handicap chase off a mark of 130. A career best head second to Azzerti at Newbury off 127 is a fair assessment of his true ability, but niggly problems since then (Nov 2019) means that he has only visited the race course on four further occasions, winning once in a hunter chase.
He ran an awful lot better than his finishing position suggested when seventh at Newbury in November and is no forlorn hope at a price here.
However, in time I think that the selection FARINET could still make his mark in graded company and I was hugely impressed by his victory off 121 in March.
Ground conditions since then meant that he was wasn’t seen again last season and he returned off a mark of 133 in the Racing Post Gold Cup Chase at Cheltenham, but found things happening way to quickly for him on the good to soft ground under Rachael Blackmore.
Dropped 2lbs for that run and returning to the scene of his victory I think he will relish this test giving weight away to inferior animals. Although he is likely to start market leader, he can successfully give the weight away all round before going onto better things.
I was lucky enough to visit Nicky Henderson’s yard some months ago and saw this strapping individual school and he was lightning. There is little doubt that chasing will be his game though as he has the size and scope to jump a fence and judged on his hurdles’ form has an engine to go with the chassis.
I will return to his chance in this interesting hurdle in a moment, but a word about the likely favourite and the most inexperienced horse in the race, Crossing The Bar. This will be just his third career runs under rules following eye catching runs at Lingfield and Ffos Las. On both occasions in Surrey and West Wales the son of Poet’s Voice was clearly outpaced before galloping on strongly in the past three furlongs to finish never nearer.
The form of that last contest was given a timely boost when the fourth home (rated a 50/1 shot that day) hosed up at the same Welsh venue earlier this week.
The big question is will he be battle hardened enough to make the mark in a 13-runner contest off a seemingly very fair mark of 108? He could be absolutely thrown in, but the layers have his number. At a slightly bigger price BLAIRGOWRIE makes more appeal. He will adore the end-to-end gallop over this extended trip and if you fancy could be an each-way play to nothing.
Of the bigger priced runners, and there will be plenty of those in the line-up, preference is for the mare Golden Emblem who seems to be going the right way for Neil Mulholland if only at a gradual rate and will certainly have no problem if conditions deteriorate further.
This race for veterans is definitely one of reasons why I love to invest on this card and I suppose these events gives punters a better chance of success with the form there for all to see with plenty of evidence to trawl through.
Aso remains, comparatively speaking, a class act having been thought good enough to race in Grade 1 events in the last 19 months. Still, all the evidence shows that three miles around Sandown on deep ground may find him out under his big weight. There are several other lightly-weighted entries that I prefer at a bigger price.
Like many of his rivals here, Rolling Dylan is well handicapped on fairly recent form and had a lovely pipe-opener for this when outpaced behind Bali Body over the course and distance last month. I am still not convinced he wants the ground this deep, but he is certainly a player if not on the win roster for me.
I did consider the complete outsider Psychedelic Rock as like a number of these he can safely be forgiven his pulled up effort behind the rejuvenated Blaklion at Haydock Park. I fancy he will out run his big odds, but I think that Kim Bailey’s charge WANDRIN STAR has much stronger claims.
Lightly raced for his age (just the 19 starts over fences) he showed this track and obstacles hold no terrors for him when staying on very strongly to beat Dancing Shadow by half a length. This sterner test should see him confirm that form and off a 3lbs higher mark he has all the credentials to really go to war with.
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