Paul Jacobs’ betting tips:
Those at the top of the weights for this low grade 2m5f handicap chase either look in the pocket of the handicapper or are badly out of form and that could open the winning door to those further down the list notably Joe Tizzard’s charge.
The eight-year-old has been in my note book since being an unlucky runner-up to Queen of the Court at Taunton off a mark of 100 when he was caught literally in the last stride. That saw his rating go up to 103, but in six subsequent defeats he now finds himself perched on a mark of just 97.
That followed a cracking two and three quarter length second to Spotty Dog at Huntingdon where again he was caught after the final fence. On this better ground and being arguably the best handicapped horse in the race he can make the most of the weight he is set to receive from the three rivals at the top of the entry.
Off a mark of 111, light weight It Could Be You looks interesting especially as there is likely to be plenty of pace in the race which imperative for him. However, his career record, 1-20 over hurdles and 1-10 over fences, means he is more of a place merchant than a possible gold medal winner. With Jody Ted probably better over the minimum trip and Limerick Lace requiring a big step forward from his novice success in a weakish race, the relative value play has to be Henry De Bromhead’s charge.
He has been very highly tried in three novice events over the larger obstacles this season running behind the likes of Fil Dor, El Fabiolo and Aarons Day. A bad blunder at the final obstacle put paid to his chance over course and distance last time out, otherwise he would have made the classy winner fight for his purse. If he has moved forward again from that second I expect him to win this before possibly taking up an engagement at one of the spring festivals in a handicap chase. An impressive win here may well see him sneak into one of the events at the forthcoming Prestbury Park shindig.
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As with the other two cards this afternoon the unseasonably good ground will be a huge factor in determining the outcome of many events and that is why the Nicky Henderson charge gets the vote here. Second in a fair bumper at Warwick last season (third won since) he has finished third and fourth in two fair novice events at Plumpton and Market Rasen, each time looking as though the experience would do him good, running green at various stages of each race.
This step up again in trip to the best part of two and three quarter miles should suit and top of the ground is an even bigger plus when you take into mind the high cruising speed that he has shown on both his starts this term. A handicap debut rating of 111 looks very fair and he is taken to get off the mark at the third time of asking at the main expense of C&D winner Fountains Chief.
Plenty in with a chance on their best form for this competitive handicap hurdle, although I am also aware that several of these would prefer real winter ground to show their very best form again. The joker in the pack has to be Vultan who with just four hurdle runs under his belt is about as unexposed as any of these. His maiden success was a stylish one at Gowran Park some 18 months ago and he has been very lightly raced since. He refused to line up on his last start in September, but a mark of 122 looks very playable if his esteemed trainer has sorted his problems, both mental and physical.
I was going to split stakes with Spirit of Legend after the top weight was unlucky to be brought down turning into home last time out, but I think the layers have spotted his real chance here so it is the son of Mahler that gets the vote. He is possibly in the category of wanting softer ground and a slightly deeper test but I have been taken by his last two runs at Leopardstown and over this course and distance and despite running from a higher mark I think he has an excellent chance of hitting the frame and going close to landing the gold medal.
Paul Jacobs’ betting tips:
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