Let’s not dance around the subject because it is a Betfair-sponsored race.
Of course, ideally, you would want to see more than five going at in a £150k Grade 1 race and we would all have loved to witness Allaho trying to smash them up from the front, but the Betfair Tingle Creek is as good a field, class-wise, as you could have dared for.
It’s a cracker.
Betfair Tingle Creek a fascinating race
We have the top dog in the 2m division, Chacun Pour Soi, rocking up – there was some worrying chat in midweek that he wouldn’t run because of the ground not being soft enough for him – and ranged against him are four younger horses (which are between two to four years, his junior) who are all on an upward curve.
It is a fascinating heat, and the tactical element adds further intrigue.
Will Chacun Pour Soi go on, as he did when posting a huge number when beating Allaho at Punchestown in April, or will Rachael Blackmore look to go forward on impressive recent Naas Grade 3 scorer Captain Guinness, as she did when that one made all on his chasing debut?
We have enough ITV races to get stuck into on Saturday without me writing a mini-essay on this and then saying “no bet”, but my summary thoughts are that Chacun Pour Soi, for all his Cheltenham defeat and plenty saying he won’t relish the Sandown hill, would win this race more times than not, so odds-against about him is very fair.
But the purpose of this column is not to tip on virtual coin-tosses, so I will be enjoying the spectacle without a bet.
Similar comments apply to the other Grade 1 on the card, the seven-runner Henry VIII Chase at 13:50.
The layers seem to be coming at this race the same way I was leaning – that is looking to take on Third Time Lucki, as I didn’t like the way he finished off his race last time and he could easily falter up this hill if not settling into an even racing rhythm here – and that has seen him out to 7/4+ on the exchange.
At that price, I can let him win or lose – I suspect he could be one of those horses who drift to around 9/4 and 5/2 and even the non-believers are tempted – but the two that interested me most were the pair that are likeliest to go forward, the outsiders of the party, priced at double figures, Stolen Silver and Do Your Job.
I acknowledge they didn’t make the running last time but they have forced it in the past, and their jockeys will surely be alive to the upside of that tactical angle in a race devoid of guaranteed pacemakers.
But is it another race that I don’t feel the need to bet in. Bookmakers price up every race, but punters can and should pick their battles.
Happy with Infantry position but a saver had on Deise
As ever, it is the handicaps that have me withdrawing my sword from the scabbard and, luckily, this column is already in a decent position with front-runner Red Infantry at 16s each-way, four places, ante-post in the Betfair Exchange London National at 15:00.
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The price has changed from Tuesday – he was as low as 7s with the Sportsbook after the decs on Thursday – but the case hasn’t, and I will quickly re-state it here for those new to the party.
He has a good record here, with one win and a second in this very race back in 2018 from only two track outings.
You don’t have to go back too far for a run that gives him every chance here. Indeed, only three starts ago at Doncaster, he won off just a 1lb lower mark than this.
The handicapper has kindly dropped him 5lb for two fair runs since, and you have to think his Warwick return was a planned stepping stone to this race. And his record suggests he should come on appreciably for it.
He won first time out here as a 6yo in 2016 but since then he has taken a while to warm to his task, winning third time out in 2017/18 and then landing the 3m4f handicap chase at the Betfair Chase meeting at Haydock in the 2018/19 campaign. He is a dour stayer and the ground will be fine.
But I can’t advise a press-up now, as his price has obviously shortened – 10/1+ would be very fair, mind you – and he could have a couple of unwanted contenders for the lead in Dfeise Aba and Christmas In April.
However, I love the fact this race has cut up from 22 runners at the five-day stage as his best form has come in small fields and the visor replacing the cheekpieces could be a good move, as some of his best efforts have come in this headgear (including when second in this race).
You have to respect the progressive Strictlyadancer and The Mighty Don has a big run in him if he can jump, but I am very scared of the aforementioned Deise Aba and I am going to have a saver on him at 6.05/1 or bigger. Win-only is the way to go, given his patchy profile.
He is unproven over this trip but he shaped like a stayer when fifth in last year’s Kim Muir, he comes here on the back of an excellent second over hurdles on his return, he is two from two at the track, and he is fairly handicapped off a mark of 140.
Valley back down to a very appealing mark
I was going to give the closing 2m handicap hurdle a swerve until I had a look at a few replays, and the reappearance run of Elham Valley at Ascot hit me right between the eyes.
He may have been beaten 21 lengths there but I thought he shaped far, far better throughout the race than that would suggest, and I bet connections were cock-a-hoop that he got dropped 3lb for it.
A winner on hurdling debut at this meeting last year, he now finds himself on the same mark as when third in the Fred Winter just three starts ago and I just have to back him at 10/1 each-way, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook. He will get a good pace to aim at here and this better ground will suit him, too.
You have to fear Benson, even though he is 8lb higher than when winning this race last year. He can sulk but stiff tracks like these play to his staying strengths and it looks as though they had this race in mind for him when he finished fifth at Cheltenham last time, his first after a wind op. He is a fair alternative if you can get around 9/2, but there have been nibbles for him already – more than nibbles, in fact – and maybe the price will run away from you.
Early start at Aintree but no early bets
There could be a few feeling a touch worse for wear by the time the ITV action starts at Aintree, as the racing kicks off at the ungodly hour of 11:15.
The first race on the box is the fillies’ juvenile hurdle at 13:30, and it is no surprise to see White Pepper as favourite around 2/1 on the exchange given she posted a good time when winning at Galway and represents the powerful Irish yard that won this race in 2015 and 2017.
But it is a deep enough race, and I can let her win unbacked at that price, with the 9/1 about Fakenham winner Malakahna probably appealing most. But it is a race with too many unknowns for me, given the winning, lightly-raced profiles of all the fillies on show.
It is already soft at Aintree and they could cop another 12mm+ on Saturday alone according to some forecasts, which will be music to the lugholes of Colin Tizzard, who saddles the old boy and 2019 winner Native River in the Many Clouds at 14:05.
He will eat this lot up on his favoured ground if at his best, his age of 11yo notwithstanding, but there is a ton of potential pace in here and this could turn into a real grind up front. Mind you, any that do go toe-to-toe with him are likely to come off worse.
But, again, odds of around 9/4 are hardly bet-inducing.
Two big-price bets for the Becher Chase
The 22-runner Becher Chase at 14:40 may be filed under “too difficult” by many, but I’d rather a tough handicap puzzle to solve at rewarding odds rather than a seemingly straightforward conditions race at skinny odds.
I am putting up two, win-only, on the exchange, both at 16/1+.
First time up could be exactly the time to catch Achille to judge from his record, as he has posted cracking efforts on both of his most recent seasonal reappearances (also ran well enough before going on a winning spree in the 2018/19 campaign).
That may be linked to the fact that he has clearly been difficult to train (only 26 starts as an 11yo) and I can see this test suiting him, while I think he is fairly treated off a 3lb higher mark than just touched off by Lord Du Mesnil in the Grand National Trial at Haydock in February. And, of course, his stable is in rather good nick.
It can rain as much as it likes for him, which I am not entirely sure is true of my other fancy, Tour Est Permis, though he does have his fair share of form on testing ground.
He comes here on the back of a good fifth in the Troytown last month (a race he won in 2018) and the UK handicapper has only added 1lb to his Irish mark, which means he is 5lb lower than when pulled up in the National here in April. He ran a lot better than his “P” suggests there, though.
If he is able to return to the form of his Grade 1 Down Royal third to The Storyteller and Chris’s Dream last October, then he could take some stopping off a mark of 150 here.
Two well-handicapped darts in the lucky last
The concluding 2m4f handicap hurdle at 15:15 is devilishly tricky but the 12/1+ available about Kateson on the exchange has lured me in with a very small win-only bet.
He seemed to sour early on over fences here last time and he returns to hurdles on a very fair mark. Indeed, it is the same one in which he won this race last year for Tom Lacey on soft ground and 4lb lower than when fifth in a strong handicap hurdle here in April.
I will also be having a saver on Ballyandy at 23.022/1 or bigger – and I have to stress we are talking minimum wagers here – even if he let me down badly when I chanced him in the Greatwood Hurdle last time. He is also 22/1 with the Sportsbook.
He may well have totally gone at the game but the handicapper dropped him another 6lb for that – he has gone from 157 to 140 in three starts – with a claimer taking off another 10lb, so he is getting another score of mine.
This longer 2m4f trip may be what he needs these days as he approaches his 11th birthday – and he did finish third in a Coral Cup over 2m5f, remember – and, without question, he wins this if reproducing any of his opening three performances in last year’s campaign.
Big if, granted.