Friday, 27th January 2017
Huntingdon is off today. Fakenham lost a meeting earlier in the week. But there seems no likelihood of problems with tomorrow’s big fixtures….
Up at Doncaster, racing goes ahead to day despite overnight frost. Racecourse officials anticipate no problems with tomorrow’s card. The ground is described as good.
Mild conditions and a little rain are forecast overnight for Cheltenham. Frost covers are down to protect the most vulnerable parts of the track. But there are no anticipated problems. Underfoot conditions are described as good to soft.
Having already risen 16lbs up the rankings this term – from a chase mark of 123 to 139 – POTTERS CROSS might give the impression of a horse that has already produced the seasonal improvement that can be expected of him….
But I reckon there is more to come and he’s a big each-way price at 16s for tomorrow’s Sky Bet Handicap Chase at Doncaster (3.40).
The fact is that his current chase mark of 139 is only 5lbs in advance of the best rating he ran off over hurdles – before leg injuries retarded his progress – and he certainly arrives at Doncaster tomorrow afternoon in very good heart….
He found the valuable BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase a little too hot back in November. But in his other three seasonal appearances at lower grade he’s produced two wins and a second. Last time at Newbury over 26-furlongs he showed a game spirit – refusing to be beaten. He’s clearly in the shape of his life this term.
Rebecca Curtis has stated time and again how much she’d like to run this horse in the Grand National. He jumps, he stays and she feels he’s tailor-made for the Aintree challenge….
The plan this term has been to let him progress and to get him to a mark that gets him into that race. I don’t think he’s quite there yet. His current mark of 139 would have seen him miss the cut in two of the last three Grand Nationals.
With that in mind, I think he’ll be showing up tomorrow primed to produce a performance that encourages a further hike up the weights. At 16s I think he’s fair each-way value for a horse that has been going so well and should have more to come.
The decent ground will be right up his street and, whilst he can force the issue from the front, he showed last time at Newbury that he is flexible enough to take a lead too.
I can see the case for quite a few of the others. I could make cases for half a dozen above mine in the betting.
But my beat is price. My role is to highlight my idea of the best bet at the prices. And in tomorrow’s feature at Doncaster, Potters Cross is the pick of the market for me.
Unowhatimeanharry is all the rage for the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham (4.00). Yes, he’s unbeaten in his last seven. Yes, he’s the ante-post favourite for the Stayers' Hurdle at the Festival. And yes, he’s a short price to make it 8 wins from 8 runs under the care of Harry Fry.
He’s certainly too short for my tastes. I think he could be vulnerable to a speedier stayer and I want to take him on at the price.
That said, it should be noted you can back at Unowhatimeanharry at 7s with 888sport. They’re offering that price to new account holders. If you want to take advantage of that offer, you can do so here.
I'll be having a crack at the big prices and taking the favourite on with OLD GUARD at a big each-way 25s.
With a name like Old Guard you can give the impression of being a veteran. But Paul Nicholls’s charge is only 6 and his best days should yet be ahead of him.
He's got plenty of decent form in the book and was thought of as a Champion Hurdle horse last season. He didn’t make it to that race but the fact he was considered at all tells you he's highly thought of.
A jumps campaign was planned for this term. Prior to his first two goes over fences he was being compared to Dodging Bullets. More high praise. He fluffed his lines on his first go. He won at his second attempt. But, for whatever reason, he’s been back over hurdles since.
It’s been clear for a while that 2-miles is too quick for this big horse these days. And I think the same was true last time over 21-furlongs in the Lanzarote at Kempton. All his best work was done late on that last afternoon – he was passing horses in the straight off an end-to-end gallop after travelling widest of all the entire way around.
I think the step-up to 3-miles could be the making of him. And he steps up for the first time tomorrow – doing so at a track he loves and where he’s won on 3 of his 5 previous visits.
He’s got it to do at the weights. That's for sure. He will need to improve. But I think the trip is what he needs. He’s clearly a high-class horse. But he’s been racing over trips that haven’t played to his strengths. At the price, I’m prepared to bet he will go on again for the stiff 3-mile challenge.
The Contrarian Bet Box….
To recap on where my contrarian money will be going tomorrow afternoon….
In the Sky Bet Handicap Chase (3.40 @ Doncaster)....
In the Cleeve Hurdle (4.00 @ Cheltenham)....
That is my take on where the value lies – but you will no doubt have your own ideas and that’s exactly as it should be.
That’s all from me for now.
I’ll be back a little later today with ATC Extra.
Until then. Stay tuned.