21st April 2017
In this week’s issue….
We’re up at Ayr tomorrow afternoon for this week’s target race – the Scottish Champion Hurdle (2.45)….
It’s a grand-sounding name but the race doesn’t attract the best hurdlers on the block. It’s a handicap for a start.
And sandwiched as the race is between genuine championship events at Cheltenham, Liverpool and Punchestown, it tends to be a point of call for horses well short of anything resembling championship standard.
More often than not, the race is won buy a horse rated in the 140s – which just about sums up how much of a championship event this isn’t….
But I’m being churlish. Across the year, we target plenty of races much poorer than this – and we will take tomorrow’s event as we find it….
And we don’t find it in bad shape at all. A field of 16-runners is just about the best turn-out in years. They go to post on drying ground described as good to soft this afternoon. We can expect a decent contest….
The one I like at the prices is the Paul Nicholls trained ZUBAYR at 20s. That’s a nice each-way price about a horse who is likely to prove a whole lot better than his current mark of 138.
Cast your mind back to February and the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury….
Movewiththetimes – also trained by Paul Nicholls and entered in the race alongside Zubayr – was all the rage with backers and layers and he justified a price tag of 6s on the day when finishing 2nd behind the favourite Ballyandy – beaten less than a length.
Zubayr was largely considered the yard’s second-string runner. His 13th place finish on the day – beaten 39 lengths – did nothing to encourage a re-evaluation of that view.
But prior to the race Nicholls was very keen to make the point that he found it difficult to split the two horses.
He reported that Zubayr had produced a couple of good pieces of work alongside Movewiththetimes on the gallops.
Nicholls also made the point that spring ground would see Zubayr to best effect….
It was soft for the Betfair Hurdle. And that ground wouldn’t have suited Zubayr as well as it did Movewiththetimes. It would have contributed to his no-show effort.
But last time at Aintree, better ground did produce a much more promising performance in a big handicap. But for a mistake at the last hurdle, Zubayr would have been much closer than 6th that afternoon. And he can build on that return to form tomorrow.
He’s not a big horse and the fact he’ll get to carry just 10-07 tomorrow – less than 10-12 for just the second time in his career – will be a big help to him. And the ground is drying out at Ayr all the time.
Movewiththetimes is rated 146 now – put up 10lbs for his Newbury defeat. Zubayr is down to 138.
On preferred better ground, the latter can underpin his trainer’s February assessment and put in a performance closer to the 146 rating of his – for now at least – more highly-regarded stablemate.
Nicholls has targeted this race reasonably well over the years – his last 18 runners producing a winner and half-a-dozen places.
Nicholls being Nicholls will no-doubt want to improve that record. Zubayr gives him a real live chance to do that tomorrow – at an attractive price too.
In the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr tomorrow afternoon (2.45)….
ZUBAYR @ 20s (Generally)
The standard place terms are 1/4 1-2-3-4. At the price, I’ll be backing the horse each-way….
We get to mix it up on my paid ATC service tomorrow afternoon with a headline handicap chase in the shape of the Scottish Grand National at Ayr and the Spring Cup – a big-field handicap over the straight mile – on the flat at Newbury.
Up at Ayr I’m siding with a horse the market is over-looking. He’s considered on the decline in some quarters – but I take a different view and I reckon he’s primed for a big run at a big price….
Down at Newbury I’m two-against-the-field – siding with 4yos that might be starting the season well-ahead of where the handicapper has them….
Get immediate access to both bets on the ATC website by taking a FREE 14-day test drive of the ATC service….
That’s all from me this week. Enjoy your weekend.