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Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Go With Your Gut


I read recently that Tom Segal, the legendary prophetic inhabitant of the Racing Post’s Pricewise pages doesn’t like to spend excessive time poring over the form when advising punters where to put their pound.

"X" Marks the Spot - Quickfire Tipping from the Gut
Taking a similar approach, and after a few indicative national hunt trials, I turned to page 24 of Sunday’s ‘paper and quickly marked out my favourite ante-post fancies for the forthcoming few fortnights, as I prepare for back-to-back festival Fridays at Cheltenham and Aintree.  I've then gone through the selections and made some brief notes in an attempt to justify my initial gut feelings. Let me know what you think.




Cheltenham

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – Cinders and Ashes (10-1) Donald McCain's novice hurdler got off to a winning start to his career on the NH flat scene before coming 5th in last year's festival Bumper.  Reversed the form with an impressive nine-length victory over Nicky Henderson's Keys at Aintree before Christmas and whilst Steps to Freedom's stats of 1F1-0111 look ominous, I'm comfortable with the fact that Cinders jumped off the page at me.

Arkle – Sprinter Sacre (6-4) This horse is in my head because Mark "Couch" Winstanley tipped him up in the RP a few weeks back for a characteristically low-key 10pt stake at a much bigger priced.  SS has impressed ever since.

Champion Hurdle – Hurricane Fly (4-5) / Binocular (8-1) exacta - Like many, I have the hots for H-Fly, who looks a beauty and has beaten all who stand in his way in this contest that would give "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" a run for its money with regards to lead actor & supporting cast.  A son of Montjeu, Fly's figures of 1111-11 make this look like a foregone conclusion but I like the value play of adding the inconsistent 2010 Champion Hurdler Binocular to a [reverse]exacta following his impromptu win at the weekend.

Mares’ Hurdle – Quevega (8-11) She's the female version of Big Buck's - banker.  Having said that, I will place an unmatched bet and let it ride on the exchange just in case Voler La Vedette is around the 28-1 mark leading by a few lengths going over the last.  Unaccompanied is heading straight to Aintree and gives this mare affair the miss.

Neptune Novices’ Hurdle & Albert Bartlett  – Fingal Bay (9-2 and 7-1 respectively) The unbeaten Fingal looks a good prospect for the future and I backed him a few months ago for both these races following success in November at Cheltenham.  I still think these prices are fair although the shorter price for the Neptune suggests that's where trainer Philip Hobbs is aiming him so I'm glad I got him at 6.4 on Betfair.

RSA Chase – Grands Crus (9-4) / Invictus (12-1) exacta - Assuming Crus doesn't line up on Friday for the Gold Cup, you have to fancy last year's World Hurdle runner-up to continue the flawless example of jumping showed on Boxing Day at Kempton Park.  Pair up the short price about Grands Crus with in-form Alan King's Invictus, who was immediately cut for this race from 33-1 and 50-1 in places to as short as 6-1 now but still available at 12s.

Queen Mother Champion Chase – Sizing Europe (11-10) I had Henry de Bromhead's defending champion at 9-1 last year and like Hurricane Fly & Big Buck's, he looks likely to regain his crown this year.  Cost Sportingbet a fortune when winning the Tingle Creek in December, forcing the bookmaker to return all losing bets (I got my £50 back on Wishfull Thinking and stuck it all on Kauto Star for the King George, which was enjoyable).  He has the hoodoo over most of his rivals but I might go for a value bet on Somersby or add him to a forecast with Sizing.

Ryanair – Medermit (9-1) à Let’s not forget, as well as Invictus, Alan King also had wins this weekend with Lovcen and Balder Succes, who can be backed at 30 on Betfair for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.  Everywhere I look I seem to see King's name, so I was ecstatic to be awoken by the news this morning, just hours after I put it on Twitter, that Tom Segal also picked Medermit as his Ryanair ante-post selection.  A case of Pricewise following Palphabet perhaps?? Cue price crash.  His performance at Ascot this weekend was gallant, recovering well from a mistake he ran Riverside Theatre all the way to the line, and I've got cold feet about backing Jimmy Nesbitt's headline grabber at reactionary prices.  Rubi Light has been hacking up on Irish turf that wouldn't look out of place on a 1970s second-division football pitch, and a lesser horse would have crashed out after landing on top of a Gowran Park fence on  Saturday.  There's no doubt Rubi has plenty in the tank, but with a dry, sunny March in store, I think he'll end up as a BF in the Ryanair at Cheltenham.

Will Minsk "dig" deep for the JCB Trophy?
Triumph Hurdle – Minsk (7-1)  Balder Succes (14-1 for this race) is probably 30 for the Novices’ as King needs to decide whether to run him over longer distance against more experienced company, including stablemate Grumeti (10-1 here).  I had Grandouet for the JCB Triumph last year after a decent couple of warm-up experiences, and was left disappointed but I remember reading a few people, including Segal, saying Minsk was one to follow for the season.

World Hurdle – Big Buck’s (8-13) I don't need to say anything about Buck's.  Even if he picks up the Ditcheat cough, he'll be absolutely fine come St Patrick's Thursday.

Already Advised

Gold Cup – Kauto Star (7-2) recommended at 4-1 - Long Run did nothing [apart from win] to convince me to betray my heart and believe!  The bookies seemed quick to cut a bit of their liability on Kauto too

National Hunt Challenge Cup – Soll (8-1) recommended at 12-1 - R Walsh & WP Mullins are both bullish about this 7 year-old chestnut gelding, who provided Willie with the fastest ton of seasonal winners in Ireland when chasing over 2m4f at Down Royal earlier this month.  I've had 2pts e/w at 12s, a bit more at 9s and would like to think that Soll, sired by Presenting, will bring home this 4-mile cup for half-brother and recent retiree Denman

Aintree

Grand National – West End Rocker (20-1 on Ladbrokes and Betfair) - When the weights were announced for the National, I looked down the list and straight away fancied West End Rocker.  As already mentioned, I have subsequently had Alan King's name ringing around my ears.  WER didn't just win the trial over the Grand National fences in December, he absolutely destroyed Niche Market and the rest of the field in the Becher Handicap Chase with Wayne Hutchinson on board.  Granted, the ground was heavy, but I like the price and wonder if Robert Thornton might take him round in April, especially since King's only other entry, Hold on Julio, won under Hutch from chasing veteran Neptune Collonges at Sandown during Choc's injury-induced absence.

Well, that certainly took longer to write than it did to go through the markets putting "Xs" next to names of nags! This time in three weeks, we'll know whether or not some of these instinctive picks have prevailed. Looking forward...

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