Rhys Williams has three selections today at Southwell and Ludlow.
"The return to 2m and good ground today will suit and I think the handicapper has been overly generous in dropping him 4lb for that run."
Strong pace to suit
The opening 2m chase at Southwell is likely to be very strongly run with Eclat Des Mottes, Costly Diamond and Shady Oaks all possible front runners. That could set the race up for a closer and Downbythestrand could be that horse.
He won a hunter chase at Stratford over 2m1f for Fred Hutsby in May 2019 and wasn't seen again until running at Huntingdon last month over 2m4f on soft ground. Held up, he gradually crept into contention on the final circuit and was about four lengths behind the leader at the last in the back straight. Was nudged along after and then came under stronger driving turning down the side of the course. He couldn't go with the leading pair from the home bend and having jumped the last in a share of third, faded on the run in to finish fourth beaten 19½ lengths.
That race was over further than ideal for him and on ground much softer than he wants. The return to 2m and good ground today will suit and I think the handicapper has been overly generous in dropping him 4lb for that run.
If the expected strong pace does ensue, I think he's the most likely to take advantage of a pace collapse and any 4/1 or bigger appeals.
W/o market offers opportunities
Franco d'Aunou won well at Ffos Las on his most recent outing and while he does face far different ground conditions today, I'm not looking to take him on. Instead, I think the w/o the favourite market presents an opportunity in this race as it's been priced differently to how I would have it.
Chives is currently favourite in this market but that seems to be due to his trainer rather than form as his debut at Wincanton wasn't particularly noteworthy. He was a bit green and jumped awkwardly on occasions but couldn't get anywhere near the front pair at any stage and only just finished ahead of a mare now rated 92. He may improve from that but I think he's the wrong favourite in this market.
Artemision has already shown some ability over this C&D when finishing third in a novice hurdle in November and I think he's the most likely candidate to chase home Franco d'Aunou. He was very green into some of the hurdles that day, made a few mistakes and raced quite keenly. He looked set to drop right away early in the straight but stayed on well again late on to only just fail to catch Shinobi for second place. He's since failed to complete at Warwick but that wasn't his fault. The flight of hurdles was hit by a horse in front of him and it fell down slightly. His hind leg got caught in the falling top bar and he pitched slightly on landing and got rid of David Bass.
I think his run in November represents the strongest form of those outside of the favourite and he's a bet at 10/11 or bigger.
The other horse who appeals in this market is Snowpiercer. His form since leaving Declan Queally has been form on the face of it but I think there are reasons to think he could fare better today. His best form in Ireland was on good ground and three of his four runs in Britain have been on soft or heavy ground while the other was on good to soft. Connections also decided to run him in the Champion Bumper, where he unsurprisingly finished last, and he took on a couple of horses rated in the mid-130s at Hereford on hurdling debut.
He has shown a bit of promise on both hurdling runs at Hereford. While left behind by the leading pair leaving the back straight on the first of those, he ran on again late to only be beaten 24 lengths by the 135-rated Getaway Totherock. On his most recent start on ground softer than ideal, he was still in contention at 2 out before dropping away quickly.
The much better ground today will be far more suitable for Snowpiercer, as will the mainly weaker company. He's going to be a chaser in the long term but I think he could run better than his huge price suggests in this race but he appeals at 14/1 or bigger in the w/o the favourite market.
RHYS' PROFIT/LOSS 2021