Cheltenham Antepost Betting: Sancy is our Supreme selection
The 2019 Cheltenham Festival is just 15 days away and our top tipster Tony Calvin has a recomendation for the opening race on the opening day...
"He may not have the sexy profile and appeal of the market leaders, but he is rated 152 and his form lacks nothing in comparison to them."
I know I occasionally trot out this line but this weekend is genuinely one of the weakest of the season - no surprise with the behemoth that is Cheltenham drawing ever closer - so I am going to focus this week's ante-post column on the aforementioned monster of a Festival.
And I am going to concentrate on the race that kicks it off, namely the Supreme.
Dancer the right favourite but the wrong price
Al Dancer (pictured below) is an industry-best 3/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook (though that may be under pressure to judge from the exchange price) for the opening 2m novices' hurdle, and you can fully understand why he heads the market.
Whether or not he should be quite that short is another matter, though.
He was very impressive when winning a Cheltenham handicap in December, albeit off a mark of just 129, and he took the rescheduled Betfair Hurdle in comprehensive style last time to see him now rated 152 by the handicapper, which puts him bang in the ratings profile of Supreme winners of the past.
The time also gives credence to the merit of that win, but I have to say that I wasn't overly-impressed myself.
It wasn't the strongest renewal of the Betfair Hurdle, and in beating exposed handicappers and outsiders in Magic Dancer and Blu Cavalier, he certainly wasn't dismissing in-form horses on the upgrade.
And, in a rare moment of racecourse exercise, I actually made the effort to leave the bar and go and watch the race out the front at Ascot, and I must admit that I wasn't as bowled over as some by Al Dancer's finishing effort in the horseflesh.
I am probably nit-picking - well, I am - but you have to be as questioning as possible when it comes to a 3/1 favourite in a big-field Festival race and I have to look elsewhere for a bet.
Fakir could break 20 year wait for a four-year-old win
It does make me chuckle when I hear talk of a last-minute decision being made about whether the four-year-old Fakir D'oudairies goes for the Triumph or the Supreme, given that he has been first or second favourite for the latter for a fair while now.
He would clearly be a big runner for the Triumph if he went there given how impressive he was at Cheltenham last month - and, who knows, he may be switched there late - but his trainer and owner are well catered for in that juvenile contest with Sir Erec, and it seems the lure of getting 8lb from the other horses in the Supreme is just too tempting.
He must have a massive chance to become the first 4yo to win the race since Hors La Loi in 1999, and I have no problems with him being a [6.4] chance.
Don't dismiss Angels Breath despite earlier market jitters
Angels Breath, in the same ownership of Al Dancer, was third favourite for the Festival-opener before he finished second at Kempton on Saturday, after he which he briefly drifted to 25/1+ on the exchange.
Connections were clearly expecting fireworks there, but it's not all and doom given that he was giving 5lb to the winner and was having just his second start over hurdles, and the more evenly-run tempo of a Festival race, with more give in the ground (it will be at least good to soft on the Tuesday), could suit this free sort a lot better.
And it appears that he ran a good time in defeat on Saturday. All this has led to him returning to around the 9/1 level on the exchange for the two-miler.
His stablemate, Grade 2 Haydock winner Mister Fisher, shouldn't be quickly dismissed and Aramon has to be respected on his Grade 1 exploits in Ireland, but I am looking to the Tolworth Hurdle for my Supreme bet.
Grand Sancy the selection
The Sandown Grade 1 provided the Supreme winner last year in the shape of Summerville Boy, and many will be hoping that this year's scorer, Elixir Du Nutz, will similarly oblige. He is tough and a dual Cheltenham winner, to boot.
But, at six points bigger in the Betfair Sportsbook market, I have to recommend the Sandown runner-up Grand Sancy at 14/1 each way.
There was clearly no disgrace in going down by half a length there, but I reckon the soft ground wasn't ideal for him that day.
That race clearly has a lot of merit, though - the 3¼-length third Southfield Stone was the one who beat Angels Breath at Kempton on Saturday - and Grand Sancy has since progressed to give 2lb and an ½-length beating to 159-rated chaser Sceau Royal in the Kingwell, with Sunday's National Spirit winner Vision Des Flos back in third.
The horse can be very keen, so you would hope that a fast pace and a big field will see him in a good light in the Supreme.
He may not have the sexy profile and appeal of the market leaders, but he is rated 152 and his form lacks nothing in comparison to them.
The 14-1 each way is a bet, all right.