Unowhatimeanharry shouldn't be so short, writes Jack Houghton, who tipped up Champion Chase winner Special Tiara on Wednesday, and Each Way Edge makes a return to old glories for Zarkander a viable bet...
"My preference would be for Zarkander, who has run well at five previous Festivals. True, his very-best form was back in 2012, but even a repeat of his third-place form in this race last year would be enough to go close..."
Two selections providing a return on Wednesday, including the "surprise" win of Special Tiara in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. And Thursday looks just as good a betting day.
Much like yesterday's RSA Novices' Chase, it's always hard to assess these races because, while you want to focus on form over fences, it is often less well established, and it is difficult to ignore fast performances over hurdles which may point to better results to come over the bigger obstacles.
I can discount Yorkhill, though, with few quandaries. Looking at all his jumping form, whether hurdles or fences, places him as the fourth-best horse in the field, and I certainly won't be taking the 11/8 currently available. Top Notch's Triumph and Champion Hurdle form marks him out as the horse with most potential in the field, but 4/1 is a short price for a horse who has yet to prove he can operate at a Festival pace over fences.
Flying Angel and Politologue have run the fastest times over fences in this field and my preference is for the former, who is a bigger price and who has better course form in the book. Extending the place terms to first four using Each Way Edge still offers odds of 12/1 and, if staying upright, it's hard to see a scenario where he can't beat at least half of the field home.
Two horses stand head-and-shoulders above this field in terms of their performances against the clock: Uxizandre and Un de Sceaux. The former's performance in winning this race last year stands out, but the latter wins the prize for consistency.
Less clear is why Empire Of Dirt is such short odds. His Festival win last year was relatively slow and he would need to be significantly better than he was in the Irish Gold Cup to add to his haul here.
With Empire Of Dirt a doubtful hope, and the rest of the field some way behind Uxizandre and Un de Sceaux on the book, Each Way Edge opens up an interesting proposition. Reducing the paying places to just two increases the odds attractively, and I would plump for Uxizandre at 4/1 on those terms.
On the clock, four of these stand out: Jezki, Zarkander, Nichols Canyon and Cole Harden. If this is a fast-run race, I expect these four to dominate.
That's not to say that short-odds favourite Unowhatimeanharry can't win the race, but it's telling that he has returned slow times in his races to date, suggesting that there are unanswered questions about his ability. He might answer those questions with ease here, but I won't be taking 11/8 as he tries.
Of the more-likely selections, my preference would be for Zarkander, who has run well at five previous Festivals. True, his very-best form was back in 2012, but even a repeat of his third-place form in this race last year would be enough to go close. Using Each Way Edge to extend the place terms to the first five gives attractive odds of 14/1.
Dusky Legend's second in this race last year was no fluke. Although the time she returned in that race was a career-best so far, she has posted two other performances that suggest she can return to similar heights again. 16/1 odds with a return for a first five placing with Each Way Edge seems a low-risk proposition.
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