Lay betting specialist Patrick Weaver has three more to oppose on day two of the Cheltenham Festival and his bet of the afternoon comes in the opening race...
"Panic Attack could win again round Ludlow or Exeter but Cheltenham is a different matter altogether."
As a committed layer, your starting point is to find flaws in the favourite for any contest. Looking at the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at 13:30 it is hard to find a reason why Envoi Allen [2.28] should not be at the head of the market. He has won every race that he's contested, including the Champion Bumper on this card 12 months ago.
If you want to draw a distinction between two-and-a-half miles and two miles five, it is true to say he has not won over the distance of the Ballymore. That alone, though, would not cause me to lay him.
Big Breakaway could be denied Ballymore place
Who then to lay for a place? I would not oppose Sporting John [5.0], despite the fact he, too, is stepping up in distance. Bought for £160,000 at the sale here 12 months ago, he is paying his way. He is unbeaten, has improved with each race and should be placed.
Third in the betting is The Big Breakaway [8.8], and the roulette ball stopped here as regard a lay. Like Envoi Allen and Sporting John he has won all his races. In addition, he has won at the trip, give or take 100 yards.
It is the quality of the contests he has run in that worries me, and the fact he has been off the track since before Christmas.
The Big Getaway [9.8], Longhouse Poet [16.0] and Easywork [24.0] are all officially rated higher and have run since mid-January. I am hopeful one of them will keep Colin Tizzard's runner out of the first three.
The Big Breakaway should be opposed at [3.00] in the place market for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle.
Now is not the Thyme
Paul Nicholls has the best record of any trainer in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at 16:50.
He could well add to his three previous successes with Mick Pastor [8.6] but I can't see his other runner Thyme White [16.0] finishing in the first four.
Mick Pastor has had a wind operation since winning impressively at Ludlow in January, and if that brings about improvement he should reward each-way support.
Thyme White is more workmanlike, lacking sparkle in the course of getting the job done. He won the Scottish Triumph Hurdle in his typically dogged fashion but the runner-up, Group Stage [30.0] is 2lb better off and could well come out on top this time.
Palladium [15.0] has been on the drift and may have been overlooked. He has improved with each race since joining Nicky Henderson following five runs on the Flat for Martyn Meade. His winning margins on soft ground at Sandown have been 10 lengths and 11 lengths, so you would hope he can assist in keeping Thyme White out of the places.
Gordon Elliott runs five, including a joint-favourite Aramax [8.8], which he considers well handicapped.
There has also been money in the last week for his stablemate, Tronador .
Given the strength of the opposition, on balance Thyme White is one to oppose if he stays in the [3.5] zone in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.
No need for Panic
My third lay, on a tricky day, is Panic Attack [13.0] in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at 17:30.
Willie Mullins sent her to Market Rasen for her debut in January with the specific aim of selling her on. He achieved that aim on behalf of Panic Attack's owner when a long-standing patron of David Pipe's bought her after she won impressively from two previous winners that were both giving her 11lb.
The form of that debut victory is half-decent and Panic Attack could win again round Ludlow or Exeter but Cheltenham is a different matter altogether.
The Champion Bumper has been won just the once by a four-year-old in the last 10 years. That was Cue Card, who proved exceptional, going on to win £1.4m over hurdles and fences.
Panic Attack is not in the same league and will do well to repel the three top-rated Irish bumper winners: Appreciate It [3.1], Queens Brook [9.2] and Ferny Hollow [15.0]. That trio, trained by Mullins and Elliott, are joined by their stablemates Eskylane [23.0], Darling Daughter [22.0] and Five Bar Brian [40.0]. That trio all have more each-way appeal than Panic Attack.
The Pipe filly also faces a strong home contingent, including her stablemate, Israel Champ [13.5], who won valuable races at Ascot and Cheltenham before Christmas. Roger Teal's Ocean Wind [17.0] comes on from Newbury where he beat Brief Ambition by a wider margin than Israel Champ had three months before.
The Weatherbys Champion Bumper is a wide-open race and Panic Attack should be laid at [3.5] in the '4 to be placed' market.
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Lay The Big Breakaway to Place in the 13:30 at [3.5] or shorter
Lay Thyme White to Place in the 16.50 at [3.5] or shorter
Lay Panic Attack in the '4 to be placed' market in the 17:30 at [3.5] or shorter