Lay bet specialist Patrick Weaver previews the final day of the Cheltenham Festival and his lays include one of the fancied Gold Cup runners...
"Not many Festival winners take in the Norfolk track en route and it is impossible to justify the 3lb rise for his win there."
Taking on Paul Nicholls' handicappers has proved profitable this week.
The reason why layers can profit from opposing them is twofold. Firstly, the handicapper is inclined to rate them too highly; secondly, punters home in on them, causing them to go off at unrealistic short prices.
Greaneteen 5.14/1, for example, is forecast to go off favourite for the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase at 16:50. The six-year-old has gone up 18lb since the autumn for winning three bread-and-butter chases - the latest a three-runner event at Fakenham. Not many Festival winners take in the Norfolk track en route and, using the third horse home as a yardstick, it is impossible to justify the 3lb rise for his win there.
I am not alone in thinking Greaneteen has been treated harshly. Racing Post ratings rank the forecast favourite 14th out of the 20 that line up.
Nicholls' other runner, Capeland 2625/1, has been running in far more competitive events, winning a £120,000 event at Ascot in November, yet he is six times the price of Greaneteen. The five Irish runners - Us And Them 24.023/1, Eclair De Beaufeu 11.010/1, Jan Maat 22.021/1, Chosen Mate 8.88/1 and Paloma Blue 14.013/1 - all appeal more than the market leader.
JP McManus' two runners, Great Field 21.020/1 and Winter Escape 44.043/1, were both pulled up on their last start - not always a negative in that owner's case, in fact often a plus as they will not have had as hard a race as the others in the line-up.
On balance, Greaneteen could well finish nearer last than first. I would readily lay him for a place at up to 3.02/1 in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase.
Make hay laying Mohaayed
Sticking with handicappers, it should pay to lay Mohaayed 12.5 in the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle at 14:10. The eight-year-old has form in the race, good and bad. He won it when 33/1 in 2018 and was a 40/1 shot 12 months ago when he was seventh.
His form of late has been so dreadful that he has had a wind operation to put his breathing straight. Punters have latched on to this fact and he is 10-1 for a 26-runner race. These are totally unrealistic odds for such an open contest. It is just as likely that the wind op is the last throw of the dice for a horse that has lost its way.
There are a fair few in-form runners that should keep Mohaayed out of the first four, including the five that come on from the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. Willie Mullins' Ciel De Niege was second in that, with Sir Valentine fourth, Zanza sixth, Oakley seventh and Stolen Silver eighth.
Alongside Ciel De Niege 9.28/1 at the head of the market is Mullins' other runner, Aramon 9.89/1, whom many consider is on a lenient mark for his first handicap. The seven-year-old has been kept to Grade One company since 2018. While his mark of 149 is a fair guesstimate based on what he has achieved, it could underrate him.
It is only fair to point out that the Racing Post ratings have Mohaayed 6lb clear of his rivals, using the last two runnings of this race. His recent efforts have been dire enough, though, to justify laying the 2018 winner at up to 3.55/2 for a place in the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle.
Translation a Lost cause
Last but not least, a place lay for the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase at 15:30. There are six horses forecast to start shorter than 10-1, so at least half of them will not be placed.
Deciding which one to give the thumbs-down to was not easy but I reckon the least likely to win is Lostintranslation 8.88/1.
I did not fancy him for the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, and he did not let me down. He made one or two errors and was pulled up - the race going to Clan Des Obeaux 8.88/1. The trouble with backing the winner to follow up is that he was put in his place in last year's Gold Cup when he failed to see out his race. Al Boum Photo 5.39/2 won that day, having previously taken the same race at Tramore on New Year's Day that he won this January.
Al Boum Photo is the most likely to be placed given his stamina and you would expect Kemboy 1211/1 to be there or thereabouts, too. An honest sort at the top level, he is ridden by Patrick Mullins who, of all the jockeys at the Festival, is the one that is guaranteed to ride his mounts out to the line.
Kemboy has done well, given that he had a delayed start to the season, but he has made mistakes in his races, both of which were won by Delta Work 6.611/2. There is little to choose between these three Irish runners, who take it in turns to win.
Santini 5.59/2 does not tick that many boxes and I would be surprised if he takes gold. He is one of the few in the race that has not won a Grade One chase and the Grade Two Gold Cup trial he won in January was a weak race of its kind. There is not a lot to choose between him and the runner-up Bristol De Mai 3029/1on that run, yet they are at opposite ends of the betting.
If Santini was trained by anyone other than Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls or Willie Mullins he would be double his odds.
It was not easy to pick one from the six to lay for a place but Lostintranslation ran such a stinker last time that he is tempting at 3.002/1 in the place market for the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup.
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Lay Mohaayed to Place in the 14:10 at 3.505/2 or shorter
Lay Lostintranslation to Place in the 15.30 at 3.505/2 or shorter
Lay Greaneteen to Place in the 16.50 at 3.02/1 or shorter