Just as a certain Paul Nicholls returns from his mid-season holiday in Barbados, I will be jetting off to Tenerife tomorrow morning for a few days R&R of my own (or, more accurately, G&T!).
I'll hopefully see a decent P&L from Saturday's punting on the 'osses as well.
He is a fair bit shorter than the odds we normally play at, but the handicapper has given Merry King a real chance in the Peter Marsh and he rates a bet at [6.0] or bigger.
The fact that he makes a relatively quick turnaround after a Welsh National slog three weeks ago is an obvious concern - that race can bottom some horses - as is the fact that he hasn't really progressed from two excellent performances in defeat in good staying handicaps last season.
But the handicapper has surprisingly dropped him 4lb after his fair fifth at Chepstow (he is effectively 3lb lower as he is 1lb out of the handicap today), and it is interesting to see that his trainer doesn't think that he has been putting it all in, and tries him in a first-time visor.
Indeed, I suspect that Jonjo O'Neill has been thinking about blinkers or a visor for a while now - he has noted in the past that he idles in front, and tried him in cheekpieces at the Festival - and that could prove the missing piece of the equation.
The horse looked a winner-in-waiting when a good second at Ascot on his reappearance, and looks to have a lot in his favour, not least an excellent, if heart-breaking, nose second in the Tommy Whittle here last season.
His stable have been in poor form for the past few weeks, but there are signs that they are emerging from the doldrums - wins for the likes of Goodwood Mirage and Festive Affair - and he is worth a shot to come finally good.
It is a good card at Haydock, but betting opportunities are thin on the ground, so we go over to Ascot for our next bet and I am going to side with Bourne at [9.0] or bigger.
He doesn't have the sexy profile of The Skyfarmer, but you will need a horse that is not afraid to win ugly in what will are likely to be atrocious conditions at Ascot.
Bourne is not the easiest of rides and needs a lot of rousting - basically he is very lazy, so for the traders out there he is highly likely to trade a lot bigger than his Betfair SP in-running - but he does respond, as he showed when winning in heavy ground at Kempton last season.
He was ridden by today's pilot Henry Brooke when beating Smad Place over course and distance off this mark two years ago, and comes here after a fair third at Wetherby last time.
I suspect that there are one or two better handicapped horses than him in the field, but I think these conditions could be a big leveller.
I don't have a strong opinion in the Mares' Hurdle or the Clarence House Chase, but I was sorely tempted by Gus Macrae in the 15:00, as he has a lot going for him. But the more I delved into the race, the more dangers flooded out at you, even in an eight-runner race and I was seriously impressed by Renard last time and the Nicholls pair also command respect.
So, I'll keep my powder dry, although I may throw a few alcohol-fuelled quid at the race if there is an "illegal" in the Tenerife bar that I will be watching C4 in on Saturday.comments powered by Disqus