Tony Calvin casts his eye over the Ante-Post markets for the Cheltenham November meeting later this week and is keen to oppose one of Colin Tizzard's stable stars...
"I wasn’t convinced at all by what I saw of his jumping at Chepstow – he was far too hesitant for me – and he also picked up an 8lb penalty for that Class 1 win."
Tony Calvin on Finian's Oscar
Don't get carried away with Henderson plunge
The jumps boys are slavering at the prospect of three days of high-class fare at Cheltenham, starting on Friday, and we already have our first "plunge" horse of the week if the trade paper is to be believed.
The horse in question is Jenkins in the Greatwood Hurdle on Sunday, and he currently trades at an industry-best 13/2 on the Betfair Sportsbook, though just [6.8] on the Exchange.
I am a cynical man at the best of times but I like to think of myself as more of a realist when it comes to betting matters, and the shortening of the horse yesterday was surely simply a matter of market correction to the horse being confirmed for the race at a press conference at Kempton rather than any significant weight of money.
The horse was 10/1 in places yesterday morning, and of course there may have been nibbles for him, but I wouldn't get too carried away with talk of a large-scale punt or plunge. To be honest, it is probably nonsense and misleading.
Indeed, connections still think he has a lot of prove off his current mark, and he wasn't particularly strong in the market before he got pulled out on the day at Ascot earlier in the month. But an improved display of hurdling could easily see him bang there, and connections tend to err on the side of caution with horses of this nature and reputation when talking to the press. Handicappers listen, too.
Triumph Hurdle winner Defi Du Seuil just about shades him for favouritism at the moment on the Exchange and indeed he was the main market-mover this morning, backed from [13.0] into [6.0]. In addition, the Sportsbook are obviously looking to totally dodge him now at 7/2, the horse having started Monday at 7/1 - Defi Du Seuil has since been ruled out of the Greatwood by trainer Phillip Hobbs (14:30, 14/11).
A couple of outsiders interest me at the moment, though I will keep my cards close to my chest and reveal all on Saturday afternoon (he said, as if anybody was remotely bothered...). And if recent weekends are anything to go by - Betfair went six places on the November Handicap - I imagine backers will be looking at some enhanced each-way terms then, as well.
Kylemore still well-handicapped
The other big handicap this week is the BetVictor Gold Cup at 14:25, on Saturday. This is not to be confused with another similarly-named handicap chase on the same card, as the connections of Cloudy Dreams have discovered, as they entered him for the wrong race at midday yesterday.
Oops and oof! Fortunately if you backed him on the Betfair Sportsbook, they've voided all ante-post bets on him.
The "sexy" horse in this race is now Kylemore Lough, who is having his first start for Harry Fry after leaving Kerry Lee, for whatever reason.
Now, Fry is a superb trainer and a great placer of his horses - he is currently operating at a 27 per cent strike rate - but it is not as if Lee is anyone's mug. She trained the horse to win a Grade 1, among four other successes, from just 10 runs. That's none too shoddy in anyone's language.
But there is little doubt that Fry has inherited a well-handicapped horse - he is some 2lb lower than when an excellent fifth in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup just three starts ago - and a change of scenery by moving to a top yard is rarely a negative.
He is a perfectly fair price at 7/1 but, again, I will wait until I see what the final declarations bring us on Thursday morning.
Lee has the current top weight with Top Gamble and if he comes out and goes elsewhere - maybe the re-opened Shloer on Sunday - then his former stablemate will then head the weights and bring others down the bottom of the handicap more into the equation.
Tizzard star failed to impress
Saturday and Sunday's cards are packed full of quality, if not overflowing with runners in some races - four were re-opened at the five-say stage after attracting less than 10 entries - but I love the look of Friday's card myself.
The 2m5f novices' chase at 14:25, promises to be an absolute cracker and I particularly want Finian's Oscar to run as I think he is very opposable at the current prices. He is 11/8 favourite with the Sportsbook, and [2.5] on the Exchange, and that looks far too short to me.
I loved him over hurdles last season and everything about him - his physique and his pointing background - suggests he could, and maybe should, rank higher over fences.
But I wasn't convinced at all by what I saw of his jumping at Chepstow - he was far too hesitant for me - and he also picked up an 8lb penalty for that Class 1 win. Even at this stage, and granted I don't know what is intended to line up against him, he looks more of a 2/1+ chance to me, minimum. Colin Tizzard's horses could be in better form, too.
The 2m5f Grade 2 novice hurdle at 15:35, is no less mouthwatering - and that's a cynic talking there - but, as is often the case, I have little idea what is likely to rock up.
Tizzard and Alan Potts also provide the ante-post favourite for this race but I wouldn't be in a rush to back Vision Des Flos at around 3/1, for all that he ran a very encouraging first race over hurdles when third to Poetic Rhythm in the Persian War at Chepstow last month.
There are no end of similarly unexposed youngsters ranged against him here, and if just half of them stand their ground then it promises to be an absolute belter.
It was strange to see the 2m handicap chase on the card at 13:50, attract just 13 entries at the five-day stage - it's a £45k pot - but surely most will stand their ground now.
If they do, hopefully the likes of Bright New Dawn and Dotitforthevillage are among them, as they are the two that interest me most at this stage.
Back on Thursday evening for the first of three daily columns.