Tony Calvin has analysed the Betfair Chase this Saturday and has found a horse with a new trainer capable of competing with those at the top of the market...
"But, with all respect to both parties, I think the fact the horse has left Ruth Jefferson and gone to Christian Williams is a considerable trainer uplift."
Death, taxes, and heavy ground on Betfair Chase is the line always trotted out at this time of the racing year.
But, stop the press, it is currently good to soft at Haydock for Saturday's meeting, with minimal rain forecast throughout the week - just spits and spots are in the offing, it seems - so mudlarks need not necessarily apply.
Twiston-Davies will be performing a rain dance
Of course, things may change dramatically on the weather front, with the race still five days away, and connections of three-time winner Bristol De Mai (whose only defeat at the track came in a second in this race in 2019) will be certainly hoping it does, for all he did win the 2018 renewal on officially good ground, an assessment backed up by Timeform, and who also finished third in a 2019 Gold Cup on good to soft.
His record says good to soft will be fine for him then, but it is more a case that he handles hock-deep ground better than most and that is what the Twister will have been hoping for.
Of the others, in alphabetical order, Chatham Street Lad would massively welcome any unexpected deluges, as would Imperial Aura on the balance of his form, and that comment certainly applies to Native River, the old man of the party at 11yo and runner-up to this Bristol De Mai in this race in 2018, and Royale Pagaille.
A Plus Tard a worthy favourite
If you are being simplistic - perhaps over-simplistic - then the trainers of A Plus Tard, Clondaw Castle, Next Destination and Waiting Patiently would be the ones plumping for good to soft if given the choice.
In truth, As Plus Tard deserves to be the short-priced favourite whatever the ground is on Saturday, and he currently trades at 2.6813/8 on the exchange, a price that is fully backed up by his form credentials, though with one worrying downside which we will come to shortly.
From an achievement perspective, his efforts mark him down as comfortably the best horse in the race and a relatively sprightly one too as just seven years old (Royal Pagaille is the other youngster in here).
A hugely impressive winner of the Close Brothers in 2019 and a close third in the 2020 Ryanair, he stepped it up a touch last season with a Savills Chase win and a narrow second in the Gold Cup.
It will take a good one to lower his colours here if he is on song, but his reappearance record must worry you at the price.
I know this is a valuable Grade 1 prize and Henry de Bromhead may have sharpened him accordingly, but he has been below par and beaten at odds of 7/4, 5/4 and 1/2 on his last three returns - at least a stone shy of his peak in the last two campaigns - and that would concern me if punting him around 13/8 on the exchange.
Bristol De Mai is next in around 7/2 on the exchange and we know he will be fully revved up, especially with his trainer in great nick of late, and I think that is very fair. As we outlined above he is no one-trick pony when it comes to the ground, for all he wouldn't mind it coming up to his knees up the straight.
I would hold fire at the moment if you fancy Royale Pagaille, though you can't bracket him as a testing ground bully considering he came back with a pretty bad hoof injury when down the field on good to soft in the Gold Cup, and I couldn't have Next Destination on my mind at 5/1 with the Sportsbook (though he is comfortably bigger win-only on the exchange).
The trip and, to a lesser extent the likely ground, worries me for Imperial Aura, and I can't really have Clondaw Castle in this grade, despite the fact that he will at home on the expected surface and has had a run, while Chatham Street Lad's best efforts have been on soft and heavy and his stable is not exactly firing.
Christian Williams can take horse to next level
No, all roads led me to Waiting Patiently here, for all you have to take it on trust he can last home over this extended 3m1f. But, with all respect to both parties, I think the fact the horse has left Ruth Jefferson and gone to Christian Williams is a considerable trainer uplift.
When I say respect to both trainers, I mean that, as the Jefferson's did very well with a horse which has clearly been very hard to train down the years, as he won a Betfair Ascot Chase in 2018 and finished second to Frodon in the King George on Boxing Day.
And hopefully his finishing effort at Kempton, from miles off the pace, didn't flatter to deceive as regards his potential at this trip.
What I do know is that he would give any one of these a run for their money at his best, and I'd back the impressive Williams, perhaps his barnet aside, to get the best out of any horse in his care.
He will obviously know full well about Waiting Patiently's past fragility - so a few trips to the beach near his new yard probably won't have done the horse any harm - and he is not likely to be underdone here.
And the horse's reappearance since finishing second on his debut back in 2015 reads 11U32, and those last two placed efforts came when a length third in the Betfair Tingle Creek and when a 2 ½ length second in that King George.
And he just happens to have beaten Politologue on his only start at this track.
I am told connections are very keen to run him here - though there is always a risk when backing these fragile types ante-post, so we could do our money in cold blood - so I was toying up whether to tip him win-only at 10.09/1 or so on the exchange, or each way at 8s on the Betfair Sportsbook.
There are pros and cons but I reckon 8/1 each way, three places, is the call, even with the stamina doubt.
I will back tomorrow afternoon with a look at the other weekend ante-post races.
Until then, be lucky.
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PROFIT AND LOSS FROM APRIL 14