Tony Calvin offers an ante-post pick for the Betfair Exchange Rehearsal Handicap Chase at Newcastle on Saturday and says the favourite is beatable in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle...
"The handicapper could have been generous in leaving him on the same mark of 139 - not that he actually could raise him for such defeats in novices’ chases now, but you get my point -
so I reckon he rates a small-stakes each-way bet at 10/1, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook."
I had a rare chuckle to, and at, myself when I was checking my unsettled ante-post bets on Sunday night and the name Aye Right for the Ladbrokes Trophy figured prominently.
Don't get me wrong, we are not talking much here - three £20 each way bets at 25/1, if you want to know - as I am not one to have many long-term wagers.
The reason why I laughed, though, is that these were essentially ill-thought-out bets struck in undue haste, which have thankfully turned out to be excellent trading positions at the very least.
Hopefully, this will turn out differently to beating the market due to pain-staking study (or probably just getting lucky) and then watching them run like drains, or not turn up at all.
I backed the horse at big prices, each-way in the Charlie Hall and I was so taken by his impeccable jumping and his improved performance in finishing third to the much higher-rated pair of Cyrname and Vinndication there that I immediately scrambled to take the 25s that was still generally available for the big Newbury handicap this weekend.
I even went on to Twitter to ask the masses why such generous odds were still available.
I had it in the back of my mind that the weights were already out and he would now be thrown-in - well at least 7lb well-in - but I was quickly put in my place by the sages on the social media machine.
It seems that, not for the first time, my memory was playing tricks with me and it was the entries that were released earlier that week, and not the weights.
Less speed and less haste were required, to tweak that old saying.
My disappointment turned to hope, however, when it transpired the handicapper had raised him only 4lb for the Wetherby performance, and the market has steadily come round to his chances ever since, resulting in that he now stands as the favourite in some lists.
I certainly won't be laying off, as he is a far bigger 11.5 chance on the exchange and that looks a couple of points too big to me at face value (more of that shortly).
Indeed, the fixed-odds marketplace agrees with that assessment, as he ranges from 6/1 to 15/2 there.
Conditions look Right at Newbury
The ground at Newbury is currently good to soft on the chase course and, while the forecast is unsettled, there doesn't much be too much rain in the offing (Wednesday and Thursday look worst).
So we could even be looking at good to soft come the weekend too, and that should be pretty much idea for all. No excuses going, as they say.
Maybe, Aye Right would prefer deeper ground but it was good to soft when he made such a promising return when second over an wholly inadequate 2m1f at Kelso in October, a race in which he only found the subsequent Old Roan winner Nuts Well too good, so I am not too concerned on that score.
And that Wetherby run surely marked him out as an ideal type for this race.
Yes, he is unproven over 3m2f but I see no evidence, as of yet, that his engine will run dry over this trip in handicap company, and I would argue that a 4lb rise was the best connections could have wished for after that Charlie Hall run.
He was only beaten seven lengths getting 6lb from the 176-rated winner Cyrname, and two lengths receiving 4lb from the 161-rated runner-up, so the handicapper has played very fair in upping him to a mark of 150.
He could easily have copped 3lb more.
Another striking aspect of that run, in addition to the improvement shown, was how well he jumped. If he gets on, or near, the front end and fences as accurately and fluently again then he is halfway home.
Of course, you can make a fairly cogent case for most of his 18 rivals here - Badger Beers runner-up Potterman is 5lb well-in, for example - but none have as strong a case as Harriet Graham's well-handicapped seven-year-old having just his sixth start over fences.
There is a but coming - and it could be a terminal, biggie but - and that is ante-post punters have to be worried by the fact that he has also been left in the Betfair Exchange Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle on Saturday.
Quite why he has, I have no idea - though it is closer to home and there are no stamina concerns in that 2m7f91yd handicap - but I promised myself earlier in the year that I wouldn't tip ante-post if a horse had a double-entry, and I have to sit tight as a result, even if that 10/1+ on the exchange is very tempting.
Just turn up at Newbury and give me a chance, Harriet. Pretty please.
I suspect he will (and all the vibes seem positive) but we can always back and tip him once he has been confirmed for the race on Thursday morning.
For the sake of some double-entry housekeeping, the only other horse with a possible alternative engagement this week is Two For Gold (I reckon he may go to Newcastle), though the likes of Cloth Cap do have the Becher angle a week on Saturday.
One thing is for certain, and that is this is one competitive handicap, with the exchange going 8.615/2 the field at the time of publishing, with Two For Gold's stablemate Vinndication heading the market, for now at least.
Nothing else really floated my boat elsewhere at Newbury on Saturday - by the way, the four races on ITV's card at the course on Friday have also been priced up by the Betfair Sportsbook, including a potentially spell-binding Long Distance Hurdle, a race in which the entries include Paisley Park, McFabulous, Summerville Boy, Thyme Hill. Lisnagar Oscar and Sam Spinner - so off up north, where the Grade 1 Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle takes centre stage.
Epatante will be hard to beat but not unbeatable
It would have surprised no-one to see Epatanteinstalled as the 4/7 favourite on the Sportsbook's opening show early on Monday afternoon.
On strict official ratings, she doesn't have that much in hand of three of her nine possible rivals - last year's winner Cornerstone Lad, Sceau Royal and Silver Streak - and the latter pair have had the benefit of a run, while the reigning Champion Hurdler has just had a racecourse set-to with Altior at Newbury last week to blow away the cobwebs.
That is, of course, without factoring in that mighty 7lb sex allowance she gets, which edges her into a different parish from these, or her time figures, which mark her out as the clear stand-out on the clock.
If she rocks up here in the same form as when beating Silver Streak by five lengths on these terms in the Christmas Hurdle, or winning the Champion Hurdle, then of course she is going to be very hard to beat.
Hard to beat, but certainly not unbeatable. If she was the latter, then bookmakers would not be dangling that 4/7 carrot, and she is a bit bigger on the good old exchange too (currently 1.674/6).
Given that three of the 10 entries have alternative engagements this week - including Gerry Feilden-bound entrant Marie's Rock, who I have a lot of time for - I am very surprised that the Sportsbook are offering three places here.
All logic suggests they will be seeing plenty of cash for Sceau Royal at 5/1, with money back if he hits the front three.
To start with, it looks like being good ground at Newcastle if the forecast is correct (there is a band of rain on Saturday evening, which hopefully doesn't arrive early), and he will love that. And the form of this once 164-rated chaser's Welsh Champion Hurdle win in October makes him a very serious player here.
That Ffos Las handicap win off 150 has been franked time and again, with the runner-up finishing second in the Greatwood Hurdle, and the third, Buzz, laughing at his rivals at Ascot last week (and the fifth has won since, too)
I never fight shy of the "thievery" ridicule and would happily put him at 5s each way, three places here - again, if bookmakers don't want the business then don't offer the price, it is very simple - but he didn't entirely convince me at Wincanton last time (okay he won easily by seven lengths, but I am a hard man to please), and I won't be tipping him, especially as I have no idea as to certain running plans. He is also a point bigger, win-only, on the exchange, too.
Of course, he is the obvious bet in the race on the above fixed-odds terms (as is Silver Streak, I guess), but you really don't need me to tell you that. And it probably wouldn't a fair addition on the old P and L here (November update to come after this weekend, by the way, as promised).
Let's try and find what some terms a "proper, honest" bet then.
The Butcher Said is worth a small stakes bet
The aforementioned Rehearsal Chase interests me, in spite of the market being a touch defensively priced up, perhaps understandably so given running doubts.
As discussed above, I appreciate the appearance of either the doubly-entered Aye Right or Two For Gold could blow this betting wide-open - or, even worse, both - but what entices me into the pot is that a lot of the entries are soft-ground performers, and it really does promise to be good on Saturday if the forecast is anywhere near correct (yes, I know).
I have a lot of time for all of the Nicky Henderson trio of Pym, Brave Eagle and, to a lesser extent, On The Blind Side, but I kept on coming back to The Butcher Said.
We got lucky with 12/1 winner Perfect Candidate last week but I have been frustrated by ante-post no-shows this season, so I decided to drop his owners a note on Twitter on Tuesday morning and the The McNeill Family account kindly answered.
I know plans change, and always will - we are dealing with horses here - but here is the response I got.
They replied: "Hi Tony, the plan at the moment is to run. He will work this week to confirm it but all being well Saturday has been the plan since Cheltenham. He will also have an entry this week for the Paddy Power chase at Leopardstown over Christmas."
So fingers crossed all goes well in his work and schooling, as I think he has an awful lot going for him.
He wants decent ground, three miles is his trip and I think he is fairly handicapped on his first three chase starts, which included two 3m good-ground wins and a narrow second over 2m4f at Uttoxeter (the defeat came in a good time, too).
But it could be his worse chase start on paper that points to him being very well treated here.
Of course, his 20-length third to The Big Breakaway at Cheltenham last time is no reflection of what he could have achieved that day, and he fleetingly traded at odds-on (a low of 1.625/8) when coming with a strong run rounding the straight, only to peck badly on landing two out. His race was over.
I don't think he would have got close to the winner myself, as The Big Breakaway found plenty, but it must be noted that The Butcher Said was giving him 8lb there.
The handicapper could have been generous in leaving him on the same mark of 139 - not that he actually could raise him for such defeats in novices' chases now, but you get my point -
so I reckon he rates a small-stakes each-way bet at 10/1, four places, with the Betfair Sportsbook.
I can see 3m on good ground around Newcastle really playing to his strong-travelling strengths, too. Like I said though, it is just a small bet at this stage, as I don't see him as a massive shortener, especially if Two For Gold turns up.