Tony Keenan wraps up a successful 2016 of ante-post tipping with a pair of picks in the Leopardstown feature on December 27th...
"Rogue Trader won a race that worked out very well at Punchestown last month and while there may not be much more to come fitness-wise – his trainer said he had him ready for that race – he was better than the result, losing ground by racing wide for much of the closing stages."
It's the wrapping up time of the year in every sense of the word and I'm pleased to report a very successful year for these ante-post columns. From 65 bets, there have been 15 winners for a level-stakes profit of 71.52 points to advised prices and return-on-investment of 110%.
The main winners were Henry Higgins at 26.025/1 in the Coral Hurdle, Rogue Angel at 33.0 in the Irish National and North Hill Harvey at 12.5 in the Greatwood Hurdle. If I can do even a quarter as well as that in 2017, I'd be delighted.
St. Stephen's Day clash to savour
Cue Card and Thistlecrack is the big clash on December 26th but there's a decent appetiser with Min versus Identity Thief in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown. I suspect Min is better than he showed when second in the Supreme, his jumping poor on the day and reportedly picking up a knock in the process, but he's priced as if he finished on Altior's tail at 1.9110/11. Connections have been quite lukewarm on him recently, repeatedly pointing out that he's not as good as Vautour or Douvan, and I wonder if it's the Mullins fanboys that have him so short here.
Identity Thief is just about the value at the prices but isn't big enough to tempt me into a bet. A 159 hurdler with a trainer that tends to improve them for fences, his initial chase mark of 150 does look fanciful on what he has achieved thus far.
Concentrate on the form horses in Paddy Power
The plot horse in the Paddy Power Chase is The Crafty Butcher but he's worth opposing; he isn't sure to get into a race where everyone will be keen to run (currently 37 on the ballot when only 28 can run) and might be one of these that is always flashing home but never actually gets there. I prefer to concentrate on a pair of runners with form in what look the two hottest handicap chases of the season.
Rogue Trader won a race that worked out very well at Punchestown last month and while there may not be much more to come fitness-wise - his trainer said he had him ready for that race - he was better than the result, losing ground by racing wide for much of the closing stages. He should also improve for the step up to three miles and 15.5 will look a very big price if Barry Geraghty chooses to ride which is a distinct possibility.
The Troytown looked a seriously strong race at the time and Bonny Kate shaped well in finishing third and should beat both Abolitionist and Noble Endeavor now she has had the run. Softer ground is another plus and she seems sure to go well at 21.020/1 granted normal luck.
Djakadam is the key horse in the Lexus Chase as he looks to have about seven pounds in hand of his rivals after an excellent return in the John Durkan and the step up to three miles should suit. It wouldn't be the Mullins way to run him back so quickly at this early stage of the season but the trainer probably knows he isn't good enough to win a Gold Cup so could roll the dice. Betting him now cannot be recommended but there will be window after declarations when he should be around 2.89/5 and that would be a price worth taking.
Valseur Lido's mark of 169 is not as solid as Djakadam's 170 and I want to see him do it again; the Down Royal form with Silviniaco Conti was let down in the Betfair Chase and he might be overbet off a flashy performance that may not have substance. Of those at bigger prices I give chances to Fine Rightly and Empire Of Dirt.
Fine Rightly may not be good enough but both his runs this season have been excellent for different reasons and he loves soft ground. He was improving over three miles last backend and looks a little overpriced though the fancy odds have gone. Empire Of Dirt looked to have improved for the move to Gordon Elliott in the Troytown and is still on the up after three consecutive wins in competitive handicaps and is far from out of place in graded class.
Grade 1 Hurdles Markets are right
The open Grade 1 hurdles have the look of Mullins bingo about them with market moves pointing to Nichols Canyon running in the Ryanair and Faugheen likely staying at home. Nichols Canyon will be hard to beat under suitable conditions with Petit Mouchoir needing to improve to match his level of form though the market has found him well. His absence in the Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle would leave the way clear for the likes of Snow Falcon and Shaneshill but again their prices are only fair.
Back Rogue Trader @ 15.5 and Bonny Kate @ 21.020/1 in the Paddy Power Chase