Rory Delargy heads to Chepstow for his best bets, and is looking for one to recover former glories...
"It's not too many runs ago that he was made favourite to win a competitive Aintree handicap off a BHA mark of 120, and that makes a current rating of 87 look very interesting indeed."
It's fair to say that the £3,000 paid by Christian and Sophie Leech for Nicene Creed (14:40 Chepstow) is a rather more realistic price than the £175k shelled out by agent Aiden Murphy on behalf of Graham and Diana Whateley a couple of years previously. The Hernando gelding was once fancied to beat Cue Card when the pair were novice hurdlers, but they have taken diverging routes since then. While he's clearly been a disappointment, it's notable how far he's fallen in the weights in recent times, and the Leech team are belatedly building on a reputation for shrewdness (Christian plays gamekeeper-turned-poacher having previously worked as a handicapper at the BHA).
Nicene Creed was effective in cheekpieces and a tongue tie for Philip Hobbs, and it's notable that new connections have seen fit to resort to the headgear for the first time today. It's not too many runs ago that he was made favourite to win a competitive Aintree handicap off a BHA mark of 120, and that makes a current rating of 87 look very interesting indeed. Needless to say, he's shown little in a fair while, but was notably tenderly handled when beaten at Catterick last time, and the yard has found form with a vengeance in the last few weeks. Of her last 10 runners, a trio (Olympian Boy, Le Grand Chene and Anteros) have won, and a further 5 have made the frame, with the most recent runners from the yard both trading very short in running. The trip may seem on the sharp side, but he has given the impression that it's his mulish attitude which has caused him to go in snatches before, and he'd be more than capable of dominating these rivals should he be inclined.
Plenty to take on trust, but a double figure price more than makes up for that, and I'd expect more money to arrive if connections do believe they've sweetened this character up. I'd be concerned if there was support for stable companion Shoulda, who appears the first string on jockey bookings, but he's hard to make any case for on recent form, and I'm confident that Nicene Creed is the stable's "intended" here.
In the 15:45, the obvious selection is recent Towcester winner Opera Og, who appeared to win with plenty in hand on that belated return, and is officially 6 lb ahead of his mark despite a penalty. He's taken quick races in the past, and is certainly worth his current rating, but a second run back after an absence is always a red flag, and minor doubts about the suitability of today's left-handed track add to the concerns. I wouldn't be surprised to see him coast home, but I'm not going to pay at odds on to find out.
With the interesting Lady Willa out, and the veteran Star Galaxy having looked a non-stayer over C&D in the past, the only conceivable danger is the Seamus Mullins mare Time To Think, who had rather more in hand than the margin by which she fended off Financial Climate and Meet The Critics at Fontwell last time (second and fourth have been placed since), as she idled badly after being left clear 2 out, only to rally when challenged on the run-in. That suggests a 3 lb rise is very fair, and her attacking style will suit this track. She's a decent price at present, and while backers are slightly reliant on Opera Og running flat, she still looks sure to give a big run in the circumstances.
At Wolverhampton, Haadeeth looks a cracking back to lay in the 15:05, having shown himself well treated with an excellent second to Valdaw at Kempton on his penultimate start. He seemed to blow a good opportunity when beaten a neck by Greenhead High over C&D last time, but the winner was very well ridden from the front there, kicking off the bend and just withholding Haadeeth's late burst. That was the fourth time in 5 starts that Haadeeth has traded at 1.55 or shorter, and he looks certain to give another good account. His strike-rate is a concern, and he's won less than he should, so the way to play him again is to back him at current odds, with the view to laying back some, all or a multiple of the stake at short odds in running. Miss Bunter is the obvious beneficiary should the selection flatter again, and she looked unlucky when forced wide here last time. The concern for her is that she's again got an outside draw, but that may not be insurmountable if she's ridden with dash.