TC can't resist Iberico Lord in Betfair Hurdle
Ditto 66/167.00 shot who could surprise backers at Newbury
9/110.00 tip for Betfair Exchange Game Spirit
Top weight Hansard was the only horse not to confirm for the Betfair Hurdle on Thursday morning, so my 20/121.00 ante-post selection Onlyamatteroftime will effectively be balloted out if there isn't a non-runner tomorrow (the deadline is usually 1pm the day before the race).
He is currently a reserve. If there isn't a withdrawal that allows him to run, make sure you get your money back if you backed him, as you are entitled to it.
Do not take no for an answer, as sometimes betting operators do not know their own ante-post rules and have to be reminded.
It was annoying that he didn't make the cut as Hansard coming out meant he also went into the handicap on 10st 3lb too (having been 1lb wrong at the five-day stage), but such is life.
You never know, as the same trainer-owner also have the 40s poke Alvaniy in here - Onlyamatteroftime is currently a 14/115.00 shot - and maybe he will pick up an issue shortly...
Right, back to the definite runners.
This is very unlike me - after all, he is one of the market leaders in a ridiculously deep 24-runner handicap, as it should be for 155 bags - but, in my ante-post selection's likely absence, I now have to rate Iberico Lord as my first betting port of call.
In fact, I had always planned to, as I outlined in my ante-post piece on Monday, but the presence of three other Nicky Henderson horses (including Under Control, in the same colours as Iberico Lord) then meant I wanted to wait until seeing the final field. As it is, all four of his go.
Unfortunately, the Sportsbook's odds-compilers clearly fancy Iberico Lord too, going 5/16.00 when he is as big as 8/19.00 and 7/18.00 elsewhere, so I am going to suggest you look to back him at 7.06/1 or bigger win-only on the Exchange in the 155k handicap at 15:15.
That should be attainable, and he is currently 8.415/2 there as this goes live. I'll settle at Betfair SP, as per usual with exchange bets.
We all know how well his commanding Greatwood Hurdle win, in a very good time, has worked out and after that success I made the rash comment that he could well end up being the best 2m UK hurdler outside of Constitution Hill.
As a result, I was very sweet on his chances at Ascot off a revised mark of 134 last time (up 8lb from Cheltenham), only for him to run a very lack-lustre race in finishing seventh to Luccia.
However, I am inclined to forgive him that below-par effort over a sub-2m trip on good ground and a track that may not have played to his galloping strengths.
He was doing all his best work late on at Cheltenham, on ground Timeform called heavy, and I reckon this greater stamina test will bring out the best in him.
Given what rain has already fallen, and what is forecast to fall, I expect the ground at Newbury to be borderline heavy, whatever the official description is. There is plenty more rain to come on Friday and Saturday, though actually the outlook has actually improved a touch as I am doing my final sub before filing.
I could go through the list of his main dangers, but we would be here all day, as there are so many, so I will stick to one.
Back Ito Ditto at 66/167.00 each-way, six places. I know this is a very strong handicap but I don't get the price.
Sure, he is 15lb higher than when beaten a head in an Exeter 0-110 handicap in November, and that appears to give him a mountain range to climb here.
However, he confirmed himself a 6yo very much on the up with a very taking all-the-way win on soft ground at Chepstow last time from a promising horse, with the third 16 lengths away. And that third only went down by half-a-length in a novices' hurdle at the same track last time.
So I'd be inclined to believe the handicapper was right in moving him up to a mark of 121. Just as well they did, as he wouldn't have got into this mega-valuable race otherwise.
Look, he clearly has it to prove in this grade, and on the clock too, but there was something about that improved Chepstow win (jumped slickly and really found when asked on the run-in) which makes me want to take the chance at the price.
Sometimes you have to go with your gut when betting, especially at 66s.
The ITV action at Newbury opens up at 13:30 with the Betfair Serial Winners Fund Handicap Hurdle, and I was looking to get with Ballymagroarty Boy, while I was waiting for the revised prices to come out.
Given that he is ridden by 7lb claimer Ella Herbison, 0 from 28 in her career, and was a well-beaten 6/42.50 chance at Haydock last time, I was genuinely hoping for 25s about this 11yo against a fair few horses with more handicap upside and who come into the race with better form.
So it is no dice from me at the Sportsbook's 14/115.00, even if 3m on very deep ground is what he wants - he is actually as short as 10s elsewhere - and carrying 10st 6lb in these conditions could be a godsend.
Further up the betting, I thought Emitom had a very solid chance, giving his strong Ludlow form last time and his good Newbury record, but 7s is basically his price. The Sportsbook are paying four places on the race. Kyntara was the other one that interested me, but not at 5s.
If you want a bet, then Emitom each-way at 7s, four places, is maybe the way to go.
Early on Thursday, the Sportsbook were out to get Shishkin at a top price of 8/111.73 in the Betfair Denman Chase at 14:05, and you can understand why.
They got accommodated and are now 8/131.61.
Sure, he is comfortably the best horse in the race - he was set to win the King George last time but for unseating his jockey two out after an unfortunate stumble - but this is probably going to be the deepest ground he has run on. Timeform never have him as racing on heavy ground.
You can see the case for Protektorat against him in the likely conditions, for all he is 8lb shy of the favourite on official figures. But course winner Sam Brown is probably the one if you wanted a wild swing in the race at 26.025/1 or bigger on the Exchange given his record on soft and heavy, and the fact that he comes here on the back of a success.
He is also 25/126.00 with the Sportsbook, and I will also be looking at the Sportsbook's betting without Shishkin and Protektorat when that appears.
I can't have Betfair ambassador Paul Nicholls' Hitman or Does He Know, 10s and 14s respectively, and the outright betting suggests he will be the outsider of the three in that without the top two market.
However, there really is no need to force a bet before that line appears.
If the ground isn't as bad as feared (and the forecast has just improved a touch), Shishkin should eat these.
If you fancy Shishkin to Win the 14:05 at Newbury then head over to the Betfair Sportsbook, click on Horse Racing then Specials, and you can back Shishkin at the boosted price of 1/12.00 to win the Betfair Denman Chase.
The Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase at 14:40 is a very tricky race to call but price is everything, and that has lured me into Funambule Sivola. Back him at 9/110.00 win-only with the Sportsbook or 10.09/1 or bigger on the Exchange.
He has made all to win this race in the past two years but his jockey may have to take a pull on Saturday, as Editeur Du Gite, Amarillo Sky and Calico are also forward-goers. And he doesn't have to lead, as his career-best second to Energumene in the 2022 Champion Chase came from off the pace.
He was rated 163 after that run but he has seemingly regressed to such an extent that he is now just 145, some 17lb shy of the top two.
If that is an accurate reflection of his ability these days (and he was soundly beaten off 148 at Donny last time, when his jockey got into a pace battle with Calico), then he has little chance.
However, you can pick holes in all of his opponents too, and 9s is simply too big for me. The Sportsbook made him a mere 4s on Monday (when the top price elsewhere was 7s admittedly), and I don't think much has changed since.
Certainly his rivals haven't, as all six stood their ground.
Some may point to the going as a negative (Timeform actually called it firm when he won this race last year), but the Champion Chase form came on soft - Timeform also have him winning on heavy - and those Newbury form figures are 1211 are enticing.
I'll take my chances.
Warwick looks guaranteed to be heavy looking at the forecast. I tweeted the course and they confirmed to me they had already had 14mm by 1.45pm on Thursday. That would have made them soft at a minimum and plenty more is forecast on Friday and Saturday.
The three-runner Kingmaker has been replaced on the ITV by the eight-runner 2m5f handicap hurdle at 13:45, so all credit to those who made that happen.
And I reckon there is a decent bet in the race in the shape of Up For Parol win-only at 10/111.00 with the Sportsbook, or 11.010/1 and bigger on the Exchange.
Granted, he ran poorly in the Lanzarote last time (a race in which he finished a good third the previous season, and a fair sixth off 133 in 2022) but he is down to a mark of 124 now.
He was a fair second on heavy ground at Fontwell in November and I can see him getting the run of the race from the front here.
I'd have kicked the four-runner mares' hurdle at 14:20 off ITV too (replacing it with the eight-runner 2m handicap hurdle at 16:05) and it is not a race that interests me at all from a betting point of view. Get A Tonic may be the pick of the prices at 9/25.50 but I won't be getting involved.
There is a disappointing turn-out of just seven for the 2m4f veterans' chase at 14:55, and again I won't be having a bet myself.
Fast Buck, just turned 10 with Champagne Mystery and Do Your Job, returned to winning form over 1m7f149yd at Wincanton last time and he could get a solo up front, but I didn't think the Sportsbook's 7/24.50 was that great a price.
The step up in trip doesn't concern me that much, as arguably his best career effort came over 2m5f on heavy ground in Ireland, though he has never raced beyond 2m1f in all of his other 24 National Hunt outings.
The price does bother me, though.
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