Triple Trade tempted but price a tad short now
Decent Novice Chase and X Country but no bets
Odds-on Captain Teague looks beatable in Grade 2
At the start of the week, I went through the four ITV races from Cheltenham on Friday without finding a bet, and I expected it to be equally difficult to find an edge after the overnight decs, too.
It's a very low-key springboard to the weekend.
And, with it being Safer Gambling Week, it is a good time to remember the drum I always bang in this column.
That is, never a force a bet if it isn't there.
Anyway, the updated prices have just come through, so let's see what has been delivered.
It is currently soft (good to soft in places) on all three tracks, with rain due throughout Thursday leading into a bright Friday. The BHA site says up to 10mm is possible but others guess at far less.
Let's hope Friday is not too sunny, anyway, for obvious reasons.
The terrestrial action kicks off with the 1m7f199yd handicap chase at 13:45, a race in which Triple Trade interested me most at 8/19.00 on Monday. With only two defectors from the five-day entries, he is now into 9/25.50.
The move was predictable enough I guess, as late closers always tend to catch the eye unduly, and Triple Trade certainly shaped well when second here from well off the pace on good ground last month.
He went up only 1lb for that eye-catcher, and the progressive 7yo looks fairly treated off a mark of 130 for the in-form Joe Tizzard stable, who have had six winners (and four horses places in second or third) from just 25 runners this month.
However, as I said in my ante-post piece, perhaps betting caution should be advised at the horse's current, shortened odds.
The reason he had to come from last in that race is because had to be vigorously rousted just after halfway. He was trailing the field going to three out and looked to be going nowhere. And, momentarily, backwards.
I went back and had another look at his performance again today though, and maybe I am being a little harsh on him. And, as a heavy-ground winner, the easier ground here could well be in his favour.
However, the race hasn't got much weaker from Monday and he is three-and-half points shorter, so I can leave him alone.
I actually think this is a very competitive handicap too, and I couldn't rule out any of the 11 runners.
There was no angle from the pace map - I have Calico, Guy, Gold Des Bois (for whom Harry Cobden is a jockey booking of note, being two from two for the stable), Madara and Prince Escalus as potential pace-setters - and it simply looked a very tricky race to call.
I was nearly drawn in by Gold Des Bois, fourth in this race last year from a 7lb higher mark, as you can see Cobden getting a tune out of him. And the horse's 3 ¼ length second at Kelso last time was franked by the winner going in again since, a victory that sees him now rated 10lb higher.
But he is only 14s, when 18s elsewhere, so I decided better bets will await us on Saturday and Sunday.
The closest I came to an ante-post bet on Monday was Endless Escape in the 2m Arkle Trial at 14:20, on the basis that the race could cut up and her intended run at Bangor on Wednesday was thwarted by abandonment, so she would come here.
It's a good job I didn't as that plan was scuppered by the BHA, on Tuesday, rescheduling that race to Exeter on Monday - I wonder if the BHA thought about the ramifications on ante-post betting when making that decision, though I appreciate that is only a minor consideration in the circumstances and the rescheduling was clearly the right call - so I imagine that made up connections' minds up.
She is a no-show here, and I guess Exeter is the plan now.
The race hasn't really cut up as much as I feared, either.
Sure, Dan Skelton's Unexpected Party goes for the Paddy Power on Saturday, and we also lost three others from the five-day stage, but it is a strong four-runner race - who would have thought I'd be positive about yet another miniscule novices' chase - with the other ante-post market leaders Mighty Tom, JPR One and Homme Public standing their ground, alongside Petit Tonnerre.
I am very surprised Skelton didn't run either of his other two five-day entries, though.
The aspect of this race that immediately strikes you is there is no front-runner in the race, so an unsatisfactory dawdle is not a big price. And it is a tough enough contest to call, anyway.
Mighty Tom has a hurdles rating of 141 in Ireland and ran well behind what could be a very bright tool on his chasing debut at Cork.
He could be the marginal class act in here, ahead of the chasing debutant Petit Tonnerre, but Mighty Tom is apparently a tricky sort and the two others aren't far behind in the talent stakes.
Maybe Tizzard's Newton Abbot winner JPR One is the most likely leader, but a lot of rain on Thursday would not favour Homme Public. A very messy race to try to unravel.
The Cross Country handicap at 14:55 is not my tasse de the (I wasn't sure how to get the acute on the last word...) but I was ever the professional and did my due diligence before landing on an inevitable no bet.
Gordon Elliott, who is responsible for a barely believable 17 of the 24 entries in Sunday's Troytown at Navan - I have never seen the like - also dominates this race with top weights Galvin and Delta Work, and their presence means six of their 11 rivals are out of the handicap.
Delta Work is also the Sportsbook's 5/23.50 favourite for the big one here in March, with Galvin the 3/14.00 second favourite. They were 1-2 in the race here last March.
Delta Work has had the recent run, but Galvin has the assistance of 7lb claimer Rob James, so, as with the betting, I felt it was very hard to split the pair at the top of the market from a stable gunning out the winners at a very fair rate in Ireland this month.
Back On The Lash goes for his third straight win in the race and Latenightpass is an ex-pointer and hunter chaser making his debut for Dan Skelton, and they will have their backers. But they are immediately behind the Elliott pair in the betting and I am not getting involved.
The other ITV race on Friday is the 2m5f novices' hurdle at 15:30, in which Captain Teague is the 8/131.61 favourite.
He was 6/52.20 with the Sportsbook on Monday afternoon, which was taken, and maybe someone got wind that three of those immediately behind him in the betting wouldn't be rocking up.
And, lo and behold, Impose Toi, Heltenham and Willie Mullins' Space Tourists are no-shows.
As I said on Monday, I wasn't visually blown away by his Chepstow win on his return when I watched it live - the 5/61.84 chance hit 4.57/2 in running when looking in trouble - but the Time Bandits certainly were, the 2m5f here will really suit, and I suppose I was being unduly harsh on him, too.
Perhaps, it is because my eldest is called Teague, and you have to treat them mean to keep them keen...
Thank god, the Irish are sending over four horses to bolster the numbers and keep the favourite honest though, and they all present a stern enough challenge to Paul Nicholls' Chepstow winner and Cheltenham bumper third to get me interested.
Indeed, were it not for this race being a dead-eight (and I rarely bet each way before the day of race in these circumstances, always fearing a non-runner), I would have seriously considered all four, win and place as The Big Doyen, Kinbara, Moonovercloon and Sequestered (one firm briefly and boldly offered this one at 18/119.00 early doors on Wednesday, and are now half that price) all have claims.
So the way I am going to play this race is the way I will be betting it.
I believe I have enough running for me to oppose Captain Teague, who has a 5lb penalty lest we forget, to lay him win and place. He may well sluice up and make me look a fool yet again, but I think he is underpriced at his current Sportsbook odds of 8/131.61.
I am willing to lay him at up 1.84/5 win and 1.21/5 place - I think you will get filled lower than that, but those are the figures I am working to - so they are my guide prices. I'd be more than happy to have the field running for me at 5/42.25.
And I reckon we could get the place jackpot, too. This has more depth than the odds imply.
Whenever a tipster recommends a lay, it is vital that they give a price at which he no longer is opposable. To not do so is irresponsible, as we all know how markets can change dramatically.
That price for me here is 1.84/5. He is currently 1.748/11 as this piece goes live.
I appreciate you may have to wait until Friday, when the markets really beef up - and I think the place market will only go up late Thursday afternoon - to get involved but that's the way I will be playing it.
And, aside the Irish challenge, Chepstow winner Minella Missile could be a handy horse to have onside.
Incidentally, someone clearly had the same idea as me as regards laying Captain Teague. He ranges from 4/61.67 to 4/71.57 fixed odds, but someone, a touch over-eager, jumped to the front of the exchange queue at 2.0621/20 late on Wednesday morning, which was immediately taken.
I may add to this column on Thursday afternoon once the non-ITV handicaps at 13:10 and 16:05 are priced up.
In fact, I almost certainly will as those big field handicaps look very tempting, so that is one of the main reasons I have gone up with this column now.
The update will happen once the prices appear on Thursday, and I will flag it up on Twitter, so come back then.
Good luck, all.
UPDATE at 10.30am on Thursday morning.
The two non-ITV handicap hurdles topping and tailing the Cheltenham card on Friday have been priced up earlier than expected, and you'd go a long way to find races as competitive as these.
The Sportsbook are paying five places in the 20-runner field at 13:10 and White Rhino heads the betting at 5/16.00.
I must admit I found this cramped handicap (only 10lb separates the top and bottom weights) impossible - seven horses are priced at 9s and shorter, with the stable-switcher Skytastic at 8/19.00 the most interesting of that group - but, of the outsiders, Paricolor caught my eye.
He had a wind op before having a spin on very bad ground on the Flat at Newmarket recently and he is 3lb lower than when finishing second in this race in 2021, with a claimer, attached to the yard and with a decent record, taking a further 8lb off.
I may personally throw a few quid on him - he is 33/134.00 with the Sportsbook but you'll get a lot bigger win-only on the exchange tomorrow, I imagine - but he is not too strong a fancy to put up as a tip.
It's obviously a lightly-traded exchange market now, so I can't really play at the moment anyway. I am happy to settle at Betfair SP, as it is the right thing to do, but I'm not a fan of tipping at BSP, which I find is basically an admission that the current price is not big enough. If it isn't, don't bet or tip.
The problem I have in the 16:05 is that I found it nigh on impossible to get away from Impose Toi from a mark of just 121, but no way am I backing and tipping him at 9/43.25 in a 18-runner handicap hurdle.
Given his profile and the fact that he was also in Captain Teague's Grade 2 on this card, I thought he is potentially chucked in off 121. A literal reading of his second to recent scorer Brentford Hope (now rated 133) off levels at Huntingdon last season tells you that, and there could be any amount of improvement in him.
My idea of the each-way bet against him was Showman, but the Sportsbook are unfortunately wise to that and go bottom price about him at 10/111.00.
I agree with them, obviously, as I think the UK handicapper has given him a very fair chance.
Some Irish handicappers coming over get 10lb added to their mark, but he has got away with just 1lb.
The horse he beat off levels at Roscommon on his penultimate start ran away with a maiden hurdle next time and he only went down narrowly to an improver at Cork last time.
The 7lb claimer who rode him there looked tidy enough, and he is on board again here, so I am perhaps going to look to back him each way without the favourite at around 8/19.00 when the Sportsbook puts that market up.
So, this update is actually about a day early, sorry!
Read Alan Dudman's Daily Racing Multiple here.
Racing... Only Bettor. Watch the latest episode now.