14/115.00 Rock is Way better bet than Jet Powered
23/124.00 Twig is a likeable chance in Coral Gold Cup
10/111.00 Midnight River sees TC double up on big race
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Friday's meeting at Newbury passed an early morning inspection after temperatures fell to just -1 overnight, but you sense this is just where the hard work starts for the courses and their staff.
Newcastle is set to inspect at 14:30pm (Friday) after 1.5cm of snow overnight, with further flurries to come throughout the day (not something you hear in my local McDonalds too much these days, as they are invariably off the menu), and that meeting must be very doubtful.
The forecast there is for -5 overnight and temperatures not to go above freezing until midday on Saturday - the first race is at 11:35am - so I am struggling to see how that goes ahead. And that is without factoring in presumably hazardous travel for horseboxes.
If I owned a horse as valuable as Constitution Hill, he wouldn't be leaving his box if the roads are as bad as feared.
I am going to leave Newcastle alone for now then, and simply add an update later if the inspection is passed. That looks odds-against if the pictures being posted on Twitter (or X) are accurate, but the course remain "hopeful".
That leaves me with four races from Newbury at the moment - they'll need luck there to race too, as I will come on to shortly - kicking off with a 2m4f118yd handicap hurdle at 13:40.
The obvious starting point here is Jet Powered, a horse who bizarrely traded at single figures for the Supreme (the madness of Cheltenham in a nutshell) after winning a very weak novices' hurdle here in November before flopping at 2/71.29 on his next start on New Year's Eve.
Now, you'd be an idiot to say he can't win this - and he may well win with his head in his chest if those wild Supreme backers were right - and the early money on the Sportsbook on Thursday saw him shorten from 9/25.50 to 7/24.50. And he was further clipped into 3s on Friday morning.
He certainly has the sexiest profile, being a 350,000 guineas point purchase, from a top stable and owned by a big player and payer, with a lot of hype about him. But what he certainly isn't is well handicapped off 131 on what he has achieved to date.
He won that poor race very easily but the time was nothing flash and Timeform only gave him a bare of rating of 125 for the win. Off since that flop (and I haven't read why), I am happy to give him a wide berth at cramped, and shortening, odds in a competitive enough handicap.
Rock My Way is probably the opposite of Jet Powered in terms of profile - more Brendan Gleeson than Colin Farrell - but he was the one that interested me most at the current prices. He is 14/115.00 with the Sportsbook, and that's the best price around (though the 14s is generally available in the marketplace).
I am still undecided whether I will tip him as I write this (and rewriting it just before filing), as I didn't like the way he travelled at any point at Cheltenham last time and the ground may be against him.
Against that, you could argue that he did remarkably well to finish as close as he did last time - he was still in there pitching at the last - and the first-time cheekpieces may help him travel more kindly for his capable 5lb claimer.
He didn't get dropped for that Cheltenham fifth but he is still on a fair mark on his novice form last season. In the final analysis, I was happy to back him at 14/115.00 on the Sportsbook or 15.014/1 or bigger on the Exchange. But keep stakes low.
If Uncle Bert, and maybe Off To A Flyer, leave him alone on the front end , then so much the better.
Oh, the weather.
It is set to go as low -4 overnight and not go above freezing until midday on Saturday, so Newbury are going to need a fair improvement in that forecast in order to race, I reckon. They are inspecting at 7.30am on Saturday morning.
Anyway, it is currently good to soft, with a touch of good in places on the chase course.
I fully expect Under Control and Brentford Hope to dominate the Gerry Feilden at 14:15, so there is little scope for a bet as far as I can see, with that pair being priced up at 11/102.11 and 5/23.50 respectively.
I just don't play at those odds and I think each-way players could effectively have only one place up for grabs.
In 2019, a certain Epatante won this race off 137 for JP McManus and Nicky Henderson, and ended up winning the Champion Hurdle two starts later.
Lightning won't be striking twice next year, with Constitution Hill on the prowl, but the form of her Sandown win has worked out ridiculously well and she could take the world of beating here.
When the "Without" markets come out on the Sportsbook I will be looking to back Bad with the front pair not a factor, as I thought he shaped pretty well at Ascot last time and he got dropped further 2lb for it.
One firm is currently offering 4s Bad without Under Control and Brentford Hope and that would be highly acceptable if the Sportsbook offered a similar price later.
A mark of 120 for last season's Boodles gamble is workable, but then again I strongly suspect that this isn't your bog-standard handicap.
Newcastle's probable loss could be Newbury's game, as we could get 20 runners here as the three Rehearsal Chase entries (Ga Law, Datsalrightgino and Bill Baxter) will probably be re-directed to the Coral Gold Cup at 14:50.
I have backed the 2021 winner Cloudy Glen ante-post but his record second time out is an obvious worry. I am not going to bore you by going through the field, as my shortlist is quite long.
My second choice is Midnight River and I will probably have a fair pop at him. The 12.011/1 on the Exchange looks very fair to me, as is obviously the Sportsbook's 10/111.00 for each-way purposes, with six places on offer.
My main bet in the race is Twig and, after much deliberation, I am going to tip him on the nose. The 18s on the Sportsbook is acceptable, but he currently trades at 24.023/1 on the Exchange and that is where I will be punting. There is some 22s out there, by the way.
He has only run four times over fences since joining Ben Pauling from the pointing and Hunter Chase field, and has form figures of 2112, with three hurdle wins thrown in for good measure.
He won the valuable summer handicap at Uttoxeter in July and ran another cracker when second at Cheltenham last time, for which he went up 3lb, against one of those Henry de Bromhead horses (see also Gavin Cromwell, who has the dangerous Stumptown in here) that somehow find a turbo gear up the hill.
That doesn't bother me though, especially as I have a theory about this lightly-raced 8yo.
He has raced three times at Cheltenham, and has finished second on each occasion, trading at 1.330/100, 1.071/14 and 1.3130/100, so there is a fair argument that the stiff finish there doesn't play to his strengths.
This track could suit him a bit better, and Pauling reckons he did very well at Cheltenham last time because the rain-softened ground went against him.
I like his chances, especially on what will hopefully be decent ground.
I am going to double up with Midnight River, as he had an obvious tee-up job for this with a gentle run around for a handsome 12k in the Charlie Hall. Easy money.
Given the way Dan Skelton's horses are tending to run first time up this season that spin could be crucial and he ended last season with a good win over 3m1f at Aintree in a first-time tongue-tie, a trip over which he is unexposed.
I was going to say that if he wins this off 156, he will be into Gold Cup outsider territory, but I am going to take a stand against this Festival obsession.
No betting thoughts in the 2m handicap chase at 15:25, as it has a similar vibe to the 14:15, in that I think the winner will come from the top of the market, with 15/82.88 Master Chewy playing 3/14.00 Real Stone.
Let's hope Newbury beats the freeze and I may be back later in the day if Newcastle passes that 14:30pm inspection.
They may decide to "give it every chance" after all.
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