Houblon Des Obeaux is weighted to win the Betfred Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick on Saturday while Modus looks overpriced for the Lanzarote Handicap Hurdle at Kempton as long as that track is still in operation! Overall the racing is average this weekend but from now on there will be a significant trial for races at the Cheltenham Festival run every Saturday. All roads lead to Cheltenham and the four days that matter most in March. Houblon Des Obeaux and Modus would be a nice double to boost betting funds for that occasion but both their races are wide open handicaps which the bookies love.
The Gold Cup market has changed markedly over the last week following the news that Coneygree and Don Cossack will not run. The last two winners of the Blue Riband of chasing have succumbed to the risks and vagaries of jumps racing. Coneygree will not be quire ready for March but sadly Don Cossack has been retired so his final race was the God Cup last March which he won. Coneygree could well appear at Aintree or Punchestown but we have seen the last of Don Cossack on the track so he carries his bat into retirement.
These absentees strengthen the hand of Colin Tizzard who could have five runners in the Gold Cup. In 1983 Michael Dickinson trained the first five home in the Gold Cup and Tizzard could emulate that feat. Thistlecrack is the odds-on favourite and the horse to beat but Native River is now right in the mix while Cue Card cannot be dismissed. Alary and Theatre Guide could also represent the stable in the Gold Cup. The number of runners for this year’s race could be relatively low so the dream is alive. However, Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown will have their say.
Ante post betting is fraught with danger because anything can happen between now and March and usually does. Thistlecrack could be evens on Gold Cup day so there is no point in backing the horse at odds on when the bet is a loser if the horse is withdrawn. If you must play the ante post markets it might be worth accepting slightly reduced odds with Paddy Power but with the guarantee of non runner no bet in the four championship races. Until running plans for some of the leading contenders are known it’s more about guesswork than finding some value.
It is difficult to find a chink in the armour of Thistlecrack and the value has gone with Native River. Cue Card may be just past his best and Djakadam has had two goes at the Gold Cup and found one too good. Don Poli and Many Clouds could run in the Gold Cup and Grand National and represent a bit of value in the former. Winning the Gold Cup is all about staying and jumping and both these horse have delivered in this context in the past. The gap between Cheltenham and Aintree this year makes being competitive at both meetings feasible.
These are great tracks that host great races but the same could be said about Kempton Park and the King George on Boxing Day. The track is south west London is being demolished and replaced by houses. Money is the motivation and the overall good of the sport but this story could run and run. Kempton is a flat track that produces good ground and the King George is a test of speed and not stamina. It’s rarely a slog and often produces the best chasing form of the season and the race will be totally different at Sandown. It’s like running the Grand National at Haydock Park.
Ar Mad could be the best horse running in Britain and Ireland next weekend and is the horse to oppose the favourite with in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot. Un De Sceaux is a front running superstar from the Willie Mullins stable but Ar Mad can be backed to beat the market leader over two miles and one furlong next Saturday. Altior could also appear and the horse has the potential to be the best two mile chaser trained in Britain but Douvan is better.
Ar Mad is trained by Gary Moore who also has Sire De Grugy in his care. The Clarence House Chase is a trial for the Champion Chase at the Festival for which Douvan is the shortest priced favourite of any race at the meeting priced up to date. Sire De Grugy is not a forlorn hope for that race but his stable mate has better credentials. Ar Mad could be anything but needs to beat Un De Sceaux at Ascot to get in the mix for the Champion Chase and Douvan looks the banker of the meeting betting at which could be funded if Houblon Des Obeaux and Modus do the business on Saturday.