Well I’m still bemoaning our bad luck on last week’s ante-post plunge on Valseur Lido as, having tipped him up at 20/1, we had to watch him cruise into contention only to crumple at the last.
But the show must go on, and this weekend’s big race is the Betfair Hurdle (15:35 Sat 13th Feb, Newbury), and England’s most lucrative handicap hurdle looks well worth an ante-post plunge.
There’s a couple of strong statistics to consider when trying to whittle down the field, with the last 9 winners being aged either 5 or 6. Seven of the last ten winners have also carried less than 10-10 and, as the three winners who didn’t were top-class (My Tent or Yours, Zarkandar and Essex), and I’m not sure there’s a horse of that talent in this year’s field, I’m going to keep my analysis to those horses that fit these two major statistics – even though this does exclude many of the more fancied runners.
Affaire D’honneur 12/1
Made his British debut for impressive young trainer when 2nd to Zulu Oscar, who ran reasonably last time off 10lb higher. Up 8lb himself for that performance though, but could have improved since. Dark horse.
Comes from a stable who have won plenty of big handicaps in recent years, but they’ve not had a winner in 2016 so far.
Trained by Willie Mullins who could saddle quite a few in his bid to win this race for the first time, and officially well-in with just a 5lb penalty for an easy win last time out. Set to carry just 10-4 and must have every chance, though this will be more competitive than the race he won.
Flying Angel 40/1
Not really got the form in the book to win this, but stable have won the race before with a similar type in Splash of Ginge. And the stable won with two of their big guns last weekend.
Decent flat-horse, like most of his trainer’s, but seemingly below the level needed to win this when well-beaten at Ascot last time.
His fourth in last season’s Fred Winter was a decent run, but I’m yet to be convinced by last year’s juvenile form. First run for Martin Pipe.
Winner Massagot 20/1
Took advantage of a decent mark to win an Ascot handicap, but couldn’t confirm that improvement when upped 12lb and in class. Also flopped both runs at Newbury.
Stable in better form now than when a decent enough 6th at Ascot last time. Also put up his best performance over course and distance, when he had Winner Massagot well in arrears. Stable’s 5lb claimer already booked according to the declarations – and set to carry the featherweight of 10-2.
Blazer could be a blot on the handicap but, with the Skelton stable in decent form, I’m giving the vote to course and distance Zarib, as Bridget Andrews’ 5lb claim takes him 4lb below the mark off which he’s run two decent races, and he has a lovely racing weight.
Zarib each-way @ 16/1 (various bookmakers) ¼ odds 4 places