It’s been a little while since I posted an ante-post bet, the markets are becoming more difficult to have faith in in terms of horses turning up and often go off at bigger prices on the day. But I found myself having a curious Christmas browse of the prices this morning and a few horses I quite like appeal at decent prices...so in we go...
RSA Chase - Might Bite - 2pts win at 12/1 generally
Sun Bets Stayers Hurdle - Alpha Des Obeaux - 1pt win at 20/1 generally
As always, I'm simply on the look out for a solid, unexposed horses who might be a little over-priced to run well in a horse in advance of a big festival. There is no easy way to tackle it, no crystal ball or thoroughly effective system and of course the majority of ante-post bets are a disappointment, yet this does little to repel the odd urge. I've gone two years since betting ante post for Cheltenham but only a day or so ago I thought there could be a few bets to have before the new year, for 2017.
All respect due to Moon Racer who is a solid benchmark in the Supreme Novices Hurdle, but he isn’t the most domineering of favourites. For me, the Willie Mullins trained Cilaos Emery has looked the best novice hurdler so far and at 14/1 I think he’s only another decent success away from near-on halving in price. The 4yo - a couple of days away from his fifth birthday - was taking on proven stayers and point to point horses on his hurdling debut at Navan, but he dominated from the front with a round of slick jumping, before pulling readily clear of Joey Sasa in 2nd, who has gone on to frank the form and prove himself a very useful prospect as well. Cilaos Emery needs to keep on progressing, but all of the essentials are there. He jumps very well, has the ability to stay very well on a stiff left-handed track, yet has bags of pace for a 2m contest, so at 14/1 I think he’s a fair value bet.I really like him.
Unexpectedly, I rather fancy Petit Mouchoir for the Champion Hurdle after a superb effort in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown. This tall and impressive grey was unlucky to come down in the Fighting Fifth, but he jumped like a bunny here near the front and having pinged the second last, quickened in quite brilliant fashion to leave his rivals toiling. Henry de Bromhead has a fine animal on his hands here, a quickly improving youngster with precious few miles on the clock and I’m happy enough to take a bit of 10/1, even though if certain horses turn up there is a mild danger he could run at bigger odds on the day.
Robin Roe looked a little bit special when landing an Aintree maiden hurdle back in October. Held up in rear, he jumped neatly and made up stealthy ground to join the well-backed favourite No Comment with over a furlong to run, before quickening away very stylishly to win well. No Comment came out and won his next two starts, the 3rd horse Tintern Theatre has also won since. The imposing Dan Skelton trained Robin Roe looks to have a lot of class and the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle is up next. He goes well on a sound surface and looks very much a Neptune horse to me - he’s 10/1 for it. Fair. Onto the next....
Might Bite was in the process of producing a stonking performance in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase on Boxing Day when tipping over at the last. It wasn’t Daryl Jacob’s finest honour in the saddle, the horse had the race firmly in the bag and it may have been safer to let the horse pop the last in his own time. In any case, Might Bite is clearly a formidable creature, he absolutely dominated a decent and open looking field from a long way out. He clearly stays 3m well and the RSA Chase looks a shoo-in target for Nicky Henderson’s imposing inmate. The eventual and fortuitous winner Royal Vacation posted an RPR of 147, meaning Might Bite would’ve run to 160+ here, making him a major player for all novice chases provided he recovers from that blunder without a dent in confidence. I like the noteworthy Our Duke for this race too - a friend to Tips Den followers this season - but he needs to brush up his jumping fluency in order to stay in touch at Cheltenham and I think 10/1 is short enough at this stage. 12/1 Might Bite makes more appeal.
There is a lot of speculation in the newly sponsored Sun Bets Stayers Hurdle as to what will and won’t run. Last year, Alpha Des Obeaux finished an excellent 2nd to the mighty Thistlecrack and the 7 length gap between him and the winner that day looks a fair effort now, considering especially that Mouse Morris’s charge - who is only just turning seven - had Bobs Worth 22 lengths back in 3rd. He was pulled up in a Grade 1 Chase the last day and could stay over fences, but considering he is still a very young horse and the staying hurdle division is there for the tackling, powerful connections with plenty of chasing talent could see fit to revert to hurdles with this lad. It is a shot in the dark, but one I’m willing to take at odds of 20/1 in a race waiting to form a clear picture at the moment.
Now for the Triumph Hurdle, which is shaping into a really exciting race with the emergence of the classy looking Defi Du Seuil (could be a monster if he learns to concentrate a bit!), Charli Parcs and Bapaume. But over the Christmas period, I was most impressed with the Willie Mullins trained mare Meri Devie, who is appealing at 12/1 with Ladbrokes and Paddy Power. She produced an excellent time by comparison to the other 2m races on the day; Bapaume was faster 24 hours earlier but rider of both horses Ruby Walsh reported the ground to be a little slower on the 27th. I reckon Graham Wylie has a really nice mare on his hands. Mari Devie is scopey, talented, sure to improve and given the 7lb allowance females get in the spring races, she has what it takes to take very high rank among the best juveniles.
Finally the Gold Cup. Thistlecrack is a major thorn at the top of the market, a truly tremendous talent and he’ll take a world of beating - no question about it - but it’s a different race on a different day and you just never know what could happen between now and March in regard to how this field shapes up. Native River is a very good stayer with a great shout of getting into the frame, while Cue Card, Coneygree and Don Cossack are respected but much of a muchness in truth and thus hard to back with confidence or intrigue at this stage.
The one I like at 50/1 is another Willie Mullins trained animal called Killulgtagh Vic, who has been off injured since last seen winning a Grade 2 chase back in January. This fella has excellent form at Cheltenham (beat Noble Endeavor and Roi Des Francs in the Martin Pipe + unlucky 6th in Champion Bumper the year before) but missed the festival in 2016. He is the last horse to beat Thistlecrack when they met in a the 3m Grade 1 novice hurdle at Punchestown in 2015, so having this lad at 50/1 when Thistlecrack is struggling to stay at odds-against has its own lure. Backing Killultagh Vic for the Gold Cup is a shot in the dark, but he is due to make a comeback in the early new year and most certainly has the scope to stay 3m and beyond over fences. The Ryanair is a possibility if he makes a successful return, as is a return to hurdling if he doesn’t, but if he makes an immediate impact, focus could shift to a tilt at the blue riband event and at that stage this unexposed gelding with a huge engine looks a reasonably interesting bet at healthy odds considering some of the form and quality he brings to the table.
Let me know what you think of these! Fire me a tweet on Twitter: KOM_GGRacing