Friday, December 17, 2021

Christmas conundrums at the 2021 Ascot races

The Long Walk Hurdle (2.25 Ascot) poses a bit of a Christmas conundrum this year with pre-race favourite Buzz now a non-runner after suffering a fractured pelvis in his final piece of work this morning.

Thyme Hill struggled in the ground at Auteuil six weeks ago, Paisley Park was beaten fair and square last time but conqueror Thomas Darby hasn't been the most consistent in the past. Champ goes well fresh but was beaten after the first in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last March while Ronald Pump is certainly consistent but Matthew Smith's charge has yet to register a victory at Grade 1 level.

All rather trappy stuff, so instead I've decided to concentrate on the Betfair Exchange Trophy (3.35) for which fourteen have been declared; the going at the time of writing is described as good to soft, soft in places.

Two pieces of recent form tie in a few of these - last month's Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham and the listed December Handicap Hurdle run at Sandown a fortnight ago. 

Historically horses that have run in the Greatwood don't have a good record in this race. 

West Cork won this year's renewal of the Greatwood with No Ordinary Joe third and Tritonic fifth. The trio look closely matched on revised ratings: West Cork 141 (+7); No Ordinary Joe 136 (+3); Tritonic 141 (-1). 

Speaking about Tritonic in the Weekender Alan King states:

"...he'll have sharpened up mentally by that first run in a large field over hurdles [in the Greatwood]. 

"I hope and think he'll run well."

No Ordinary Joe looked no ordinary ride at Cheltenham, allowed to go to the front after the first but unable to go with West Cork and Adagio when challenged at the last.

At Sandown two weeks ago Samarrive arrived at the winning post eight and a half lengths ahead of everything else with Benson fourth and 100/30 favourite Metier pulled up. The handicapper has hit the winner with an 11 pound rise while both Benson and Metier carry two pounds less. 

Metier ran with the choke out that day before being pulled up from home; jockey Sam Twiston-Davies reported 'the gelding hung badly left-handed throughout and as a result was unsteerable'. In the Weekender trainer Harry Fry states:

"I think in retrospect we might have let him bowl along and not try to restrain him. One poor run does not turn a very good horse into a bad one and I'm sure he'll bounce back."  

I've seen money for Goshen during the week following an upbeat update from handler Gary Moore. A course and distance winner, Goshen was beaten 11 lengths by Buzz over an extended trip in the Coral Hurdle here last month and has been dropped four pounds for that effort.

Luttrell Lad was sent off favourite for the Persian War Novices' Hurdle at Chepstow in October but had no chance with stablemate Camprond (subsequently fourth in the Greatwood off 140) and then may have 'bumped into one' when beaten by Jpr One at even money in an Exeter novices' hurdle the following month. This is his first run in a handicap. 

The course commentator told punters at Newbury three weeks ago Onemorefortheroad was never a good idea and, with Neil King's charge priced up the outsider of four, perhaps that was sound advice - sound advice a few of us at the track decided to ignore. 

Probably for the first time since the Great Frost of 1709 such outright brazen chutzpah was rewarded; in a tactical affair Onemorefortheroad (8/1) set off in front and stayed there, coming home ahead of Captain Morgs, Gowel Road and 2021 Betfair Hurdle winner Soaring Glory. I was particularly impressed with the winner's hurdling that day; the handicapper has adjusted his rating upwards by just three pounds.

Running over this course and distance last month, Garry Clermont looked the winner racing to the last but a messy leap allowed Captain Morgs to claim the spoils. I imagine connections will be a little miffed to have been hit with a five pound penalty for that effort.

Llandinabo Lad looked to have benefitted from the wind surgery carried out in the autumn when second at Bangor five weeks ago but the suspicion is he'd prefer more give underfoot.while Drop The Anchor's seventh behind Belfast Banter in the County Hurdle (beaten under four lengths) reads well.

Two years ago Mack The Man beat Protektorat at Sandown and was thereabouts when brought down at the final flight in the 2020 Betfair Hurdle won by Pic D'Orhy. Third in the Imperial Cup in March, his chance off a low weight is respected but the stats appear against Global Citizen - no horse older than seven has won this in the past twenty years.

We have seen some smaller fields in recent times (13 runners in 2018 and 2019) but with 14 declared tomorrow this still looks highly competitive - more Christmas conundrums than you can shake a stick at. 

The two on the shortlist are Onemorefortheroad and Benson - with preference for the latter at the odds available.

Last year Benson won Sandown's December Handicap Hurdle and then, racing off a mark of 137, was sent off 5/1 joint favourite for this, eventually finishing fourth after struggling in rear for much of the trip; he goes off 133 tomorrow. 

Beaten just under 14 lengths by Samarrive at Sandown two weeks ago, Dr Richard Newland's charge re-opposes 13 pounds better off; the vet reported the gelding lost his right fore shoe at Sandown. I'm hoping the application of a first-time visor can help to bring about the further improvement required.

Benson is the each-way suggestion, with Paddy Power and Betfair offering 14/1 at the time of writing and paying five places.


Anonymous said...

Betfair Exchange Trophy

173,WEST CORK(GB),10.8

No change in the overnight going [good to soft, soft in places] in this morning’s update.

A no bet race for me. The system is keen on the chance of both No Ordinary Joe and West Cork but not their odds. Metier could be over priced but the suspicion is that his Supreme Novices’ Hurdle effort might be as good as he is and that’s short of what’s required in this. The system chalked up Benson at fair odds of around 9/1 so 14/1 5 plcs looks a solid enough bet; though for win purposes I think one of the less exposed horses might nick it.

Good luck!


GeeDee said...

A difficult race, TW

Thanks for providing your ratings.

GeeDee said...

No Christmas treats here, I'm afraid.

The first-time visor worn by Benson (12/1) patently failed to bring about any improvement of any kind. Slow at the start, the selection had to be rousted along at the rear of the field in the early stages, momentarily losing his hind legs at the second flight. In marked contrast, the pace up front was decidedly brisk.

Jock Lee Edwards was hard at work for most of the two mile trip and certainly earned his riding fee.

Benson eventually came home eighth, over 27 lengths behind impressive winner Titronic (8/1) who took over from Onemorefortheroad (14/1) at the final flight to win by two and threequarters lengths with Garry Clermont (9/1) a further half length away in third and Metier (33/1) who was outpaced off the home turn but stayed on to claim fourth.