With racing from Kempton, Leopardstown and Chepstow starring this festive period, Rory Delargy has found five bets you cannot miss.
It’s never easy working out which Flat recruits will take to hurdling, and he’s not certain to line up at Kempton at the time of writing, but I thought Prabeni was a very interesting proposition for the future when I saw him in the Wood Ditton Stakes at Newmarket in the spring, and I’ve followed him fairly closely since.
Placed twice after that eye-catching debut, he went on to win a 1m4f maiden at Ripon on his final start for William Haggas before joining Charlie Mann for 20,000 gns in October.
Given he was unraced as a juvenile, he ought to have a bit of scope to develop further, and a handicap mark of 79 is fair on what he’s achieved on the level, and should make him easy to place. He probably wants good ground based on how he was campaigned, and the going won’t be testing at Kempton, so that would be a good starting point for him.
He’s one to keep an eye in, and his trainer does better with new recruits than he’s often given credit for. He’s set to run in the Saint Are colours of David Fox, incidentally.
Robert Walford and James Best have enjoyed high-profile success this winter with Mr Medic and Walk In The Mill, and have a sound chance of getting another nice prize at Chepstow with Dusky Lark (8/1 Bet365).
He bounced back to form when chasing home a progressive winner at Exeter last time, and although raised 2lb for that, still features on a very attractive mark for this 2m3.5f handicap chase.
The issue with him in the past has been his jumping, but Chepstow’s sloping fences more inviting than the stiffer birch at other tracks, and he showed much more fluency over Exeter’s tricky island fences last time, which suggests he may have put such issues behind him.
This is a tough race on paper (declarations pending), but he’s got the best piece of recent form on offer in my opinion, and reasons why he should build on it too.
The Grade 1 Paddy Power Rewards Club Chase is quite a mouthful, but it threatens to be one of the best races of the Christmas period, with the likes of Footpad, Min, Great Field and Ballyoisin in the field, and even that relegates a former Champion Chase winner, and last year’s hero to the also-rans.
Footpad will win if he shows what he did in the Arkle, but with his flop behind Saint Calvados at Naas isn’t easily forgotten, I think there is some each-way value to be had, knowing that Willie Mullins is unlikely to come here mob-handed.
Castlegrace Paddy (12/1 Ladbrokes) did really well last season until a poor run at Punchestown, but any horse can be forgiven for being over the top so late in the season. He is a high-class chaser, who has not been given the credit for an impressive win in the Hilly Way at Cork on his return, due to the early demise of Great Field.
The fact that he slammed Doctor Phoenix by 15 lengths with a gap back to Special Tiara marks him down as an excellent prospect in his second season, and he has a fine chance of being placed at Leopardstown, with the prospect of further improvement making the win a distinct possibility.
The Paddy Power Chase is often almost impossible to solve, and multiple entries for some of the top owners in the sport complicates matters further, but there are still one or two who stand out.
I’ve long been sweet on Solomn Grundy (12/1 888 Sport), who did well for trainer Neil Mulholland over hurdles before taking time to find his feet as a chaser. He got back on track last spring when winnining over timber at Ffos Las before making the switch to Henry de Bromhead.
His debut for his new yard was an excellent one, and he travelled like the winner when runner-up over an arguably inadequate trip at Navan in the Foxrock Chase, eventually reeled in by the handicap blot De Name Escapes Me, but pulling well clear of the rest.
He looked right back to his best there, and is extremely well-treated on a mark of 129, being unchanged for this early-closing event, and the biggest worry here is that enough come out to allow him a run.
Quicker ground will be fine, for all he’s won on heavy, and he is a huge price at 12/1 knowing that stakes will be refunded if he misses the cut.
The Grade 1 Savills Chase, run last year as the Christmas Chase, is the Irish equivalent of the King George VI Chase, and this year’s renewal looks strong on numbers and of solid quality, if lacking many genuine contenders for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
One who is a big player for that race, though, is Road To Respect (3/1 BetVictor), and while it’s tempting to find an outsider which might outrun its odds, it does appear as if the Savills Chase betting has given too much respect to the rags, and not enough to the outstanding contender.
Noel Meade’s charge ran very well at Cheltenham in March, but heavy rain was all against him, and he is a much more potent force on good or yielding ground. He was very impressive in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal on his return, and has a clear advantage over these rivals, so it’s worth backing him now, as he can only shorten up, especially with Presenting Percy holding a false position in the market.
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