Sense in opposing fallible Master
THEY say that the safest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it in your pocket; but I'm hoping to earn a bit more than double my stake today by putting my head on the block and laying Master Minded in the Queen Mother Champion Chase (3.20).
Opposing the hotpot can be a lonely business and every time I tell someone that I'm clicking pink on Betfair for the seven-year-old, they reach for their mobile to ring the men in white coats. Admittedly, if Master Minded is any way near his best, he will demolish the field.
If his injured rib is now fine, we can expect him to put in those fantastic-looking jumps where he puts half a foot between himself and the fence. And if Ruby gets a clear round, Master Minded will have the engine to power up the hill. In short, if he runs to his rating, I'll be sitting in the corner with the dunce hat on.
But I've used the word 'if' a lot in the above paragraph, and when you are dealing with an odds-on horse, there should be no doubt in your mind that he will win. I just can't convince myself that he has an odds-on chance, so the value hunter in my brain is telling me to take him on.
I could try pick an alternative one to back, and Kalahari King, Big Zeb and Twist Magic all have claims -- but by laying Master Minded at 4/5, I'll have the rest of the field running for me which cuts out the hassle of trying to pick between those three.
It would be a shame if I opposed the favourite and then picked the wrong one to beat him with, so I'm happy to have the lot of them on my side instead.
Listen, we all agree that he's a wonderful horse -- indeed I saw him in the flesh at Ascot in the 2009 Victor Chandler Chase and I was simply blown away.
But let's face facts: his performances haven't been as polished lately and I'd go as far as saying that he let himself down at the Punchestown Festival when he won by a short margin following Big Zeb's blunder through the last.
He was treated for a rib injury following defeat at Cheltenham in November which does excuse his loss, but it was far from positive news and his festival preparation was interrupted. He looked great last time in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury, but he blundered right through the last which is yet another negative. Ruby Walsh blames himself for the poor jump but for me, it adds another question mark.
As I say, if he's back to his best, he'll leave the layers looking like fools, but if you a backer, I urge you to watch his latest four races and try to convince yourself he's not in decline.
The last four-year-old to win the Champion Bumper was Dato Star back in 1995 and 51 animals of that age have tried and failed since then. Based on that, Dermot Weld's Hidden Universe looks opposable.
It's nice to give the amateur jockeys a chance to gain that all-important festival experience, but the National Hunt Challenge Cup (1.30) has become a nightmare for punters in recent times and looks very tricky again today. In the past five years, the winning SPs were returned at 11/1, 9/1, 33/1, 33/1 and 40/1. Keep your money in your pocket for later.