Olympic Glory can justify odds by running rings around rivals
THOSE of us who write about racing often get a bit of stick when we tip a short-priced favourite and we quite rightly risk being labelled as unoriginal.
Tipping the jolly, after all, is something any old mug can do. Most people having a bet, especially those that do it for a bit of craic on a Saturday afternoon, are on the lookout for something at a decent price which offers a nice payout if it wins.
However, there are certain races where backing the favourite simply makes sense from both a practical and a value point of view and it's interesting to note that 73pc of the Lockinge Stakes winners since 1997 have come from the top two horses in the betting.
Indeed, all winners since the turn of the century have been priced in single figures, with Farhh (100/30), Frankel (2/7), Canford Cliffs (4/5) and Paco Boy (8/11) the latest four to come home in front in the Group One mile-long test at Newbury (3.50).
This year, the market is headed by Richard Hannon's Olympic Glory and, as hard as I've tried to come up with reasons to take him on, I'm finding it impossible to oppose the four-year-old which, at 125, is half a stone clear of nearest rival in the ratings, Top Notch Tonto (118).
I suppose it could be argued that his ninth place out of 10 runners in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita last time out in November is reason enough to swerve the son of Choisir at such a short price but to be honest, I don't get too concerned when a horse flops in a race Stateside.
The conditions and tactics in the big American races are totally different to this part of the world and many top-class European horses have struggled at events like the Breeders' Cup.
Besides, the pace was far too strong, the going didn't suit and Richard Hughes simply couldn't get him into the rhythm of the race. As such, I think it's safe enough to discount Santa Anita.
Having raced mostly in France, Olympic Glory was perhaps underappreciated in Britain last season but a rock-solid performance when beating the likes of Top Notch Tonto and Dawn Approach in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot confirmed that he can keep his own in this type of company.
On that occasion, Hughes weaved his way through the field with ease and when he asked his mount to push on around a furlong from home, the response he got was absolutely terrific.
Frankie Dettori rides today as number one jockey to Sheikh Joaan Al Thani, with Hughes partnering Montiridge.
Of the rest, American import Verrazano could be the danger horse at 4/1 on his first start for Aidan O'Brien.
He has won a couple of Grade One races across the Atlantic and the vibes from Ballydoyle are quite positive, so it will be interesting to see how he gets on today, having finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile in November.
Tullius is another one to watch for the Andrew Balding stable.
He ran a career best when winning a Group Two over a mile at Sandown last time and the six-year-old seems to be improving with age and experience.
THE Paul Cole-trained Meritocracy can be workmanlike at times but he has a bit of talent deep down and showed a nice turn of foot to land a competitive nursery handicap at Kempton back in October.
The handicapper raised him 5lb to a mark of 90, which was a little on the high side, and he finished mid-division in his two races since.
He's back down to a realistic 87 for the Coral.co.uk Sprint Trophy at Newmarket (3.30) and it would be no surprise to see him finish in the money this afternoon, priced around 14/1
2.05 Newbury: Sky Hunter
2.55 Newmarket: Parbold
3.30 Newmarket: Meritocracy (e/w)
3.50 Newbury: Olympic Glory
Do the double
WIGAN'S victory over Manchester City in last year's FA Cup final proved that the underdog can triumph now and again but I doubt we'll see a similar situation unfold today as Hull take on Arsenal. With very little to lose, Hull could be dangerous but the Gunners haven't seen silverware since 2005 and are unlikely to slip up this evening. Back Arsenal in the half-time/full-time market at 23/20.
A GOOD case could be made for at least four horses in the Listed Tamdown King Charles II Stakes at Newmarket (2.55) but the Richard Fahey-trained Parbold looks a little overpriced at 10/3. The colt was giving weight all-round when fifth in a handicap here last month and remains of interest, having held his own in a Group Two at York previously.
* Last week's double was successful on both legs at an overall price of 10/3.