Wayne Bailey: Le Prezien can make amends for unlucky loss last time
A couple of winners last week including Theatre Guide (6/1) and Grendisar (11/4) gave this corner a good injection of cash although I'm certainly not resting on my laurels as it only just about pushed the column into profit for 2016.
Ideally, I'd like to have a little more in the pot as we approach the Cheltenham Festival although I always find January and February a little difficult and that's reflected in my betting records down through the years where I'm usually lucky to break even at best in those months.
By the time March comes around, the weather is usually a little more predictable which helps a lot - although as I type this sentence, there's still some snow on the hills so you never know what's around the corner.
Despite an exceptionally wet winter, Cheltenham clerk Simon Claisse has said that the course is in great shape yet he's not too keen to speculate on what the going will be, come Tuesday, March 15.
Having spent some time looking through today's cards, it might be a tricky day for betting although I'm quite keen on Le Prezien around 15/8 in the Grade Two Premier Kelso Novices' Hurdle (3.15). It's not a bad renewal overall but, as usual, the field is quite small with just six runners due to line up.
Paul Nicholls' five-year-old hit 1/4 on the machine in-running last time when second to Its'afreebee in a similar race at Haydock in January but if you look back at that race, Its'afreebee benefited greatly from a very enterprising ride from Harry Skelton so I'm not so sure Le Prezien's reputation is diminished in any way.
Indeed, he seems to be progressing all the time and he previously won a maiden at Ludlow and a novice race at Doncaster in fine style under Sam Twiston-Davies. Nick Scholfield gets the ride today and I'll be amazed if he's not thereabouts on this versatile sort which seems to handle both soft and heavy ground.
All that said, Harry Fry's Charmix will make the favourite earn his oats. He won a novices' hurdle at Newbury on terrible ground in December - although he was out of his depth in a Grade Two at Cheltenham in January which is a worry. But Fry is adept at finding the right races for his horses and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him bounce back to form today.
Lake View Lad is also worth a mention based on some visually impressive wins at Ayr and Wetherby but I reckon the market has called this one right and Le Prezien is going to be my biggest bet of the day provided I can get him at the right price.
Down at Doncaster, Yes I Did is a reasonably confident selection around 5/2 in the BetBright Mares' Novices' Hurdle (3.10).
The best horse in the race on official ratings, Dan Skelton's six-year-old defied a double penalty to score in a mares' novices' hurdle at Catterick in mid-February, having won a three-runner novices' hurdle at Sedgefield less than a week earlier.
She won both those races quite easily and won't have it all her own way this afternoon but she's got some good experience under her belt and won her only start in an Irish point-to-point. She later raced with credit but was ultimately unsuccessful in a couple of bumpers although she's come into her own since Skelton sent her over timber.
I'd guess that her options are somewhat limited at the moment and she came up short at this level in December but her latest two runs will have given her confidence a boost and I'm nearly sure that there's more to come.
She's proven at the distance and has excuses for her December defeat as the ground was too heavy.
The Organist is another one to watch. She was beaten in a mares' novices' hurdle at Leicester last time but the distance looked a little too short and her breeding suggests she'll be suited to a longer trip.
Back home at Gowran, Toubaloo is tipped at 4/1 or thereabouts in the Holden Plant Rentals Shamrock Handicap Chase (3.55). The Andrew Lee-trained gelding is having his first race after 11 months off but a mark of 126 for his handicap chase debut here seems lenient.
In November's Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase at Cheltenham, Generous Ransom finished well down the field off a mark of 140 but he's been eased 4lbs in the ratings since then and has strong each-way claims around 10/1 in the Grade Three StanJames.com Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup Handicap Chase (3.25 Newbury).
The Nick Gifford-trained gelding was last seen when finishing mid-division in December's Bet365.com Handicap Chase at Doncaster off 138 but the galloping nature of the course is expected to suit and his trainer has said that a break has freshened him up nicely.
The one I'm most worried about is Art Mauresque for Paul Nicholls, who has a fantastic record in this race. He ran reasonably well off 147 in some good handicaps so he's got to be in with a shout here with a rating of 144. But the early odds of 5/1 are a little short for my liking in a race where a case could be made for at least half a dozen runners.
3.10 Doncaster: Yes I Did
3.15 Kelso: Le Prezien
3.25 Newbury: Generous Ransom (e/w)
3.50 Kelso: Many Clouds
3.55 Gowran: Toubaloo
4.15 Lingfield: Great Page
DO THE DOUBLE
Liverpool bounced back from their League Cup final loss to Manchester City on Sunday to register a well-deserved win against that team in the League on Wednesday. With some momentum behind them, Jurgen Klopp's side are good value at odds of 11/10 to beat Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park tomorrow. The Eagles haven't won at home in the League since beating Southampton on December 12.
Many Clouds saw off 39 runners to win the 2015 Grand National - but he has a much easier task today under regular jockey Leighton Aspell against four rivals in the Listed Premier Chase at Kelso (3.50). Expected to go off around 4/6 this afternoon, Oliver Sherwood's nine-year-old has a good bit in hand on form, and is currently priced 12/1 to land a second National.