Cajun Fiddle can spice things up at Newbury
Having had a tough enough time at Cheltenham, last week's each-way selection Chase The Spud was a most welcome winner at 11/1 in the Betfred Midlands Grand National.
Having said that, I must admit I was kicking myself for halving my usual each-way stake on Fergal O'Brien's gelding, with my wallet quite light after the Friday at the Festival.
I normally keep my Cheltenham punting pot separate from my general betting bank - but even the most seasoned punter can lose a bit of confidence after a rough patch.
While I certainly celebrated the win last week, I was left to rue my lack of bottle when it came to my stake size, although I don't think I was the only one who found this year's Cheltenham particularly tough. In fact, that's borne out in the stats with just 22pc of clear favourites winning compared to 40pc in 2016.
While last year was exceptionally good, the average win rate for the jolly over the past ten years was 26pc so the Festival was surely a good one for the bookmakers, especially the first couple of days with the likes of Mullins failing to fire.
highlight But that's all history now and we continue with the day-to-day stuff for the moment, the highlight this afternoon being the Grade Two EBF & TBA Mares' "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle Finale Handicap at Newbury (3.0).
Based on the betting yesterday evening, Tara View may go off as favourite around 8/1 and that's understandable considering Alan King's mare has now won four in a row including three over hurdles at Ludlow.
She's definitely improving but her latest handicap hurdle win wasn't too convincing and she wandered quite badly before Wayne Hutchinson got her back under control.
She's up 9lbs to 133 since then which makes her top-weight, and I think that's quite a hike considering she's somewhat temperamental. Most of her best form comes on reasonably good ground and with the hurdle course coming up soft in places here, she's passed over in favour of stablemate Cajun Fiddle, which is available at a nice each-way price of 14/1 at the time of writing.
A mares' novice winner at Southwell in November, she hit 1/3 in-running on her handicap debut when a head second to Graceful Legend at Doncaster in January off an official rating of 121, and was third off today's 125 in a 13-runner handicap hurdle won by Verdana Blue.
That horse went on to come fourth in the Grade Two mares' novice hurdle at Cheltenham, and the runner-up Whatduhavtoget has since won a novice hurdle at Ludlow by 16 lengths - so there's no shame in the selection coming third. She may be the stable's second string, but she's in the capable hands of Tom Bellamy and represents value in what looks a wide-open race.
Of the rest, Copper Kay catches the eye. A Listed bumper winner at Cheltenham some time back, she's been somewhat disappointing since but she had a confidence-boosting win when dropped in grade to win a mares' novice race at Doncaster earlier this month.
A little later on the card, Chez Castel Mail is tipped around 4/1 to land the valuable Goffs UK Spring Sales Bumper (4.45) for trainer Ali Stronge under Gavin Sheehan. Second over hurdles in France, he's was runner-up in a bumper on his British debut in November but went one better last time when beating six rivals by 13 lengths on heavy ground at Fontwell.
There's not a whole lot more to go on here but I've a feeling that the selection's experience will give him an edge.
Another one of interest is Gary Moore's Larry. He's related to the talented Mr Thriller which some readers will remember from David Pipe's yard.
On the all-weather at Lingfield, a price of 13/8 looks about right for the Jennie Candlish-trained Winterlude in the Betway Conditions Stakes (3.10).
A son of Street Cry, he won a handicap here in January although it was a very messy race which fell his way so I wouldn't look too deeply into that piece of form.
However, he later won a minor event at Kempton quite easily in February which boosts the form a little, and ran what was arguably a career best when second in a handicap at Wolverhampton earlier this month. That race was decent enough and he seems to be thriving at the moment.
With just seven runners due to line up, the Liz Adam Memorial Handicap Chase at Kelso (3.15) is probably not the best race for each-way betting but I can't pass over the 14/1 being quoted in the early markets about Double Whammy, which has more than a slight chance of a top-two finish.
Trained by Iain Jardine, the gelding won the Highland National at Perth last year easily off a mark of 123 having gone up 11lbs for a previous win at Wetherby.
The handicapper took no chances and put him up another 11lbs to 134, but he hadn't been seen in almost a year due to some niggling leg injuries until making an appearance at Ayr last month in which he finished fifth of five runners in a handicap chase at 16/1.
On paper, that seems a little disappointing but it was a much-needed run after quite some time and it will have served its purpose of shaking off the cobwebs.
The assessor has eased him 5lbs in the weights for today and when you also consider jockey Ross Chapman's 7lb claim, the horse described as having a "huge engine" by his trainer should be in with a fighting chance of a place at the least.
Seldom Inn and Baywing are respected here too and should be thereabouts - although both have gone up significantly in the weights following wins at Kelso and Wetherby respectively.
3.0 Newbury: Cajun Fiddle (e/w)
3.10 Lingfield: Winterlude
3.15 Kelso: Double Whammy (e/w)
3.35 Newbury: Hygrove Percy
3.55 Thurles: Great Field
4.45 Newbury: Chez Castel Mail