Pascha Bere can bolster Cheltenham war chest
THE Saturday and Sunday before Cheltenham week are always a bit strange -- most racing fans will spend their time swotting up for the festival which means that big-ish meetings, like Sandown this afternoon, may get overlooked.
In fairness, it's hard to get excited about anything other than lunchtime on Tuesday, despite the fact that we've Graded and Listed action on the menu for today. Indeed, a lot of this weekend's press coverage will concern Cheltenham and those of us involved in writing about the sport are bracing themselves for a very busy week.
Early starts and late nights will be the order for the week, and the missus has already rang the Citizens' Information Centre to see if she can apply for the Deserted Wives' Allowance for a few days.
But with all the fuss concerning the festival, we have to be careful not to take our eye off the ball today and in my experience, the layers will often chalk up the odd over-priced horse this weekend as they concentrate on next week's races.
Could Nick Gifford's Pascha Bere be one of those hidden gems in the Paddy Power Imperial Cup today at 3.05? His odds of 40.0 on Betfair (25/1 generally) would suggest that his chances of landing the £39,000 prize are less than 3pc; but my own tissue prices have him at 16/1 so on that basis, he's a value bet.
Judging by his latest race here in December, it could be argued the handicapper has him in his grip. The six-year-old was third in that Listed Handicap Hurdle.
I'm not so sure that it was weight that held him back however, and the heavy ground to which he is unsuited had the effect of adding a couple of pounds of lead to his satchel. He really needs nice ground these days and yesterday, I got on the blower to the course and they told me that they are fairly confident that their 'good' description will hold up.
Previously, he ran well at Ascot but I will admit that he looked a little slow in the closing stages and if I were his owner, I'd think about sending him chasing. But he's taken each-way today at a good price.
Likely favourite Qaspal has serious claims based on his back-to-back handicaps wins at Kempton and Sandown last month, but will he be able to perform as good following a 14lb hike in the weights? I have my doubts.
My usual policy of having more than one horse running for me in these big handicaps paid off last week when the main bet Comply Or Die became a non-runner leaving second choice Wogan to land the prize so, once again, I'll take a chance on a second horse. Numide is overpriced around 25/1 and could also be worth a couple of euro each-way carrying just 10st 4lbs.
Elsewhere, Clear Ice seemed to struggle last time at Southwell but the all-weather track was riding slow that day, rather than standard, and I'm willing to forgive that form. Early quotes of 4/1 are generous (4.0 Wolverhampton).
2.30 Sandown -- Misty Dancer
3.05 Sandown -- Pascha Bere (each-way)
3.05 Sandown -- Numide (each-way)
4.00 Wolverhampton -- Clear Ice
4.15 Sandown -- Tchico Polos
5.40 Wolverhampton -- Layla's Boy
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