'Codelco' can reward Tizzard in Scottish test
Well, Aintree is out of the way and the final big jumps festival of the season, Punchestown, is almost here.
A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned how favourites at the Aintree Grand National festival have a poor record compared to other festivals with a strike-rate of 24pc over the past ten years. That trend continued to an extent this year with a few fancied ones turned over - although it wasn't as bad as usual, and the 2018 favourite strike-rate ended up at 28pc.
In fairness to the bookmakers, there were a few decent prices on offer during the week and you would have broke-even or actually made a slight profit this year backing the jolly blindly, although the over-round on the Grand National itself was very high as usual at 153pc.
That's the theoretical margin the bookmaker has on the race, and while Tiger Roll would have cost them a few quid at the short enough price of 10/1, they dodged a big bullet when Total Recall was pulled up at 7/1.
As mentioned last year, I like to keep it simple at Punchestown and you need a good reason if you are opposing the fancied runners in the non-handicaps as they usually perform very strongly. That's particularly true in the top-class Grade One races where favourites show a strike-rate of 45pc over the last ten years.
In 2017, there were six winning Grade One favourites from 12 runners and a small profit would have been achieved if blindly backed. So with some selectivity, it's quite possible to make a few quid over the five-day festival, which kicks off on Tuesday.
But back to today, where we've a good mix of both codes with the Scottish Grand National (4.05 Ayr) taking centre stage over fences. Last year, I never even got a run for my money when Sugar Baron unseated at the first in a race won by Paul Nicholls' Vicente.
That was a second win in a row for the gelding which is back for more off 4lbs higher today, but he was scratched from Aintree because of the ground, and may find this to be a bit of a test too if it comes up a little soft - although it does seem to be drying.
Nicholls has said that they shouldn't have run him at Cheltenham as he never jumps well in a big field on soft ground, but he's totally different on good ground.
I suppose it's a case of watching the weather with Vicente but there are too many variables for me to take the short price of 8/1.
Third in the Welsh National, Vintage Clouds should be thereabouts but a price of 9/1 also looks short in a fairly open race. He's fairly versatile ground-wise and Sue Smith reckons he's in great form so a big run can be expected.
Ballyoptic also deserves a mention and his fourth place in the RSA is respected - but yet again, the odds are skinny at 9/1.
Available at 33/1 yesterday evening, I'm going to chance Sizing Codelco as an each-way bet for trainer Colin Tizzard. Up near the top of the weights rated 150, he won a couple of big handicaps at Aintree and Punchestown last year pushing his rating up to 160 - but it's come back down again following a string of poor results which saw him pulled up a number of times.
While he didn't set the world alight, it was good to see him get back on track somewhat when fourth to Might Bite in the Betway Bowl Chase at the Aintree festival, although I am concerned that his jumping wasn't 100pc. Still, back down to a realistic level in the ratings and with jockey Paul O'Brien claiming 5lbs, he may just nab a place at a nice price.
A little earlier on the same card, Alan King's Mia's Storm is tipped around 6/4 in the Grade Two Jordan Electrics Ltd Future Champion Novices' Chase (3.30), having swerved the Aintree Festival. Her trainer reckons she's much better than she showed at Kempton over the Christmas in the Grade One Kauto Star Novices' Chase won by Black Corton, in which she made a number of errors before falling.
She was useful over hurdles and won her two chases before Kempton, and I don't think she became a bad horse overnight so a chance is taken on her bouncing back to form.
As mentioned, we've also got some decent Flat action and I'm quite keen on Gavota, which is trading around 7/4 at the time of writing for the Group Three Dubai Duty Free Fillies' Stakes (2.35).She was a neck second to Altyn Orda when last seen as a juvenile in a Group Three at Newmarket last time, but it was one of those races where they split into two groups which can have an effect on the dynamic, pace and even the result of a race.
That came after a good season which she improved with every run, and assuming she's matured a bit over the winter, she could be hard to beat today.
Finally, in the Group Three John Porter Stakes, consider backing Defoe which looks set to go off around 5/4. Following three wins in a row in the autumn including one at this level, Roger Varian entered the colt into the St Leger at Doncaster but he looked well out of his depth early on and never made an impression.
With five wins in eight career starts, he's definitely got promise and he looks the type that will improve as a four-year-old.
Richard Fahey has said that he's not quite sure why Third Time Lucky can run well one day and terrible the next, but his inconsistent nature is built into his price of 25/1 for the Elite Racing Club Supporting Greatwood Spring Cup Handicap at Newbury (3.45), making him an attractive proposition each-way.
His latest effort at Naas was one of the bad days, but the heavy ground didn't help. That came on the back of a decent third in a good handicap at Wolverhampton, and with his rating now down 6lbs to 95 from this time last year, he's capable of a big one provided he settles well early on and keeps the mind on the job.
2.0 Newbury: Defoe
2.35 Newbury: Gavota
3.10 Newbury: Expert Eye
3.30 Ayr: Mia's Storm
3.45 Newbury: Third Time Lucky (e/w)
4.05 Ayr: Sizing Codelco (e/w)
Do the double
while officially a neutral venue, Mauricio Pochettino will welcome Manchester United to Wembley to take on his Spurs side in the FA Cup semi-final. United beat City in the League but had flaws exposed against West Brom, while Tottenham were well beaten by City recently. Inconsistent results make this one a hard one to call, so the draw might be the best option at 12/5.
Although the price is bound to be short in or around 5/6, it's hard to see past Expert Eye (sorry!) in the Group Three Greatwood Greenham Stakes at Newbury (3.10). Trained by Michael Stoute, the son of Acclamation was unsettled before the Dewhurst and reported to be lame after which may explain his flop in that race, but he looked very smart when winning his previous two races, including the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood.