Hobbs' Planet looks sound option
MY great uncle used to work as a typesetter for the Irish Press many moons ago, and he's always amazed at how easy it is for journalists to get their copy in to their editor these days.
Indeed, I'm sitting in Ascot, Berkshire, right now typing this 'Betting Ring' column and once done, I can click my mouse and close the laptop, safe in the knowledge that my thoughts will appear in the back pages of the Irish Independent today.
At one time, the journo would have had to find a telephone box and read it out word for word to someone back at home, and that's before the editor and typesetter even got started -- never mind the printer.
Of course, the whole team nowadays do a great job in preparing the page and making my work presentable; but if you want to get a glimpse of how hard it must have been to prepare a newspaper in the past, take a trip down to Beggars Bush and head into the National Print museum where you will see just how laborious it once was.
In modern times of Facebook and blogging, it makes you appreciate the craft a little more. It may be easier to send an article these days but picking a winner is probably just as hard as it was when Ascot racecourse was established in the 18th century and I'm going to have to have my wits about me today if I want to take on the hardened English bookmakers in the betting ring this afternoon.
From a punting perspective, the race that will make or break my trip is the Betfair Ascot Chase (3.15) where the Philip Hobbs-trained Planet Of Sound may be able to take on the formidable Nicholls/Walsh team who are represented by Herecomesthetruth.
The latter horse beat Forpadydeplasterer at Down Royal back in November and, while he unseated Christian Williams last time in the Peterborough Chase, I can't find too many chinks in his armour if I'm completely honest. So why am I taking him on?
Well, firstly, this is a significant step up in company which could prove unsettling. Yes, he's won a Grade One before but the opposition today are serious animals that will test the eight-year-old to the limit.
Secondly, I think he's had his own way around some of the courses he's encountered recently, but it will be a different story when he jumps the stiff fences at Ascot and I can picture him getting tired in the final two furlongs after a punishing round of jumping.
Planet Of Sound is also an eight-year-old and may find it tricky to take on the older horses too but crucially, he managed to put a blunder behind him at Ascot last time out to come second to Alberta's Run in the Amlin 1965 Chase back in November.
Alberta's Run has disappointed since and I don't think he'll get his head in front today. Not all horses can recover at this venue and still finish strongly so that's definitely a good tick beside Planet Of Sound's name.
He caught my eye when winning the William Hill Gold Cup Chase at Exeter previously, and Hobbs hasn't been afraid to take on some experienced chasers in the past.
His winning form at Exeter was franked when one of the horses he beat that day (Twist Magic) went on to win the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot in January.
The extra couple of furlongs will suit him to the ground and the more I think about it, the more I reckon 2/1 is cracking value. Keep this quiet, but I'll also have a sneaky side bet on Monet's Garden as a potential saver.
Yes, he's 12 years of age and yes, he flopped last time at this very course -- but his previous race at Aintree was one of his best in a long time and this lad (who beat Kauto Star in the past) may still have one big race left in him.
In the Bet totepool On All UK Racing Handicap Hurdle (4.05 Uttoxeter), Elk Trail is worth a couple of quid each-way priced around 6/1. He ran well in a few juvenile hurdles this time last year and for a five-year-old, he looks like a tough sort.
1.50 Uttoxeter -- Scriptwriter
1.45 Lingfield -- Kirsty's Boy
1.55 Haydock -- Me Voici
2.20 Lingfield -- Banks and Braes
3.15 Ascot -- Planet Of Sound
3.15 Ascot -- Monet's Garden (half-point)
4.05 Uttox -- Elk Trail (each-way)