Plenty to love about D'amour at a value price
Betting on racing can be a cruel game - and that's especially true over Jumps where the races are longer, have obstacles, and inevitably end up with more titanic battles than on the Flat.
Although, I put him up as my each-way bet here last week, I didn't really feel satisfied with the place money earned from David Dennis' Final Nudge, which was just a head-second to Present Man in the Badger Ales Trophy Handicap Chase at Wincanton.
I've often said that it feels worse to be beaten in a narrow finish than to have your horse come last - and as he entered the straight, my mind was buzzing with the thoughts of having some nice €50 notes stuffed into my hand, having backed the old-fashioned way with cash at 12/1.
At that precise moment, things were looking bright; I was about to collect a packet - and perhaps put it towards Russia 2018 with Ireland still set to play the two legs.
I didn't know it at the time, but as the race was in progress those backing him the modern way, in-running on the machine, pushed his price below 1/5 as he battled it out with Paul Nicholls's seven-year-old.
But things change very quickly in racing and football. The race was a great clash in which my selection unfortunately lost out, and I suppose I shouldn't complain having actually made a profit in the contest.
It's all part and parcel of the Jumps season I suppose, which continues apace with the November meeting at Cheltenham this weekend.
Unlike our football team, at least us punters get a chance to make amends for our losses and I reckon Plaisir D'amour might help me out on that front in the Grade Three BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase (2.25).
Trained by Venetia Williams, the market is somewhat cold on this mare so at prices of 20/1 and upwards, I'm definitely going each-way.
A winner on the Flat and over hurdles in France, she was pulled up on her British debut at Uttoxeter in January, but it looked like something was amiss and she got back to form afterwards when winning a handicap chase at Wetherby.
She followed up that success under a penalty at Newbury in March, and wasn't disgraced when third in a handicap chase at Hereford off a mark of 133.
More success came at Cheltenham in April off 1lb lower, and she finished the season with a mid-division placing in a competitive handicap at Sandown rated 139.
Aged just five, she's still unexposed and may have more to come off today's rating of 138. I'm surprised at the price, and the chance of a nice return is offered from a small outlay.
Harry Fry's Kylemore Lough will probably go off as favourite and certainly has claims, although a rating of 154 for a racing weight of 11st 12lb may be enough to hold him back.
This is his first race since leaving Kerry Lee and Fry said he's happy with his progress - although he hasn't won a race since March 2016, making his early odds of 11/2 seem a little short.
Philip Hobbs' Gumball is warm in the ante-post markets for the Triumph Hurdle in March and should take the opening Grade Two JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (12.40), although I suspect his odds will be restrictive, possibly in the region of 4/5.
With two wins in as many races since arriving from France, the three-year-old is an exciting prospect, although this will be a sterner test than those two wins in which he went off at 4/9 and 4/6. This will teach us more about his Festival chances.
In the BetVictor.com Handicap Chase (1.50), Three Faces West is a worthy favourite and I'd be happy to take the 3/1 forecast yesterday.
He put in some really smart performances this time last year and won a staying handicap at Haydock by a whopping 13 lengths.
That was followed up with a win, once again by 13 lengths, in a Graduation Chase at Newbury, and he seemed to really enjoy the front-running tactics employed by Richard Johnston, so I'm hoping we see more of that today.
The big concern is that he hasn't been seen since those wins so we have to take a leap of faith and assume he's race fit. Another one for the shortlist is Jonjo O'Neill's Minella Rocco. He was disappointing at Punchestown last time, but his second place in the Gold Cup is obviously well respected.
On the all-weather at Lingfield, take a chance on Ayrad, which was trading at 9/2 yesterday evening for the Listed Betway Churchill Stakes (2.45). My one concern is that he's never raced on an artificial surface, but he's won at this level on the turf and will surely go close if that form can transfer over.
A Group Three at Newbury in October was a little optimistic and he went off unfancied at 25/1, eventually finishing ninth of the 11 runners. But he previously won a valuable four-runner handicap at Salisbury priced 4/1.
I'm slightly worried that Caspian Prince hasn't yet won over six furlongs, but it's a while since he's tried and is tipped to land a place at the least in this afternoon's Listed Betway Golden Rose stakes at Lingfield (3.15) around 14/1.
With 75 runs under the belt, he's been around the block a lot but the eight-year-old still managed a career-best this summer when landing a Group Two at the Curragh.
Trained by Tony Coyle, his latest two races at Group level have been a little flat but he's back down in grade here and should be thereabouts. Spring Loaded is also worth a mention having won over this course and distance a couple of times.
12.40 Cheltenham: Gumball
1.50 Cheltenham: Three Faces West
2.25 Cheltenham: Plaisir D'amour (e/w)
2.45 Lingfield: Ayrad
3.15 Lingfield: Caspian Prince (e/w)
2.25 Cheltenham: Fox Norton (Sun.)