Silver Streak can outshine Haydock rivals
There's been a few notable extremely short-priced horses down through the years, the first of which was probably Eclipse, priced 1/70 when beating a horse named Corsican for a 150-Guineas plate race at Newmarket in 1770.
That legendary animal won all of his 18 races including some walkovers, and a good number of today's thoroughbreds are his descendants.
In recent memory, there's been a couple of crazy prices including Stand Guard, which won a two-runner seller at Southwell in 2014 at 1/80, and Seamless which won a three-runner maiden at Yarmouth at 1/50 in 2013.
I believe that the shortest-priced loser in history, in Britain at least, was Royal Forest which was runner-up in a Flat race at Ascot at 1/25 in 1948 - although just last March, Kerry Lee's Tree Of Liberty equalled a record dating back to 1909 as the shortest-priced jumps loser at odds of 1/20.
While nowhere near as short as some of those, Altior's price in today's Matchbook Clarence House Chase (3.35 Ascot) is certainly going to be restrictive, with Willie Mullins scratching Un De Sceaux from the entries on Thursday morning, stating that he needs slower ground these days.
Unless you are going to lay him on the exchanges, which seems a bit pointless, it is of course a race to watch without a bet, with Nicky Henderson's outstanding gelding taking on just two rivals - Fox Norton and Diego Du Charmil.
At the time of writing, Altior trades at 1/8 but if you are considering a bet for some reason or other, you might be interested to know that 73 horses have gone off at that price since 2008 with 62 of those winning. Backing all of them would have produced a loss of 2.94 points, while laying them on the exchanges would have produced a profit of 1.5 points after 5pc commission. It's a lot of work either way. Altior really is a rare talent, and with 11 straight wins over fences now in the bag, let's just hope gets around safely without any drama.
While not a massive price, I reckon there's value at Haydock where I'm happy to take the 7/4 about Silver Streak in the Grade Two The New One Unibet Hurdle, aka the Champion Hurdle Trial (2.40).
There's a threat of snow at the track, so the meeting is subject to an inspection at 7.30am this morning - but the clerk of the course, Kirkland Tellwright, seemed confident yesterday that racing would go ahead as planned.
It's nice to see the race named after The New One, having won the last four renewals, and it's a little odd to look at the line-up and not see his name there again. But Twiston-Davies made the right decision to retire his popular hurdler after he was pulled up in the Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham in December.
That's the great thing about jumps racing, the horses are around for a lot longer than the Flat, and I know a lot of racing fans held him in high regard. Silver Streak beat Brain Power in that race, and I was actually going to put Brain Power up as today's selection just ahead of Silver Streak, but he was scratched from the entries yesterday morning.
That leaves the race at Silver Streak's mercy, and although I was quite keen on Brain Power when I saw the original entries, Silver Streak's defeat to that horse can be excused perhaps as he was carrying 4lbs more than his rival.
A winner of the Welsh Champion Hurdle in October, Silver Streak is improving all the time although my one concern is that he does tend to make the odd mistake. If he can cut some of that out as he gains more big-race experience, he could turn out to be a very decent horse, although at present, he's still has high as 50/1 in places for the Champion Hurdle in March.
Dan Skelton's Mohaayed looks the main threat to the bet around 11/4. He's been extremely good in handicap races and took a top-quality 21-runner Grade Three handicap at Ascot recently. While Skelton has admitted he might not be a Grade One horse, it's worth taking a chance in a Grade Two against some decent runners to find out where he's at. Ben Pauling's Global Citizen is also worth a mention, now back down in class after his Christmas Hurdle defeat.
In the OLBG.com Mares' Hurdle, Jester Jet gets the nod for Tom Lacey under jockey Robert Dunne (1.50 Ascot). Priced 7/2 yesterday, the mare has become a little frustrating to follow, finishing second in her last four races which included two listed events, but her latest three were chases, and she seems to be a tough sort who may excel again back over hurdles.
A Grade Three handicap winner over sticks back in April, she's met some bad luck in running in a couple of her races and I'm convinced she can win a Graded race over hurdles, if not over fences, sooner or later. Now aged nine, she's won five of her 20 races over hurdles and placed in all three chases, and some of the best runs of her career have come in the past year.
Nick Williams' Culture De Sivola and Paul Nicholls' If You Say Run are others for the shortlist.