Veteran Le Reve not too old to dream of success at a big price
At one time, Latin was one of the most important subjects on the Irish curriculum but for a variety of reasons, it has fallen out of favour in the past few decades in this country and elsewhere, and has almost disappeared.
Its importance in Irish life was dealt a particularly heavy blow in the 1960s when the Catholic Church dropped the Latin Mass, and despite the fact that it's incredibly useful as a basis for learning other languages, the number of students sitting Latin in the Leaving Certificate last year was just 73.
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I don't think it was even available as a subject in my school by the time I did the Leaving in the 1990s, so I won't pretend I know a whole lot about it - and you are probably wondering what the hell this has to do with betting.
Not a lot really, but I thought it was interesting to read somewhere that the word Altior loosely translates to 'higher' in Latin, and with Nicky Henderson's Altior climbing the ranks and attempting to set a new National Hunt record today, I suppose it's a somewhat apt name for the nine-year-old son of High Chaparral.
At the Cheltenham Festival, he equalled Big Buck's record of 18 successive wins so success today in the Bet365 Celebration Chase (3.0 Sandown) would be a massive deal for a horse which arguably doesn't get the credit he deserves. He's usually far superior than his rivals around the two-mile division, and inevitably goes off at a very short price, making his races somewhat lopsided affairs.
But as the old saying goes, he can only beat what's in front of him and odds-on or not, winning that number of races in a row is an amazing achievement and all credit goes to Henderson for the wonderful job he has done.
Having said that, Altior didn't have it all his own way last time in the Champion Chase, and despite going off at 4/11, he hit even-money in-running when battling against Politologue - but eventually came out on top.
Today's assignment has been made a hell of a lot easier with Paul Nicholls scratching the highest rated chaser in training Cyrname (178) from the entries list, and it's hard to see Altior, which at 175 is 11lbs clear of Sceau Royal on ratings, getting beaten.
That last-named horse would appear to be the only one of Altior's five rivals capable of making it a competitive race, although Altior will be priced accordingly at 1/4 or thereabouts. There's no need to have a bet to enjoy this race, and hopefully we will see some history being made this afternoon.
For something at a much bigger price, consider backing Le Reve each-way, which is expected to go off around 20/1 for the Grade Three Bet365 Gold Cup Handicap Chase (3.35 Sandown). Trained by Lucy Wadham, he's not getting any younger aged 11 - but with a handicap win off 125 in February at Lingfield to his credit, and a follow-up win in the Grand Military Gold Cup for Amateur Riders here in March, he's proved that he's still got plenty left to offer.
He wasn't disgraced when fourth of eight in a handicap chase off 132 at Kelso last month, and perhaps that race came a little soon for him. He's been dropped 2lbs for today which seems quite fair, and the talented Maxime Tissier, who rode him to victory at Lingfield, once again claims a valuable 5lbs.
The selection gets in at the bottom of the weights here and I'm expecting him to run a lot better than those odds suggest. Alan King's Talkischeap has serious claims too, although he's a little short for my liking in a competitive race such as this around 13/2.
He finished fifth of ten off this mark of 145 on his handicap debut in a Grade Three in February over three miles, but he looked like he wanted further, so today's step up in trip may give him room for improvement around this rating. Last year's winner Step Back is also worth a mention, although on 145, he's up 10lbs in the ratings and was pulled up in the Grand National last time without making much impact.
In the Grade Two Oaksey Chase (2.25 Sandown), I'm keen on Brian Ellison's Definitly Red, which is expected to go off around 3/1. This one was running alright in the Gold Cup until brought down midway through and is taken to outstay Charbel and Black Corton.
DO THE DOUBLE
Racing: Trained by Sir Michael Stoute, Eqtidaar is my idea of a great value favourite around 7/4 in the EBF Stallions King Richard III Listed Stakes at Leicester (2.45). A winner of the Group One Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot last summer, he underperformed at that level in his two subsequent races last season – but the word on the street is that he’s wintered really well at home. This is a significant step down in class for his seasonal reappearance and he’s quite versatile and goes on various types of ground.
Soccer: Priced around 10/11, Southampton can move clearly out of the relegation zone this afternoon with a home victory against Bournemouth at St Mary’s. The Saints have put in a few good shifts lately under the guidance of Ralph Hasenhuttl, including victories over Wolves and Spurs. While the Cherries beat Brighton recently, they have a poor record on the road and look vulnerable.
A good case could be made for at least half of the 14 runners in the Betway Old Boston Handicap (2.05 Haydock), but the one that catches the eye around 20/1 is the Mark Johnston-trained Masham Star. For a five-year-old, he’s been around the block a bit with seven wins from 60 races, including Group Three success in the Premio Ribot at Rome in November. More recently, he failed to make much impact off a career-high rating of 103, but the handicapper has cut him some slack again and he races off 96 today for a racing weight of 9st 1lb. Lord Oberon will probably go off as favourite, and that’s no surprise considering he finished in the top two in six of his seven races.
2.05 Haydock: Masham Star (e/w)
2.25 Sandown: Definitly Red
2.45 Leicester: Eqtidar
3.35 Sandown: Le Reve (e/w)
4.10 Sandown: Black Op
4.35 Ripon: Eightsome Reel