Wayne Bailey: Blazer a trail at Newbury and get your 'fiscal space' in order
This must be an awful few weeks for anyone with no interest in politics: with the general election coming up, you can't turn on the box without someone giving their spin on something or other.
If you want to get a master-class on doublespeak and evasive language, look no further than the Irish politician. Then again, avoiding plain English can be very useful sometimes, as I found out midweek when the missus asked me if I was taking her out for Valentine's weekend as promised.
I explained to her that due to an unanticipated monetary diminution following some negative equine speculative ventures, the situation will need to be monitored closely and restructuring may be required.
The prospective fiscal space available, I added, will become explicit further down the line.
In other words, I did my dough in the 3.30 at Carlisle on Wednesday, and I haven't a clue whether we are going out this weekend until I see what happens with today's racing.
Wednesday was all going well at first. Initially I had a pony (€25) on Dr Moloney at 5/2 in a handicap chase in good old-fashioned cash with a bookmaker, but when I saw the Stuart Crawford-trained gelding trading at just under 3/1 on the machine, I had to have a go again with €75.
The favourite in the four-runner field, Morning Royalty, was worth taking on at 7/4 and as they approached the fourth-last the in-running punters thought Dr Moloney was home and hosed, pushing him as low as 1/5.
But you can't count your chickens in this game, certainly not with a couple of fences to go, and after a number of blunders he faded quickly, allowing the favourite to take over.
To cut a long story short, the €275 I was about to win disappeared into thin air and I was left staring at a loss of €100.
I haven't had significant bet since but I'm going big on Blazer this afternoon, which is expected to go off around 7/2 for the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury (3.35).
At first glance, that might seem a little short for a 22-runner handicap, the richest of its kind in Britain, but a lot of things have fallen right for Willie Mullins' five-year-old to line up, and he comes here with a 5lb penalty which surely leaves him well-in today.
For those not familiar with the handicap process, Blazer was entered for the Betfair Hurdle before his win at Leopardstown last week, meaning the weight he carries is based on his previous French hurdle form (he also raced unsuccessfully in two chases since coming to Ireland).
While the obligatory 5lb penalty will be of some burden, he's almost certain to rise sharply in the ratings after his next few outings, and as such, this could be a gilt-edged opportunity to land a serious prize for owner JP McManus.
He was barely off the bridle for much of his win at Leopardstown and he also handled the heavy ground, which is another big plus given conditions will be similar at Newbury this afternoon.
Put it this way, the Irish handicapper has put him up 12lb for Leopardstown so on that reckoning, he's still half a stone to the good. The only downside, I suppose, is that most punters are in agreement, so when the declarations came out on Thursday, the bookmakers were forced to cut the price as the money flowed in.
Paul Nicholls' Modus also has claims around 6/1 and Barry Geraghty's decision to pick Blazer must have been quite tough but Modus would probably prefer better ground and I reckon that leaves War Sound the biggest threat to the selection.
Earlier on, a price of 2/1 or thereabouts for David Pipe's Ballynagour in the Denman Chase (2.25) seems fair. Rocky Creek is set to go off as favourite but the Nicholls-trained ten-year-old is slightly flattered by his second place to Don Cossack at Down Royal and was disappointing at Aintree in December.
The selection also ran poorly in his latest two races but on a good day, especially when freshened up by a small break, he can put in some fine efforts and this year's renewal looks quite weak.
With just seven runners and two places up for grabs, the Ladbrokes Handicap (3.45 Lingfield) is not what most would consider a good race for each-way betting but I'm very keen on Truth Or Dare and will be surprised if he can't finish in the money.
The William Muir-trained gelding comes here with a mark of 90, which seems more than fair considering some of the form he displayed when trained by Richard Hannon, and his third place off this mark in a similar race here last month was promising.
That race gave him a chance to shake off the cobwebs after four months off, and with the top-weight Mutawathea expected to go off at 9/4, I'm hoping to get an each-way bet to nothing (at least my money back if placed) on Truth Or Dare with some firms offering 6/1 yesterday.
2.15 Gowran: Morning Assembly
2.25 Newbury: Ballynagour
3.0 Newbury: Dodging Bullets
3.35 Newbury: Blazer
3.45 Lingfield: Truth Or Dare (e/w)
Do the double
Liverpool are in a bad place at the moment and although Jurgen Klopp played an inexperienced side on Tuesday, their FA Cup defeat was a blow. Still, it could be worse and you'd have to fancy them to beat an Aston Villa side which have only earned 16 points in the league this term and trade at 1/33 for relegation. Back the Reds to get back to winning ways at 10/11.
Priced around 8/13, Dodging Bullets looks likely banker material for the Grade Two Betfair Game Spirit Chase at Newbury (3.0). Paul Nicholls sees the 2015 Champion Chase winner as his best chance for Cheltenham, and a recent splint injury is no longer a concern for the eight-year-old.