It’s been an absorbing week of action in National Hunt circles, not least the return of the mighty (and still unbeaten) Peddlers Cross after his workmanlike success in Kelso’s Morebattle Hurdle on Thursday afternoon.
In the immediate aftermath of the race my phone was buzzing away like a tormented wasp trapped upside down in an empty beer glass on a hot summer’s day, and as the bookies revised Champion Hurdle quotes arrived a couple of the firms were quick to try and nick a cheap headline or two by inching him out a miserly half point in the betting, but if they honestly thought so little of his display why not make a real statement and actually offer a truly standout price, rather than crowing about very little?
I watched the race in the cosy confines of a bar at Ffos Las racecourse, in the company of a very well known top 10 trainer who was also quick to write him off, shaking his head saying “he won’t win a Champion Hurdle like that”.
That might be a fair point in truth – he certainly won’t win a Champion Hurdle recovering from a minor ailment on heavy ground, just doing enough against horses not fit to lace his boots, especially in a race run a million miles from championship pace, but Jason Maguire wasn’t shy in lighting him up with a few slaps from the ‘persuader’, he put the race to bed in to time and was just dossing a little close home, and it’ll be a very different animal we see on March 15th.
I for one will not be laying off any time soon!
On the subject of Ffos Las I have to say hats off – it is a first rate joint from top to bottom: equine facilities (rubberised walkways, showers, large paddock), clued up Clerk of the Course, friendly, helpful staff everywhere, decent viewing, good bars, excellent canteen and accomodation for stable staff, the whole place is spotless, and punters gain admission for sensible prices.
If there is one area that could be improved it’s well documented problem that’s afflicting plenty of tracks right now, that old chestnut prize money – my own stable won the concluding bumper with a first time out youngster, his reward a whopping £1,600 or thereabouts!
Overall though if you haven’t been it’s well worth a visit, even if just to experience the taxi ride from the station in the company of driver Bob, who must’ve been frothing at the mouth with excitement when he finally arrived at a satisfactory name for his taxi firm: Bob’s Cabs.
Now Bob is no ordinary cabbie, an absolute gent, he spent the entire 15 minutes we were in his company vigorously praising all things Welsh, and it would’ve been no surprise to any of us present if he’d suddenly burst into a rousing chorus of Men Of Harlech at any given moment, this despite the fact his accent was definitely more Croydon than Cardiff. Top man.
As a sideline he also runs Murder Mystery tours, which could be a handy outlet should you find yourself at Ffos Las in the company of anyone you particularly despise.
Last Bob-ism before we try and find a winner: the great man’s formula for ‘picking one out’ is that age old classic of going for names he likes.
He strenuously denies knowing Agnes Haddock, but one name I’m confident he’d be pretty fond of is Overturn as he, like stablemate Peddlers Cross, bids to cement his Cheltenham Festival preparation with a win to put a smile on the face of Cheshire trainer Donald McCain.
Overturn lines up in fascinating renewal of the Grade 2 Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton, stepping into the back yard of champion trainer Paul Nicholls, who fields two of the five declared runners in Silviniaco Conti and Celestial Halo.
One of the great pet hates of my Channel 4 exec producer is to hear commentators blandly describing a race as ‘fascinating’ or ‘interesting’ without qualifying exactly why, so without further ado, why is this a fascinating renewal?
One of the key established stepping stones to a tilt at the Champion Hurdle, this select field of five for the Kingwell is small on numbers but chock-full of quality, indeed all five declared runners have a realistic chance here.
The top three in the betting all feature in the front 11 in the market for the Champion, so why choose Overturn when he has to concede weight to an exciting horse in Mille Chief (who’s half his price for the big one)?
First up, he certainly has more experience over timber than either of his chief market rivals Mille Chief or Silviniaco Conti, as the winner of four of his ten starts in that discipline, including a runaway romp under a big-ish weight in the Galway Hurdle, plus a hugely pleasing second to Binocular in the Christmas Hurdle last time.
That run behind Binocular means that of the big three here he’s the one who’s been and done it against the big guns, plus he works with Peddlers Cross and the word is there isn’t too much between them.
Next up the track: Overturn has never experienced Wincanton’s right-handed galloping circuit before, but my gut feeling is it’ll suit him down to the ground.
He’ll absolutely love the going, and they may never get to him given his 100 mile-an-hour front running tactics, even though he has to concede weight to a good horse from an in form stable.
The official ratings and the conditions of the race suggest this is going to be a thriller, but although Celestial Halo looks set to take him on for the lead I’m not sure he’ll be able to live with the jet-heeled Overturn, with his ultra-attacking style and flamboyant hurdling technique.
Of the opposition having to concede weight to all comers might just be the undoing of Silviniaco Conti, Celestial Halo looks to want further nowadays even though he’s only seven, Ronaldo Des Mottes has it to do on ratings and might not quite have the class at this level, while Mille Chief was dazzling at Sandown last time under a big weight in a 0-145 handicap, but that was on desperate ground and certainly meant he got an easier time of it against a couple who just couldn’t act on it.
At twice the odds of 5/4 market leader Mille Chief I’m confident the Kingwell can reward Jason Maguire (who rides Tornado Bob in the 1.20pm at Ascot before dashing to Wincanton) and go the way of Overturn in a pillar to post success. It looks the perfect opening for him. Win bet.
Saturday’s best bet:
3.45 Wincanton – Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle – 3 Overturn (win) @ 10/3 (Coral)
Posted 7 years, 8 months ago