There are a couple of horses running over the next couple of days whose performance looks likely to shorten their odds in ante-post Cheltenham betting – if, that is, they perform well – and as such, prices ought to be taken now.
The first is SAM SPINNER, who is currently 3/1 for the Newbury Long Distance Hurdle. On top form, there’s little question that he’s the best horse in this race: he’s rated 4lbs higher than the consistent Wholestone and 5lbs higher than the past-his-best Uknowhatimeanharry. However, this is his first run of the season against match fit rivals, and that’s reflected in his price. Yet there’s strong evidence he runs better fresh, and still only a 6-year-old he could very well still be progressive. In my book that makes him highly likely to run very well (if not win) this Newbury race.
As such, quotes of 20/1 for the Stayers Hurdle in March look very generous. At this stage, apart from his rivals in this race – and maybe the conversion of Faugheen into a genuine staying hurdler – and two-time champion Penhill, there aren’t many other serious contenders. A ridiculous ride from his inexperienced jockey means we can strike a line through Sam Spinner’s non-performance in the race last year, and if he turns up fit he would have every chance. The time to stake the bet looks like now, as if he runs well today (as I think he will) that price won’t last for long.
The second horse is BEDROCK, who runs in the ‘Mini Champion Hurdle’ at Newcastle tomorrow against Samcro, Buveur d’Air and Summerville Boy. On the face of it, this looks an extremely tall order, and he’s 16/1 in the Fighting Fifth market as a result. Those odds don’t appeal at all. However, he’s currently a massive 40/1 with Bet365 for the Champion Hurdle, and given that Bet365 offer a cash-out facility to most punters, that price is most certainly of interest. The main reason is that Bedrock beat Samcro fair and square at Down Royal. Everybody was queuing up to make excuses for the Ballymore winner – everybody except his trainer Gordon Elliott, who admitted that the horse was fit and primed, and that he was massively disappointed. There are also plenty of shrewd judges out there whose reading of that Down Royal race, using Sharjah as a guide, was that Samcro ran his race, but giving 5lbs to Bedrock was the difference. In that context, the 40/1 looks massive.
Of course, he will have to go close in the Fighting Fifth to show he has a genuine chance in the Champion Hurdle. (And when I say he will ‘have to’, I mean that, because there’s the added complication of his ownership. He’s been sold to go to race in the USA, but apparently trainer Iain Jardine has persuaded new connections to ‘have a go’ at the Champion Hurdle first, hence his entry at Newcastle. That’s why the cash out option is potentially vital to this wager.) He is race-fit, unlike Buveur d’Air or Summerville Boy, and he didn’t spend yesterday in a boat crossing the very choppy seas, unlike Samcro. As such I’d be disappointed if he wasn’t in the frame in the final furlong. Given that, a very small each way wager at 40/1 looks like an option worth taking.
Sam Spinner – Stayers Hurdle – 1pt e/w @ 20/1
Bedrock – Champion Hurdle – 0.5pts e/w @ 40/1 (Bet365 if you can – cash out available)