Summary: I’ve backed:
Petit Mouchoir to win at 25/1
Petit Mouchoir at 12/1 without Samcro
Bedrock at 14/1
Sandy Island at 6/1
Samcro is once again the fly in the ointment in a big hurdle. Talked up as a superstar (single figures in places last year to win a Gold Cup) he’s disappointed twice this season after the announcement that the Champion Hurdle would be his target.
He capitulated quickly on his seasonal debut to one of today’s rivals, Bedrock. He was then heavily backed to beat Buveur D’Air at Newcastle but never looked as though he’d land the money.
The major mystery for me is that connections are sticking to their plan. They are not fools. There simply must be something this horse is showing them that he’s not reproducing on the track.
Although that makes me nervous about opposing him (I wouldn’t back him), there are two in the race well worth support purely because of the value n the price.
At 25/1, Petit Mouchoir is twice the price he should be. Trainer De Bromhead seems downbeat about the horse’s readiness saying he could have done with more time to prepare him. De Bromhead, unusually in a business full of optimists, can be quite pessimistic. I recall him downplaying the chances of the late Identity Thief (22/1 in the morning) before he hacked up at Aintree in April.
Petit Mouchoir was 3rd in the 2017 Champion Hurdle, fading late, and this track will suit much better (he’s 2 from 3 here over hurdles with defeats of Footpad and Nichols Canyon). He returns to hurdling after a comparatively disappointing chase campaign.
Petit Mouchoir is close to top class over hurdles and must be backed here. I’ve bet him at 25/1 and at 12/1 in the market without Samcro (Betvictor).
I’m also backing Bedrock. I don’t believe his defeat of Samcro was a fluke. He’s 5lbs worse off today but is improving and might well have come on a fair bit since last seen. He has pretty strong form as a novice (3rd to Lalor at Aintree) and the excellent Rachael Blackmore rides again. He’s had at least three engagements in Grade One hurdles since his last victory and his trainer – Iain Jardine has chosen this.
Jardine is viewed by many as a ‘small’ operator, which usually helps add a few points to the price.
I’ve backed Bedrock at 14/1.
In the Mandarin Chase at Newbury Reikers Island bids to follow up an impressive Wincanton win. He travelled well and won pretty comfortably that day, but from a style, power and stamina viewpoint I much preferred the Uttoxeter performance of Sandy Island. He looked as though he won with quite a bit in hand that day, in the manner of an improving horse.
I’ve backed him at 6/1 here.
The Challow at 3pm is a cracking race. Every runner won last time out. Champ is a short priced favourite and on bare form is well entitled to be.
The key questions I have of him are about how much improvement he has left as a novice compared with others in the field, and, this could well be more of a stamina test than is ideal for a horse who races so keenly. His size won’t help either in that matter, burning so much energy.
Also, he is far from a natural over hurdles and fluency could be the deciding factor in this classy race.
The one who’s impressed me most is Brewin’Upastorm who travelled with considerable menace at Huntingdon last time and won as though he could have gone round again. I like him a lot and would not be surprised if he turns up at the Cheltenham Festival with a strong chance. I’ve backed him at 11/2 here.