This is always a cracking race and one of the few handicaps at the festival I like to take an interest in.
Singlefarmpayment is one I’ve followed for a few seasons now, and backed three or four times. He has talent enough to win this (5th in it last year, and short-headed out of it the year before). His prep has been different this season where he’s had just two runs prior as opposed to four last season. I think that could be the key to him finally winning this. He puts an awful lot into his races and can be just the tiniest bit soft in a finish (Timeform call him ‘none too resolute’ and I think that’s harsh. He fights as best he can but is just missing that killer touch). It could be that he needs much more time between races to put everything into a finish. Tomorrow will be very informative.
The other one I like is yet again a talented horse with problems (a huge part of the enjoyment for betting fans can be the quest for the key to individual horses). Beware The Bear has always been good but never predictable, regularly dropping right out of contention before running on very late to win or take some part in the finish.
His 2 runs this season have been with headgear. Cheekpieces seemed to have little effect in the Hennessy when he played his old trick of fading through the field before taking hold of the bit late and running on into fourth. But the best performance of his life came last time out, blinkered for the first time and front-running for the first time. The frustrating aspect of that is that it’s impossible to tell which of the changes to his normal race routine produced the improvement. Both factors can greatly improve some horses – if I had to bet on which it was, I’d opt for the front-running. We’ll learn much more tomorrow.
Finally, another tricky customer in Minella Rocco. He was good enough to finish second in a Gold Cup (2017) yet has not won in 6 runs since. Given the rain forecast for tomorrow, there must be a strong chance this race will be run on soft ground, a surface on which he has been withdrawn before, his trainer citing its unsuitability (he’s just 2 from 9 on soft). But such has been his renewed zest this season (after wind surgery) I cannot leave him out of the reckoning.
Assuming all else is equal (a horse is racing in his set class who is fit) there is probably nothing more advantageous than knowing the animal is enjoying himself, and last time out especially, Minella Rocco showed just that in the way he travelled before fading from two out (a hurdle race in which he wasn’t given at all a hard time). His previous run had been over fences and again I noted him after a circuit as travelling best in the field. He steadily lost ground through lack of fitness from five out, but again I have no doubt the appetite has returned. Were it good ground tomorrow he would be my selection.
But, as it stands, I will back all three, win only, rather than having one each way bet.
Current prices available are:
10/1 Minella Rocco
16/1 Beware The Bear
If you have to have one only, I suggest Singlefarmpayment.