2.05pm Musselburgh Tips & Betting Preview 04/02/2017

A brand new contest in the racing calendar but four miles takes some getting regardless and stamina will be the number one attribute exhibited by whoever wins this valuable handicap with the Paul Nicholls trained Just A Par (13/2) heading both the weights and the early betting off an official rating of 148, giving him a full eleven pounds more than any other horse in the race. Now a ten-year-old, he has won a total of just the two of his eighteen starts though he has also placed on five other occasions with a short head second to The Young Master at Sandown possibly the highlight. He has won over three miles five so stamina seems his strong point though he was tailed off in last year’s Grand National which has to be a concern (though the fences were very different), and with that amount of weight to carry, getting home over this trip is not guaranteed despite the stable’s 16% recent strike rate, and at the prices others appeal more.

Amazingly considering the season he has had so far, Fergal O’Brien hasn’t had a winner in the last two weeks but surely it can only be a matter of time before his next winner, and Alvarado (15/2 Each Way) could well be the one to break the pattern. Paddy Brennan has been booked to ride which is positive action by the trainer, and the horse has won five times over fences at distances up to three miles three and a half furlongs plus a brilliant second to Vicente at Ayr last April over four miles. That was off the same handicap mark as he has this afternoon which has to be a tick in the right box, and with his stamina seemingly not in question, as long as he has recovered from his fall at Aintree last time out at only the second fence he has to be one to consider each way at the very least, and is the selection here.


Handler Victor Dartnall does not have the numbers or the quality at his disposal of the Champion trainer but is still sitting on a 20% win percentage in the last two weeks, with one winner from just the five runners. He has entered Dancing Shadow (6/1) here and he is at the top of his game after winning over three and a quarter miles on good going at Doncaster in early December. Put up nine pounds by the handicapper he hasn’t been seen since but he won with plenty left in the tank if needed, and is well worth a step up in trip and in class as well. Admittedly that was his first win on his ninth start over fences but he holds a Cheltenham Festival entry in the National Hunt Chase suggesting they think he is pretty decent, and a big run is expected this afternoon on his way to Prestbury Park in March.

Jockey Henry Brooke is in a purple patch with seven wins from his last thirty-five rides and a level stakes profit of 28.10 points which is more than a little impressive. He rides Brian Ellison’s Five In A Row (11/2) here and as the trainer has a 35% strike rate n the last two weeks as well, the figures are really adding up. As for the horse, he will need a career best if he wants to win here but he has taken two races over fences from seven starts and will need to do a lot better than when pulled up last time out at Sandown with no obvious excuses behind the useful Rocky Creek to get involved.

Last but not least in this race preview we have Gonalston Cloud (7/1) who runs here for trainer Nick Kent who hasn’t had a runner recently, but has a small string and has only sent out three runners in the last fortnight. So far this season he has raced four times with a win at Market Rasen over three miles three and a half furlongs, and a second to Straidnahanna at Catterick over three and three quarter miles last time out, but the truth is he looks to be in the grip of the handicappers now and will need a career best to win this valuable contest this afternoon.

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