Plenty of ups and downs for the ante-post article over Christmas. Footpad rewarded each-way ante-post backers with a third-place finish in the King George – despite there only being five runners on the day – whilst Yala Enki occupied the same finishing position in the Welsh Grand National, having been advised at odds of 16/1.
In the ultra-competitive Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown ante-post selection, Fitzhenry was sent off the outright favourite (advised at 14/1) and looked set to land the spoils prior to being headed in the shadows of the post by the fast-finishing Roaring Bull – a frustrating result for followers of this column.
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Antepost focus now turns towards the upcoming Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. Our man Joe Eccles is back with his preview of the race, identifying selections currently priced up at odds of 20/1 and 14/1 – read his views below.
The market for this year’s Betfair Hurdle is currently headed by Not So Sleepy, who has proven a revelation since sent back over hurdles, winning both his starts – running out a nine-length winner of a competitive Grade 3 handicap at Ascot latest.
Hughie Morrison’s charge will pocket a £100,000 bonus if he wins Newbury’s Betfair Hurdle, so it would be a surprise were his connections not to let him take up this engagement, but the seventeen-pound hike that he received for that aforementioned Ascot success would have to be a concern to his backers.
My first port of call when taking an ante-post look at this race was looking at Nigel Twiston-Davies’ potential runners.
The stable has landed three of the last six renewals of this event, most recently with Al Dancer just last year.
Of his entries this year, Stolen Silver takes my eye – and the five-year-old is the first of my ante-post selections.
This son of Lord Du Sud has improved exponentially in each of his three starts since joining these connections – running out a fourteen-length winner at Ffos Las on his penultimate outing.
He improved on that performance when second at Cheltenham last month, chasing home the well regarded £295,000 purchase Chantry House. He was attempting to concede six pounds to that rival – so comes out best at the weights – and looks the sort who is going to benefit from a strong pace over this trip.
Last year’s winner Al Dancer took this event having scored in handicap company on his start prior, and one with a similar profile this time around is Mack The Man – who is my second selection.
The Evan Williams-trained gelding has won both his starts this campaign, holding off the challenge of the now 128-rated Lightly Squeeze – conceding six pounds – prior to landing a competitive Listed handicap hurdle at Sandown last month.
The form of that Sandown victory received a healthy boost when the second – Protektorat – finished first past the post in a Listed hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, and the eight-pound weights rise he received looks workable as his margin of victory would have been greater had he not made a mess of the second-last flight.
The potential concern is if his connections choose to bypass this in favour of the Imperial Cup back at Sandown in March, but as the Betfair Hurdle is considerably more valuable this may be seen as the more appealing option.