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Well, yesterday was a day to remember as all three selections managed to win. We were arguably lucky to land the Mares Novice Listed race with Brampton Belle, but was due to us having the better jockey in Rachael Blackmore, who schooled JJ Slevin. Hopefully some of you had the treble and have banked some money for the Cheltenham Festival.
For the life of me, I honestly can't see how QUEENS BROOK is a 4/1 shot, or even bigger. On official ratings, Gordon Elliot's mare has a bit to find with the likes of Willie Mullins' trio, but that doesn't necessarily mean she should be underestimated.
In my opinion, Gauloise can be dodged. Her run at Sandown was far too poor, and even though they will have excuses for that performance, I don't think her form is all that good. Her second in a Grade 1 behind Skyace hasn't exactly worked out, with the winner not looking like a proper Grade 1 horse since that run, which makes me think that form isn't worth the paper it's wrote on. Gauloise was poor at the Cheltenham Festival last year, finishing 11th/15 in the Mares Novice race, and even though she won a Listed race at this track, beating a good yardstick in Global Equity, I'm not convinced.
Dysart Diamond is the second highest rated mare in the race, currently rated at 141. In my opinion, she would prefer a quicker surface, with her best form coming on ground with ‘good' in the description. She has some good form, but over shorter trips as well, which makes me think this trip is probably on the longer side than what she would probably want/need, which seemed evident last time out over 2m 4f, where she finished 7th/9.
On the bare form, Burning Victory is the one they all have to beat, and the ratings suggest that as well, with her being rated 143. However, her runs recently over 3m have been somewhat poor, with the most recent outing being the better of the two recent runs. She handles today's conditions better than the others I have mentioned, but there's something about her form which doesn't scream the price she should be. She has entries for Cheltenham, which gives the impression this is being used a prep run for the Festival, as she hasn't been seen for 50+ days, and Willie got a prep run into her before she won the Triumph in 2020. At the odds, I think she can be opposed.
As for the selection. I think her run behind Lunar Display was a good effort, and it was evident that she needed the run that day. I know some of you will compare the fact she was beaten by Lunar Display, when some of the horses above have beaten her, or have collateral form against her, but like I said there were excused for Queens Brook that day. Her jumping is one of her biggest assets, she is a low jumper, but she got in too close to the the third from home that day, and that put her on the back foot, as well as the fact she needed the run. The time after, she put in a good performance to beat Ciel De Niege, who has since won 3/3 over fences and is a lively outsider in the Arkle at Cheltenham. This horse handles the heavy conditions, is a stayer, and I'm hoping they will employ positive tactics and let her lead or have her close to the lead, so a good gallop can be set. She is a PTP winner, and finished 3rd in the Champion Bumper in 2020, won by Ferny Hollow, with appreciate it in 2nd, who are both classy types. 4/1 looks a daft price to me, but I think that is due to her rating being 131, which is 12lbs lower than the favourite, and has to give away 3lbs.
I am quite disappointed with the opening odds of GALICE MACALO, who is priced at around 2/1 at the time of writing. I am disappointed because I was hoping for slightly bigger odds, as based on her form on the bare look, she should have to improve a bit to win this and put it up to the other two market leaders.
Hopefully, the selection does take a drift in the market, so we can get a few extra quid if he gets the job done. However, I still think she is worth a play in this race, despite the odds on offer not being great. I am fully against Little River Bay in this race. That horse started the jumps season off really well, winning her first two chase starts, but since then she has been disappointing, and that's why I think she is worth taking on. The races she won, she did in decent style, but I'm not totally convinced of the strength of the form. She showed her frailties the last twice, and I do think her current handicap mark could be a little too high despite the fact she won off 2lbs lower. The other market principle, Deja Vue, can also be taken on in my opinion, as there is still a doubt that she will stay this trip. She was leading before she fell last time out, but that was still a long way from home over 3m and I doubt she would have had the stamina to go close. Her best form has come over 2m.
The selection has questions to answer, but I believe she can do that. Her jumping on chase debut, where she was Pulled Up in the race in which Deja Vue won, was a poor performance, and it was clear that she needed that run and experience over fences, as she wasn't up to standard. However, the time after, she ran a mighty race to finish runner-up at Hereford, being beaten by a horse who was well fancied to win that day. The selection was keen that day, made the running and set a strong gallop, was headed, but somehow had the stamina to then keep on and get 2nd place, looking like a horse who would take a step up in trip in her stride. They then tried her up in trip the time after, but in a Class 1 Listed race, where she ran with credit. To say she didn't stay is harsh, as it was more of being outclassed for the reason why she was beaten by so many lengths. She was running off level weights against horses who were better than her, and proven at that level. She has been dropped 2lbs for that run, and Chester Williams can claim 3lbs, so effectively is 5lb lower. There should be plenty to come for this horse who is only making her fourth start over fences and handles the ground. She is in receipt of a decent amount of weights from the market fancied horses, which is always a bonus.
I couldn't let VALTOR go unbacked at odds of around 14/1, as I think that is simply too big for a horse with this talent. Even though he is at the age of 13, he still has ability left in the tank, and clearly as fire in his belly to run big races.
The form of his fourth placed finish at Ascot is working out too well for him to be the odds he currently is. The 2nd and 5th from that race have come out and won, and won with ease. Horses who fell (Caribean Boy) and Pulled up (Storm Control) have won since, and others in that race have ran respectably since as well. Yes, I know that Valtor finished 21L behind the eventual winner that day, but when you consider the level of opposition he was facing and compare it to today, it's not even close. He was always going to find it tough to win that race at Ascot at that age when the horses in front were 6, 8 and 9 years of age, but were clearly well handicapped (especially the front 2). This race is much easier, and even though he has to carry a big weight, he is capable of doing so, on ground which he handles.
I can excuse his latest run, as that was over hurdles, and the smaller obstacles have never been what he is about. He has a record of 1 win from 16 attempts over hurdles for a reason, and he is much better over fences. He was dropped 8lbs for his run at Ascot, which is generous, and is now effectively running off a mark of 127 when you consider the 3lb the rider is taking off. I won't be putting shed loads of money on him, but I think he is an EW player at the very least.