We looked at two races yesterday, the first of which was the Leicester race featuring Thor de Cerisy and my final assessment said..."...10/1 seems more than fair for those of you fancying a small E/W flutter, as both When You're Ready and Oscar's Leader have more appeal from a win perspective..." As it was, Oscar's Leader was a non-runner, but When You're Ready won at 3/1 and Thor de Cerisy did indeed make the frame at 7/1.
Race two was at Plumpton where we had an odds-on favourite who we expected to win, but didn't offer much value and I though our highlighted runner, Eurkash would be the one posing the biggest challenge to the fav. The end result was that Eurkash could only manage fourth behind the duly-obliging 5/6 favourite.
And now to Thursday, whose feature of the day is the highly informative Instant Expert tab for all races, including our full free racecards for...
- 1.10 Catterick
- 1.50 Bangor
- 2.30 Fontwell
- 8.00 Chelmsford
And I think I'll look at the third on that lost the 2.30 Fontwell, where I'm already keen on the chances of Cristal Spirit, if I can get 2/1 or bigger about him. The purpose of my piece today is to see whether (a) I still think he's the likeliest winner, (b) 2/1 is a realistic aim and (c) where are the dangers or possible decent priced E/W picks.
We should start with the card itself, as follows...
I'm going to be quite brutal at the outset here and take Certainly Red, Rossderrin and Hot Smoked out of the equation before I go any further. Certainly red might be the one I regret most tomorrow, as he has been running consistently well of late, but he runs off 108 here, just as he has done on his last four outings where he has finished 8235, so I'm not expecting him to suddenly win here, especially as he hasn't won any of his ten career starts to date.
Rossderrin's form line shows a win last time out, but that was a narrow success in a poor PTP contest at Wadebridge, the fact of the matter here is that he hasn't even made the frame on any of his 11 starts under Rules and I don't envisage a change of yard/country having much effect off a career high mark. The final of the rejected trio, Hot Smoked, has a similar profile to the other two in that she is 0 from 9 so far, she's 3lbs higher than her best run over hurdles and she's been off the track for ten months.
All of which leaves us with the following on Instant Expert...
...where I think you don't need to be a mind-reader to see where I'm going here. Kenny George had finished fourth of seven (beat by 73L) and third of seven (beat by 51L) before winning his third crack at this track over course and distance fourteen months ago. He won by five lengths that day, but has failed to even make the frame in six runs since and is still five pounds higher than that win, so he's out.
As is Touch Tight, he might well be dropping down a grade for his handicap debut but he hasn't been that well treated to be given a mark of 108 after performing quite poorly in his three starts to date where he has finished 7th of 9 (bt by 38.5L), 4th of 10 (bt by 18.5L) and most recently 5th of 7 and beaten by 38 lengths. Nothing about those runs scream "back me", so I can't (and won't!).
And then, there were three in a race where I'd expect Jaunty Soria to attempt to control the race from the front. The pace stats should tell us whether that's a good tactic at Fontwell or not...
...and it appears that it might well be, but Lily The Pink also likes to be up with the pace and that could put a spanner in jockey Tom Scudamore's race plan. The danger for both front runners, of course, is that they do too much early on and practically hand the race to Cristal Spirit.
Cristal Spirit comes here in the best form of the trio after back to back soft ground wins here at Fontwell (2m2f) and then when 3lbs worse off over 2m5f at Plumpton eleven days ago. His other hurdles success came on heavy ground so conditions shouldn't be an issue here, although the extra half stone might make life more difficult.
Jockey Sean Houlihan retains the ride from last time out and he'll be happy to be on board one that keeps finding more and if it comes down to who has the most speed late on, then this horse's prowess on the Flat at 1m4f might make all the difference.
Race card top weight is Lily The Pink, but Ben Godfrey's useful 7lb claim means she'll get 3lbs from the fav here. Ben rides well for trainer Anthony Honeyball and the pair are 5 from 16 together over the last year and the yard is 5 from 15 (33.3% SR) in handicap hurdle races here since the start of 2017 and 11/34 (32.4%) since the start of 2014.
This mare likes the mud and will be better suited over this trip than when tiring in the closing stages over 3 miles last time out. I think she's still carrying too much weight here off a mark of 110, as her sole hurdles win came when rated 98.
And finally, Jaunty Soria, who makes the shortlist almost by default, but she's in good nick having won over course and distance here last time out on her yard debut for Neil Mulholland. Neil has a good record here at Fontwell with 17 winners from 82 (20.7% SR) handicap hurdlers since the start of 2015 and 22 from 97 (22.7%) since 2013. Jockey Tom Scudamore rides this track well too and has been amongst the winners of late (6/27 = 22.2% since Boxing Day).
She has been a steady improver so far and if handling the extra pressure of a handicap debut, could very well have a big say in proceedings if things go her way.
I think the order I've discussed the trio is probably just about how I rank them (Cristal / Lily / Soria) and all have chances but none are bomb-proof. I'm concerned about the added weight for Cristal Spirit, especially as she only just seems to do enough to get home having waited until late to take control. Should the gas pedal not quite get pressed at the right time, that would be the undoing of his chances.
Lily The Pink carries a little too much weight for my liking and there's that suggestion she might end up doing too much too soon. This trip is far more suitable than the 3m LTO, but I suspect she'd be happier dropping back another quarter mile.
Jaunty Soria will probably try to get out and stay out and she probably isn't quite good enough to do that (yet) and I think she'll be overhauled by the other pair with Cristal Spirit just getting the verdict.
So, I still like Cristal Spirit for this one, but not as much as I thought I would initially. I also can't back her, because I don't see enough value at 6/4. Lily The Pink is a 7/2 shot here, which is probably fair if not a little generous (I expected 3's), whilst Jaunty Soria is shorter than I hoped at 13/2. I can't back horses at 13/2 on an E/W basis, so I'm sitting this one out sadly.