What the best bets in the Festival Plate?
16:10 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate, 2m4f166yds
Not a great race for punters with just a couple of successful favourites in recent years and some big-priced winners – 25/1, 33/1 (twice), 50/1 and 66/1 – in the last decade. That hardly makes you want to back the current market leader John’s Spirit, though he is undoubtedly well treated on his best form, having fallen 12lb in the handicap this season (form figures of P9964), and has run his best races at the track. Better ground should bring about some improvement – but it will need to!. Top price: 13/2 Coral.
Who else is fancied?
It’s 12/1 bar the favourite and that brings in Philip Hobbs Final Bay, who won the Pertemps Final here in 2014 and has run some solid races in defeat since, including a fourth in the Hennessy Gold Cup behind Smad Place. That was over 3m2f but he’s not short of speed and Richard Johnson is likely to give a positive ride to make use of his stamina.
Stilleto represents the champion trainer Paul Nicholls and the lightly-raced seven-year-old is certainly going the right way, making it two wins form four chase starts when hacking up at Leicester last time. He could still be well-in off his revised mark, though it’s debatable how much he will find off the bridle in a tight finish.
And the rest?
Nichols has a decent second string in course winner Art Mauresque and, having disappointed at Newbury last time on ground softer than ideal, he should relish the better ground. The Pipe stable have won this race an incredible seven times and they are represented by King’s Palace, who has won four times at the track (twice over fences) and should be suited by today’s better ground (pulled up on heavy last time), and French import La Vaticane, who came good at Wincanton last time.
There hasn’t been a single Irish-trained winner in the race’s long history, though Irish raiders have finished third in three of the past five years. That will provide some hope for potential backers of Colm Murphy’s Empire Of Dirt, a Leopardstown winner last time, and Henry de Bromhead’s Buckers Bridge, who wasn’t disgraced in the ultra competitive Thyestes Chase when last seen.
Best bookie offer?
There are several free bet offers worthy of a mention, including Paddy Power and William Hill, who are refunding losing stakes as a free bet (up to £25) if your horse finishes second.
Trainer quote: “He’s in mighty form and had a good run when sixth in the Thyestes last time. He got tired then but I’m hoping the trip will suit down to the ground,” – Henry de Bromhead on Bucker’s Bridge.
What’s the verdict?
A bookies’ benefit of a race and it’s well worth having a stab at one further down the betting list and BUCKERS BRIDGE makes plenty of appeal. As mentioned, the Irish have gone close in recent years and the selection doesn’t look at all badly treated on a mark of 141, which is just a 1lb above his last winning mark. In “mighty form”, according to his trainer, I’m hopeful he can run a mighty race and at least hit one of bet365’s five places – they are joint-top price too.
SELECTIONS: Buckers Bridge each-way @ 25/1 bet365 (¼ odds, 184.108.40.206)