The National Hunt card at Ludlow provides two of today's best bets
Nicky Henderson has a near 1-3 strike rate at Ludlow in the last five seasons and he does particularly well in non-handicaps. Since the start of 2014, of his eight runners sent off at 11/2 or shorter, five have won and two finished second. That bodes well for his Jack Frost and Broxbourne, who contest the 2m novices’ hurdle (2.30pm) and 2m5f mares’ novices’ hurdle respectively.
They will both be fairly short in the betting, however, and my idea of the best bet on the card at a price is A GOOD SKIN, who lines up in the 3m handicap chase (3.00pm) against six rivals. Tom George’s six-year-old has shown improved form since being switched to fences, unsurprising as he’s a winning pointer, finding one too good on each of his last two starts. The winners happened to be progressive, unexposed sorts, and there doesn’t appear to be such a horse in today’s line-up, with his nearest rival in the betting, Loose Chips, beating a moderate bunch at Sandown last time.
His trainer has been amongst the winners of late and he does well with his handicappers at the Welsh track. Since the start of 2014, he has a 5-17 record and this improves to 5-13 when Paddy Brennan (who is on board today) rides. Overnight rain may well turn conditions more testing but that won’t bother the selection, who has twice finished second on “soft” and won his Irish point on soft/yielding, whereas it might inconvenience Loose Chips and the Evan Williams-trained Brassick, whose best form is on goodish ground.
Another horse who won’t mind a drop of rain one bit is ASCENDANT, who looks a value price in the 2m handicap hurdle behind forecast favourite Bombadero. The latter makes a quick reappearance after finishing second at Stratford just five days ago, which might not be ideal, while the selection is back in the right grade after finishing down the field in the Imperial Cup last time. In his element on tight, right-handed tracks like this one, winning his last two starts here in fact, he is the mount of useful amateur Robert Hawker, who takes a valuable 7lb off his back.
I was going to leave it at that but then spotted Alan King’s L’AMIRAL DAVID running in the 2m1f novices’ handicap hurdle at Taunton (2.50pm), and he’s got to be worth an interest at the 8/1 on offer. Admittedly he hasn’t shown much in three starts this season, the last of those coming at Wetherby in November. However, he was good enough to finish fourth (of 18) in the valuable Sales Bumper at Newbury last March and, according to his trainer’s Weekender column, he’s had a wind op since we last saw him. There’s no knowing whether that has had the desired effect until the race itself, but you could have said the same about his stablemate and Spring Mile winner Chatez.
Ideally, he wants better ground than he’s been running on this winter to show his best, so the forecast “good to firm” is perfect for him. I just hope the track doesn’t get too much of the forecast rain beforehand and should it turn “soft” he may not even run. He’s one to keep a close eye on regardless as there is definitely a handicap or two in him off his current low perch of 90. Wayne Hutchinson is booked to do the steering on him this afternoon.