Our racing guru has his eye set on a trio of runners for profit.
Small fields predominate at today’s jumps cards and it’s hard to get too excited about what’s on offer with the greatest show on turf just four days away.
That said, any opportunity to boost the Cheltenham Festival betting bank should be seized upon and the record of Paul Nicholls in this afternoon’s feature at Sandown, the Grand Military Gold Cup (due off 3.15pm), sways me towards backing his representative, MINELLAHALFCENTURY.
The champion trainer loves to have a crack at the race which is restricted to military amateur riders, with his runners since 2005 achieving finishing positions of 111231425. His go-go jockey is L/bdr Jody Sole and they successfully teamed up with Merrion Square in 2013, with Sole also victorious on Blu Teen two years previously.
It’s safe to say then that the selection has been laid out for this race and for that reason we can ignore a couple of modest efforts this season, most recently when finishing fifth of six at Taunton 38 days ago. To be fair to the horse, though, that run may have been needed as he’d last been seen finishing midfield in a handicap at the Cheltenham November meeting.
As a three-time winner, including once over fences, he undoubtedly has the ability to land this and he looks to have Jennys Surprise to beat. That horse came from a mile back to win a similar race over track and trip last month having looked well beaten, and it was more down to the fact her rivals, who had set a strong pace, tired badly close home. There is also a suspicion the mare will prove getter served going left-handed, and she’s opposable for those reasons.
At Leicester, the Robin Dickin-trained SOME FINISH is going for a hat-trick of course wins in the 2m6f handicap chase (4.35pm) and a 7lb penalty for the latest of those ten days ago is unlikely to stop him. The seven-year-old has looked a different horse since being fitted with a visor and, while both his wins have come over a two furlong shorter trip, he has been galloping on strongly at the finish.
He seemed to enjoy being ridden from the front last time, jumping really well, and clearly goes well in testing conditions. A couple of his three rivals came second last time and their presence should mean he goes off at odds against.
There’s all-weather action from Chelmsford this evening and the best bet at the Essex venue looks to be the David Barron-trained MONEY TEAM, who contests the 6f handicap (7.15pm).It’s a competitive affair but the selection clearly goes well here with form figures of 313 and he was perhaps unlucky not to score last time when a heavily-backed favourite. After ducking as the stalls opened, his rider Phillip Makin was slow to remove the blindfold that had gone on before the start and that cost him a length or two. In the end, he kept on well on the outside to finish third, less than a length behind the winner.
Previously, he’d won nicely over track and trip off a 7lb lower mark and, while he’s up in grade here, he is progressive enough to cope with his stable in excellent nick. Barron has sent out three winners and a couple of seconds in the last fortnight from just eight runners and his booking of 5lb claimer Josephine Gordon to ride could make be the difference.