Our racing guru has a couple to back at Taunton this afternoon.
Bookmakers make the Venetia Williams-trained top weight Vic De Touzaine favourite for the novices’ limited handicap chase over 2m2f at Taunton (due off 3.15pm), but he’s opposable at shortish odds.
The ex-French seven-year-old has run well on all three of his chase starts, producing form figures of 323, but they also tell us he’s beatable and if you watch a rerun of his races it’s clear he lacks a turn of foot when it matters and is shaping like an out-and-out stayer. Indeed, he was doing all his best work late on over 2m4f at Sandown last time and, while he’s dropping in grade this afternoon, he might struggle to give the weight away over this shorter trip.
I was going to put up the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Seranwen against him but he’s proving easy to back and that’s a worry given his lengthy absence, so I’m going with Fergal O’Brien’s GALLIC WARRIOR instead. He’s been lightly-raced since winning a bumper here back in March 2013 but has shown enough in his three chase starts to suggest he’s up to winning off his current mark, including when finishing runner-up to an even better handicapped rival at Ludlow two starts back.
He then found 3m and heavy ground beyond him at Exeter in early January and should do much better over today’s shorter trip, with a tongue-tie replacing his regular hood and Paddy Brennan taking over in the saddle. The clincher for the bet is the 17lb he receives from the favourite, who could be tapped for toe besides. Well, that’s the theory and I reckon it’s worth paying the 3/1 on offer for the selection to find out.
Another horse worth taking on at shortish odds is the the David Pipe-trained Master Red, who is making his stable debut in the 2m handicap hurdle run later on the card. The seven-year-old showed useful form when trained by Donald McCain, winning four times (two bumpers, two hurdles), but he’s been off since November 2014 and is not certain to appreciate today’s testing ground, having not run on anything worse than “soft” and with a couple of his wins coming on “good” ground.
Given he was also prone to clouting the odd hurdle when last seen, he has to be taken on at just 11/4 and the obvious one to back against him is Henry Oliver’s AFTER HOURS. He had quite a hard race when winning by a short head winner at Haydock back in December on heavy but has been given plenty of time to recover and the form was given a timely boost when the third won at Sedgefield on Sunday. Previously, he’d finished fifth in a much better race at Newbury won by Cheltenham-bound Buvuer D’Air.
More is needed today as he’s been hit with a 10lb rise but he’s a lightly-raced seven-year-old with his best days ahead of him, and further encouragement can be taken from his trainer, who said: “We’ve given him plenty of time since his win at Haydock and he seems in good order and is working well at home.” He’ll do for me at the current 11/4, especially as the others have question marks against them.