All eyes will be on AP's final ride but this 25/1 outsider could spoil the party
A.P. McCoy Grand Annual Handicap Chase, 2m110y, New Course (due off 5.15pm)
Since the race was re-named in honour of the soon-to-retire champion jockey, it was inevitable his chosen mount would go off a short-priced favourite. Most punters guessed it would be Ned Buntline for his principal owner J.P. McManus and so it has proved, with the gelding now as short as 4/1 in places. That seems a crazy price as, while he finished second in last year’s renewal, he has shown nothing like that form in two runs this term and the last of those was back in December. He wants good ground to show his best so his supporters will be hoping the band of rain that is expected to hit the track first thing in the morning doesn’t amount to much. Top price: 5/1 Boylesports.
Who else is fancied?
It’s 9/1 bar the favourite and there has to be some each-way value amongst them. Blood Cotil looks the pick of the Willie Mullins-trained pair as he’s an improving novice with a fair weight. Tony Martin’s Ted Veale has been the subject of some support and he’s proved he can come up the Cheltenham hill once before, winning the 2013 County Hurdle. Combined with the favourite, they give Ireland a strong hand.
Eastlake is a past winner of 2m handicap chase here, albeit at the December meeting, and looked to be running back into form when third at Ascot last time. Given he’s trained by Jonjo O’Neill and owned by J.P. McManus, he could presumably have been ridden AP, so it would be a bitter-sweet victory should he prevail.
Habitual front runner Next Sensation led the field a merry dance 12 months ago and despite setting what was a suicidal pace, he was only claimed in the last 100 yards, eventually finishing fourth. He’s now 1lb lower and has had a wind operation since running fourth at Newbury in November, so another bold bid is expected.
Any decent outsiders?
Plenty can be fancied but the one that makes most each-way appeal is Croco Bay, who is bidding to give trainer Ben Case his first festival success. The stable is in form – four winners from 12 runners (33%) in the last fortnight – and the eight-year-old absolutely bolted up in a hot Ascot handicap two starts. A brilliant jumper, he would have needed the run at Wincanton last time and, while on a career-high mark, there could be better to come after just ten starts over fences. The fact he stays further is another positive.
Trainer quote: “It will be nice to have a runner who is going there with a chance. I don’t think there is any point going just for a day out. There are plenty of races to win rather than going to the festival just for a run around. I believe Croco Bay has a chance and a fast-run race will suit him.” – Ben Case on Croco Bay.
Best bookie offer
If you’re betting each-way, as you should in a race of this nature, make sure you’re getting five places instead of the standard four. At the time of writing only bet365, Betfair and Titanbet were offering such place terms.
The favourite is shocking value and is readily opposed by CROCO BAY for the reasons given above. I’ll be disappointed if he can’t at least make the frame.
Selections – Croco Bay each-way @ 25/1 bet365 (¼ odds, 22.214.171.124.5)