Aso will appreciate any rain and could go well at a huge price
Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle, 2m1f, New Course (due off 2.05pm)
Despite the big field this has been a reasonable race for punters with ten of the last 16 winners coming from the first four in the market, and last year’s winner Lac Fontana was fifth favourite. Given that Ireland have won six of the last eight runnings, the stats stack up well for Tony Martin’s Quick Jack, who is clear favourite on the eve of the race. While 23lb higher than when winning at the track in November 2013, when backed as if defeat was out of the question, he has done well on the flat in the meantime and still possesses a progressive profile. He’s won on soft but the suspicion is that he needs better going to show his best. Top price: 13/2 bet365.
Who else is fancied?
It’s 10/1 bar him and the rest are headed by Gordon Elliott’s The Game Changer, who showed a good level of form last summer / autumn when trained by Charlie Swan, including third place in a Grade 2, and presumably hasn’t raced since October due to his preference for better ground. Connections will be hoping there is not too much rain beforehand.
Thomas Mullins won this with Alderwood in 2012 and his Princely Conn therefore needs respecting. The six-year-old warmed up for this when finishing a close second over 2m at Leopardstown just 13 days ago, his first start for nearly three months. He races as if he needs further so a fast-run 2m should suit.
Another Irish challenger Sort It Out has just crept into the race off joint bottom weight and, while he’s 14lb higher for his latest win, he hacked up that day and is clearly improving at a rate of knots. Willie Mullins runs three, the best of whom may be Max Dynamite, to strengthen the Irish hand even further.
Any decent outsiders?
The British-trained runners will struggle to get a look in if the betting is a guide, but Saturday’s Imperial Cup winner Ebony Express must go well if his exertions haven’t left a mark. He’ll pick up a cool £100,000 bonus for connections if landing a quick double. Prior to his Sandown win, he was brought down in the Betfair Hurdle when still in contention, but it’s doubtful he would have troubled the winner Violet Dancer, who is also respected.
The ground is key for several of these and Venetia Williams’ Aso would have more than a squeak if the ground were to turn soft. If you forgive him his poor effort in the Betfair Hurdle last time, his profile starts to look very interesting as he bolted up at Warwick in November and had Newbury winner and Supreme Novices’ fifth Qewy behind when scoring comfortably at Haydock in January.
Trainer quote: “The best of my handicap team is The Game Changer. He’s been doing some lovely bits of work and, if he can finish out his race and get up the hill, then I think he’ll go very close. I have been very happy with him since he joined me from Charlie Swan.” – Gordon Elliott.
Best bookie offer
Incredibly some bookmakers are offering a stingy four places for each-way backers. I won’t name names, but you’ll be able to work it out and steer clear of them.
This will most probably go to the Irish again and The Game Changer would be the pick if the ground stays good. However, significant overnight rain is forecast and that makes ASO hard to resist at a whopping 50/1.
Selection – Aso each-way @ 50/1 bet365 (¼ odds, 18.104.22.168.5)