The Insider: Sell, sell, sell!
The last two winners of the Betfair Hurdle, My Tent Or Yours and Zarkandar, scored from marks of 149 and 151 and went on to run well in the Supreme Novices' and the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
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It's no surprise then that punters and bookmakers have been quick to latch on to the 143 rated Irving ever since this handicap was nominated as his target ahead of the Grade One Tolworth Hurdle.
Paul Nicholls has expressed doubts about the ground, and the weather certainly shows no sign of letting up, and he does have alternatives with the 'well-in' Irish Saint and Elite Hurdle second Far West completing his potential team.
The latter's form ties in with Rolling Star who is one of four entries from Nicky Henderson's stable; the Lambourn handler has won this race five times in all so his runners should, arguably, be the first port of call.
Vasco de Ronceray finished half a length off Irish Saint (who surely needs further) in the Adonis before disappointing twice but that does leave him on an interesting mark if a return to form could be guaranteed and a price of 25/1 does allow some leeway while Snake Eyes has been mentioned in this column before and there was some promise in his run in the Boylesports.
However, I have to have an interest in Vendor as I think he's entitled to be nearer the 7/1 market leaders than his current price of 14s.
He was a buzz horse from Alan King's stable last season but it never quite happened for the 2012 Fred Winter third (when sent off at just 3/1!) which led connections to give him a full 'MOT' over the summer and included some work on his wind.
The difference was there for all to see at this track in November as he fairly dotted up from an 8lb lower mark in a competitive race. The form shouldn't be judged through the fourth, Saphir Du Rheu, who wasn't seen to best advantage but the race still has a very solid look to it with two of the last three home successful since in fair heats.
Conditions won't be a problem and nor will the trip while it's encouraging that the few horses that King has run since re-opening the doors for business have run well. He looks to have a rock-solid chance and there's the possibility that there could still be marked improvement to come now that he's back on song and I fancy that he is still a well-handicapped horse.
I'm not convinced that there is significantly more to come from Chris Pea Green but I do think that Gary Moore's five-year-old is worth adding to the staking plan.
Moore is another trainer who has tasted success in this race with back-to-back victories in 2007/08. He could also be represented by Leo Luna who ran too badly to be true at Cheltenham in October and would have to be of interest on his three length defeat by Ptit Zig last April when conceding 2lbs to the winner but there's enough to be taken on trust there even with a price of 33s.
Chris Pea Green brings rock solid form to the table though having finished second to Pine Creek in a Listed handicap at Ascot and third in the Gerry Feilden at this track before returning to Ascot to take fourth in the Ladbroke.
He's gone up by 6lbs since the start of the season for getting beaten which is obviously far from ideal but is very much at home in this type of contest and there's enough juice in his price of 20/1 to chance him each-way.
The ground was probably a little too testing last time but conditions, hopefully, won't be as bad on Saturday and he's had a good bit of time off to recover from what was a fairly gruelling race.
Despite the conditions, the form has worked out as one might have hoped for a race of that quality with Irish Saint, City Slicker, Shotavodka, Flaxen Flare, Ptit Zig and Totalize all running well subsequently and I can see no reason why Chris Pea Green shouldn't be on the premises again.