Two bets for our man at Ffos Las on Sunday and he's hoping class comes to the fore in the Welsh Champion Hurdle.
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Ballyandy looks a bet in the Welsh Champion Hurdle despite conceding lots of weight to some improving hurdlers. I’m a big believer that class counts for an awful lot in better quality handicaps, and the form shown in Grade 1 races over jumps is underrated as a rule. There is a knee-jerk reaction to raise impressive winners at lower levels by double digits, and that means horses quickly get promoted beyond their true class. As a rule, this bias is not detected because most of the horse population is subject to the same harsh measures, although it explains to a degree why trainers like to keep their promising youngsters under the radar for the big meetings. Where the cracks do tend to show is in top-class handicaps, and although trainers are reluctant to run their superstars in handicap races, the results when they do are impressive.
Since the Welsh Champion Hurdle was revived as a limited handicap, four of the six races have gone to an exposed top weight, and that is not coincidence. Sone of those races have been more competitive than others, and this one looks strong on paper, but Ballyandy is only just shy of the top level over hurdles, and with his stable getting plenty of winners after a break this season, he’s sure to be ready for this test. His win in the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock was played down at the time, but is solid form, as were placed efforts in the International and Christmas Hurdles. He won’t have this all his own way, but his raw ability is not given enough weight here, and he should be near the top of the market.
Alan King’s Sceau Royal also scores high in terms of back-class, but he’ll surely be back over fences next time, and while he goes well fresh, this first run after wind surgery may be something of a sighter.
Vocaliser has done well since a change of scenery to Olly Murphy’s yard, winning a couple of similar events at Bangor and he won with a bit in hand last time, but the handicapper has taken action and raised him 12lb for it. That, plus a rise in grade today means he needs another step forward, while his win record (1-19) away from testing ground is a genuine concern. He makes the market as a result, and there will be value against him.
Parlour Maid appeals as the underrated one in the race, and she has won twice from four runs after a lengthy break before, impressing with the way she travelled and put the race to bed at Lingfield on her reappearance last season. Two poor runs after that were over hurdles, and she ran with credit back over fences at Exeter in March.
Her trainer Richard Hawker is very capable, and struck with 40-1 winner Sastruga at Newton Abbot last weekend, with that horse also returning from an absence. With fitness no concern, this multiple winner should be more prominent in the market than she is, and Lorcan Williams is a most promising recruit from the ranks of point-to-point riders.
Court Duty is the other one I looked at in this race, and he can be expected to return to form after wind surgery and in a first-time tongue tie for John Flint. He’s one to keep an eye on, and I may have a saver if the market speaks for him.
Posted at 1800 BST on 17/10/2020