Matt Brocklebank unearthed 10/1 winners last Saturday and at Cheltenham on Friday - he picks out the value on the biggest weekend cards.
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It’s been a productive couple of weeks for trainer Gary Moore and things could be about to get a whole lot better as Goshen returns to the National Hunt world in Saturday’s Unibet International Hurdle at Cheltenham.
No doubt everyone connected to the horse briefly wanted the earth to swallow them up after what happened here in the Triumph Hurdle in March, but at the very least we can hope for a clear round this weekend, if only to see just how good he can be and gain a fair gauge on how high he could scale later in the season.
The son of Derby winner Authorized clearly has more than a touch of class when physically primed and the word from the camp this week would leave you in little doubt he can dispatch this lot en route to better things.
But based on two relatively underwhelming (and unnecessary?) Flat runs during September and October, plus a suspect scope reported in the subsequent weeks, perhaps it’s too much to expect any fireworks.
I’m naturally inclined to take him on as such a short-priced favourite and the bet in the feature looks to be CH’TIBELLO (8/1 Hills, BoyleSports), who is guaranteed to get a strong pace to aim at, especially if Goshen is taken on early at the head of affairs by impressive Coral Hurdle winner Song For Someone.
Ballyandy likes to help force it too and Summerville Boy is down from three miles last time so is hardly going to be ridden for a change of gear either.
Harry Skelton should be able to hold onto Ch’tibello for about as long as he likes and the nine-year-old showed he can still travel with all his old menace when ultimately just beaten half a length by Summerville Boy on his seasonal return over two miles, four furlongs at Aintree.
Dropping back to this distance will suit the Skelton horse, who famously landed a gamble over course and distance in the 2019 County Hurdle, and was a fine third behind Call Me Lord and Ballyandy, when conceding 4lb to the pair of them, in this event last December.
Unlike Verdana Blue – who is admittedly vaguely interesting at a massive price on such favourable terms if able to recapture anything like her peak hurdles form – the selection handles soft ground well enough and second time out after a summer breathing operation looks the time to side with him, especially with the Skelton horses right on their game at present.
If Goshen is a little too short for comfort then stablemate BENATAR (25/1 General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5) looks decidedly over-priced in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase.
His last run over this track and trip resulted in a highly creditable third in the Grade 1 JLT (now Marsh) Novices’ Chase won by Shattered Love at the 2018 Festival, when splitting horses who went on to be rated 159 (Terrefort) and 177 (Kemboy).
So on face value Benatar is without question the best-handicapped horse in the field, having been gifted a 7lb easing of his mark (down to 142) due to spending the thick end of two years out of action.
He was very free-going in his youth and got a real reputation as a result, but it’s worth recalling he was sent off favourite to beat a certain Cyrname when we last saw him in public at Ascot in January 2019 so he's always been classy.
It didn’t work out there and he obviously injured himself but it was encouraging to see him stretching his legs, and looking considerably more settled, at Newbury’s gallops morning ahead of their Winter Carnival last month.
The Ladbrokes Trophy was said to be under consideration at one point so he can’t be anywhere near as exuberant as he once was, but it looks a sensible move to skip that test and stick to this intermediate distance for his comeback.
He’ll also have done plenty more work in the interim and with the stable in such good form, I can’t let him go unbacked first time back.
With former habitual faller and handicap newcomer Master Tommytucker heading the market (and the weights), I’m going to add a second bet in the same race, with ANNIE MC (25/1 bet365 1/4 1,2,3,4) worth having on side at the same price, albeit with only four places at that rate.
She emerges from what is turning out to be quite an informative edition of the Old Roan Handicap Chase at Aintree at the end of October, where she failed to make any real impression on the principals having been held up.
Perhaps she was found out in the grade and if that’s the case then a 2lb drop probably won’t be enough for her to deliver at Cheltenham, but she’s entitled to come on a fair chunk for the outing, especially when you consider she was beaten 18 lengths first time out last term before winning three on the spin.
Those victories all came in mares’ events and lacked a bit of substance, but she wasn’t entirely disgraced in the Marsh Novices’ Chase over course and distance in March. She was making some promising progress from the off the pace before meeting the fourth-last all wrong and eventually trailed home a well-beaten ninth, which isn’t a fair reflection of the overall performance.
She’ll be able to ghost into this race from the back of the field, with Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Coole Cody among half a dozen or more horses who really like to get on with their chasing, and the fitting of first-time cheekpieces might just help eke out a bit more improvement when it matters most.
CROSSGALESFAMEGAME (9/1 General) sneaks into Cheltenham's Close Brothers Mares’ Handicap Hurdle at the foot of the weights and looks to have realistic claims of reversing recent form with Wincanton winner The White Mouse.
Not only is Fergal O’Brien’s horse 9lb better off at the revised weights, but going back to this stage last season it appears Crossgalesfamegame improved to the tune of something like 20lb for her comeback run on good going at Huntingdon to win in style on heavy at Market Rasen.
The Friday rain turning Cheltenham to soft, good to soft in places – with more showers to follow – will be right up her street and she did still look on an upward curve when third to Bond’s Lover at Newbury in January.
She was a non-runner (self-cert) at the Festival but was geared up for a crack at the Grade 1 Mares’ Hurdle there so should be able to do some damage from a mark of 125 now with the outing under her belt.
Connor Brace is in for the ride taking off another 3lb too, with Paddy Brennan at Doncaster, but that’s hardly a bad thing given Brace’s record for the yard (35 winners).
Up at Doncaster the ground might not be quite so holding but more rain wouldn't be such a bad thing for MANOFTHEMOUNTAIN (6/1 BoyleSports).
He was eventually pretty well thrashed at Cheltenham in October when bidding to extend his fine winning run over fences, but he gave it a good fist of things for a long way before finishing fourth to Frodon.
There's no disgrace in that and third home Cloth Cap has come out to win the Ladbrokes Trophy so it was clearly a bit of a baptism of fire for a relatively unexposed horse who is still learning his trade.
He could react badly to that defeat, of course, but there's a chance too it might just have put hairs on his chest and he'll love getting back on a flat track this weekend. The seven-year-old won at Bangor in September on his first start for 274 days despite losing a shoe and comes here just 7lb higher in the ratings.
With Boldmere and Jersey Bean bossing the betting, it just looks like Manofthemountain is being underestimated a fraction and I'm more than happy to side with Emma Lavelle's horse at 5/1 or bigger.
Posted at 1600 GMT on 11/11/20
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