Kim Muir Chase (March 14th)
1pt e/w Woods Well @ 50/1 (Coral, SportingBet – NRNB)
Arkle Chase (March 12th)
1pt e/w Us And Them @ 20/1 (Skybet – NRNB, BOG, or Boyles NRNB)
Total staked 4pts
This is a week for taking ante-post positions on some runners for next week, with the aim of getting much better odds than we will on the day, or a refund in the worst case scenario.
I wrote this about Us And Them in the Weatherby’s Betting Guide, and while events have overtaken these words with Le Richebourg out, it actually strengthens his position at current odds:
Lively Outsider: Us And Them – Arkle Chase
One of my favourite betting edges is the “second string” angle, in which a trainer runs two or more horses in a race in which both can be fancied, but one is deemed the neglected based on the evidence of the formbook or simply riding arrangements, and where that horse is ignored entirely by punters as a result. Those who bet such horses based purely on form considerations tend to do very well for all the strike-rate is a little low, and probably explains why a small percentage of punters have a strange fondness for Ahmed Ajtebi. I wouldn’t suggest for a second that Us And Them is of equal merit to Le Richebourg, but in finishing second to his stable companion in Grade 1 events at Leopardstown either side of Christmas, he has shown himself to be a solid performer in the division, and one who would be a much shorter price if he represented a different yard.
I believe Le Richebourg has a tremendous chance of winning the Arkle, and he would certainly be my choice to win the race given what a big impression he’s made to date, and both his fluent jumping and ability to settle off a strong pace are big positives in a race where many contenders each year are flattered by dominating weaker opposition. Where I differ from many other punters is that I believe that Le Richebourg’s huge talent increases the chance of Us And Them making the frame at Cheltenham, because he can be upgraded for serving it up to the best in the division. Those framing the market will view his defeat at the hands of the market leader as a reason to diminish his chance, but I believe in trying to rank the contenders in order of ability, and I would rate Us And Them higher than a number who figure above him in the market. He is also a sound jumper who doesn’t fall apart under pressure, something underlined by the failure of the better fancied Knocknanuss and Voix du Reve to cope with such pressures in the Frank Ward at Leopardstown. Us And Them also showed that he does not need to lead to give his running, and the experience he has gained in defeat the last twice is worth more than any facile victory. The question which needs asking is “will he run?” but with the Arkle being his only Grade 1 entry at Cheltenham, and with a HRI rating of 152 meaning he’d have a big weight in the Grand Annual, so that is an unlikely option. It’s worth dwelling on that rating, though. It is justified by performance in my opinion, and is equal to or higher than the equivalent BHA marks given to the likes of Lalor and Kalashnikov. That puts his task in perspective, and I’d much rather part with my money on him than that overhyped pair, worthy though they are.
The case for Woods Well is simple. He was an out-of-form 50/1 shot unlikely to make the cut in the Kim Muir a couple of days ago, but is suddenly a back-to-form winner almost certain of his place having won well at Leopardstown on Sunday, and in a race his trainer thinks will suit. Gordon Elliott has a tremendous record in handicaps at Cheltenham for a reason, and if he allows Woods well to travel, then he is at worst a 16/1 shot. The firms who haven’t slashed his price are clearly not paying attention.