After the racing public was thoroughly spoiled by two unbelieveable cards at Haydock and Ascot yesterday, things return somewhat to the norm today and I'm looking to Exeter’s 2.05 Novices’ Handicap Chase to offer up my best bet of the day. With the forecast set to remain dry and the ground set to remain good, the undulating Exeter course will challenge both the stamina and jumping proficency of these five runners in what promises to be a highly competative event!
The card is headed by the Paul Nicholls’ trained SONOFVIC (6/4 Betfred) who will carry top weight of 11-5. This full brother to the useful Aiteen Thirtythree showed impressive novice form last year by finishing a close second to Grand Crus in a Grade 2 chase only loosing out by 2 lengths. He made a very impressive season’s reappearance at this track by beating the much respected Kentford Grey Lady by 12 lengths after being eased down near the finish. Sonofvic was sent off the second favourite that day and was forced to make the running after the the only other horse in the race fell early on. Nevertheless his jumping was very accurate and he dealt with the track’s undulations and testing finishing well. He looks like a very progressive individual and all things being equal he should take this victory in his stride.
Although this is a good quality, competitive race the likeliest threat should come from According To Trev (9/4 SkyBet). This horse started the season in good style by picking up two victories in quick succession at Southwell on good ground winning well when sent off odds-on on both occasions. He came a little unstuck 37 days ago when he took on better opposition over the Cheltenham fences and could only finish 3rd some 6 and a quarter lengths behind the winner. The form of that Class 2 Novice Chase hasn’t worked out well yet, as both the first and second failed to perform well on their next starts. Nonetheless, According To Trev handles the ground, receives weight from Sonofvic and is a good fluent jumper in the main. He could well lack the class needed to beat the favourite but should give a good account of himself.
Likewise, the bottom weight Shockingtimes (7/1 Ladbrokes) should run well. His only start of this season saw him comfortably beat 6 other rivals by 13 lengths at Southwell on good to soft ground. Again, the form of that race is yet to be franked and it is questionable as to what he actually beat that day (the second was sent off 20/1) but the manner of his victory was encouraging. Although receiving weight all round he still finds himself 6lbs out of the handicap and may well find the quality of his opposition too much to contend with.
The other two remaining runners are yet to have their first starts this season and both represent risky propositions from a punting perspective. The Oliver Sherwood trained Kasbadali (11/2 Ladbrokes) is an interesting runner as his last outing came at Sandown in December 2012 where he finished a close second to Araldur over Hurdles. That horse ended his own season rated in the low 140’s over hurdles, a mark which would match him to those at the head of the market for this race. However, the 351 day absence doesn’t exactly instil a great deal of confidence and the horses’ best form has come on ground with plenty of give in it so he’s one to watch.
Finally we have Ballytober (8/1 Betfred) who was last seen finishing a distant 12th of 22 over hurdles at Aintree in May. It is difficult to know what to make of this horse and his chances, but on the form available anyone backing him will be doing so based on guess work. Prior to his 12th position he was pulled up and suffered a fall the run before that. He cannot, with any sense, be backed to win this race.
I am very taken with Sonofvic. Despite giving weight away to all his rivals I expect him to make a bold show and win well. He is by far the most progressive of the runners and coupled with his course and distance winning form he looks easily the best selection. His trainer has a fantastic strike rate at the course over the last few seasons (30%+) and I’m sure Paul Nicholls will be confident he can enhance it here with this horse. Even though the ground may well be a little firmer than ideal I am confident that this horses’ ability over fences will allow him to stamp his class on this race and account for his rivals. He could well develop into an interesting horse to follow in handicaps for the rest of the season.
SONOFVIC (WIN) (6/4 Betfred)