Today's card at Musselburgh includes some good quality hurdling events, however i’ve turned my attention to an interesting 4 runner Novice Handicap Chase for my best bet of the day which i’ve got for you all here!
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Normally I’m not a fan of small field handicaps as they can be trappy little events which makes tipping the winner even more difficult than it is normally. On this occasion though, I'm confident that i’ve unearthed a good selection who should not only run well but should also offer some market value against the favourite.
The horse which has caught my eye is the Keith Reveley trained ROBBIE (5/2 Ladbrokes). Although this 9 year-old isn’t getting any younger he remains unexposed over fences after only contesting two races in his career. Both of those came at the end of last season where he improved for his first run at Kelso and went on to win with a bit in hand at Huntingdon in a novice chase. In that race he made all from the front and displayed a clean round of jumping, characteristics which will be hugely beneficial to him for the demands of Musselburgh. His pedigree suggests that he will appreciate the step up to 2m4f as he is a half-brother to two 2m4f+ hurdle winners, and on his last start he gave the impression that another 3 furlongs coupled with good ground could bring about more improvement. With another summer of training over fences behind him, he may well have continued to sharpen his technique and could be hard to pass if allowed to dictate matters from the front.
Undoubtedly the biggest danger is the market leader – Princely Player (1/1 Betfred), who has strong claims on the basis of his hurdling form. Since the start of this season, this Philip Hobbs trained horse has contested two good quality competitive handicap hurdle races where he has finished well on both occasions. On all known hurdling form this horse stands head and shoulders above his rivals and will prove very difficult to beat if able to mirror that level over fences. However (and this is a big however) this horses’ tendency to sit off the pace at the rear coupled with his general jumping style doesn’t exactly instil a great deal of confidence from a punting perspective. On his latest run at Cheltenham he regularly came into contact with the hurdles due to his low jumping action and had to come from a long way back to contest the victory. Although he showed great resolve to only lose by a length; if he replicates these issues at Musselburgh, a track which suits handy horses who sit at the head of affairs, he may well find one too good.
The other two challengers, Katys Girl (7/2 Coral) and Castlelawn (8/1 Betfred), are both out of the handicap (3lbs and 6lbs respectively) and therefore have an uphill task to win off their given marks. Of the two, Katys Girl certainly has the best chance as she has already won once over fences on soft ground at Sligo. On her last start over 2m2f on good ground at Thurles she was one-paced when it came to the final few furlongs and the step back up to 2m4f should suit with the ground not a concern considering past form. However, undoubtedly she is seen to her best when allowed to dictate matters from the front, and set her own pace. Unfortunately with the inclusion of two other front-runners (Robbie and Castlelawn) the pace will be strongly contested and she is vulnerable to being outpaced one again in the final stages.
Although Robbie is vulnerable to the favourite on past hurdling form I am confident that at the market prices he represents not only the value bet but also the likeliest winner of this race. Princely Player’s low jumping action over hurdles is a definite concern especially considering that he has only had 20 days at home to adapt and improve his technique for fences. I cannot justify backing a short priced favourite who’s ability is questionable. It may be that Philip Hobbs has schooled him well and he will improve for the change, however as a punter I’d rather side with a horse who’s technique is sound. Robbie may not be a world-beater and he may not have the scope Princely Player has, but on this day and for this contest Robbie ticks all the right boxes and warrants a punt!
NAP Time Selection –
ROBBIE (WIN) (5/2 Ladbrokes)
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