Friday, 8 January 2021

Saturday 9th January 2021: Esprit to Give it Large at Chepstow

We have a snow, rainy, foggy racing weekend on the cards for sure but it is brightened right up by all the good value betting opportunities.

All-weather racing at Lingfield and Chelmsford ably compliments some excellent action at Kempton, Chepstow and Wincanton over the jumps as we get to witness Grade 1 action and the rescheduled Welsh Grand National.

While racing is of very high quality on Saturday afternoon, some of the major contenders are set to go off at skinny prices and as such are unbackable, while these four on the other hand all represent good value and could make a gloomy weekend a whole let better by 4pm.

12.00 Lingfield (Novice Median Auction Stakes) – WHO CARES WINS

This is an interesting if low-grade three-year-old novice race, one in which two of the leading contenders and market leaders have arguably had enough chances to impress.

Both Andrew Balding’s Discomatic and Gary Moore’s Toronado Grey have had three spins, and while their form is OK is arguably doesn’t quite match up with that of the selection who also has a little more improvement to come on the all-weather on what is his own third start.

Who Cares Wins, trained by Alan King and ridden by Hollie Doyle, has run twice over at Chelmsford over a mile and improved nicely between starts.

He kept on well for a decent third last time out in a higher quality race and by all accounts he has come on very nicely in the three weeks since, making him a fairly obvious selection now despite him being only third in the market overnight which could work very much in our favour.

12.17 Chepstow (Handicap Chase) – ESPRIT DU LARGE

Our early start continues and it’s hoped we’ve all got some pretty decent profit in the bag before it even ticks 12.30!

The one we’re banking on in this near-2½-mile handicap chase is Evan Williams’ Esprit Du Large. The level he reached a year or so ago on only his third chase start would be enough to get him home here off this mark, and while he hasn’t got to that level again since it’s what makes him interesting.

Given his age and experience it seems he should reach that level and get beyond it soon enough, so the fact that he fell on his seasonal debut this term before improving markedly to run third at Carlisle on bottomless ground is very encouraging.

This is just his seventh start over fences, he’s had two months off and has been sent to a race giving him ideal conditions in which to show his best so it would be no surprise if Adam Wedge’s mount comfortably outruns his odds.

Dangers here include Venetia Williams’ Cepage, who is usually very well supported in the market, Paul Nicholls’ My Way who is ridden by Bryony Frost and Phlip Hobbs’ Gala Ball with those connections ensuring there should be enough money against our horse to keep Esprit Du Large’s price honest.

2.15 Lingfield (Handicap) – SCARLET DRAGON 

We’re back over to the all-weather for this one, a good-looking Class 2 handicap over a mile-and-a-half.

Ian Williams’ recent dual all-weather winner Autumn War will most likely go off favourite, though both of those wins were achieved on Wolverhampton’s Tapeta track over 1m6f making this race look very, very different indeed. He may just be taken off his feet.

His stablemate Cardano is next in but he suffers from a very similar form malady. His two recent runner-up efforts were both very solid indeed, but again were achieved on Tapeta at Newcastle over the extended 1½ miles there which again rides very differently to Lingfield.

The one I like here is another representing the Alan King/Holli Doyle combo, Scarlet Dragon. A veteran now under rules, Scarlet Dragon will be having his 50th outing on Saturday but while he’s well known over hurdles, he has had just the eight starts on the all-weather.

His latest one was over this course and distance in a very similar contest back in December, one in which he was slowly away but just quietly plugged on for a 1¾-length fourth. He is clearly capable of way better than that, so he can be expected now to put in a much stronger performance.

Good old Raymond Tusk is also in the line-up here and would always hold a chance, though it seems those solid types could just be setting it up for our boy who looks sure to reach a new level on the flat this weekend.

3.57 Kempton (Handicap Hurdle) – BREFFINBOY 

There’s been a three-way fight for favouritism in this two-mile Class 3 handicap hurdle as we head into the weekend; Pam Sly’s Fransham, Donald McCain’s Chti Balko and Johnny Farrelly’s Breffinboy all being well supported.

That is great for anyone with a reasonably strong selection in the race as it ensures we don’t see it go too low in the market, and so at around 3/1 this Breffinboy starts to look really good value to me.

A winner of five of his last 6 races Breffinboy is obviously on the up, there is no doubt about that at all. The key from a punting point of view is to decide just how much more there is still to come from a horse climbing the weights all the time, and I reckon there is plenty.

He wasn’t fully stretched when running his best race, his last-time-out win, so bearing in mind that was at Cheltenham against 15 rivals you’d have to mark that down as being pretty impressive.

He’s gone up another 6lbs here but he’s worth a rise of at least that much for my money, while this weekend’s opposition may actually be a step down for him.

The aforementioned Fransham and Chti Balko are the main dangers, while we cannot discount Nordican Bleue of Dr Richard Newland’s yard either.

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