|Midnight River||10/1||Ante Post
Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle – 2.25
Date of Tips: 12/01/2021
Disclaimer The odds for these selections were correct at the time of publishing (13:18 12/01/2021) but may have changed since. Please check the latest price before placing your bet.
Perhaps one of the quieter weekends of racing lies ahead of us, with Warwick’s Classic Chase day the main course, with the side dishes of one or two quality races from Fairyhouse and Market Rasen.
Very much a point of interest for followers of this column is Kim Bailey’s Happygolucky contesting the Grade 2 Hampton Court Novices’ Chase at 1.50 at Warwick, up against the lively RSA each-way chance Next Destination. A prominent showing from Bailey’s under-rated chaser, and the advised 25/1 that is still available in the ‘to win any race at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival’ market, will surely be a distant memory.
The 3m 5f Classic Chase will be some war of attrition given the wet forecast at the Midlands venue for the week ahead, and that will very much suit last year’s runner-up Captain Chaos, who looks to have been teed up to go one better this time around by local trainer Dan Skelton. He has been nibbled at in the ante-post market already, and looks short enough at a best price of 15/2, given he might face much more competition for the lead on this occasion. Reluctantly, he’s passed over.
However, Dan Skelton always targets this Warwick meeting given it is his local track’s biggest day of the year, and a glance at his record in the Ballymore Leamington Novices’ Hurdle at 2.25 confirms that view. He has sent out one runner in each of the last six renewals, and their finishing positions have been (most recent first): 3rd, 1st, 3rd, 4th, 4th, 1st.
Last year’s representative who grabbed the bronze medal was Shan Blue, and look what he has done since, while his two winners were Beakstown in 2019 and Three Musketeers in 2015. This year’s sole arrow is Midnight River, and at 10/1 each-way with Sky Bet, Paddy Power or Unibet he is a very sound bet.
Midnight River is stepping up to Graded company for the first time, but he is very much deserving of the opportunity to win this Grade 2. Given time to develop as a bumper horse, his best run in that sphere came at Wetherby when he chased home Ask A Honey Bee and Solwara One, filling third ahead of Tupelo Mississippi – all three of whom have won over hurdles since and proved to be very decent.
Three hurdle starts this season have been hugely progressive, as Midnight River has gone from winning nicely at Uttoxeter on hurdle debut, to running subsequent Grade 2 winner Does He Know close at Cheltenham, on ground livelier than ideal.
His third and latest hurdle run I believe was just about the most relevant in relation to this Grade 2 Leamington Novices’ Hurdle. You may feel I am mad in suggesting that scraping home as a 1/4 favourite from a 33/1 shot, with a 66/1 shot in fourth, is his best run.
But, the hurdles track at Leicester is notorious for eating up and spitting out anything that races on the inside on soft or heavy ground. Regularly races are contested by those that race widest of all, as the ground is presumably better and less chewed up there.
Midnight River raced inside of everything all the way round, jumped slickly as has been a feature of all his hurdle starts, and had plenty left in the closing stages to put the race to bed. In doing so, he proved that very testing ground is no hindrance to him, and ran way above the bare form.
The seemingly workmanlike nature of his success that day has allowed the layers to open up with quotes of 10/1 – much too big about a horse bringing the best and most relevant pieces of form into this race.
There are plenty of potential improvers in opposition, but Midnight River himself has scope to improve further, and will surely have been targeted at this from a fair way off. At 10/1 each-way with Sky Bet, Paddy Power or Unibet, he is simply too big.