Having lost countless jumps meetings over the last few weeks, it is pleasing to see a slightly warmer front moving in over the upcoming days. It should be here in time to savour the weekend’s action at Cheltenham and Doncaster, and at first glance, betting opportunities look thin on the ground, especially as followers of this column will be on two at nice prices for the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster on Saturday.
The Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham has been brought into focus today, as likely favourite Santini was rated as 50:50 to run by trainer Nicky Henderson. Given most bookmakers are still offering 3 places for each-way bets on the race, Saint Calvados makes significant appeal at 9/2 to improve for another step up in trip.
His last two starts last season were career bests, and they coincided with a step up to 2m4f – especially as the form of his Ryanair looks mighty strong now. Saint Calvados was a bit keen and fresh in the King George VI Chase on his return, and will be straighter for that you’d imagine, but there’s just enough doubts about the step up to not just 3m, but 3m 1½f on Saturday, and the stable have been quiet. So, while I wouldn’t put you off, I also wouldn’t strongly put you on!
The one bet I have had this week comes in Thursday’s Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park at 2.20, a race that can often be the domain of the potential, the intermittent or the failed staying chaser. Given it is always contested on bottomless ground, and with between 5-15mm of rain forecast before racing, this year’s renewal will be no different, only the hardiest need apply.
Diol Ker went into many a notebook when winning a 2m 4f maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse in November 2019, beating a whole host of future winners, including current RSA Chase favourite and last season’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle winner Monkfish.
At 9/1 to win Thursday’s Galmoy Hurdle, Diol Ker rates as very good each-way bet with William Hill.
Diol Ker fairly sprinted away from Monkfish on similarly bottomless ground that day, and Thursday’s race is the first time that he has the combination of 3m and heavy ground, and for a horse that looks to have the engine of a tank, it will surely suit him.
This season hasn’t fully gone to plan, as three chase runs were hindered by sketchy jumping over the bigger obstacles, but the engine quite clearly remains, as he wasn’t beaten far over an inadequate trip on the two occasions he completed.
Noel Meade as shelved chasing for now, and gained instant reward over hurdles, when Diol Ker rallied to great effect over 2m 4f at Limerick on Boxing Day. Cheekpieces go on for Thursday’s Grade 2, Sean Flanagan has chosen him over stablemate Sixshooter, and given he still holds a Stayers’ Hurdle entry, it seems Meade has lost no faith in Diol Ker’s ability.
I suggest heeding all of those hints, and suggest taking the 9/1 each-way about Diol Ker, with William Hill, for Gowran Park’s Galmoy Hurdle at 2.20 on Thursday.