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Matchbook Better Way To Bet Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle – 1.50
Date of Tips: 20/01/2021
Disclaimer The odds for these selections were correct at the time of publishing (10:34 20/01/2021) but may have changed since. Please check the latest price before placing your bet.
Storm Cristoph is about to wave goodbye to any chance of Saturday’s meeting at Haydock it seems, with an inspection on Thursday morning surely a formality. It is a shame, as it looked a high-quality meeting, with the Peter Marsh Chase always a favourite of mine – but it has done us a favour with one of our ante-post picks for next weekend’s Sky Bet Chase, as Cap Du Nord now only has the Doncaster option it would seem.
Ascot’s meeting is thus the only tempting option when it comes to a midweek ante-post bet, and that comes in the 1.50 – Matchbook Better Way To Bet Holloway’s Handicap Hurdle over 2m 3½f, in the shape of Grade 1-placed chaser Janika, who at 12/1 each-way with Unibet, has an outstanding chance of outclassing his opposition in this Grade 3 handicap hurdle.
Janika has a hurdle rating of 147, compared with his chase rating of 160 on these shores, and given he potentially faces only four other rivals who are rated in the 140’s on Saturday, he will find this much easier than the graded chases he has been contesting since joining Nicky Henderson. In fact, three of those 140+ rated horses have been given another option to run at Kelso on Tuesday, and the other one in that range, Lightly Squeeze, has the alternative option of the Betfair Hurdle in a few weeks’ time.
Janika has only had one hurdle start since December 2017, but he is not the biggest and very athletic, so is exactly the type of horse that could easily re-adjust to the smaller obstacles. He has been used to tanking along with the likes of rubber-stamped Grade 1 chasers like Defi Du Seuil, Un De Sceaux, Waiting Patiently and Politologue, and he actually finished a respectable fourth in this meeting’s Grade 1 Clarence House Chase last season.
Janika’s only hurdle start came in last season’s Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham, which is probably not his track, and came three weeks after that gruelling run in the Clarence House Chase. Having run another respectable race there, the handicapper has somehow taken a scythe to his hurdle mark, and dropped him 11lb to 147.
Daryl Jacob looks to be jocked up, and has a nice book of rides at Ascot on Saturday, and owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, guided by Anthony Bromley, are always alive to switching codes with their horses to good effect.
Janika was sent off 9/2 for the Clarence House Chase at the meeting last year, yet can be backed at 12/1 with Unibet for a much, much easier assignment this time around. That price doesn’t make sense to me, and so I suggest it rates as strong each-way bet.
The worry might be that this is a pipe-opener for something later in the season, but he won the Haldon Gold Cup on his first start last season, and ran a belter on his first run for the stable the season prior. Allied to the fact that his speed figures suggest his best runs have come when fresh, it all points to a big run in much his easiest assignment since coming across the English Channel.
Of the others, Benson was a huge eyecatcher on his last start over a now-seemingly inadequate 2m here at Ascot, and will appreciate the step up in trip. But no matter the trip, Ascot is not a track to continually give yourself too much to do, which he looks as if he is developing a marked habit of doing so.
And anyhow, even on his best behaviour, could Benson lay a glove on a genuine Grade 1 horse off a lowly handicap mark of 147? My inclination is to suggest not, so Janika at 12/1 with Unibet is the standout bet of the weekend.