|Honest Vic||20/1||Ante Post
Date of Tips: 22/11/2020
Disclaimer The odds for these selections were correct at the time of publishing (18:12 22/11/2020) but may have changed since. Please check the latest price before placing your bet.
Ladbrokes sponsor the high quality two-day Winter Festival at Newbury this coming weekend, the centrepiece of which will be the Ladbrokes Trophy on Saturday – and hopefully one of our two ante-post stabs at the race can grab victory in the prestigious race.
The meeting kicks off on the Friday however, and barring a shower or two on Wednesday, the weather looks pretty consistent for the week. So hopefully we can engage full steam ahead on the proviso of decent safe good-to-soft ground.
There looks a good opportunity for a bet in one of the feature handicaps on Friday, the catchily named Get Your Ladbrokes £1 Free Bet Today Handicap Chase at 2.25. Ante-post favourite Hill Sixteen, who hosed up on his stable debut for the Nigel Twiston-Davies yard at Ffos Las on Wednesday, would be popular with many should he turn up with the mandatory 6lb penalty. But this will be much more competitive than the Ffos Las race, and the ground plenty lively enough for him. While he also has an entry in the 3m handicap hurdle on the same card, so may not even turn up here.
Speaking of participation in this race, there are five of the entries who are also entered in a race at Doncaster on the same day, while Huntsman Son and San Benedeto (who would both be dangers to the selection) are entered in the Grand Sefton at Aintree the weekend after.
All of this, I believe, could leave the way clear for Dan Skelton to win the race with Oldgrangewood for the third time in the last four years – and at 7/1 and four places each-way with Unibet right now, he looks a really good ante-post proposition. Always highly rated by the Skelton team, he went chasing after just 6 career starts, and he justified this move by winning four handicaps (including this race in 2017) in the 13 months subsequent to his chasing debut – climbing all the way up to a rating of 147.
The season or two after that he struggled a tad for consistency and on account of having to be upped in grade somewhat. However, such disappointments could be explained by the need for a wind operation before last season, as Oldgrangewood soon regained his best form to win this race again in 2019, and also at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. Put away for the Festival after that, he ran a belter when fourth in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate behind Simply The Betts, when doing much the best of the hold-up horses that day, in a race that was run to suit the front-runners.
A slow pace bedevilled his seasonal debut too, in this season’s Old Roan Chase at Aintree, when Harry Skelton had to try and make the race a stamina test himself by making a sweeping mid-race move. It looked inspired as he jumped the second last in front, but ended up unfortunately setting it up for others. Oldgrangewood still ran very well in fourth again, as a final fence blunder signified that he had tired and would possibly be better for the run.
It’s obviously not coincidence that the Skelton’s have earmarked his next run as this race, and with the prospect of decent ground, and plenty of pacesetters amongst the entries at this stage, it all looks set up quite nicely for Oldgrangewood to etch his name in the roll of honour of this race yet again. At 7/1 each-way with Unibet securing four places now, he could well be much shorter come the day.
Three horses dominated the staying hurdle scene between the late 1990’s and early 2010’s – Baracouda, Inglis Drever and the mighty Big Bucks have all been multiple winners of the Stayers Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Since Big Bucks triumphed for the fourth time in 2012, we have had 8 different winners of the race, and I feel that there will be a changing of the guard in 2021 again.
Immediately after last year’s Festival, I was keen to keep two particular horses for the race onside at big odds – Sire Du Berlais has won his seasonal reappearance nicely, over an inadequate trip, while the other, Thyme Hill, reappears in Newbury’s Long Distance Hurdle at 3.00 on Friday. It would be pleasing to see a decent seasonal debut from Philip Hobbs’ star, but as has been consistent with most of the horses from the stable, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him run well but shaping as if he’d be better for it.
Hence, I’m going to take him on, and I’m also going to take on the whole front end of the market. For all that this looks the deepest staying hurdle race that we have seen for a long, long time (potentially even better than last year’s Stayers Hurdle), there could be a horse that has escaped the attentions of many, and is priced accordingly for the race on Friday.
Often this division can be raided by an improving handicapper – and I think Henry Daly’s improving Honest Vic, can do just that in the Long Distance Hurdle at 3.00 at Newbury in Friday, and at general odds of 20/1, he is an outstanding each-way bet.
Stepped up to 3m for the first time in the Pertemps Qualifier at Cheltenham’s October meeting, he simply routed the opposition in the manner of a horse who had improved not only for the extra distance, but also the extra time to strengthen and mature during the summer. As a seven-year-old now, he will be edging towards his peak, and in hosing up off a mark of 141 at Cheltenham, Honest Vic quickly marked himself down as a stayer to follow.
With the likes of Paisley Park, Lisnagar Oscar, Mcfabulous all lying in wait, this looks mercilessly tough on his first step out of handicap company. But Honest Vic produced a performance visually and on the clock at Cheltenham, that suggested he was very much up to cutting the mustard at this level – and at 20/1 perhaps the perceived competitiveness of this race has given us an opportunity to take an inflated price.
I think there are doubts about a lot of the opposition, which would make me feel that Honest Vic has a huge chance of outrunning his odds. Paisley Park has to prove he is the same horse we saw before his unfortunate heart issues emerged, Lisnagar Oscar won a weak renewal of the Stayers Hurdle and was slightly disappointing on his seasonal debut at Wetherby.
McFabulous is the talking horse in this division, and yes he may improve again upped in trip, but he won a very weak renewal of the Persian War Novices’ Hurdle at Chepstow and don’t forget his last run before that came in handicap company, winning off a mark of 132 – 9lbs less than the mark Honest Vic won off at Cheltenham.
Summerville Boy’s best trip looks to be 2m4f, Sam Spinner is always vulnerable in the very top grade now, while Aux Ptits Soins, Vision Des Flos and One Night In Milan fall short of the required level seemingly.
Which all leaves the strongest stayer and potentially the classiest horse in the race to be Thyme Hill, and as previously stated, if there is a time to oppose him it could be first time out. Step forward, Honest Vic to give us a huge run for our money at a general 20/1 each-way.