As you will know from many of my previous ante-post selections, weather plays a huge part in the shaping and potential confirmation of an ante-post bet. It can go spectacularly wrong of course, as weather forecasts are never 100% predictable, but used well it can help assess when there is a decent betting opportunity.
Sandown Park’s card on Friday is the beginning of a two-day cracker, with the Tingle Creek the highlight on Saturday. However, it could be defined by the sheer amount of rain/sleet/snow there is due on Friday morning, which could be upwards of 30mm according to some forecasters.
The hurdle track at Sandown Park is always softer than the chase track, so it would be hoped that the chase track isn’t too bad for the speedy 2m chasers in the Tingle Creek. But using this forecast to our advantage, there is definitely a bet to be had in the 3.00 on Friday at Sandown, the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle.
Espion is a standout each-way bet at 8/1 with Unibet, and is a horse that will at some stage be much better than his current rating of 128. What will help him fulfil that promise of better to come is heavy ground – on the two occasions he has raced on it, he beat the now 121-rated Gustavian with ease, and the run before he was beaten less than 10 lengths into third by subsequent Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle winner Fiddlerontheroof.
Back Espion in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle on Friday with Unibet!
On his seasonal reappearance he was too keen, but stepped forward massively on that at Sandown next time, when a better-than-it-looked third to the front-running Gortroe Joe. The second home that day has since gone very close to winning a better race next time, and everywhere you look Espion has very solid form.
Stepping up to 3m in the Sandown mud on Friday, will be exactly what Espion needs. He is a half brother to a horse who produced his bet at 3m+, while his dam is a half-sister to L’Ami, who placed twice in the Cross-Country Chase at the Cheltenham festival, won the banks race at a Punchestown Festival and ran in three Grand Nationals. On this evidence, Espion won’t lack for stamina if he has gained anything from his genes.
The forecast could benefit two-fold, as it enhances Espion’s chance to run well, but also could mean that he faces a smaller field of runners than normal – thus meaning that taking 8/1 each-way with Unibet now is a sensible idea.
The final piece of the jigsaw is that trainer, Philip Hobbs, has really started to hit form with his string in the last week or so, and Espion could well be another winner for Hobbs and his team at 3.00 on Friday.