While having a bit of wintry weather is lovely to tinge this time of year with some seasonality, it does play havoc with the racing program. Cheltenham’s New Year’s Day meeting is always a lovely way to blow away the cobwebs of the previous year, and launch into a new era with much optimism.
However, given the track is currently waterlogged in places and with further wintry weather in the forecast, prospects for their meeting on Friday look troublesome. Fingers crossed for an upturn in the forecast, and if so, there is some really intriguing betting races to get stuck into. More of that later, and weather depending!
In terms of an ante-post look ahead, Saturday’s meeting at Ayr looks to have a more hopeful outlook, as they currently have the frost covers down on ground that is officially described as ‘heavy, soft in places.’ Once the covers are lifted, it is sure to be very testing indeed, and that I feel will play very much into the hands of two overpriced selections in the ‘Support The Injured Jockeys Fund Handicap Hurdle’ at 2.40, which will form part of ITV’s coverage on Saturday.
The first is Charlie Longsdon’s Illegal Model, who seems to have the champion jockey Brian Hughes booked for his long trip north. At 8/1 with William Hill, he has a very lively each-way chance to significantly outrun those odds, on the back of two very respectable efforts so far this season.
Back Illegal Model in the Support The Injured Jockeys Fund Handicap Hurdle with William Hill!
VISIT WILLIAM HILL
Third under Hughes at Uttoxeter in a competitive handicap hurdle, he was then a much-better-than-it-looked fifth behind Portrush Ted at Sandown a month ago. It was very much beneficial to race prominently and wide on the hurdles track at the Esher course that day, and that was what winner Portrush Ted did.
Illegal Model ran a very similar race to the sixth home Flemcara, who has just bolted up in a similar race at Doncaster, in that he was held up and stuck nearer the inner than ideal. Given this effort can be marked up hugely, Illegal Model rates as an underrated 8/1 chance with William Hill, and it is worth an each-way bet now, as the field could cut up a little come declarations on Thursday.
The other selection is a standing dish for local trainer Ian Duncan at Ayr, and at 12/1 with William Hill also, Portstorm also has a massive each-way chance. Conor O’Farrell looks set for the ride and he was on Portstorm for his seasonal debut win, which was a remarkable effort given the amount of ground he made up in the straight to win very snugly that day.
Back Portstorm in the Support The Injured Jockeys Fund Handicap Hurdle with William Hill!
VISIT WILLIAM HILL
The trainer was adamant afterwards that Portstorm would come on significantly for the run, and if so, he can prove the meeting with some local winning flavour. His best run last season came when giving the highly rated Gordon Elliott-trained Escaria Ten a fright on his second run after a mid-season break. Escaria Ten is now rated in the mid-to-high 130’s, and they had recent chase winner and now 135-rated Empire Steel well beaten off in third.
Portstorm is still on a mark of 121, which is very lenient, as the handicapper has had more than one chance to rate him higher, but has seen fit not to. On his home patch and in front of a terrestrial TV audience, Portstorm can go very well at 12/1.