Antepost Angles – Week 2

Estimated read time 10 min read

The King George blown wide open

A month or so ago the King George looked a two-horse race. Bravemansgame was all but confirmed to defend his crown with the possibility of Shishkin spoiling the party. Fast forward to the current day and we have a wide-open renewal.

Shishkin remains a little bit of an enigma having refused to race in the Nirvana Spa 1965 Chase. He’s always had a few quirks, but this has really thrown a spanner in the works. Sitting on an antepost slip, I am still hopeful of a big run in the Boxing Day bonanza, and I firmly believe the demands of the race will suit. A perfect 4/4 at Kempton, lets hope he decides to go at track he clearly thrives around.

The decision to run Bravemansgame in the Betfair Chase was a strange one to me but the whole situation surrounding the jockey bookings was just odd. Harry Cobden was at his brilliant best at Ascot, and I thought Daryl Jacob did very little wrong, steering Bravemansgame to second at Haydock. It made no difference, but I find it strange that the yards number one jockey wasn’t on the yards best horse.  

The Gold Cup quite often leaves its mark on a horse and there’s fair reason to believe that may be the case for both Bravemansgame and Galopin Des Champs. That being said, I thought Bravemansgame was excellent in the Charlie Hall, and I would be more inclined to blame the quickish turnaround and Haydock as a track for his lesser effort in the Betfair Chase. Bravemansgame possesses plenty of pace and jumping is his major strength. Haydock is a big, long galloping track and unlike Kempton, puts more of an emphasis on stamina. I think Royale Pagaille simply outstayed him at a track that plays heavily to his strengths. 

Paul Nicholls does now face a tricky task in freshening Bravemansgame up for the defence of his King George crown. We know that race is tailormade for him, but what we don’t know is how much fuel is left in the tank. At his current odds, I think you have to leave him alone. 

Garri Colombe has been well supported in the last 48 hours and it seems Gordon Elliott is flirting with the idea of running him. Despite winning two Grade 1s at the intermediate trip, I’m not convinced Kempton’s speed test would suit Gerri Colombe. When you throw in the likes of Allaho and a potentially returning L’Homme Presse, you have a very tricky market to assess. Subsequently, I think the best play in the King Goerge is to wait until the day and see who rocks up.

I shall be cheering on Shishkin and my ante-post docket at 10/1!

Fantastic Fastorslow gets the better of Galopin again, but the Gold Cup champ will get his revenge in March 

Over the Irish sea, there was more drama as Gold Cup champ, Galopin Des Champs, was defeated once again by Fastorslow. As stated before, this got the racing world talking about whether the Gold Cup has left its mark again. That may well be the case and only time will tell, but I thought there was plenty to like about Galopin’s reappearance.

Given his heroics last season, you would have to think Willie has been extra careful with him and slowly eased him back into training. I think he will be primed for one day in March and subsequently, I think you’ll see vast improvement for each run this season. 

The team, at Closutton have done a fantastic job in teaching Galopin to settle, but so much so that he almost appeared to race a little lazily. His jumping wasn’t as sharp as it can be, and he didn’t really latch on to the bridle until five from home. He appears a thorough stayer these days and with a peak official rating of 180, we know he’s an exceptional talent. I would expect to see improvement in the Irish Gold Cup, before he returns to peak powers to defend his crown in March! 

State Man confirms his class and gets me thinking about a certain stablemate

State Man successfully defended his Morgiana crown and in the process landed a sixth Grade 1. Having been brushed aside by Constitution Hill, he doesn’t get the credit he deserves. I have no doubt he will continue to dominate the Irish two-mile hurdle scene and many more Grade 1s surely await.

Given State Man’s dominance in that division, I do find the decision to keep Impaire Et Passe hurdling a strange one, to say the least. A scopey individual on looks, he will surely make up into a fine chaser one day, but I can’t help but think why are the Mullins camp keeping him over hurdles? Does he simply need time to mature and fill his frame, are they looking to capitalise on a division lacking in depth, or most interestingly to me, do they believe he is better than State Man. 

On official ratings, Impaire Et Passe has 6lbs to find with State Man and a further 9lbs to find with Constitution Hill. Gaelic Warrior has franked his form, and I am sure there is improvement to come when he gets to contest a strongly run two miles. He looks set to reappear in the Hatton’s Grace, and price-dependent, I could be tempted by the Hattons Grace, Champion Hurdle double. I can’t imagine the current Champion Hurdle market is one many ante-post punters are playing in, but I would be interested in some value about Impaire Et Passe. Constitution Hill has stayed sound to date, but should he have a setback, you’d potentially have a golden ticket.   

A monstrous chasing debut from the Warrior 

Gaelic Warrior has always been a bit of a talking horse but he’s really starting to demonstrate why. An excellent second in the Ballymore was followed by a classy Grade 1 success at Punchestown and he’s further backed that up here by making an emphatic winning chase debut. His jumping was a little scratchy in places and he was low at a few, but I couldn’t believe how fast he was from take off to landing.

Touted as a Brown Advisory type, his rapid nature of jumping and huge engine have certainly opened doors in terms of his trip. He could easily head down the Turners route and I’d say he’d be fine dropping back to two miles too. Such is the strength in depth at Closutton, a lot will depend on how Willie shuffles his pack. 

Don’t give up on Flooring Porter

Favori De Champdou ran out an impressive winner of a hot-looking Grade 2 Florda Pearl Novices Chase over 3 miles. As an older novice chaser, and one who clearly stays well, he looks an early front-runner for the National Hunt Chase, for which he earned quotes of 12/1. Flooring Porter has to be the horse to take from the race having jumped left throughout and hung violently up the straight.

I can see why Connections chanced him back on a right-handed track, but it definitely proved he must go left-handed. I thought he ran a huge race considering, and the form of his chasing debut looks rock solid. The bookies have pushed him out to 16/1 for the Brown Advisory, which I think is a slight overreaction. If you like Flooring Porter now may be the time to get on. 

Tullyhill disappointing but don’t give up on him as a long-term prospect

In a weekend full of upsets, the biggest one came at Punchestown in the 12:10 on Sunday, as Tullyhill was beaten out of sight by Shannon Royale at odds of 1/8. Credit to the winner, he set his own fractions out in front, and I thought he looked significantly better than his prior starts over hurdles. As a £300,000 purchase, you’d be hoping he can kick on from here. 

Tullyhill didn’t jump with any sort of fluency, and it was noticeable how he slowed up and put in an extra stride at numerous hurdles. I still think he possesses plenty of talent, but he’d have to improve considerably to be competing in the Grade 1’s over hurdles. Described by Willie as a chaser in multiple stable tours, I think he’s one to leave alone this season, then get him onside at lofty prices before his novice chase campaign.  

Cheltenham Festival Ante-Post Selection 

Love Envoi 12/1 – Mares Hurdle

Grade 1 action takes centre at Newcastle this weekend where will we see the return of the phenom, Constitution Hill. Now, he’s no ante-post proposition, but I do believe one of his potential rivals offers excellent value for the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham in March. 

Love Envoi 12/1 (Bet365) looks set to reappear here and such is the nature of the modern day ante-post markets, a solid second to Constitution Hill will likely see her slashed in price. Officially rated 153, she sets the standard in the division, with the likes of Lossiemouth (147), Ashroe Diamond (140) and Gala Marceau (141) all needing to improve to get to her level. 

Love Envoi boasts career form figures of 11111121126 which highlights her class, especially when you consider the reasons for those defeats. Her first defeat came after her Mares Novice Hurdle success when she was beaten by Brandy Love. That was Love Envoi’s sixth start of the season, so she was likely feeling the effects of a long year and a massive Cheltenham effort. Add in the fact it was just Brandy Love’s third start of the season and there’s good reason to believe Love Envoi was simply beaten by the fresher horse. 

Her next defeat was in last season’s Mares Hurdle where she went down gamely to the mighty Honeysuckle. Honeysuckle may not have been at the very peak of her powers, but she had come into that Mares Hurdle having finished a good second behind State Man in the Irish Champion Hurdle. Love Envoi was duly sent off 13/8 favourite for the Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown, but she never went a yard, and it duly came to light that she had picked up an injury.

Love Envoi clearly thrives around Cheltenham and with the Mares Hurdle being run on day 1 of the Festival, she will likely get her favoured ground conditions. Lossiemouth and Gala Marceau must prove they are just as effective in open company, and I’m not entirely convinced Lossiemouth will be as effective over the intermediate trip. Ashroe Diamond is an obvious contender, but I think she is flattered by pieces of her form, and I don’t believe she should be half the price of Love Envoi.

Antepost is about value and I think there’s an awful lot to like about Harry Fry’s stable star and the 12/1 on offer looks very fair.

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