Two short-priced Festival favourites have their final prep races at Newbury tomorrow. The exciting Sprinter Sacre – held in stratospheric regard by trainer Henderson and jockey Geraghty – is 9/4 fav for the Arkle and 4/7 to win the Game Spirit Chase (12.10) tomorrow.
He looks a potential superstar after two wins from two steeplechases and should he win tomorrow, that Arkle 9/4 could shorten to 5/4. But I think it’s worth taking the chance that Zaynar (9/1 with Ladbrokes) might lead all the way. The 2009 Triumph Hurdle winner seems to have responded well to a change of trainer and has shown huge zest in his last two runs.
I think he might benefit significantly from this return to 17f having looked stretched over Ascot’s 22f last time. He’s a classy horse with considerably more experience than Sprinter Sacre and I think, given his price, it’s well worth taking a chance that he will outbattle Sprinter Sacre and throw the Arkle market into disarray.
Half an hour after this race, Gold Cup holder and current favourite for a successful defence, Long Run, will start around 1/2 to beat five others in the Betfair Denman Chase. Long Run has a fine engine but a dodgy chassis as he doesn’t arch his back properly when under pressure, a weakness which condemns him to dragging his hind legs through fences.
A six-runner race would, on paper, be ideal as the pace in such races is often fairly sedate. But Tom Scudamore, who excels in front-running rides, will ensure from the outset that his mount, The Giant Bolster has the rest playing catch-up. On the face of it, TGB has plenty to do – he gets 4lbs from Long Run but has to concede 6lbs to the others. Backing him requires a leap of faith in his potential – much more so than with Zaynar.
He’s regularly shown potential but, due to his tendency to make mistakes, his copybook has more blots than a Rorschach test. However, last time out he finally got everything right and looked a proper horse in doing so, annihilating 9 opponents in a good quality handicap at Cheltenham over 21f. Tomorrow’s extra three furlongs should see him operating to optimum effect and if his fencing is accurate, he might just force the favourite into some energy-sapping errors.
The defeat of Long Run by any of tomorrow’s opponents will be a shock, but if it is to happen then the unexposed TGB is most likely, in my opinion, to pull it off.
Both races mentioned have 6 runners. Bookies pay 1/4 odds 1st and 2nd on EW bets and I think two small stake singles and an EW double on Zaynar and The Giant Bolster could well bring a profit, perhaps a big one. Ladbrokes offer best prices at the moment of 9/1 and 14/1 respectively.