Saphir Du Rheu: back over fences on a workable mark at Ascot
PICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
AS THE jumps season cranks up a gear on Saturday with decent Channel 4 cards at Wetherby and Ascot, we offer a handful of the best pointers to help make your punting pay.
What a legend
If there was an award for the most consistent jumper in training Pearls Legend would be at the head of the queue – just look at his form figures.
Eight runs last season might have yielded just one success but he started off with a second in the Listed Byrne Group Handicap Chase (2.25) and he can go well in that race again despite a 5lb rise for his model consistency.
The John Spearing-trained chaser is nine now but he wears his heart of his sleeve and on his fifth in last season’s Grand Annual sets the standard unexposed Yorkist and Festive Affair will have to try and reach at Ascot.
World at his feet
Ballyoptic has been talked up as a live outsider for the World Hurdle and Nigel Twiston-Davies will be looking to the six-year-old to take the next step on the ladder in Wetherby’s bet365 Hurdle (2.45).
The Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle winner scored impressively on his Chepstow comeback and rates as the one to beat particularly with Native River, one of his main rivals, using the race as a pipe-opener for the Hennessy.
Traditionally a fast starter to the season, Twiston-Davies has hit a purple patch with form figures of 3111214 in the last two days and Ballyoptic has the advantage of race sharpness on all but one of his rivals.
Trends to trump Cue Card?
Cue Card might be odds-on to successfully defend his bet365 Charlie Hall (3.20) title but the chasing star will have to defy a couple of significant trends at Wetherby.
Not only has he reached double figures since last year but he carries 10lb more and those twin peaks might tempt punters to seek out value elsewhere.
The last ten-year-old to triumph was the dazzling Grey Abbey 12 years ago and while Menorah (2014) and Our Vic (2006) have proved it is possible to win with a 10lb penalty the overall record of those trying to do so is poor.
Cue Card has plenty in hand – and an excellent record when fresh – but he will need to be near the top of his game as Menorah gets his optimum conditions and RSA Chase hero Blaklion, impressive winner of a Grade 2 novice chase at the track last season, is on an upward curve.
Take the hint on Saphir
Having weighed up a plethora of weekend options for Saphir Du Rheu, Paul Nicholls has plumped for the Sodexo Gold Cup (3.35) and it might be wise for punters to take note.
Expected to develop into a top chaser at the start of last season, the campaign was a bit of a write off with just a solidarity victory on comeback at Carlisle in six starts over fences and then hurdles.
Let’s not forget Saphir Du Rheu was sent off favourite for the Hennessy off an official mark of 163 so there’s scope for a big run on his return to chasing off 152 at Ascot.
One caveat would be the last ten winners of the race have carried no more than 11st 3lb but there won’t be many horses with the 2015 World Hurdle runner-up’s ability to have turned up here.
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