Willoughby Court – antepost favourite for this month’s JLT Novices’ Chase – will miss Cheltenham trainer Ben Pauling announced yesterday but he is still optimistic last year’s Neptune winner will be back in time for Aintree next month.
The weights for the ten handicaps at next month’s Cheltenham Festival were published yesterday and BetVictor are now betting Non Runner No Bet on all 28 races over the four days.
Horses that have been supported for the handicaps in recent days include Romain De Senam (10s from 16s) at BetVictor for the Brown Advisory Plate in light of some very positive noises coming out of the Paul Nicholls yard for the gelding earlier in the week.
Nicholls is, however, just 6/4 NOT to saddle a winner at next month’s Festival with BetVictor who bet 2/1 that Douvan runs in ANY race at next month’s Festival. Willie Mullins suggested on Monday his chance of running was over 50% but it would appear our traders are not convinced.
No problems with the weather in Meydan who stage a quality flat card on dirt and turf. Zaman (3.05) was no match for the talented Expert Eye at Goodwood when runner up in the Gp 2 Vintage Stales back in August, but ran a promising race when runner up in his sole start since over 7f here last month.
The selection was staying on nicely from a poor draw last time and the hope is that the step up to a mile will help from a more favourable post in stall three.
Top Score (4.15) has been posted wide in both starts at the Carnival so far this year but can race from stall two this afternoon. Jockey Christophe Soumillon rode Steady Pace into second here four weeks ago but the Frenchman remains loyal to Top Score and I think he can reverse form with Richard Hannon’s Oh This Is Us on recent course running.
The brilliant French stayer Vazirabad finished runner up in the Gp 3 1m 6f Nad Al Sheba Trophy twelve months ago before winning the Dubai Gold Cup on World Cup night later in the month. The grey might be vulnerable again today and the vote goes to Rare Rhythm (4.50) who ended last season with wins at Royal Ascot and York’s Ebor meeting. Today’s 1m 6f trip might suit the Charlie Appleby-trained runner more than the French horse.
In the concluding 10f handicap Baroot (6.00) can follow up his impressive win here in a non-Carnival handicap over a furlong shorter twelve days ago. A 5lbs rise looks fair for Mike de Kock’s six-year-old although he will need a career best to win in this better grade.