A big racing weekend ahead in Ireland, where a few Cheltenham pretenders will be tested on home soil ahead of some tough decisions on their March targets. To be honest it looks tricky at Leopardstown tomorrow, from a punting viewpoint, and I think there are better opportunities this side of the water.
For the first selection of the week it’s up to Musselburgh where, in addition to the introduction of ‘non-standard’ race-off times (we have a 12.57, a 1.31 and a 3.52), we also have a strong travelling contingent from Ditcheat who won’t have travelled solely for the benefit of the fresh Scottish seaside air.
He has strong contenders in almost every race but I think the best value among his runners lies with MIRANDA (3/1 Bet365 and Paddy Power) who looks to have a leading chance in the 2.05.
She’s won three from five since arriving at the Paul Nicholls yard from France, winning a couple of novice hurdles before running in a handicap off 130. She never travelled that day and that was her for the season.
On her return at Sandown in November she was never put into the race when a distant last behind Totterdown. That run was no reflection of her ability and she came out next time and showed her true colours when winning a handicap at Kempton’s Christmas meeting fairly easily off a 124 mark.
The handicapper has taken note and raised her to 133 but I think she might take more stopping than even that 9lb rise and she remains of maximum interest off 133 tomorrow. 3/1 looks on the generous side and should be taken.
For the second bet we stay with Nicholls but move to Sandown where an old favourite of this blog, GRAND SANCY (8/1 Coral) looks underestimated in the Scilly Isles Novices Chase. He was given the stiffest of tasks on his chasing debut, contesting a Grade 1 chase but he performed well, staying on well to finish third, staying on at the end and jumping well.
That was a good effort but he may have been considered a bit disappointing next time when third again, this time in Grade 2 company on the same card at Kempton’s Christmas meeting that Miranda ran on. But I thought it was a better effort, Global Citizen (winner that day) is very good and grand \sancy ran on well again that day.
The main things, I think, in his favour is the step up to two and a half miles and the genuine nature of his running style. I’ve felt for a while that a longer trip would suit him and he has just that tomorrow. He wasn’t far off top class as a hurdler and that first attempt over a longer trip can show him in an even better light than his first two, highly promising, efforts over fences. 8/1 is too big.