Rory Delargy: Snap up Dragon value for handicap king Lacey

8 min


12:40 Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase

The form of the well-established Chepstow contest won by The Young Master last time has worked out really well, with three of the seven beaten horses to have run since winning next time, notably Traffic Fluide, and everything about that contest suggests the form is rock-solid. It’s very tempting to pile into The Young Master again, as a 5lb rise for that win still makes him look very well treated on old form, and he should certainly go well. On the other hand, he’s got a rather mixed record here, with his win coming off a stone lower, and form figures since of 73066, while better than they look, are not overly encouraging.

A better way of cashing in on the strength of the Chepstow form is backing the fourth-placed Lovely Job in the win and place markets. Fergal O’Brien’s gelding ran well at Chepstow and remains on the same mark, while he ran a solid race over C&D in April in a stronger event than this.

He was let down by his jumping on his previous try here but is much improved in that department, and he ought to go well in a race where only a few make a serious appeal.

Recommended: Back Lovely Job to win @ 9.0 or better (1pt)
Recommended: Back Lovely Jon to be placed @ 2.82 or better (2pts)

13:15 Novices’ Handicap Hurdle

Snapdragon Fire is the pick at the prices here, and is another whose chance of hitting the frame is much better than the odds would suggest. There are the likes of Dostal Phil here who could make a mockery of his handicap mark, but Snapdragon Fire also looks ahead of his mark based on an impressive win at Huntingdon which has been well franked since, and given his first run under Rules was just over a year ago, there should be plenty of improvement to come.

He’s also trained by one of the very best handlers of handicappers in the country, although it’s still taking people time to give Tom Lacey the credit he deserves. In the past year, Lacey has had 98 runners in handicaps over obstacles, and a remarkable 56 of those have either won or been placed.

There are very few trainers who could hope to maintain such a record, and it pays to follow those who do, particularly when dealing with unexposed horses, where judicious training and placing will allow trainers to manage a handicap mark before the assessor’s axe can swing.

The selection very much fits that profile and should go close with conditions fine (only poor run last year came on heavy ground).

Recommended: Back Snapdragon Fire to win @ 9.6 or better (1pt)
Recommended: Back Snapdragon Fire to be placed @ 2.86 or better (2pts)

13:50 Handicap Chase

One of the main attributes needed for success over Cheltenham’s stiff fences is the ability to jump at speed, and few prisoners are taken in chases over the shorter trips, conferring an advantage on the classier runners, especially those who can travel within themselves and close to the pace.

Doitforthevillage is respected here given his course record, and he did win this contest last year, but he’s never been placed, let alone won, after a break before, and he’s opposable on the back of an absence.

A Hare Breath, on the other hand, tends to do his best running fresh, and will have been laid out for this race, so has to be on the shortlist, but he’s only had three runs over fences, with the last two disappointing, and the fact he was campaigned over hurdles last season is not a positive to his chances back over the larger obstacles, and he will need to be slicker than he has been in the past to defy a mark of 140.

Bun Doran, on the other hand, is well established in high-end handicaps and is a very sound jumper who travels very well in his races. His one weakness is that he can find less for pressure that looks likely at times, but I’d expect him to travel best here, and he looks a very fair price this morning.

One angle worth trying is to back him now, with a view to laying off in running, but I wouldn’t do so unless going very short in order to squeeze the most value out of such a trade.

Recommended: Back Bun Doran to win @ 4.0 or better (2pts)
Recommended: Lay Bundoran in running – 5pts @ 1.40 (liability 2pts)

Earlier this week Rory and Donn McClean previewed the Cheltenham November Meeting giving their best bets for the meeting. If you haven’t already subscribed, search for ‘Matchbook Betting Podcast’ on your preferred podcasting app.