The Conway Piling Handicap Hurdle looks well named, as the race sponsored by the civil-engineering firm looks a good one for punters to pile into handicap snip Acey Milan. The gelding was put in at comical odds by some of the fixed-odds firms last night, but exchange layers have been wary of offering over the odds, and with good reason.
16:15 Pigsback.com Handicap Chase
One of the most heartwarming sights at Cheltenham in March was the victory of veteran Croco Bay in the Grand Annual having been confined to just one run since finishing a creditable fifth in the same race in 2017. There was no fluke about his win, but he was produced in tremendous order by Ben Case after an absence, and horses who run so well after a long lay-off have a habit of bombing out subsequently, even when they aren’t twelve-year-olds who have been around the clock several times, as he has. Track position is always crucial in the Grand Annual with little to choose between the runners, and Kielan Woods always had him up with the pace before kicking on at just the right time in the straight.
A 3lb rise may not seem much for winning a Cheltenham Festival handicap, but the division is not especially deep, and that race cut up more than most of the Cheltenham handicaps, which suggests that Croco Bay will struggle here.
17:30 Ladbrokes Stayers Hurdle
Bapaume is the pick of this motley bunch on his best form, and he wasn’t disgraced in the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. On the other hand, he’s proven worryingly easy to beat at the top level, and his only win in eleven tries at this level came when beating those fine yardsticks Landofhopenadglory and Meri Devie in a juvenile event here in 2017.
The best of his efforts in defeat are good enough to win this, but defeat is a regular drinking partner, and the fitting of a tongue tie for the first time is hardly a great comfort.
Of thirteen Grade 1 runners for the stable since 2011 that were wearing a first-time tongue tie, Un Atout, at 4/6 in a three-runner race, has been the only winner. Seven of the others failed to complete and none were placed. That does not augur well for Bapaume here.
18:05 Conway Piling Handicap Hurdle
The British raiding party have struck a couple of times in handicaps already this week and can add to that tally courtesy of the well-handicapped Acey Milan here. The gelding has yet to hit the heights over hurdles but stepped up when third in a hotly contested heavy-ground handicap at Uttoxeter last time, and was one of the leading bumper performers last season.
A mark of 125 is very lenient indeed based on what he achieved in National Hunt flat races, and it’s not surprising that he’s been slow to come to hand given that his yard had to shut down in December due to a virus in the yard.
- 16:15 – Lay Croco Bay for a place @ 4.5 or shorter to win 8pts [max liability 28pts]
- 17:30 – Lay Bapaume @ 3.3 or shorter to win 10pts [max liability 23pts]
- 17:30 – Place Lay Bapaume @ 1.6 or shorter to win 10pts [max liability 6pts]
- 18:05 – Back Acey Milan ton win @ 14.0 or bigger for 5pts
- 18:05 – Back Acey Milan to place @ 4.0 or bigger for 10pts