Today’s focus falls on the 2.10 at Exeter where a 6 runner field has gathered for an interesting Class 3 Novices’ Chase over 3 miles. As per usual, I’ve assessed all the runners and outlined a selection which not only represents my best bet of the day but represents the banker of the day!
This contest revolves around a single horse – SMAD PLACE (2/7 Betfred). Alan King’s gelding was a crack hurdler last year, competing in races of the highest grade. He reappeared 10 days ago, this time over fences, and looked destined to win before unseating his rider at the last. He was well backed and sent off the 1/2 favourite for the contest and for the most part handled the larger obstacles very well indeed. Undoubtedly his jumping wasn’t perfect and he looked at times quite novicey, nonetheless he moved clear of his rivals with ease coming round Huntingdon’s final bend and was comfortably in control when he paddled through the final fence and got rid of Choc Thornton in the process.
The fact he returns today after such a short break emphasises his well-being and he should have the ability to comfortably win this event if his jumping holds up. Up in trip to three miles will suit as he has plenty of stamina and Exeter should suit as this horse is a good strong galloper. Other than his jumping ability, the only other cause for concern could well be the ground. Smad Place favours ground with a little bit of cut but certainly not properly soft ground. The forecast looks set to be relatively dry so hopefully the going will change from soft and the race will start on good to soft ground which should be ideal.
The biggest danger in the line-up will be Seymour Eric (6/1 Ladbrokes). A revelation over hurdles last year for the stable of Martin Keighley, he began off a mark of 85 and went on to win 5 out of 6 races and raise his mark to an respectable 135. Now sent over fences he could well improve further as he looked a big horse with plenty of scope last year. He is a thorough stayer who loves to bowl along infront, controlling the tempo and putting others under pressure. If he is allowed an easy lead he could well push on from the front and really test the others’ jumping prowess. He deals with both good to soft and heavy ground and looks one to follow this year over fences irrespective of today’s result.
Other than Smad Place only Phone Home (40/1 Ladbrokes) has had a start over fences so far this season. This 6 year-old lost by ten lengths in a weak handicap over huddles at this course and distance and was then immediately switched to fences. That switch saw him end up last of those who finished, some 45 lengths behind the winner in a similar race. He may well have his place in low class handicaps however off a mark of 115 he will surely fail to prove a danger to the two at the head of the market all things being equal.
A similar remark can be made about the remainder of the field. Ardkilly Witness (15/2 Betfred) showed some good form over huddles last year but on hurdles form is held both by Seymour Eric and Smad Place. Conversely, Counting House (25/1 Ladbrokes) was in the most part disappointing in handicap hurdle contests last year as he only seemed to thrive when presented with good or good to firm ground. Certainly conditions wont suit and others are readily preferred. Finally we have Typical Oscar (100/1 Betfred) who’s only start over obstacles saw him pulled up in a Class 5 maiden hurdle race over 2m 4f, nothing more needs to be said.
This contest should readily go the way of Smad Place. His only really danger should be Seymour Eric who, off level weights, he comfortable holds on hurdling form. Inexperience is costly over the larger obstacles and I'm hoping that the exertions of his last run will have put Smad Place right and he can get his season back on track. This class of race is clearly far below what is ultimately expected and although failing as a 1/2f he will strip fitter and be sharper for the race. Undoubtedly the short price isn't particularly appealing and I personally wont be piling on. At the same time, I won't be looking to lay the favourtie either, on paper he stands well clear of his rivals and if you ignore the odds (difficult to do I know) he is clearly the likeliest winner of the race.
SMAD PLACE (WIN) (2/7 Betfred)
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