Unexposed Cotton Mill the Big Hurdle Pick
The Betfair Hurdle is a typical test for fans of handicaps and the criteria is to find one with plenty in hand. This is not always possible and there is a danger in over rating horses just because they have less convictions. There is also the problem of following the workings of every other punter and as a result taken under the odds. The sexy unexposed horses are very much the vogue and you can get some tremendous value sticking with the experienced campaigner who has no secrets but is in good form.
However my starting point in all these races is to find a horse with potentially 10lbs or more in hand as that is often what is required in these very competitive handicaps. The obvious starting point is the ante-post favourite My Tent Or Yours. This horse is the definition of unexposed, with 3 runs in bumpers and 3 goes over hurdles; he is undoubtedly very talented and saunters through his races with speed, zest and enthusiasm. It is his inability to settle and his inexperience that worries me and whilst I can see him being a lot higher than 149 in a years’ time or so, the price of 7/2 or so is plenty short enough. That said those holding vouchers with double figure odds can be on good terms with themselves, as in terms of potential My Tent Or Yours is right at the top of the current crop of novice hurdlers.
Pearl Swan currently about 9/1 for Saturday’s test is another in the potentially very well handicapped club ,with just 3 hurdle runs to date. He would have gone very close but for falling at the last in the Triumph Hurdle. The mark of 146 looks workable but I’m not confident we have enough evidence to suggest this is very lenient. However the fact that Paul Nicholls nominated this race for him some time ago and Ruby Walsh was always going to ride suggests that they regard the mark as decent at worse.
For me Pearl Swan rates a danger to all but I would need to see more before backing him, however more evidence may blow the mark and herein lies the problem with unexposed types.
The selection at the current prices has to be Cotton Mill who can be backed at around 9/1. This horse has been much bigger in the market and I have to confess to having taken the early 16/1,but I still think the current price is more than fair. The Ferguson stable is currently in excellent form and they have been making confident noises regarding his recent work. Cotton Mill was a lightly-raced talented flat horse over 10 furlongs for Willie Jarvis and I found it slightly strange that he was campaiged as a staying novice last season.
The 3 miles at Aintree was always going to be too far and he is best judged on his effort in the Neptune at Cheltenham. Ducking sharply left and unseating your rider isn’t the greatest recommendation but he was still competitive at the second last. I am not suggesting he would have over-worried the winner Simonsig but then what horse has lately? I think he would have been second and on that assumption his mark of 145 strikes me as very fair indeed.
Monksland who finished third is a progressive 160+ horse and Close House who surely would have been thrashed by Cotton Mill is now rated 140+. The first go at 2 miles is the final piece in the puzzle and could bring about considerable improvement.
Clearly this very valuable race is far more competitive than I have suggested so far and Cash And Go looks pretty solid; also Claret Cloak can definitely win off this mark when getting sound conditions. You also have the tough and improving Cause And Causes whilst the former Champion Hurdler Punjabi is absolutely chucked in if retaining some ability. The inform David Pipe yard also has two interesting runners in Swing Bowler, who faces a much tougher test but might be up to it, and Ronaldo Des Mottes who was second in this event three years ago and is just 2lbs higher.
It is entirely possible that I haven’t mentioned your particular fancy, but when looking for the horse who might have the most in hand, I believe Cotton Mill is the one to be with.