One of the benefits of my meticulous approach to updating my private notes for the forthcoming National Hunt season is that I also come across a plentiful supply of horses that I would consider to be ‘well-handicapped’. In other words a horse that is sitting on a mark that I think is below his or her true ability.
They may be sitting on their current mark due to a light Novice campaign last season or they may well have dropped to the mark after a string of below par runs, most likely running on conditions or from a mark that stops them performing to their optimum.
Spotting these types can, and will, lead to some juicy profits throughout the season.
Today I want to share with you three horses that I consider to have scope to improve on their current marks (well-handicapped in other words) and in the process can hopefully land a handicap or two along the way.
EDMUND KEAN (D Pipe) – 7-Y-O
Current Handicap Mark – OR 136
This Old Vic gelding banged in a couple of eye-catching chase victories last season on his first two starts over fences before firing in a stinker of a performance at Newcastle in late February. His sights were then raised to the lofty heights of the Scottish National, were he was forced to run form 3lbs out of the handicap. He was going OK in that contest before being badly hampered by a faller at the 18th fence, after which his jockey Tom Scudamore made the decision to pull him up.
He starts this season on a mark of OR 136 and I would very much be of the opinion that is a mark he can do damage from, when faced with the correct conditions.
But what are his correct conditions?
For starters there are strong hints that he needs to go right-handed…
RH form – 1311
LH form – 4103P
He has won going left-handed but that was in a weak Novice Hurdle at Fakenham and the signs are he is much more at home going the other way round. He did jump to his left when winning at Ludlow on his second start over fences but that was quite possibly down to the tight track more than anything else.
It would also seem that he needs plenty of mud to be flying to be seen at his best…
Form on Soft/Heavy – 4113113
Form on Good to Soft or better – 0P
That, admittedly, is limited evidence but he does seem to relish the soft and I wouldn’t be surprise to see the trend continue.
It may also be that he isn’t quite at home in large fields…
Form in fields of 15 or less – 411113
Form in fields of 16+ – 30P
Again that is slightly limited evidence but it is certainly something to keep in mind.
I definitely think he is some way better than his last two starts and should also prove to be better than his current mark of OR 136.
EDMUND KEAN Ideal Conditions – Right-Handed tracks | Soft or Heavy ground | Field of 15 or less
GEVREY CHAMBERTIN (D Pipe) – 6-Y-O
Current Handicap Mark – OR 143
Another David Pipe runner and things clearly did not go to plan for this Dom Alco gelding last season.
He started the season well enough, winning the valuable Fixed Brush Hurdle at Haydock in November and firing in a career best figure in the process. We then didn’t see him until February when Pipe pitched him straight into Grade Two company for his chasing debut for the Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot. He was extremely free that day but was still there jumping two out before completely shooting his load and having to be pulled-up before the last.
The next stop for him was the even more taxing RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Things were happening all too fast for him that day and he could never land a blow or indeed get his jumping gear into any sort of rhythm.
All in all it was a baptism of fire for him on both chase starts and they left little room for him to learn his new trade. On the plus side he will face plenty easier tasks and the handicapper has adjusted his rating to OR 143, the same mark from which he won that Haydock Hurdle from at the start of last season.
In my opinion he is definitely better than that mark. I’m also of the opinion he can make into a better chaser than hurdler, and he was a pretty good hurdler.
On the conditions front he very much looks like an early season type of beast…
Form in Oct – Jan – 11111
Form in Feb to Apr – 4P6P9
Unbeaten in five starts during those first four months of the season.
That also means he’s pretty decent when returning from a beak…
Form after a break of 121 days+ – 111
He may also just be at his best on a flat track…
Form on flat tracks – 11161
Form on tracks with any sort of undulations – 41PP9
He has to put behind him that rather rushed and ‘in at the deep end’ chasing experiences of last season but the handicapper has given him a chance and hopefully connections will try and take full advantage of that.
GEVREY CHAMBERTIN Ideal Conditions – Running between Oct & Jan | Solid form fresh | Flat tracks look best
FESTIVE AFFAIR (JJ O’Neill) – 6-Y-O
Current Handicap Mark – OR 132
His four chase starts last term resulted in one victory, a 55L 3rd, an 18L 9th at the Festival and a Pulled-Up effort. Fairly average one may say, however; he is by Presenting, he is bred to stay, none of those four starts were over further than 21f (indeed three were 19f or shorter), and as such he didn’t get to really show us what he is capable of.
Before he was trained by Jonjo he was with Enda Bolger. He had two starts for the his former trainer and on one of those runs he finished 1.5L behind the high class hunter MOSSEY JOE.
It’s clear this horse has talent, it’s clear he has an engine and this season I want to see it unleashed!
His run at the Festival in the Rewards4Racing Novice handicap Chase was actually a decent effort. He only really gave way after three out but he doggedly plodded on to the line in the shape of a robust staying chaser in waiting.
The positive’s about him running over shorter than ideal trips are that he has learned to jump at pace. He has had to jump the fences at a quicker pace than is ideal for him but that is no bad thing. It’s a superb way to sharpen his jumping technique and get his eye in over an obstacle.
This lad can make a real splash when send over a staying trip and I expect him to prove some way better than his current mark of OR 132.
FESTIVE AFFAIR Ideal Conditions – 3 mile+ handicap chases | Cut in the ground probably a bonus | Galloping track should suit him well
I’m very hopeful these three can pick up handicaps pots at some stage during the 2014/15 season and prove to be some way better than their current marks in the process.
p.s. I’m currently finalizing my ‘Alternative 20 to follow’ list for the season. I’m just waiting on a few trainer comments and then the list will be with all members of the FREE NTF service.
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