Racehorses, like the jockeys who ride them, tread such fine lines. Willoughby Court and Neon Wolf thrilled us with their exhilarating battle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2017 and looked destined for the top.
It wasn't to be. Neon Wolf lost his life months later after a freak accident at his home, while Willougby Court’s death was announced this afternoon after complications following an infection.
In the meantime, Kemboy and Shattered Love – both also rans that day at Cheltenham – continue to flourish, with the former among the leading fancies for the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Neon Wolf and Willoughby Court might also have been contenders for chasing’s ultimate prize had Dame Fortune been kinder.
It’s a tough sport and we must never take our equine participants for granted.
Good luck if you are having a punt today.
Dan Skelton is closing in on the 156 winners that he managed last season and I reckon he will be disappointed if he does not squeeze a success or two out of Mercer’s Court, who is well handicapped relative to his Flat rating and offered a lot more at Plumpton last time.
It would probably be stretching it to say he would have won on soft ground at Plumpton last time had he not bungled the final flight but he split a pair who had run well at the Sussex track on their previous starts and then handicapper has turned a blind eye, leaving him on the same mark.
That was Mercer’s Troop’s first run since having wind surgery and his overall profile points to the better ground at the Midlands venue playing more to his strengths.
Kloud Gate was cut from 6-1 to 3-1 during the week and it is easy to understand why because he has won his past two starts over hurdles in emphatic fashion and his handicap mark, relative to his Flat ability, remains generous.
This will be a tougher assignment, though, and he’s not the only runner in the line-up probably still ahead of the assessor.
Mellow Ben is a bit more exposed than some but the strong traveller should get the strong pace/cover he requires to show his best and I fancy his best days are still ahead of him.
He ran as well as he’s ever done when beaten three-quarters of a length by the progressive Erick le Rouge over course and distance on Boxing Day and I cannot fathom why he’s double the price of that rival because he was arguably unlucky not to win– fluffed the last and challenged wide – and is better off at the weights.
An open renewal but Cogry looks a fair bet, at 8-1 with, to go one better than last year and in the process chalk up a third win at the track.
He is 4lb higher than 12 months ago but, on the plus side, arrives at the top of his game after a game head defeat of Singlefarmpayment at Cheltenham last time.
Plenty in the field are likely to be inconvenienced by the good ground, including last year’s winner Milansbar, but Cogry seems effective on all types of going and Sam Twiston-Davies, who has chalked up six wins on him, seems to get the best out of the ten-year-old.
The other pair I was interested in were second-season chasers Duel At Dawn and Impulsive Star, who are both potentially well treated, but they have something to prove and neither shone on their respective returns.
Lungarno Palace has run two fine races over 2m5f at Cheltenham this term and, a stout stayer on the Flat, is well overdue a try at this longer trip.
He finished a close fourth to First Assignment on the first occasion at Prestbury Park and meets that rival on 16lb better terms, yet that is not reflected by the betting. He is 6-1 with his much-worse-off conqueror half that price.
Last time he was not beaten far behind Speedo Boy, keeping on well after the two who beat him had enjoyed first run.
His clearly well served by good ground and, if he’s to run in the Pertemps Final (this is a qualifier) could do with a decisive success. He’s rated 128 and last year you needed to be rated 136 to make the cut at the Festival.
I also like Generous Day (1.15) and Rocky’s Treasure (1.50) on the Warwick card but they are priced up defensively.
Eddiemaurice was not winning out of turn at Kempton when successful at the track over Christmas and should again go well but the one they all have to beat here is Speed Company.
A useful performer at up to a mile and a quarter on the Flat – he was rated 100 at his peak - the combination of this easy two miles and good ground will play very much to his strengths.
He’s not been with Ian Williams long and indicated he would soon be winning in this sphere at Doncaster last time when he finished a close third, trading short in-running (matched at 1.33 on Betfair) after coasting through from last to first.
A mark of 119 almost certainly underestimates him and he will also be equipped with a first-time tongue tie. Bet365 are the only firm to offer prices at the time of typing and. the 11-4 they offer is acceptable.
12.40 Warwick: Mercer’s Troop £2 win at 7-2 with Coral
2.40 Kempton: Mellow Ben £2 each-way at 18-1 with Betfair
3.00 Warwick: Cogry £3 win at a general 8-1
3.35 Warwick: Lungarno Palace £5 win at a general 6-1
3.45 Kempton: Speed Company £5 win at 11-4 with bet365
Plus a £1 win double on the last-named pair
General odds in brackets.
£2 Win Patent
3.00 Warwick: Cogry (8-1)
3.35 Warwick: Lungarno Palace (6-1)
3.45 Kempton: Speed Company (11-4)
Above trio in a 20p Win Super Yankee and 40p each-way fivefold with
12.40 Warwick: Mercer’s Troop (100-30)
2.40 Kempton: Mellow Ben (16-1)