WELL, goodbye 2020. And thanks for nothing. Let's hope the next 12 months run smoother.
The next few months are as good as it gets in the Jumps game. Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown all come quick as a flash. So what do we need to keep a close eye on and who is worth backing?
Best bets for 2021
Al Boum Photo – Cheltenham, Gold Cup 4-1
Not the most imaginative one to start us off. But the two-time champ will surely be hard to beat if he turns up in shape.
Little has emerged through the ranks to take him on just yet and he looks a bet at current antepost odds.
I've already put him up in earlier column at 9-2, but that's been trimmed slightly after his winning return at Tramore.
The same points apply now and he's just the most versatile and classiest out of the bunch.
Song For Someone – Cheltenham, Champion Hurdle 20-1
After Epatante, Saint Roi and Abacadabras were all stuffed over Christmas, this division looks wide-open.
Epatante is still the one they all have to beat, but twice now she has thrown her toys out the pram with connections unable to explain why.
Tom Symonds' improving and consistent Song For Someone has risen through the ranks this season and still looks under-rated.
They have the option of waiting for Aintree, but he would surely be a big player here if the ground came up soft.
Politologue – Cheltenham, Champion Chase 7-1
Less original again here, but there is plenty to like about the grey's chances as Cheltenham rolls around.
He won this race last season, albeit a funny old renewal with Altior and Chacun Pour Soi missing and Defi Du Seuil running a stinker.
All three of those could arguably be better horses on their day.
But Altior is now 11 and we saw at Kempton that racing may be starting to get the better of him. Defi Du Seuil has run another stinker since and while Chacun Pour Soi looks a class above anything in this divison, he himself is very injury prone and no one can be sure the Irish will even make it across at this rate.
So as antepost betting goes, in a weak and wide-open division once more, Politologue looks a cracking long-term each-way bet.
He heads to Ascot for the Clarence House next and should probably win that. If that's the case, he'll shorten up once more and as always, he's being criminally underrated.
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Edwardstone – Cheltenham, County Hurdle 20-1
This horse has been on my radar a while. Both his sixth in the Supreme and his fifth in the Greatwood were more than encouraging.
They both marked him out as a high-end handicapper and both efforts were posted on what wouldn't be his ground.
Connections have since tried him over fences but he unseated at Doncaster and has since been entered for the Betfair Hurdle.
In my book there is unfinsihed business over the smaller obstacles and he should be a massive player in any big handicap over two miles or so. That makes a race like the County Hurdle very appealing.
With some better spring ground, he could well prove plenty better than his current mark of 141.
Kimberlite Candy – Aintree, Grand National 28-1
I was all over Tom Lacey's chaser for this race last season before you know what got involved.
But little has put me off since and the horse remains tailor-made for this unique test.
He's only been seen once so far this campaign, running another blinder in the Becher Chase to finish second as he did in 2019.
He's slowly crept up the weights for his efforts, including a taking win in the Classic Chase at Warwick but he remains a horse on the up and hasn't been over-faced whatsoever.
Better, spring ground suits him too and hopefully come April time that's the case. the 40s and 50s available at one point have been snapped up, but he remains a great bet in my book.
Presenting Percy – Aintree, Grand National 33-1
Gordon Elliott has already won with his new recruit and something tells me he'd lining up a bid for the Aintree showpiece with his stayer.
Presenting Percy's Cheltenham record speaks for itself, but is he really up to winning a Gold Cup these days? I'd argue not.
Elliott must know that and he's already mentioned this race more than once for the horse.
The race isn't the stamina or jumping test it once was, and classier horses are often found towards the top of the finishers.
Only in 2019 was he sent off favourite for the Gold Cup. Plenty will become clearer in the next few weeks, but if he lines up Aintree he will have a huge chance.
Blacko – Newbury, Betfair Hurdle (13 February) 50-1
The entries for Newbury's Betfair Hurdle came out this week and one horse at big odds stood out to me at the opening prices.
Backo was a decent juvenile hurdler last season, and ended up being punted off the boards before the Fred Winter.
Things didn't go to plan but it's clearly no secret that a good number fancied him to strike off a rating of 135.
After two defeats this season – one a non-event and another a taking reappearance at Chepstow – he's dropped a further 5lbs.
Trainer Alan King has kept him quiet since, but he's had an entry in a couple of races recently and will likely have a spin before this big pot.
At 50-1 you have to have a tickle.
Tom Marquand – Flat Jockeys Championship 2021 6-1
Could 2021 be the year Marquand wins the title he's been after for the past couple of seasons?
Surely now he might just get the ammo needed after just falling short when push came to shove towards the back-end of the summer?
It's unlikely Oisin Murphy's drug man will affect the defending champion much in terms of the title, but will Will Buick really have the ambition to go for it again after missing out last year?
At 2-1 Buick can be passed over and Murphy does have some ghosts to bury.
Marquand has the momentum and will once more be able to call on the likes of William Haggas, Richard Hannon and other top trainers – it's likely even more will get behind him this time round.
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