Published 21st February
BALLYOPTIC was a high-class hurdler at his best and has done enough over fences to suggest he can make his mark in the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase.
Nigel Twiston-Davies’s gelding was let down by his jumping when disappointing in the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle last year but has mostly impressed in that department over the larger obstacles which he seems to treat with more respect.
All-the-way winner on his chasing debut at Exeter, he again put in a series of assured leaps out in front at Cheltenham’s November meeting until a mistake at the last proved costly against the prolific Black Corton.
The latter was having his seventh start over fences that day, so had a definite advantage in terms of experience, yet it would have been close, had the rallying Ballyoptic not lost crucial momentum, considering there was only four lengths between them at the line.
The pair met again in the Kauto Star at Kempton, with Black Corton continuing his winning spree while the selection looked ill at ease round a sharp track that wouldn’t have played to his stamina strengths.
Better suited by a more galloping course, he got his career back on track with a decisive success in the Towton at Wetherby - the race that stablemate Blaklion won on route to RSA glory two years ago.
While it’s understandable the market sees Black Corton as the main threat to Irish favourites Monalee and Presenting Percy, at more than twice the price of Paul Nicholls’s charge, Ballyoptic represents a bit of value now he’s more streetwise in this sphere.
Ireland’s pair set a strong standard - both ran crackers at last year’s Festival over hurdles and appear to have transferred their form to fences - but that is reflected in their odds and this is a race I want to play each-way at a bigger price given the place terms are unlikely to change hugely on the day unless it attracts a rare big field.
Gary's Recommended Bet (scale 1-5 points):
RSA NOVICES' CHASE (Wednesday 14th March)
1pt each-way BALLYOPTIC (20/1 general - bet365 are Non-Runner No Bet)
Gary provides regular ante-post updates on Twitter. His username is @horsetraderinfo