Ed Quigley: Three Value Ante-Post Tips For The 2021 2022 National Hunt Season

IT'S GREAT TO BE BACK. The 2021/2022 National Hunt season ramps up a gear this weekend with the action at Prestbury Park taking centre stage. There is nothing leaping off the page at me at the moment in regards to a bet, but it is great to see some familiar names back, and will be thoroughly looking forward to both days action.

Looking further afield, I have stuck my ante-post goggles back on, and there are some juicy prices floating around for some of the showpiece events over the next few months. The King George VI Chase, is one race in which the ante-post line-up resembles something not too dissimilar to a muddy puddle in regards to who is likely to turn up. The Paul Nicholls pair of previous champions Frodon and Clan Des Obeaux should make the gig, and there is an argument to back both given that they will both run if they have four legs and have the 'been there and done it' factor on the CV - I totally see that logic.

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However, there is one horse floating around at a monster price that I think the market may have totally overlooked. At the time of writing there are currently 39 horses trading at a shorter price to win at Kempton on December 26 than the Dan Skelton trained 50/1 poke SHAN BLUE, which I think is just plain daft. Of the aforementioned list of 39, I would buy/sell the line at 8.5 in terms of how many turn up to the gig. Shan Blue, at number 40 on the list, is one horse who according to his handler will be geared towards a tilt at this. A Grade 1 scorer over C&D last season when landing the Kauto Star Novices', his form book has a bit of an up and down look to it, but when encountering flatter tracks and decent ground he is a bit of a weapon. His jumping is electric when he is in his element and this is just the type of contest he could excel in. Forget his relative failures at Cheltenham Festivals - undulating tracks with cut in the ground aren't for him; this is much more his bag. Skelton has nominated the Charlie Hall Chase in a fortnight as his first port of call (a track in which he bolted up twice last season) and then onto Kempton. With any kind of showing at Wetherby I expect to see his odds tumble for Kempton - a race in which I think he has a much more realistic chance of winning than his odds imply.

2021 King George VI Chase
Shan Blue silk

Shan Blue

Looking ahead to March, and there are two lurkers I like in the Cheltenham Festival markets. One of them being EKLAT DE RIRE for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. A winner of his first two starts over fences, the Henry De Bromhead-trained seven-year-old was jumping and travelling beautifully in the Festival Novices Chase, until unseating Rachael Blackmore at the 12th fence. Not seen since, his handler has nominated the Grade 3 Chase at Wexford at the end of month as his date for a seasonal reappearance (won last year by Minella Indo) and he looks just the type to progress into a staying chaser of some substance this season.

I also think THOMAS DARBY can finally fulfil his potential, with staying trips firmly on the agenda. Olly Murphy let his eight-year-old have a crack at 3m for the first time at Aintree in April, and ran a cracker when finishing third to Thyme Hill. He was patiently ridden to get the trip on that occasion, and was doing all his best work in the closing stages - 3m is exactly what he wants these days. Murphy has nominated the West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby to get his campaign under way and I think he could be the dark horse in the Staying Hurdle division this season. He has run well at Cheltenham in the past, including when runner up in the Supreme, and I think he looks tailor made for this type of contest in due course.

Selections:

Shan Blue, King George VI Chase, Kempton, Sunday 26th December, 2021 - 1pt win 50/1 (Paddy Power)

Eklat De Rire, Cheltenham Gold Cup, Friday 18th March, 2022 - 1pt win 50/1 (general)

Thomas Darby, Stayers' Hurdle, Thursday 17th March, 2022 - 1pt win 40/1 (Unibet)

2022 Cheltenham Gold Cup
Eklat De Rire silk

Eklat De Rire

2022 Stayers' Hurdle
Thomas Darby silk

Thomas Darby

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