The complexion of the “Four Miler”, as it’s generally known, has changed since it was remodelled as novice chase in 2010 and the good news for punters is that it has lost its reputation for shocks – just one winner at a double-digit price in the last runnings and three winning favourites in that time.
That’s because the race now attracts classy stayers who wouldn’t be out of place in the RSA, and they also attract the best jockeys, with crack amateurs such as Jamie Codd and Derek O’Connor worth around 7lb in the saddle. It’s no surprise then that their mounts this time around – Jury Duty and No Comment respectively – are filling the first two places in the betting.
However, I’m keen to take on both here and Jury Duty in particular as he was last seen finishing a tired second over 3m, having looked certain to score then left clear at the last by a falling stablemate. Stamina shouldn’t have been an issue given he was third in last season’s Pertemps Final, so that was disappointing and makes the 4/1 on offer look skinny enough.
No Comment is another with Festival form on his CV having finished seventh in last year’s Martin Pipe, and he bettered that effort when finishing runner-up at the Aintree and Punchestown Festivals to close out his season. A remote third on his belated chase debut at Sandown in January can be marked up as he stumbled badly two out, but even so that leaves him desperately short on experience over fences and he too looks plenty short enough.
On the other hand, Willie Mullins’ Rathvinden is an old hand at jumping fences after ten tries, winning four of these and enjoying no luck on his last two outings in Grade 1s (brought down and unseated). He’s going to be hard to kick out of the frame, if getting round in one piece, and has the services of Patrick Mullins, who has guided a couple of his mounts into the frame since winning on Back In Focus in 2013.
But I reckon the prize will be staying on this side of the Irish Sea as I’m quite sweet on the chances of MS PARFOIS, who is the only mare in the race. While she’d be the first winning female since 1996, not many have tried since and I doubt any have arrived here with such a progressive profile as hers.
The winner of three of her five starts over fences, including a handicap here in December, she couldn’t match the pace of Black Corton in the Grade 2 Reynoldstown last time, still finishing a respectable second, and appeals as the type to relish this extreme stamina test, with her trainer already eyeing up races such as the Welsh National next season.
Will Biddick, who has plenty of experience over these fences and rode Arpege D’Alene into fourth 12 months ago, will get the leg up and she seems certain to get the soft ground she needs. At 8/1 with bet365, she’ll do for me but I’m also going to suggest a saver on Rathvinden.