Back in 1894, a bloke by the name of Arthur Agrapart set up a vineyard in the Cote des Blancs village of Avize, in the north-east of France.
Still a family-run business, Arthur’s great-grandsons Pascal and Fabrice Agrapart are producing some top-quality champagne. I can’t say I’ll raise a glass of champagne, but I’ll certainly have a few pints of the black stuff with my winnings should the Nick Williams-trained Agrapart win the Grade One JLT Long Walk Hurdle this afternoon at Ascot (2.25).
Priced 7/1 in the early markets yesterday, Agrapart shook off the cobwebs when fourth on good ground in a minor event at Aintree last month, but the going is expected to be soft to heavy today which will suit this mud-lover perfectly.
This year’s renewal looks wide open, and that’s reflected in the betting with Call Me Lord trading as favourite at 11/4 at the time of writing, just ahead of Unowhatimeanharry at 7/2.
A useful sort on the Flat in France, Agrapart won a couple of Grade Two races in Britain, the most recent being the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham back in January under similar conditions. Over a slightly longer trip, he can let stamina come into play and grind out another win.
Unowhatimeanharry won this in 2016 and should go close but now aged ten, he’s not quite at the same level he once was, and his latest Grade Two victory is somewhat suspect as Sam Spinner and Wholestone didn’t perform on the day.
Sam Spinner won this last year and looks the main threat to the bet if bouncing back to form – while Call Me Lord is an exciting sort that deserves plenty of respect, although he may be at a disadvantage here having not had a race in 238 days. With a number of questions surrounding the market leaders, I’m happy to go with Agrapart at what seems to be a generous price.
Another Nick Williams horse I consider to be a generous price making for a great each-way bet is Flying Tiger, which was chalked up at 16/1 in the early markets for the Grade Three Betfair Exchange Trophy Handicap Hurdle (3.35 Ascot).
Rated 133, the five-year-old won the Fred Winter at Cheltenham in 2017 off 1lb higher and after a brief but unsuccessful stint over fences, he’s back over the smaller obstacles, for now at least. He wasn’t at fault when brought down in the Coutts Handicap Hurdle here last month.
His jockey Chester Williams claims a valuable 7lbs today and if he can keep himself out of trouble and gets around safely, he can find himself finishing in the money.
At Haydock, consider backing Indefatigable in the Listed Smarkets Betting Exchange Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (1.0). Expected to go off around 6/1, Paul Webber’s promising mare has now won twice in four races, including a novice race at Uttoxeter last time out in November by 15 lengths at 5/4 following heavy support in the betting.
It will be interesting to see what money arrives for the five-year-old this afternoon, and she’s already showing signs of versatility, performing well on both good and softer ground.
Danse Idol is the danger horse. Paul Nicholls’ charge won a point-to-point at Boulta last year, and has built on that success under rules. She looked quite stylish when winning a mares’ hurdle at Wincanton earlier this month, and she should have more to come this season.
Finally, Ballyarthur gets the nod a little later at the same venue in the Smarkets Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase (2.40) and if I were pricing this one up, I’d have him a few ticks shorter than the 16/1 available yesterday evening.
Rated 132 which gets him in near the bottom of the weights on 11st 2lbs, he finished mid-division in a useful handicap chase at Newbury in November off 135. While he never looked like placing, it was an improvement on his previous run at Uttoxeter in which he was pulled-up off 137. At his current rating, the handicapper has given him a chance, and I’m happy to have a small ‘on the nose’ win bet at those odds.
Kimberlite Candy has strong claims for Tom Lacey but bookmakers are taking no chances at odds of 4/1. He’s up 5lbs to 138 on his latest victory at Ayr on heavy ground. He signed off last season with a win off 125 in a handicap, and aged just six, can go on improving this term.
DO THE DOUBLE
Soccer: It’s a tough time to be a Manchester United fan, and last week’s trashing at Anfield proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back with regard to Jose Mourhino’s time in charge. A lot of work must now be done, but the Red Devils can get a temporary boost from the arrival of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and beat a Cardiff side which are odds-on to be relegated. Odds of 4/7 seem about right for a United win this evening.
Racing: Trained by John Gosden, Wissahickon can justify his short odds of 4/6 and win the Listed Betway Quebec Stakes on the Polytrack at Lingfield this afternoon (2.15). This one is definitely going places, and the manner in which he brushed aside no fewer than 32 other rivals in the Cambridgeshire at Newmarket marked him down as one that will soon be seen in Group One company, although the Winter Derby at Lingfield is the short-term target for now. He’ll be very hard to beat at this level today.
The Last Samuri has done me some good turns down through the years but it’s ages since he’s won, and I think he’ll struggle off top-weight in the Garrard Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot (3.0). Gold Present won this race last year for Nicky Henderson, and is fancied in the early markets. He’s a huge danger if running to form but he’s been pulled up a couple of times recently, and I’m not so sure I trust the eight-year-old. Instead, a chance is taken on 33/1 outsider Solighoster, which gets in at the bottom of the weights off 133. He’s too can be frustrating and has fallen a couple of times, but his mark has now dropped 10lbs since April and he may just spring a surprise.
1.0 Haydock: Indefatigable
2.15 Lingfield: Wissahickon
2.25 Ascot: Agrapart
2.40 Haydock: Ballyarthur
3.0 Ascot: Solighoster (e/w)
3.35 Ascot: Flying Tiger (e/w)