Ronaldo Des Mottes looks a fine each-way bet for next month's Betfair Hurdle says our Ben Coley.
Last Updated: 23/01/13 4:27pm
My Tent Or Yours heads the betting for the Betfair Hurdle - a race once known as the Totesport Trophy, the Tote Gold Trophy, the Schweppes Golden Hurdle and various other titles - and it's easy to understand his position at the top of the market.
Trained by Nicky Henderson, owned by JP McManus, likely to be ridden by AP McCoy, upwardly mobile, unexposed - he has the profile of the sort of horse punters fall over themselves to back.
Whether or not he deserves a rating of 149, though, is open to debate. Third in the betting for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, his current perch is only 2lb below that of Cinders And Ashes after he landed the Cheltenham opener last year, and he'll do well to win a handicap of this nature off such a mark.
That isn't to say he can't, but already Henderson has expressed his own concerns and it remains possible that the ante-post favourite won't even line up in the race.
"My Tent Or Yours is no certainty to run, quite why he's gone up 9lb for that win at Huntingdon I don't know," said Henderson last week.
"We had to run him to get a third outing into him as our hands were tied, but I thought a mark of 140 was steep enough given what's he's actually done, so to go up another nine is harsh."
I find it hard to see him going off much shorter than the current 9/2 even if he does run - no horse has gone off shorter than 3/1 since Tiutchev's expensive 6/4 failure in the 1999 renewal - and at this stage there's no temptation at all to back him.
What we're looking for at this stage is not only a horse that could win, but one that may go off significantly shorter than the current quotes and it's Ronaldo Des Mottes who catches my eye at 16/1.
Trained by David Pipe and now eight years old, he ran in this race three years ago when just touched off by Get Me Out Of Here.
That effort, off a mark of 142, suggests he can be extremely competitive here off just 2lb higher. The winner franked the form in no uncertain terms by finishing second in the Supreme on his next start while the third home was six lengths off my selection and ran a blinder in his only subsequent handicap start.
Of course, many a gallon has passed under the bridge since then and Ronaldo Des Mottes wasn't seen in public between April 2011 and January 2013, but his comeback run suggested all the ability is there and if that's the case he must go close.
Sent off a weak 20/1 chance and ridden by conditional Tom Bellamy at Sandown, Ronaldo Des Mottes was kept wide throughout and never threatened the leaders having been held up in a steadily-run race on Tolworth Hurdle day.
The finish was dominated by a couple of unexposed improvers and the form looks solid, so while this represents a step up in grade it rates a highly promising run. He was fully entitled to tire in bottomless ground and Bellamy was by no means hard on him.
Ronaldo Des Mottes has been given plenty of time to recover from those exertions which negates the bounce factor to some extent and, with this race likely to have been his target for a while, I can see him going off a single-figure price on the day as I'm far from the only one who will have noted that Sandown comeback.
Another to keep an eye on is Court Minstrel who looks temptingly handicapped on the pick of his form.
Trained by Evan Williams, this six-year-old fits the profile of recent winners in terms of his age and a mark of 131 appears to underestimate his achievements.
He was fourth in the Aintree Bumper behind The New One, with My Tent Or Yours around eight lengths ahead in second, but has almost certainly improved again since sent hurdling and doesn't look 18lb inferior to the favourite on what they've done so far.
His three-length third to 156-rated Dodging Bullets is very strong form with the potentially-smart second coming out and winning since, while his earlier victory over The Romford Pele has been franked by the runner-up, who has come out and won his next two starts.
Last time out Court Minstrel just looked to get bogged down in close-to-unraceable ground at Sandown and granted sound conditions he would be a player were he to sneak into this race off a featherweight.
However, he needs in excess of 30 defections to get a run so without being certain that connections will leave him in, enabling us to get our money back if he is balloted out, it surely makes more sense to wait until the day.
Finally, a word on Cotton Mill.
John Ferguson's horse is a fascinating runner here having travelled every bit as well as Simonsig at Cheltenham before a crashing fall, after which he looked a non-stayer over three miles at Aintree.
Absent since, his chance is obvious off a mark of 145 but this is a big ask on his first start of the season and you just wonder whether he'll be taken off his feet early on in the hustle and bustle of what's always a fiercely-contested handicap.
That said he's only 25/1 for the Champion Hurdle and with close to 30lb to find with the principles there it's clear that some expect him to go very close at Newbury - it will be fascinating to see if he can justify the hype.