Wednesday’s best bets, by Chris Cook
It’s that time of year when it becomes apparent that some yards are operating way below their usual level and, in some cases, ill health among the horses emerges as the explanation. Both Anthony Honeyball and Rose Dobbin are, alas, in that situation and apparently we won’t be hearing much from them until February at least.
Honeyball’s problems are said to have begun early in December and therefore provide a possible excuse for his Ms Parfois, who faded right away in the closing stages of the Ladbrokes Trophy and was beaten 40 lengths into sixth. Honeyball has had just one runner in the first eight days of the year and, although Mistress Massini was a winner for him at Ludlow on Thursday, he does not plan to run any horses other than her this month.
In a message posted on his website, Honeyball says Mistress Massini came into training late and, as a result, has been the only one of his horses to have been in full training for the last month, the others being “still on the easy list after suffering from a mild virus”.
The Dorset trainer continues: “We decided to give our team a winter break on the advice of our vet early in December after a number of our horses, including Ms Parfois and Acey Milan, ran well below expectations. They spent a couple of weeks with a daily walk round the roads and are now back doing a steady canter or two. While they seem to be over whatever was affecting them, we will not be rushing things and do not expect to have any runners bar Mistress Massini until the end of January at the earliest.”
Meanwhile, the Northumberland-based Dobbin has told the Racing Post: “We’re giving the horses a quiet time because we suspect we’ve got a bug and we won’t have any runners for a couple of weeks.” The trainer is making the most of it by awarding herself a pre-Brexit trip to Spain.
Christian Williams is faring rather better, having sent out four winners from his last nine runners from his newish base by the coast between Cardiff and Swansea. He’s pinched Honeyball’s useful conditional, Rex Dingle, for Uno Mas (1.35), who is unpenalised at Doncaster today, despite having won at Hereford last week in a race restricted to conditionals.
Uno Mas was perhaps lucky that day, as a stablemate fell when leading at the last. But it was a good run in any case and this step up in trip promises to suit. He’s 4-1.
Williams also fields Fifty Shades (3.15), who was beaten less than a length in a race for amateurs at Cheltenham’s October meeting. Soft ground was no use to him last time at Sandown but the grey can get back on song today, with the going good to firm in places.
I’ll take him at the general 100-30 against Plantagenet, who is being rushed out under a penalty after making all at Taunton 10 days ago.
Taunton is also in action today and I’m tempted by 9-2 about Sign Of War (1.10) in the opening novice hurdle, he having shown some ability on similarly quick ground on his hurdling debut last month. The in-form Evan Williams has put his first jockey, Adam Wedge, aboard this time and the horse has possibilities against a more fancied pair, Chef D’Equipe and Soldier Of Love, who are unlikely to be best suited by these conditions.