Best bets for New Year’s Eve, by Chris Cook

Hell is, of course, full of people typing up novelty bet offers for the New Year but there’s some morbid fascination that drags my eyes to the silly lists of prices issued at this time of year. For some reason, we’re expected to care whether snow will fall on Heathrow on Easter Sunday (16-1) or Mary Berry will sign up for Strictly (25-1).

Rather more seriously, there is an extensive array of odds related to horse racing and most firms seem to have given some thought to the headlines that might be made in 2019 by Bryony Frost. But here’s an oddity: Sky Bet have her at 9-1 to ride two or more winners at the Cheltenham Festival and 33-1 to ride the Grand National winner.

That must be wrong, mustn’t it? There’s no way she’s three times more likely to have two Festival winners than to win the National.

Given the way Frost’s opportunities arise, I wouldn’t be tempted to back her at this stage to win anything at the Festival. For all her high profile and the praise she attracts, including from Ruby Walsh, she doesn’t get a steady stream of short-priced horses to ride. At the last Festival, she had two rides in total and one of those was a 50-1 shot. She’d have to be first jockey at one of the major stables before you could even consider backing her to have more than one winner at the biggest race-meeting of all.

The Grand National is a different thing altogether. Opportunities can come from all sorts of directions for that race, especially for a jockey known to be good at guiding horses over fences, and trainers will remember what a fine job Frost did when fifth on Milansbar last year. If he runs again, she may feel obliged to ride him again and I couldn’t fancy him as a 12-year-old but his rating has dropped to 140, so he’s at obvious risk of missing the cut.

If she does get a ride in the Aintree race, the horse in question will get at least its share of media attention, which will have a shortening effect on its odds. So there are worse novelty bets one could make than taking 33-1 about Frost winning the National, although novelty bets are clearly a terrible idea in the broad.

Let’s leave behind the question of whether a female jockey can ever win a National. In light of the ability shown by Frost, Nina Carberry, Katie Walsh and Rachael Blackmore, that is no longer a respectable question in my view. If Frost gets the leg-up on a horse with a winning chance, you’ll be reading all about it the next day.

To Warwick, where there’s been a big market move for one of Venetia Williams’s, Vivaccio, who hasn’t won for four years. As a consequence, we can get 9-2 about Lady Master (3.05) and I like that, in view of this five-year-old’s comfortable success at Wetherby on her first attempt over fences three weeks ago. She’s only up 7lb and can score for Caroline Bailey and Sean Bowen.

Sean’s brother James has a chance earlier on the 13-2 shot Cadeau Du Bresil (2.00), who joined Grant Cann from Gordon Elliott last winter. This six-year-old should be sharper for his return to action four weeks ago and showed some promise over fences in the spring.

At Uttoxeter, the betting market evidently expects a good run from Fight Commander (1.40) on his first start for Olly Murphy. The nine-year-old, who has had a wind operation and now runs in a tongue tie, has dropped a stone below the peak rating he had a couple of years ago.

Pick of the card at Lingfield could be Mercers (2.55), who now returns to five furlongs there, the course and distance which has provided two of her four wins. Blinkers are fitted for only the second time in her life, presumably in the hope of getting her to break more promptly than has sometimes been the case.


11.40 Seductive Moment 12.10 Gin Palace 12.45 Silca Mistress 1.15 Billyoakes 1.50 Breathless Times 2.20 Caspar The Cub
2.55 Mercers (nb) 3.25 Shackled N Drawn 


12.25 Amethea 12.55 Printing Dollars 1.30 Wisecracker
2.00 Cadeau Du Bresil 2.35 Gamain 3.05 Lady Master (nap) 3.35 The Macon Lugnatic 


12.35 Admiral Spice 1.05 Halloween Harry 1.40 Fight Commander 2.10 Burrows Park 2.45 Calipso Collonges 3.15 Costante Via 3.45 A Perfect Gift 


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