There are two ways of looking at this wholesale makeover for the Tote Gold Trophy, which is normally one of the most compelling betting events of the winter. The sponsors, naturally, claim to be happy that all but one of the entries will now be able to race off their correct handicap mark, whereas with Pridwell compressing the weights, a dozen more would have been racing with more than their fair share of weight.
From the punting point of view, however, it is hard to see beyond the 6-4 now offered against Tiutchev by the Tote, which is the sort of price more normally associated with the favourite for the Champion Hurdle. Before Pridwell was cancelled out of the equation, Tiutchev would have been forced to run from 7lb out of the handicap. Now, off his true mark, he appears to be not merely a good thing, but the best thing for months, and unless Stanley Racing know something we do not, the 9-4 they have chalked up against Tiutchev will surely disappear long before the weekend.
The only piece of form many backers will bother to study is Tiutchev's success in the Lanzarote Hurdle last month. He won, with plenty to spare, by six lengths, yet he will compete off a lower mark on Saturday. Until yesterday, he was shoulder-to-shoulder with Wahiba Sands, who won the Gerry Fielden Hurdle three months ago, in the ante-post betting. Now, though, Wahiba Sands is out to 6-1 from 4-1, since he must now carry top weight of 12 stone.
Normally, you might expect Martin Pipe, Wahiba Sands' trainer, to be less than delighted at this turn of events, but since he also trains Pridwell, he can hardly complain. The conclusion must be that either he believes that Wahiba Sands is good enough to win anyway, or that one of his three remaining entries, Amitge, Rainwatch and Vent D'Aout, will do so instead.
The bookmakers are not convinced, however, and double-figure odds are available about all three. The prospects do not look good for those layers who, like the Tote, have laid Tiutchev at all rates from 16-1. His take- out with the sponsors alone is pounds 150,000, and their only consolation is the desperate record of favourites in the race. Mysilv is the only market leader to have obliged in the last 10 years, with Vicario Di Bray, who started at odds-on, Edelweis Du Moulin and, 12 months ago, Graphic Equaliser among those who have failed.
Since there is pounds 100,000 in added prize money on offer, there should be a big field on Saturday. Since Tiutchev is not a front-runner, there is always the chance that something else will fall in front of him, (and when there are bookies that need saving, cynics will mutter, something usually does).
But one significant opponent may no longer make the trip to Newbury. Nomadic, trained in Ireland by Noel Meade, will now be required to carry 11st 9lb, which may persuade his connections to get a refund on his ticket.
"We were really looking forward to running Nomadic, we worked him yesterday and he went very well," Meade said yesterday. "But, I don't think we'd want to be giving that sort of weight away, it wouldn't make a lot of sense." Meade may still send Snow Dragon to the Trophy, although he will not be confirmed as a runner until later this week.
With Newbury running plans in confusion, punters turned instead to the Gold Cup yesterday. Teeton Mill was backed from 5-1 to 4-1 with Hills, as Venetia Williams, his trainer, insisted yet again that rumours of training problems with the King George winner are unfounded. Since Williams is by nature far more open about her horses than many of her colleagues, it seems a shame that a few people continue to doubt her word.
n Yesterday's card at Newcastle and today's Carlisle meeting are victims of frost. Warwick inspect at 7.30am.Reuse content