Last year the BHA announced a new series focused on giving older horses a better chance to gain some valuable prize money that they would otherwise find hard to come by. This created the Veterans Series, worth £400,000 in prize money across 11 races and in general was well recieved. It meant there was an opportunity for real fan favourites and household names to be competing in high quality and open races, all of which culminates on Saturday with the final taking place at Sandown. We preview the race with the likeliest winners below.
REAPING THE REWARD, current price 6-1 – Lucinda Russell’s 12 year old finished 2nd in one of the qualifying races at Doncaster in February, narrowly being beaten by Aachen who will line up again here. He has since been beaten by the highly likeable Sego Success, and lines up in this race off a mark of 134. He can surely be competitive off this mark, and 3miles on soft ground at a track such as Sandown should really suit him. He has the added bonus of Dickie Johnson on board and is a definite valid favourite at this point. 9/10.
SOLL, current price 8-1 – I nearly began this entry with ‘it feels like he has been around for years’ but that clearly is the case as the 11 year old enters his sixth season, but interestingly he is very lightly raced for his age with just 19 career starts and 5 wins. The main reason for this is that he has a tendency to burst blood vessels during his races which means David Pipe will space his races out to help overcome this. Although a horse with clear talent, coming here off effectively a career high mark of 145 (he has raced off 146 in the National, when finishing 9th) and the fact he does burst blood vessels I wouldn’t be taking 8’s about him any time soon. 6/10
BENBENS, current price 8-1 – I’m a big fan of this horse. He is a real staying type which was showcased no better than when finishing a very close 3rd in the Scottish National. He also won a valuable handicap at Aintree earlier in the year which was part of the Veterans series. He ran in the Hennessy at a long price and was never involved, but he lines up here just 4lb higher than his Aintree win and must be seriously considered. Sam Twiston-Davies takes the ride. 8/10
AACHEN, current price 10-1 – This horse was absolutely brilliant at Cheltenham last time out. He won a Grade 3 with effortless ease, jumping like a stag up front, having horses such as Wonderful Charm and The Druids Nephew struggling in behind. It was a wonderful performance that he has been put up 13lb for. I do wonder if a mark of 146 would just be too much for this horse to overcome, but it is interesting that he has won every Chase or Hurdle race he has contested on heavy ground, and has a very good record on soft. He is not certain to line up here but would appear to have a great chance. 8/10
FIRM ORDER, current price 33-1 – Running from out of the handicap it would appear that it would be tough for FIRM ORDER to win here. However, his mark of 113 surely underrates him. To put this into context, he has won 5 times in his career, every time off a higher mark than today, and as high as 127 when winning over C&D last year. He ran respectably behind an improver over C&D last time out (with a subsequent winner unseating when in front) and has been dropped a further 6lb for that run, which gives him a definite chance. 33-1 is surely too big, but he may find 1 or 2 too good. 7/10
There are a few others to mention, including TULLAMORE DEW, 12 length winner last time out who seems to be enjoying a revival currently, and FRENCH OPERA, triple Grade 2 winner under top weight for Nicky Henderson.
Certainly a tricky handicap to decipher with a number in contention. At the prices, I cannot put people off a handful in here but REAPING THE REWARD is one that seems to be in form and is a true stayer that fits the bill of the likeliest winner. 6-1 is a fair price. But one that I do believe will truly outrun his odds is FIRM ORDER. It is crazy to see him on such a low mark, and although technically out of the handicap he has won on much higher marks and do not discount him running a big race.
Recommended bets: 1pt win REAPING THE REWARD 6-1, 0.5pt ew FIRM ORDER 33-1.