One of the big betting races at Ascot this Saturday is the Grade 3 Betfair Exchange Trophy (15:25), a valuable Grade 3 handicap run over 2m.
Having shaped with stacks of promise on seasonal reappearance, Umbrigado looks decent value at 15/2 with Paddy Power to land the spoils.
After finishing runner-up in his sole start in an Irish point, this five-year-old made an impressive winning start under Rules on debut for trainer David Pipe when landing a Uttoxeter bumper by 5 1/2 lengths.
Umbrigado then had little difficulty opening his account over the obstacles in an 11-runner maiden hurdle at Southwell, before only having to by driven out to land the hat-trick when accounting for Ask Dillon by 2 1/4 lengths at Exeter.
The runner-up is a smart sort who is now rated 137, so the way in which he was readily brushed aside was impressive.
It earned Umbrigado a crack at the Grade 1 Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at the Aintree Grand National Festival but, after making a short-lived effort two from home, he weakened to finish a 9 3/4 lengths sixth of nine to Reserve Tank.
Drop back in trip a plus
That was a red-hot renewal and may well have come too soon for Umrigado at such an early stage of his career.
He appealed as the type that would come into his own this season once strengthened up.
That view was confirmed when Umbrigado finished an eye-catching fifth of 17 to Stoney Mountain in the Grade 3 Betfair Stayers’ Handicap Hurdle over 3m at Haydock last month.
The son of Stowaway travelled ominously well in mid-division for much of the contest until
appearing to blow up two from home.
He then kept on again to be beaten 6 1/2 lengths without being unduly knocked about.
Umbrigado looks sure to come on a bundle for that outing and is now drops back down to a trip over which he is two from two.
He is also able to race off what looks like a workable unchanged mark of 142.
As Umbrigado has proven form on testing ground, there is nothing not to like about his profile for the Betfair Exchange Trophy.
Countister an each-way player for JP
Leading Irish owner JP McManus has seen his famous green and gold hooped colours carried to victory in this race twice, courtesy of Get Me Out Of Here (2010) and My Tent Or Yours (2013).
His sole representative this time around is Countister, who shaped better than the bare result suggests on seasonal reappearance.
She is weighted to run a big race for trainer Nicky Henderson. This seven-year-old mare had some smart to her name when trained in France and winning three of her six starts.
She was then purchased by McManus and, after being sent to join Seven Barrows handler Henderson, ran a race full of promise when runner-up to Cap Soleil in a Newbury novice hurdle.
Countister then duly built on that to run out an easy seven-length winner at Doncaster, before following-up in good style at Sandown.
Those successes earned her a crack at the Grade 2 Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, where she ran as well as could be expected when weakening late on to finish a 28-length fifth of 14 to Laurina.
Countister then ran a stormer following 365 days on the sidelines when a 1 3/4 lengths third of 23 to Ch’tibello in the County Hurdle at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
She has also quickly been dropped 4lb having travelled well on return to action in the Grade 3 Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham when a keeping on seventh of 14 to Harambe.
That should have put her spot on for this, and Countister should be very competitive off a revised rating of 137 on the pick of her form.
So, at 10/1 with Betfred, Countister looks a big each-way player in a typically fierce and wide-open renewal of the Betfair Exchange Trophy.
Top weight Monsieur Lecoq a Betfair Exchange Trophy player
Despite having to shoulder top weight of 11st 12lb, Monsieur Lecoq is another that looks well worth considering from an each-way betting perspective now dropped down in grade.
After showing a game attitude to land the Welsh Champion Hurdle on soft ground at Ffos Las on seasonal reappearance, this Jane Williams trained five-year-old ran an absolute stormer off 7lb higher when a half-length third of 14 to Harambe in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Monsieur Lecoq travelled like the best horse for much of the race until getting edged out of things in the dying strides.
The son of Diamond Boy tanked along at the head of affairs under Lizzie Kelly, arguably doing too much too soon in what was a slowly run race.
Connections were adamant that he would have won if he could have got more cover and a tow into the race. It’s hard not to agree with their comments.
That huge run saw Monsieur Lecoq pitched into the Grade 2 International Hurdle at Cheltenham seven days ago, and he ran very well to finish a 4 1/2 lengths fourth of eight to Call Me Lord.
After getting outpaced two from home, Monsieur Lecoq finished the race off powerfully and only just failed to get up for third.
He now reverts back to handicap company off an unchanged rating of 150 and this is traditionally a strongly run affair.
That will play to the strengths of Monsieur Lecoq and regular pilot Kelly can now use her 3lb claim – having been unable to do so in the International Hurdle.
So, taking everything into account, the classy Monsieur Lecoq has more going for him than odds of 16/1 with William Hill – who pay five places – suggest.