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Betting Bureau: Time to worship at Amen Corner; Course form behind Clarion has worked out particularly well.

Byline: Nick Fox

WITH 12 previous winners in a competitive 13-strong field, the Racecall All-Weather 2001 Guide Handicap (2.50) at Southwell is by some way the most interesting betting heat of the afternoon, especially as the probable favourite Flambe is vulnerable dropped in distance.

Flambe has been a revelation since stepped into handicaps, winning three races in November in fine style. But the six-furlong victory he started with does not match what he achieved over seven furlongs and a mile subsequently, and it remains to be seen whether he can prove as good at today's trip as he is over further.

That is quite a serious doubt about a horse who is bound to be very popular in the betting. At bigger odds you might have given him the benefit of the doubt, but in the circumstances it is better to look elsewhere.

Flambe's stablemate Captain Kozando is reasonably interesting, but on racetrack form more likely winners are Amen Corner, Charitable and Better Off.

Charitable was a runaway winner of a maiden over course and distance last month, and has probably got in on a fair mark. But there is still a gap to bridge between maidens and handicaps, and this is quite a tough one.

As a result, Charitable is discarded, and I am going to eliminate Better Off too. He does have handicap form in the book, winning a nursery over course and distance last month despite struggling in the first half of the race. However, it worries me that everything went his way that day, and in this better-grade event he will not be able to make up so much ground over a distance that is on the short side for him.

The bet is Amen Corner, whose main qualification for a big run is his second to smart all-weather performer Clarion here in October.

He was back on turf afterwards, but ran on very soft ground, which he seems not to like. He then disappointed at Wolverhampton, but it was an odd race over five furlongs with few getting competitive, and he never got anywhere near the front.

The Clarion form is good. The winner completed a hat-trick by winning a conditions race at Lingfield, while the well-beaten third Sebulba has run creditably since.

From a good draw in stall five, and back over a course and distance which clearly suits, Amen Corner should make a bold bid at an attractive price.

Ela Agapi Mou ran his best race in a long time when second to Haste Ye Back over three miles in the mud at Towcester last month, and is worth a second look in the Winning Post Bar Handicap Hurdle (3.40) at Taunton.

We might get a further clue about the merit of the Towcester form when the winner runs over fences in the preceding race.

Betting in selling hurdles is not to be recommended, but Brooksie ran well enough at Hereford on Boxing Day to suggest place chances in the Hangover Hurdle (1.40).

With the Martin Pipe-trained Amitge likely to be a red-hot favourite, the odds will at least provide some enticement to bet in such a poor event.

TODAY'S ADVICE

Amen Corner (nap) 2.50 Southwell

2pts win

CAPTION(S):

Amen Corner: can expose any flaws in favourite Flambe
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 4, 2001
Words:550
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