Thursday’s Newcastle fixture has been abandoned leaving Towcester as the only National Hunt meeting of the day but, even so, we have two quite strong fancies that we hope can start the New Year with a bang.
The first of them, Eminent Poet (1.35), carries no penalty for winning a conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle, over 2 miles 3 furlongs, at Taunton eight days ago and shouldn’t be inconvenienced by dropping back in distance on a testing track. That win confirmed the promise of his previous third of six, beaten 13 lengths, behind subsequent winner Dormouse over 2 miles at Lingfield and he appears to have an obvious chance of completing a double.
The second, Rosa Fleet (2.05), wasn’t beaten far off her current mark at Bangor last month and should appreciate the steep climb to the home turn at Towcester and the continuing rise past the winning post. Venetia Williams’ mare remains 1lb lower in the weights than her last winning mark over hurdles and is fully effective on soft going, so she looks a decent bet to bring up a double for the Herefordshire trainer and, of course, for this column!
Selections: Towcester 1.35 Eminent Poet, Towcester 2.05 Rosa Fleet (win double)
Fibresand, the racing surface at Southwell, is deeper and looser than Polytrack (Chelmsford, Kempton) and Tapeta (Wolverhampton) and horses that run well on it once often do so over and over again. With this in mind, we’ve selected two horses with previous winning form at the Nottinghamshire track for our ‘deadly’ double this week.
Our first selection is Patriotic in the Ladbrokes Handicap (2.30). The Pivotal gelding hasn’t won for nearly a year, but is consequently 3lb lower in the weights than when winning over course and distance last December. Indeed, he wasn’t beaten far in a much better race, off an 8lb higher mark, on his last visit to Southwell in January, so makes no little appeal from a handicapping point-of-view.
Our second selection is Countermand in the Coral Mobile Just Three Clicks to Bet Handicap (3.30). The Authorized gelding made his first visit to Southwell a winning one, when staying on well to beat Rebel Collins by 11 lengths and, with the runner-up winning by a wide margin at Wolverhampton three days later, the form looks even stronger than it did at the time. Andrew Balding’s 3-year-old steps back into handicap company off a 5lb higher mark, but could still be open to significant improvement over middle distances.
Selections: Southwell 2.30 Patriotic, Southwell 3.30 Countermand (win double)
In the Dave Criddle Travel & Bristol Airport Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase (2.10) at Taunton on Thursday, Butlergrove King has improved for switch to regulation fences and can make it three wins from four starts in that sphere. The King’s Theatre gelding has been off the course for seven weeks since beating Buck Magic by 5 lengths over 3 miles at Ludlow, but is clearly on an upward curve and can defy a 6lb rise in the weights for that success. He remains open to significant improvement and his earlier point-to-point form augurs well for his future.
In the Dave Criddle Travel & Kuoni Handicap Hurdle (1.40), Back By Midnight failed to defy a 12lb rise in the weights when third of 17, beaten 9¼ lengths, behind Proofreader over course and distance a fortnight ago, but deserves another chance in what appears to be an easier contest. The winner has since run creditably in defeat, off a 7lb higher mark, so the form looks solid enough against exposed opposition.
Selections: Taunton 2.10 Butlergrove King, Taunton 1.40 Back By Midnight (win double)
In the Weatherby Hamilton Handicap Hurdle (2.35) at Wincanton on Thursday, Presenting Arms clearly wasn’t at his best on his final start last season, but won with plenty in hand on his reappearance at Kempton ten days ago and has an obvious chance of following up. The Presenting gelding escapes a penalty for victory in that conditional jockeys’ contest and, having run well on his sole attempt on heavy going (when with Paul Nicholls), shouldn’t be unduly inconvenienced by testing conditions.
Former point-to-point winner Capilla made short work of six rivals in a 0-100 contest at Lingfield on Tuesday and makes a quick reappearance under a 7lb penalty. Testing conditions appear to be the key to the Beneficial gelding and, having won a point-to-point over 3 miles, he should have no problem stepping up to 2 miles 4 furlongs over regulation fences in the #Belikedan Daniel Rhodes Memorial Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase (3.10). Amateur rider Conor Orr has only ridden a couple of winners for Evan Williams so far in his fledgling career, but is perfectly able and been praised by his trainer for his awareness in the saddle.
Selections: Wincanton 2.35 Presenting Arms, Wincanton 3.10 Capilla (win double)
Nicholashayne trainer David Pipe has a respectable 12-67 (18%) strike rate with his hurdlers at Newbury over the last five seasons, for a level stakes profit of 22.46, and Kalifourchon appears to have an excellent chance of improving that record in the Bet365.com Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (1.35) at Newbury on Thursday.
The Martaline gelding was still bang in contention when unseating his rider at Sandown last time and had previously been on an upward curve, so deserves a chance to make amends. He remains 8lb higher in the weights than when winning at Uttoxeter on his penultimate start, but is eased in grade, albeit slightly, and can win his fourth race from five starts under Tom Scudamore this season.
By contrast, Milborne Port trainer Colin Tizzard has a fairly dismal 2-33 (6%) strike rate with his steeplechasers at the Berkshire course, for a level stakes loss of 26.25 points. However, that fact alone shouldn’t count against Native River, who otherwise has plenty going for him in the Bet365 Novices’ Chase (2.10). Rated 145 over hurdles, the Indian River gelding has made an excellent start to his chasing career and can continue his progress.
Selections: Newbury 1.35 Kalifourchon, Newbury 2.35 Native River (win double)