A sparse day of racing with 2 all weather cards taking place and only 1 jumps meet. Musselburgh hosts the national hunt today and takes prime focus for selections.
The card north of the border opens with a 2.5 mile handicap hurdle and the top of the market has been fluctuating massively since the book was opened. Gemologist started as favourite but has drifted out to make way for SIDI ISMAEL and Shetland Bus.
The former of the 2 is making his handicap debut after 3 spins over hurdles in novice and maiden events. The Keith Dalgleish trainee probably wasn’t up to the task of winning one of those novice races but ran creditably in defeat a couple of times. A switch to the handicapping sphere looks interesting and he comes in off a mark of 114 to try and open his account as a hurdler. His first spin over timber opened with some real encouragement as he was narrowly beaten by Mr Muldoon. He seemed to tie up in the last 50 yards where he was headed and beaten but that is the run that provides the most encouragement going into today’s encounter. He handled the cut in the turf well that day and just didn’t quite last home the 2 miles and 5 furlongs. The slight drop in trip here is more likely to suit as he was leading over the last flight on debut at Kelso. His form did tail off a little thereafter but he was steadily increasing in trip which seems strange in hindsight as he struggled to see out 2 mile 5 furlongs. Posting a 7th of 8 in a maiden and 4th of 7 in another novice race doesn’t look stellar on paper but anything close to his initial run over hurdles and this drop back in trip should see him going close.
Dropped into the handicap scene off a workable mark in an average looking race I fancy Sidi Ismael to get off the mark over timber. The ground is less testing today and coming back slightly in trip will give him the best chance to shed his tag as a maiden.
Moving down the card to a 2.5 mile novices’ handicap chase where Castletown has become a narrow favourite overnight. The 7 year old made a good chasing impression over course and distance to finish second. On paper his chase form looks really strong but digging deeper he has a tendency to finish 2nd and finds very little off the bridle when he’s asked for his racing clinching effort. I’m keen to take him on and landed on ESPOIR DE LOIRE.
The Ben Pauling inmate was a hurdle winner off a mark of 107, the point to point recruit’s future probably always lay over fences and he makes his chasing debut today. He got his hurdle win at Warwick over 2 miles and 5 furlongs and hung on gamely under only hands and heels to score on soft ground. His subsequent runs after the win were a little disappointing and he seemed to have a problem at Fontwell where upon crossing the line in 6th he was immediately dismounted. Another run back over his winning course and distance at Warwick could only yield a 4th place. It’s interesting to note his sole hurdle win came on soft and his win between the flags came on soft to heavy. Some cut in the turf looks ideal and it’ll likely suit him going over good to soft here. Daryl Jacob takes over in the saddle after a big weekend of rides including taking the Peterborough chase yesterday at Huntingdon. Ben Pauling’s stable have been relatively quiet this season as they had a reported issue with a bad batch of hay. The issue has been corrected and the trainer is hopeful to try and get his season back on track, so expect him to be pushing out plenty of ammo in the coming weeks.
Some previous point to point experience, a decent looking handicap mark of 114 and underfoot conditions to suit look ideal. He’s giving weight to the market principles of Benny’s Secret and Castletown but the former is having to deal with a 7lb weight rise for a course and distance win. It’s an open looking affair but Espoir De Loire appealed most to me and has some experience over fences to build on under rules.
Rounding out today’s selections in a 2 mile juvenile hurdle and top of the market is my favourite to oppose in a French recruit! Guena Des Mottes won a 7 runner affair in France over 1 mile 7 furlong by a neck and comes in here carrying a penalty. I’m always keen to take on these French recruits as they arrive with plenty of promise but have won in strangely run races carrying no weight. He’s already starting to drift from odds-on and I’ve decided to oppose him with EL PICADOR.
The 3 year old ran a creditable race behind George Ridsdale over course and distance 33 days ago. It was an encouraging way to make a debut over hurdles as he transitioned from the flat. The field came home single file with El Picador finishing best of the rest and only 2 lengths behind the winner. He did manage to get his head in front over the last but was outgunned on the run in and held in 2nd by the impressive winner. An RPR of 99 for that run is one of the best pieces of form we have on offer for those who have yet to win a race and don’t shoulder the penalty. Trainer Keith Dalgliesh is showing quite a strong hand at Musselburgh today and I fancy the chances of this 3 year old to back up a promising debut over hurdles. Track conditions are identical to his previous run so there’s very little to suggest why he won’t go well again. The form hasn’t taken much franking so far with only a handful of runners coming out since. Burnage Boy back in 7th ran a big race to finish 2nd subsequently and had George Ridsdale held back in 6th under his penalty. Bullion Boss has come out to be 4th in a maiden too. Nothing major to shout about but I think it’s a decent point for him to build from as a hurdler this season.
Other interesting runner is Beechwood Jude who looked the winner on hurdle debut at Sedgefield but threw in the towel late to finish 4th. His jumping really let him down and he was nabbed by 3 rivals in the closing stages. He looked the definite winner turning in but 3 jumping mistakes in running are enough to put me off. If he’s involved in a tussle to the line he might be outgunned in the air and jumping is the name of the game. El Picador put in a solid round of jumping, he led at the last on debut here and a repeat of that effort will see him going close again.