With the flat cards already abandoned due to the rain Ayr is the only domestic card going ahead on turf. There’s an evening all weather meet at Kempton and Wexford and Galway are hosting cards across in Ireland. We’ve scouted the cards to identify a couple of selections at decent prices to kick start the week on this chilly Monday.
Starting proceedings in Ayr with their opening contest. A 2.5 mile mares’ maiden hurdle. The top 2 in the market are the most attention grabbing with Elle Est Grande heading the betting at 7/4. A debut over hurdles in a class 4 novice is hard to assess for this one as there were only 3 runners and the short odds on favourite won by 13 lengths. Elle Est Grande plugged on for the silver medal that day but with all the runners guaranteed a podium finish it’s difficult to take any real solid form out of the race. The winner Echiquier stepped up to class 2 company after and was soundly beaten into 5th of 9.
I’m more drawn to second favourite AURORA THUNDER, who’s had 2 spins over hurdles now and seemed to much enjoy the longer trip on her last outing. Running in a class 4 she finished 3rd of 6 and 6.25 lengths behind winner Le Milos. 1st and 2nd from that race have been seen since running well into 2nd places. They just seemed to bump into one each time and 4th from that race has also come out and won since. The form seems to be really working out from that novice hurdle so I’ll be siding with Aurora Thunder to notch up her first win over timber at a nice price.
Although she’s unraced on soft ground, stamina would appear to be her bag. This’ll be a slog and I think she can simply out stay her competition. Jockey Blair Campbell claims a handy 3lbs off her back too just to make the job that little bit easier. She holds a good few of these from past bumper form and there’s a nice strong pace on for this hold up horse to arrive late from.
Sticking in Ayr for their next race, a 2 mile novice hurdle. Favourite EBONY JEWEL is immediately hard to ignore. Last season he showed some smart form in bumpers to notch up a good class 5 win on soft ground. Staying on strongly totally unchallenged the selection skipped away a 12 length winner. Anticipation and expectation was probably quite high around this one as he was then sent to the open bumper at Aintree during the Grand National Festival. 6th of 12 but massively detached it would seem he’s just not a group 2 horse and found the race too hot.
Back in calmer waters of a class 4 novice hurdle looks a good start for Ebony Jewel to crank out a win over timber at the first time of asking. I managed to steal a price of 15/8 in the late hours of last night but that has well and truly dried up overnight. Being able to handle soft ground and clearly being highly thought of, after being entered in a high profile bumper, the Alexander family trained and ridden 5 year old looks the pick of the bunch here.
Main rival I can find in the field is Order Of Thistle. Also a soft ground bumper winner, being able to handle the ground is the key factor for these young inexperienced horses. Something that Ebony Jewel has already proved he can do.
Rounding out our time in Ayr with a 2 mile 4 furlong novice handicap chase. Again top of the market and likely looking sort CHATEAU ROBIN is eye catching.
Running in a class 4 handicap chase at Perth over today’s trip last time out he was denied by a neck for his first career win. Carrying top weight that day and returning off a break, Chateau Robin ran an absolute blinder coming from the back of the field to take the lead over the last. He was headed on the run in and couldn’t find any extra to regain his lead. A 10lb rise looks harsh for that one. But he’s gone close over course and distance before off a mark of 105. Sitting on 110 today he carries 11st so is actually bottom weight. Yes he’s bumping into higher class rivals this time but them all giving him weight on tough underfoot conditions makes him interesting.
Ettila De Sivola is the main market threat but he’s returning off his summer break and carries 2nd top weight here. He’s handed soft before in a hurdle win and comes in after having his wind tinkered with. He was outpaced in his chase debut and might find the same issue here again. Manetti is the only other runner who interests me with good course and distance form over hurdles and point to point wins in his back form. He handles soft ground, can tackle a fence but I just don’t think he’s of class 4 quality.
It’s a weak looking race with a good looking market leader who I’ll happily take the price on.
Finishing the day with a trip to Wexford for their 2 mile 7 furlong listed chase. There’s a few names I recognise is this small 4 runner field. Champagne Classic heads the betting and is shortening up all the time. Discorama came 2nd in the 4 mile race in the Cheltenham festival this year. That race always produces good staying chasers to watch but I’d think he’d need a bit more of a trip to just his engine. Then there’s the quirky but interesting KUPATANA.
She started last season with Nicky Henderson and her form was a bit chaotic. A move to Paul Nicholls’ yard seemed to really light her up. She fell in her first race when leading and in control. She then duly won her next 2 starts quite convincingly. One around Kelso and one in a listed handicap chase around Cheltenham. It surprised me to see she’s changed hands for £210,000 and now finds herself in the Henry De Bromhead stable. She goes well fresh, she handles cut in the ground and she has a real touch of class about her. I say this with a pinch of salt. There’s bags of class but there’s also bags of madness in there too. She’s a real handful but it would seem that the Nicholls’ yard unlocked her potential. She’d go to the front and stay there till she’s won. They just let her bowl along in front, jump everyone into submission and put races to bed with her stamina.
She tackles a new trip today but a convincing win over a furlong and a half shorter reads as a good indicator she’ll get this longer trip. Her mare’s allowance means she’s getting weight from all her rivals and will make this a real attritional test for all involved. The rest of the field tend to like to hang back whereas she’ll go hard a long way in front of them. Midway in her race at Kelso she’d opened up a 20 length lead. She’ll make these work really hard and if they’re not up to it, this mare won’t be for catching.