Still chasing the elusive full house as we hit the crossbar yesterday with 2 out of 3 selections winning. Today’s action brings cards from Bangor-On-Dee, Exeter and Ayr. 3 solid jumps cards to digest and plenty of value to be dug out.
Staring off today’s racing with a 2 mile and 1.5 furlong mares’ novices’ chase. The class 1 affair has attracted a big name from across the Irish Sea in AUGUSTA GOLD. It’s rare for trainer Margaret Mullins to send a runner over to these shores so it’s probably worth taking note that this 6 year old has been sent over to add to her chasing exploits.
20 days ago the selection came out at Thurles and won a 2.5 mile chase by 53 lengths. Now the distance looks very flattering as the the nearest rival fell 2 out. The faller wasn’t making August Gold work but was still plugging away in second behind her. Nevertheless the performance was stellar and she looked like a superstar after bounding away and making every single yard of the running. She appears to handle good, yielding, soft, heavy so it would appear that if it’s grass she’ll go on it. The underfoot conditions at Bangor being heavy shouldn’t be of too much concern for her. She made her seasonal reappearance 32 days ago and ran a decent 3rd over 2 miles behind Tintangle. It was a fair enough run and she blew away the summer rust behind a useful rival. It would’ve been more pleasing to the eye if she could’ve held on for 2nd but I think the minimum trip is a little too sharp for. Having the extra furlong and a half to use today will help her for sure even if it is a shorter trip than she’s previously won at. Recording an RPR of 130 for that last win she stands out as the real class in this field.
Main competition is definitely going to be Alsa Mix. Its only a small 4 runner affair and Alsa Mix is the only other entrant bringing some solid form to the table. Now the same argument could be made against this 7 year old that the trip might be a bit too sharp for her ideally too. Her best form last season was coming over 2.5 miles last season too as she won a grade 2 hurdle at Sandown on bottomless ground. She was last seen running in the Albert Bartlett at the festival but didn’t complete at odds of 100/1. She now makes her debut in the chasing sphere and will be competitive on her return.
It appears to boil down to a match between the 2. Augusta Gold and Alsa Mix are a cut above the other 2 runners but I’m siding with the former as she has chase experience under rules. She will bounce out into the lead and put the pressure on from the front. I’ll be surprised if there’s a moment of this race where she isn’t in front.
Moving over the Exeter for a 2 mile 5.5 furlong novices’ hurdle and this can be boiled down to the favourite ECLAIR SURF for me. Emma Lavelle’s 5 year old makes his rule debut today and I’m struggling to look past him at what looks a decent price.
Eclair Surf won an Irish point to point back in March of this year by a massive 30 lengths. He was then duly picked up for a hefty fee of £140,000 and sent to the Lavelle yard ready to make his debut under rules. We now get to see him make his rules debut over timber at a trip that looks like it will suit his stamina and underfoot conditions to suit too. Lavelle had a good start to the season with a decent strike rate this season and Adam Wedge gets his usual seat in the saddle. He too has been in good form and has ridden to a 16% strike rate in the last 2 weeks. Now this race breaks into 4 runners on paper; Eclair Surf, The Composeur, Not A Nail and Kozier. The latter Kozier hasn’t been seen for a massive 768 days. Clearly something has been amiss with him and he’s missed a huge chunk of time on the course. He did debut over timber in his last run and clocked a decent 2nd place. You could only assume that he’s going to be a little rusty with so much time off and I’m not convinced the underground conditions will suit either. Not A Nail ran in 2 bumpers last season but was less than impressive and finished nowhere in both starts. What’s probably garnered so much market support for this one is how well the Nicholls yard have been doing with their novice hurdlers recently. He’s worth keeping an eye on but his bumper form doesn’t inspire any confidence in me. The Composeur is another recruit from the point to point scene and won his most recent start between the flags by 4 lengths. That was over 2.5 miles so it would be safe to assume that this trip will be to his liking but I have concerns about the soft going for him as well. Both of his wins came on good ground so he’s unproven on ground with some juice in it.
It’s somewhat of a rocky affair but the favourite has some decent point to point experience to bring forward, is with a stable doing well with his types and definitely handles the ground.
Flicking back over to Bangor for their 5th race on the card, a really competitive class 2 handicap hurdle. The current favourite is young improver The Wolf but I’m keen to take him on as he makes his handicap debut off a mark of 125 and doesn’t appear to enjoy slow going.
One that will definitely enjoy the heavy underfoot conditions is Venetia Williams’ BURROWS PARK. The Herefordshire based trainer’s horses come into their own when the underfoot conditions get testing and the selection is no stranger to a slog through the mud. The previous class 2 winner definitely brings the best form to the table for me and carries joint top weight for his previous exploits. He made his seasonal debut recently at Cheltenham in a hot contest but found himself floundering and finished 6th of 8. Coming off a 203 day break he probably needed the run and will strip fitter for that effort here today. The handicapper also trimmed 1lb off his handicap mark too and this puts him only 4lbs ahead of his last winning mark. With stamina being the key here the trip being a bit short shouldn’t be too much of an issue as he’ll be grinding his way through the mud past rivals who are having their turn of foot curbed.
The Wolf has ran on soft ground once over obstacles and found himself 27 lengths detached behind the winner. Hes only won once and that was on his latest outing. He smashed up by 17 length but that was on good ground and he faces very different conditions here today. He may be getting weight from the selection but it’ll count for nothing if he doesn’t travel well on heavy ground. The Williams’ stable usually come into their own when the rain arrives and with most courses being hit hard with the rain it wouldn’t be surprising to start seeing her stable thrive. She’ll start knocking up the winners so I want her classy entrant here on side for his 2nd run of the season.
Finishing off today’s selections with a trip back to Exeter and a 2 mile 3 furlong beginners’ chase. There’s 2 sitting as joint favourites at the minute in Esprit Du Large and THE MIGHT DON. We saw the latter make his chase debut here at Exeter and he shaped with plenty of promise.
The Mighty Don was a classy staying hurdler last season and was mainly running over 3 miles in high class affairs. A mix of grade 1s and grade 2s in his back form he performed admirably in a few races last season finishing fairly close to some big names like Paisley Park and Unowhatimeanharry. He debuted as a chaser 22 days ago and definitely found the 2 miles and 1.5 furlong trip that day far too short. He was outpaced as the field quickened for home but stayed on really well to finish 3rd. He nearly nabbed 2nd place but ran out of time as he hit the line hard. The stamina was really kicking in but the previous pace just caught him out and he was left wanting for speed. An up in trip by an extra furlong and a half will surely suit him more. It’s still probably on the wrong side of sharp for him but how impressively he was finishing on his last run makes him the one to beat for me here. He’s the highest rated horse in this race by a massive 12lbs so off level weights should be taking this easily.
Esprit Du Large books an interesting recruit to chasing and he too made his debut 27 days ago and ran a respectable 2nd. He too was ran in a grade 3 race last year but was soundly beaten into 10th. His chase debut was quite pleasing and again was over a trip too sharp for him. He finished with a rattle and was just held by half a length at the line. These 2 feel like the main 2 to be concentrating on and with The Might Don bringing the better form to the table I’ll be siding with him. He’s rated a massive 13lbs above his rival and should be holding him quite easily with his class. 3rd place will most likely go to Coolanly but he’s not looking as accomplished as the 2 spearheading the market. It would appear that the ground might find him out too and he’ll be struggling in the slow ground.