A few cards to muddle through today as there’s flat meetings at Musselburgh and Kempton, then we’re over jumps at Huntingdon, Hereford and Punchestown. As Leicester has already been abandoned due to ground concerns, its the jumps that really catch the eye today.
The second contest on the card at Huntingdon is a mares Maiden hurdle over just shy of 2 and a half miles. Current favourite Elk Bridge has seen a surge of money over night and has shortened into 5/2 from around 6/1. Some good form in bumpers but I’m keen to take this Irish Raider on.
Most notable form from bumpers is that of TIMETOCHILL. Trained by Kelly Morgan the 6 year old debuted under rules last season. Dropped into a bumper at Kelso this mare produced a hack job and hit the line 14 lengths clear of 2nd at a massive 14/1. She then went at this course in a listed bumper and beat a handy charge of the Skelton yard in Emma’s Joy. Also in behind that day was Silver Forever back in 3rd. Silver Forever made her hurdle debut at Chepstow Friday and duly got off the mark on her first attempt for Paul Nichols and Harry Cobden. Timetochill had a 4 month break and came back for the mare’s bumper at Aintree in the Grand National Festival to finish a detached 16/20. That attempt was on soft going and it would be logical to think the ground curbed her tactical speed as she faded in the hot contest in the last 2 furlongs.
Back on good ground here today, like her Kelso demolition job, brings this mare right back into the fold. If her jumping is sound and she holds up some of her bumper form she’ll definitely go close here. Although a slightly longer trip today as they’ll cover almost 2 and a half miles the Kelly Morgan trained selection has contested point to points over 3 miles and remained competitive. An interesting competitor is Getaway Mag for the Skelton’s but she’s yet to have competed under rules having won a 3 mile point to point.
Towards the end of the Huntingdon card there’s a 2 mile 7.5 furlong handicap chase with quirky entrant ALEXANDER THE GREY. This one is a real handful. He just seems to find a way to not win a race. Last time out was over this course and distance nearly 2 weeks ago. Making virtually all, Alexander The Grey was 3 lengths clear approaching 2 out and was still yet to be asked for his race sealing effort. A win seemed finally on the cards but a loose horse ahead of him ran around the last fence and this quirky nut job decided to try and follow him. The result was horse and jockey crashing through the wings of the 2nd to last jump and officially being marked up as “ran out”.
Freak accidents aside, quirkiness aside, deciding he might just not want to win aside, 5/1 is a solid price to stick into for a horse who should’ve won a race over this track and trip 13 days ago. I was impressed how he travelled through the race that day. His best efforts seem to come when Lilly Pinchin is in the saddle, she was on board for his effort last time and she takes the ride again here. The young jockey claims a handy 7lbs bringing the selection’s carry weight down to 11st2.
Some interesting lines of form here as Chill In The Wood has beaten Alexander The Grey over 3 mile 1 furlong back in September. There were 10 lengths between them that day but there’s now a huge swing in the weights in our favour. Chill In The Woods is 7lb heavier than that encounter and finds himself on a mark of 102. Previously struggling in handicaps off a mark of 100. Other interesting entrant is Arthur’s Reuben. He has a cracking course and distance record but hasn’t been seen since a crashing fall at Warwick back in March. Flicking over his form he doesn’t seem to perform well off the back of a break so it’s safer sticking to match fit Alexander The Grey.
This 8 year old is still a maiden, he keeps showing the glimpses of his ability but also of his difficulties. A win is most certainly right around the corner and it’s definitely going to be at a nice price when it does happen. I’m going to keep the faith and hope he reproduces something close to his last effort….. without deciding to try go for a pint 2 from home.
Over to Ireland for some midweek jumps racing. It’s always worth taking note when there’s a midweek national hunt card in Ireland as you’re never quite sure who you might see running. The 4th race on the card is an interesting affair. A 5 runner 2 mile 2.5 furlong hurdle. Top of the betting is currently Coko Beach, who came 2nd in the Fred Winter in the Cheltenham festival last season to Band Of Outlaws. The pick of the form on paper but another favourite I’m willing to shoot at in a small field.
BOTHAR DUBH interests me most as an alternative. There’s been some rapid improvement from the 6 year old. His form this season reads 3112. It comes over a mix of trips, most recently he’s been tackling 3 miles but his first win of the season was over today’s distance. With not seeing Coko Beach since a pounding from Fussil Raffles in the champion 4 year old hurdle at the Punchestown festival it’s hard to assess how race fit he is. This is the potential edge that Bothar Dubh has here. This season his rating has shot from 107 to 131. He’s clearly the horse in form in this race. He’s getting 2lbs from the favourite and a 7lb claimer booked makes the weight deficit even bigger. Liam Quinlan is worth his claim and nearly guided Bothar to a win last time out, only to lose by a neck to Eight and Bob as the 2 pulled a massive 15 lengths clear of the rest of the field. We go on Good to Yielding in Ireland today which will suit the selection as his best efforts this season have come with a little bit of juice in the ground.
Although trying to back up after 10 days this one has shown before he can handle the quick turnaround and notch up a win. It would be unlikely for him to have been entered if connections didn’t fancy him to be able to run his race off a short break. Hopefully a lack of race sharpness is the undoing of Gigginstown’s Coko Beach.
Sticking at Punchestown for their next race and hoping Gigginstown get their win here with SIXSHOOTER. This 2 mile 4 furlong maiden hurdle. As is typical with an Irish Hurdle race there’s a tonne of runners and only about 3 worth taking note of. 20 will take to the field here, 14 of which have odds of 33/1 or bigger. The two the grab the attention are Sixshooter and You Raised Me Up.
The former already has form confirmed over the latter. They met in a bumper back in May over 2 miles at Punchestown. This was the bumper for the Punchestown festival and saw Sixshooter win at a tidy price of 8/1. Staying on from the back he came through to challenge in the last 2 furlongs. Stamina looked this ones key attribute and he kept on well to beat an odds on favourite from the Willie Mullin’s yard in The Big Getaway. You Raised Me Up was last of the quartet that lined up that day, finishing 5L behind the winner. Although the Martin Bassil trained 6 year old had a hurdle debut recently, coming 2nd to Arthur’s Quay over today’s trip. He stayed on well but couldn’t trouble a rival he was giving weight too. Once again he finds himself giving weight to a handy rival. Sixshooter is receiving 5lbs from his main competition here. If the form stands up from their bumper last season Sixshooter is likely to outstay You Raised me Up Again. Punchestown is a demanding undulating course. Stamina is the key attribute as they take on the hills of Ireland.
It’s quite easy to strike lines through the majority of the field here as they are in triple figure odds. Shanwalla and Soldiers Hill are the only 2 others of any real interest but the market for Sixshooter is already starting to harden up. Top jockey Rachael Blackmore takes the ride for Noel Meade’s charge today, the yard is already hitting form and I expect it to continue with this one getting off the mark first time of asking.