Wednesday’s cards bring a mixed bag again, the flat doesn’t quite seem to ever just go away and Nottingham hosts a card in what sounds like a swamp. There’s 2 domestic jumps cards at Chepstow and Musselburgh which are the prime focuses of the day.
Opening today’s proceedings with a 2 mile maiden hurdle. The market just looks a bit wrong to me in this. The favourite is El Picador and I couldn’t honestly tell anyone why. A few spins on the flat for Sir Michael Stoute he’s been picked up by Brian Hughes for his hurdle debut. A flat rating of 75 isn’t particularly much to shout about and he’s a favourite I’m quite keen to take on.
BURNAGE BOY appeals most for me. Some solid hurdle form to latch onto tends to be the best way forward with these kinds of races. The Micky Hammond trained 3 year old showed himself to really good effect recently coming 2nd to a smart looking winner. This was at Wetherby on good to soft and the selection was a 7 length runner up to Maria Magdalena. The form has had a nice franking since as Maria Magdalena ran a massive second place in a listed class 1 hurdle recently. Straight away it’s our best line of form on offer. Burnage Boy chased a smart one home and was a solid 10 lengths clear of third place. When you factor in Connor Brace’s 5lb claim on the winner, the selection was giving weight to his rival so the form reads even better. Glancing over the runners here there’s clearly nothing as smart in opposition today. I’m quite perplexed as to how the only runner with a nice bit of form over obstacles isn’t sitting at the top of the market. 6/1 is a big enough price for a cheeky each way. It feels unlikely that he wouldn’t place given his debut. The only doubt in question is the change in going. There was some cut in the ground on his debut and he ran on good to soft but he faces truly soft ground today so it does offer up a new test.
You can only imagine that main concerns are going to be the two top flat recruits in El Picador and Balranald. They must have garnered some market support but without seeing them jump in public it’s hard to make assumptions over their hurdling credentials. Burnage Boy feels like the safe bet.
Skipping over to Chepstow for the remaining selections. Firstly in a 2 mile 7.5 furlong handicap chase. As usual whittle this down into who will stay and who won’t. Of the 10 runners I’m finding it hard to get past the favourite ON THE ROAD.
Showing some mixed form in class 3 affairs last season it’s interesting to see him drop down in class here. He ran a decent race in his last start of the season in a 3.5 mile handicap chase. Coming 3rd to Pobble’s Bay by 22 lengths. He was a big price and ran creditably for the bronze medal. His last win was a while ago however. You have to go right back to March of 2017 for his last win. It’s a long dry spell for a horse but he has conditions to suit so it could be his day in the sun again. He’s top rated here and comes in off a mark of 111. It looks like a workable handicap to run with as he was rated as high as 125 last spring. The selection had an encouraging pipe opener over hurdles 31 days ago and ran into 4th. He was 9 lengths off the winner but the run will have shed any summer rust and he’ll be stripped fit for this encounter. A drop to class 4 and a good claimer jocked up in Isabel Williams taking off a handy 6lbs looks to be giving this 9 year old his best chance of notching another win.
To start highlighting some dangers in the field it’s probably logical to start with Clondaw Rigger. A proven course and distance winner he won a similar race to this last November. That effort came off a mark of 95 so he finds himself a hefty 8lbs higher to try and repeat that win. The Manuscript is the other main danger in the field I can see as he won a 3 mile class 4 race at Warwick in May off a mark of 90. Only 2lbs lower than his current rating he could be one to go close again. He tends to need his comeback run from a break though and it was enough to make me look elsewhere.
The mark looks fair enough, he handles the ground and he’s had a spin over hurdles to spark him up. It all looks nicely set up for On The Road to finally go in again.
Next up is a 2 mile 7.5 furlong handicap hurdle. Of the 12 runners declared it’s the top 2 in the market that appear to have it between them. Jasmin Des Bordes was placed recently in a 2.5 mile novice hurdle at Worcester and goes up in trip now for his handicap debut. Nothing particularly about his last run hit me that an up too 3 miles would draw out more improvement and a mark of 120 is quite a stiff one for his opening run in handicap company. It’s enough to make me look elsewhere.
JUST A THOUGHT is currently joint favourite and to me has the best form coming into this encounter. This one clearly hasn’t been straight forward as she missed all of last season. But There’s a few encouraging things to take from her back form. In February 2018 she finished 2nd in a 3 mile 2 furlong handicap hurdle behind Flashjack, it shows us immediately that she will stay the trip. There’s a nice line of form in there with Mare’s Hurdle winner Rocksana. The selection finished only 5.25 lengths behind the subsequent Cheltenham Festival winner at Newbury in a group 2 handicap hurdle. It’s not a far distance to be beaten in a top race and shows this mare has a bit of talent. She rounded out that season with a class 1 mare’s novice hurdle at Cheltenham. This was far too hot a contest and she finished 7th of 9 and 22 lengths detached. A massive break saw her come back last month at Chepstow. She wasn’t disgraced back in 4th behind Silver Forever. It was an encouraging pipe opener and showed this mare still retains the ability she showed 2 seasons ago. Dickie Johnson jocked up for the first time is always a positive for these kinds of races and she should go close over a trip that looks more her bag.
It’s quite a competitive affair and there’s a few dangers lurking in the field. Top on RPR’s is Good And Hardy. He’s shown he stays and has some interesting back form with horses like Ardlethen. But he’s 0-4 over hurdles and tends to need his comeback run before he’s at his competitive best though. A similar case can be made for Perfect Man as he’s placed off 1lb higher in a class 3 event but again he needs to have his pipe opener before he can be seen to best effect. I’m sticking with the mare Just A Thought to carry her impressive back form and outstay competitors who might not be fully wound up for this encounter.
Winding up today with Chepstow’s 2 mile 3.5 furlong maiden hurdle. I’m struggling to get away from one straight away in THUNDERSTRUCK. The Emma Lavelle trained 5 year old showed some smart form on his hurdle debut and finished best of the rest behind an odds on shot in Enrilo.
Thunderstruck debuted over hurdles 20 days ago and came 2nd in a 6 runner race at Wincanton. He was unlikely to be beating odds on shot Enrillo. The 8/15 favourite asserted on the run in and kept on well to keep our 5 year old at bay by 4.5 lengths. The striking thing is the 2 had pulled a long way clear and 3rd was a massive 22 lengths behind. It’s encouraging form to build on and there’s now some hurdling experience for him to take forward into this race. There’s nothing of Enrillo’s quality in here so this time he shouldn’t be bumping into a better one. The ground is riding soft but Thunderstruck has won on Yielding ground in his point to point win and was 2nd in a bumper on heavy ground. That bumper form has worked out quite well too with 5 of the runners coming out and winning a hurdle race since. Not bad for the 11 runners as nearly 50% have returned to win over timber. He’ll handle the ground, he has the best form and he’s going to be fit as a fiddle for this run. He’s a hard favourite to oppose even if his price is just starting to lengthen a little.
Main competition is looking like Stick With Bill. A winner and a 2nd in his bumper runs look like encouraging pieces of form for him to take forward to his hurdle debut. The downside is his bumper form hasn’t worked out quite so well with nothing coming out and winning from his more recent outing. He’s coming back off 253 days off so may not have fitness on his side. The other main threat appears to be Potters Venture. Some solid form on his hurdle debut coming 3rd behind subsequent class 4 Ascot hurdle winner Mason Jar. He bolted up by 7 lengths and put everything to the sword early. Finishing 9 lengths behind him at Uttoxeter makes Potters Venture interesting and he’ll improve for the run as well.
It’s a fiddly race to unpick but the best form on offer is usually the way to go with these maiden hurdles. There’s a few clues on offer and you have to put them together to highlight the strongest candidate. Thunderstruck has some serious back form and made an encouraging spin over hurdles to earn an RPR of 134. If he runs anywhere near to that level he’ll be far too good for these.