Wednesday brings about 3 decent looking jumps cards to get stuck into with Warwick, Hexham and Chepstow. Nothing particularly caught my eye over at the Welsh course so Warwick and Hexham host the selections for the day.
Starting the racing for today over at Hexham in a 2 mile handicap hurdle. The top 2 in the market, Duchess Ravenwaves and Frightened Rabbit, I’m both keen to oppose. The former has been beaten in all 3 of her handicap starts but likely has been sent over from Ireland for a reason. Frightened Rabbit on the other hand is a course and distance winner but comes in off the back of a win and a 8lb rise in the weights.
The alternative I’ve settled on is 9 year old SLEEPY HAVEN who was just touched off in this race last year by a short head. Jennie Candlish’s entry put that effort in off a mark of 116 and comes in a trim looking 4lbs lower for this year’s effort. He’s been on the go for quite a while this year but in his last race 34 days ago he finished half a length ahead of Frightened Rabbit. As mentioned that rival has won since so there’s now a large swing in the weights between these two. Sleepy Haven is unfortunately winless since 2016 but the recent good run and performing well in this contest last year looks like his time could be coming again soon. The race was slightly stronger last year and was run on similar underfoot conditions so the slow ground shouldn’t be an issue. He’s a big enough price to be taking each way and he hopefully can put in another bold bid this year.
Unfortunately there only being 7 runners means we’ll only get 2 places on the each way but the favourite has been less than inspiring in her handicap showings and the selection is holding Frightened Rabbit on back form and gets a further positive pull in the weights.
Moving over to Warwickshire for a 2 mile 5 furlong mares’ novices’ hurdle. I’m finding it hard to come up with reasons as to why favourite SUBWAY SURF won’t win a relatively weak looking affair.
The Kim Bailey representative won 2 out of her 3 bumper runs last season. The one time she wasn’t successful she bumped into the useful hurdler Silver Forever who’s recently won a class 2 event at Newbury. Both of her wins were quite dominant and she was staying on really strongly in the final furlong to assert her win. A 3 mile point to point winner it’s highly likely she’ll be competitive over today’s trip and will handle the slow ground. Kim Bailey has sent out a good couple of novice hurdle winners recently so it will pay to give attention to the runners he sends for these kinds of races. If this mare can transition her smart form from bumpers to timber she’s going to take some real beating here. I’m not too concerned over the break between her last outing in March and this run as she had quite a large break between her Point win and first bumper win.
Main competition is looking like other point to point recruit Madam Deluxe who was 2nd between the flags back in March. She was then picked up for £90,000 and has been sent to the strong Nicky Henderson yard. Other runner of note is Winter Getaway. She recently won a maiden so shoulders a penalty for this run. She won handily at Stratford but this will require a bigger performance now she has to give weight away all round.
Switching back over to Hexham for a real attritional test, a 4 mile handicap chase. With the ground being heavy this is going to be a real slog so scouting out the thorough stayers in the 10 runner field will pay dividends.
LOWANBEHOLD won this same race 2 years ago on his seasonal return off a mark of the exact same mark he holds here. The 12 year old’s best days might be behind him now but he’s shown he has the stamina to cope with this kind of test and could just have one more day in the sun. He’s only just crept back down to a workable mark as he was as high as 107 back in April. Long time partner Thomas Wilmott takes a handy 5lbs off his mounts back and we could just see another bold bid. The only 2 horses that are below him in the handicap are having to come in out of the weights with Don’t Delay and Arizona Bound only rated 86. They have a big task coming from out of the handicap and it’s enough to put me off both.
There’s another course and distance winner in the field, Total Assets won this race last year but off the back of an 11 day break and 5lbs higher than last year’s success it was enough to make me look elsewhere. It’d be harder to make cases for the rest as it’s a rare trip. Misfits was 2nd over course and distance in March so looks a justified favourite but he’s a hefty 10lbs higher than that effort and lugs around top weight here.
It’s going to be a real test for the runners but a proven winner of the race who’s back on his last winning mark gets the nod from me at a tidy each way price.
Rounding out the day with a 3 mile veterans’ handicap chase. The top 2 in the market are the most interesting by far and I’m leaning towards second favourite THEATRE GUIDE.
The 12 year old showed there’s still some talent in the old legs yet with a good 3rd place at Aintree recently. That effort came in a similar race and he ran creditably to get back up for a place. That race was arguably a lot deeper than this contest so with nothing as good lurking in this race Theatre Guide looks the most likely winner to me. He’s done it over this distance before, he’s had a decent break of 24 days to freshen him up a little and represents a bit of class. King’s Odyssey is currently favourite as he ran well in defeat recently at Stratford. In a race just shy of 2.5 miles he ran a very creditable 2nd place behind Rocco. He’s a hard one to be onside with as he seems to run very well in defeat but finds it difficult to notch up a win. His last win was almost 4 years ago and considering he’s not won since he’s only just back down to roughly the same handicap mark. That recent 2nd gave him an extra 2lbs to carry here and it looks a hard task for the 10 year old.
With other runners Wild West Wind, Milansbar and Smooth Stepper each not completing in their last 2 runs it’s quite easy to be putting lines through them. They’re falling in the weights but are showing very little in their recent runs. Boiling it down to the top 2 in the betting I’ll side with the nicer price and 12 year old Theatre Guide to have another crack at being in the winner’s enclosure.