It’s midweek already and there’s 2 decent jumps cards to digest today. Fakenham and Taunton represent the national hunt while Nottingham has a flat card. Nothing peaked my interest at the midlands track so Fakenham and Taunton host today’s selections.
Let’s kick start the day with Fakenham’s first race, a 2 mile maiden hurdle. Current favourite Falco Blitz is odds on and is one I want to poke holes in immediately. 4 starts over hurdles and he’s managed to find a way not to win. His debut over 2 miles being the worst where he pulled up before the last. He was kicked up in trip and hit a string of 2nds. Twice a beaten favourite isn’t the kind of horse I like putting my money behind and 2 miles could be too sharp for him again.
HIGH CHANGE appeals more to me as an impressive bumper win in the summer was very eye catching. A devastating turn of foot put the race to bed in the late stages. 3 furlongs out he hit the front, Jonjo O’Neill Jr was already looking over his shoulder for dangers and had yet to move a muscle on the 4 year old. Ridden in the last furlong there was a gear change and he quickened clear smartly. If he can transfer his bumper talent over timber he’s going to be the one to beat today. Falco Blitz is striking me as a bit of a distance horse. He won a 3 mile point to point and seemed to perform a lot better in his hurdle races that were over further. I’m expecting him to be a bit outpaced again here. Although he has the benefit of experience over his rivals there’s something missing from this favourite and it’s hard to put your finger on. He doesn’t seem to have the mentality to kick on and try put a race away.
Judging by the odds we have a match again here. Only the top 2 in the market seem to be getting any support. If High Change shows a solid round of jumping, his turn of foot will be too good for these.
Flicking between the 2 jumps cards we have today, Taunton have their own 2 mile maiden hurdle. These are always interesting races to dissect as you’re on a level playing field with weights and hopefully have some helpful back form to split the runners. You can also take clues from the entries and who is or isn’t still entered.
Paul Nicholls had a few of his entered in this. Only for one to be left in and be made a solid market favourite. We saw something similar on Sunday where Nicholls had a few entered for the maiden hurdle at Wincanton. Only for his entries to whittle down to one who duly won very handily. BATHSHEBA BAY made his hurdles debut for the champion trainer 13 days ago. Running a creditable 3rd behind some smart looking rivals the selection will definitely come on for the experience and will know the task at hand better today. That run came after a 1 year lay off so the run would’ve sharpened him up competitively. He didn’t show a turn of foot like most flat recruits tend to over timber. Being at match fitness he might have a bit more in the tank to put away a race like this. The top 3 in the market are the only ones who are single figure prices. Scardura looks interesting but a 5th on hurdle debut at high odds isn’t the most encouraging of form to build on. Dusky Hercules hasn’t been seen for 303 days but was running over much further in his last 2 starts. 2 miles looks too sharp for him.
A second run off wind surgery is always an interesting time to follow a horse. It tends to be where the operation has had it’s maximum effect and the horse is used to the change. Bathsheba Bay is on his second run after having his wind tinkered with and is definitely the one to beat here for Cobden and Nicholls. The duo have just started to claim a good few of these maiden hurdles as they start to show their hand of young hurdlers for this season.
This 2 mile 7.5 furlong handicap hurdle is starting to get a steamer in the market. THE DARLEY LAMA is starting to gather market support so I’m glad I took the 5/1 that was around last night.
An unexposed entry we last saw The Darley Lama running in a class 4 novice hurdle behind 2 good benchmarks. Coming 3rd to Yeavering Belle and Bbold. Strangely the horse coming 3rd was the one to take out of that race. As Yeavering Belle took on Bbold and the 2 started to slug it out in front the Darley Lama was keeping on very smartly in behind them. Outpaced and left behind 2 out he plugged on to close the gap again at the line and finished 8 lengths behind the winner and only 2 lengths behind Bbold. 8 lengths sounds a large distance to be behind the winner but when you consider 4th was a further 21 lengths behind our 5 year old you realise how creditable the run was. An up in trip looks sure to suit and a very fair handicap mark of 108 looks workable. Especially when you consider that Bbold is rated 122 and Yeavering Belle is rated 117.
Current favourite The Detainee showed himself well in his handicap run 20 days ago finishing 3rd. This 6 year old is 0-8 over hurdles so not one I fancy giving any support to. Main competition I can find is Nathan’s Pride. The veteran has slipped to a workable mark but hasn’t won since November 2017. He ran well back in September and found himself drop another 3lbs. The trip may suit the old boy now but a real lack of form for 2 years is enough to put me off.
Staying is the game here and The Darley Lama showed an engine in his last finish. If he can replicate that run, there’s nothing here of the quality of Yeavering Belle or Bbold to get in his way for his first win over timber.
Finishing off Wednesday with a 2 mile class 3 handicap hurdle. I’m willing to take a bit of a risk on Skelton charge MISTER UNIVERSUM. Top weight in this contest the 7 year old looks quite interesting. Although he hasn’t fired the last twice and ran well below par I’m keen to give this one another chance to show how good he is. He ran creditably in class 2 handicap hurdles last season and posting anywhere near those runs today will make him too much for a weak looking field. He’s slipped down to a mark of 123. The Skelton’s have decided to drop him back down in trip which looks like it’ll suit more. He ran over 2 miles at Warwick back in May and came 3rd by half a length. The field that day was much more competitive than this field today. His last run at Warwick was a hot one too, won by Eva’s Oskar who went in again at Chepstow yesterday impressively.
Bridget Andrews takes the ride today and the talented jockey smashed in her first career treble at Wincanton on Sunday. Bang in form she’ll be riding the selection with confidence and will help guide him back to a good performance. The downside here is there are 22lbs between Mister Universum and favourite Coby Nine.
The latter is trying to back up after 9 days where he was 2nd in a class 5. Skipping all the way up to class 3 today I think he’ll simply be outclassed. Low weight or not. The last run at Plumpton was impressive and he fell short by a neck. He’s due to go up 3lbs so he is well in here but I think he’s out of his depth.
There’s absolutely no pace on here at all. If Bridget is keen enough she could take Mister Universum straight to the front and use his stamina to try and make all. He’s got the ground to suit and can run all of these ragged from the front. Coby Nine has posted his best runs on soft going which it doesn’t look like he’s going to get here. Team Skelton look like they’re just about to start firing. Last November they hit peak and were smashing in winners every day, Sunday may have been the start of that rejuvenation. Mister Universum can carry on the trend for them.