Paul Nicholls saddles Hinterland, a French import and graduate of Guillaume Macaire who won very easily on his hurdling bow at Auteuil, before transferring to Ditcheat and is owned by the yards sponsors Potensis.
Nicky Henderson saddles the filly Ozeta, a grey filly by Martaline who cut a favourable impression on her hurdles debut and the form has worked out rather well (second place ran 2nd in G3 hurdle next time). She has been purchased by JP McManus and looks to hold solid claims here getting the sex allowance from Hinterland.
My only worry with those two are that sometimes horses take a while to acclimatise to our conditions, and that worry would be more so over Ozeta having seen her race in September in her native France, and at the prices I don’t think there is any real value in either and both are likely to be overhyped.
Alan King looks to be plotting the same route through for Secret Edge that he gave Katchit prior to his Triumph Hurdle winning season, and he comes here off the back of winning the Juvenile race at Wetherby that Katchit could only finish second in. The time of that race was decent, and any rain would have helped his chances significantly, however he was only a mid-60’s horse on the flat and I don’t think he’s good enough to win this.
Jackie’s Solitaire doesn’t find much for pressure and with the hill to climb here I can’t have this one finishing in the frame at all despite previously beaten Secret Edge, I think he’ll turn the tables on her today though.
Traitor is a difficult one to get a handle on and he pulled furiously down at Ludlow on his hurdling debut, and won readily enough in the end. If he repeats that he won’t stay up the hill and his pedigree to me suggests he will be stretched by a true pace, and especially now we’ve had some rain his chances are diminishing by the minute.
Which leaves me with Hollow Tree, who beat a bunch of muppets at Bangor on his hurdling debut but the style in which he did so was fantastic. I hold a very good speed figure for his win in soft ground at Salisbury prior to him going hurdling, and I think he rates a value each-way play against the hyped up imports. Timmy Murphy is riding well at present, Donald McCain is in the winners and this gelded son of Beat Hollow will have no qualms with any slowing of the ground having won over a galloping fourteen furlongs on the soft on the flat.
The second race on the card is the £40,000 Rewards For Racing Handicap Chase (1:55) won last year by Neil Mulholland and Midnight Chase prior to their failed attempt at Gold Cup success later in the season.
I don’t think this field has anything that will go on to that sort of level of form but you never know, and I think if one horse could improve this season it may be the Jonjo O’Neil trained Galaxy Rock who tuned up nicely for this with a spin over hurdles recently (he’s a better chaser) so his third on comeback ahead of a recent listed chase winner Benny Be Good (despite getting weight) reads fairly well, and at around 8-1 he looks a decent angle.
Hey Big Spender tops the weights and although has gone well fresh in the past will need to find some improvement to win this off that sort of mark. Carruthers could go well if the rain gets in but he appears on the decline, and West End Rocker hasn’t been given any respite from the handicapper after his recent two runs.
Hennessy at the bottom of the weights could be a potential fly in the ointment, should Ferdy Murphy be able to coax something out of this former Bet365 Gold Cup winner, and he remains fairly well treated off his current mark – he will be primed for this after a recent eye-catching run.
We then get a staying handicap hurdle at (3:10) to dig our teeth in to, and topped by Golan Way at the head of the weights off a mark of 146. He refused to race last time at Wincanton, and looks in the handicappers grip here.
Pettifour was a mid 150’s rated hurdler in his day, and should Nigel Twiston-Davies have got him fit enough after a layoff of 605 days he could be dangerous off this mark of 138, but his forays to Cheltenham have yielded poor returns (apart from winning an egg-and-spoon races over fences).
Oscargo could be anything based on that win at Chepstow (second has enhanced form since, and the third has won a handicap off 113). Ruby Walsh is down towards his lowest weight within the last twelve months (3lb off) and everything looks in place for a big run, but his market price suggests that.
My Shamwari is another at the head of the market who looks sure to go well here. He has improved for the step up in trip at the back end of last season, and readily disposed of Kings Legacy in the first time tongue-tie at this track when last seen. Looks like he is open to further improvement off this sort of mark, Phillip Hobbs’ yard are going well and he should be in the frame.
Cantlow will make up into a lovely chaser next year and he ran better than the form suggests behind Restless Harry last time and travelled up menacingly before fitness took its toll in the closing stages – he is another who could run into the frame.
One which catches my eye is for the in-form David Pipe, and it’s the Tom Scudamore ridden Battle Group who comes here off the back of a quiet run on seasonal return. He readily won a Grade 3 handicap hurdle off a mark of 138 earlier in the year before placing third in a Grade 2 hurdle in Ireland on his final start of the season. I wouldn’t read too much into his defeat on comeback as he posted a similar effort off a break on his first start of the year (when 4th to Spirit Son). At around 20-1 he has the potential to be competitive off this mark, will strip fitter for that comeback run, and could be dangerous.
The (3:40) on the card looks like a lottery to try and pick a winner from, and my advice would be to save your money here, and buy a lottery ticket instead.
In the last race (4:10) I think it is worth taking on the clear pick on hurdles form and likely favourite Restless Harry with the Paul Nicholls trained Join Together. He was travelling really well when crumpling on landing and unshipping Daryl Jacob at Chepstow and I think he can gain compensation here given that experience.
Viking Blond will appreciate any rain overnight that gets into the ground and made a favourable impression when winning on debut over fences and he is also in with solid claims.
1:20 – 1pt each-way Hollow Tree @ 13-2 (1/4 odds) with Betfred and Bet365
1:55 – 1pt win Galaxy Rock @ 8-1 with William Hill
2:40 – 1pt each-way Dave’s Dream @ 20-1 (1/4 1-2-3-4, Antepost)
3:10 – 0.5pt each-way Battle Group @ 20-1 (1/4 1-2-3-4) with BlueSQ
4:10 – 0.5pt win Join Together @ 9-2 with Bet365 and Betfred