There is rain forecast for Huntingdon this afternoon, but at what time, and how much for that matter, is up in the air shall we say! The ground was described as good at noon on Tuesday, but that could deteriorate, and we need to bear that in mind when looking forward to today’s card.
Kim Bailey saddles Ajero in the novices’ hurdle over the minimum trip and this half-brother to the stable’s Charbel was bought privately after finishing third in a Thurles Bumper back in February. That form is working out really well and Jamie Codd – who rode Ajero in that Bumper – writing in Paul Ferguson’s excellent publication Jumpers To Follow gave the gelding a very positive mention and felt he could even win on the flat.
The Irish import will race in the same colours of Charbel – whose finest hour was gained in the Peterborough Chase here in December 2018 – and must go close, but I feel Leroy Leroy (2.00) can defy a 6lbs penalty in what promises to be a most informative contest.
The selection was second behind El Borracho – disappointed at Bangor-on-Dee Tuesday – before going one better at Southwell. Good ground and a sharp track clearly suits – significant rain would be a negative – and he is taken to give the weight away with three good efforts over timber to his name so far. That experience might be vital although I am surprised that he was put in market leader – Evens with bet365 – ahead of the Bailey newcomer on Tuesday afternoon.
Doctor Haze (2.35) was asked to cover plenty of ground at Stratford last time when his fencing was a mix of very good with the odd novicey mistake. This winning pointer stuck to his guns very well in the circumstances in finishing second and there is the possibility that today’s step up to three miles will suit. Chester Williams takes over in the saddle and takes off a valuable 5lbs
The handicapper has certainly given Almost Gold a chance and he could easily build on what was a decent effort at Hexham last time when he may well have taken a hand in the finish but for clouting two out. He looks a big danger although the yard of Ian Williams, despite a welcome winner 10 days ago, are struggling to find their best form.
The Road Home is likely to be all the rage in the 2m 1f handicap chase at Bangor-on-Dee but, as long as there is no significant rain, I do believe there are races to be won with Count Jurado (2.10) who is blinkered for the first time by Donald McCain and returns from a short break having had three quick runs in August. The hope is that the five-week break will have freshened him up and his second to Getawaytonewbay at Stratford suggested he was well up to winning from his current mark. The ew recommendation is 9/2 with William Hill.
Chuvelo (3.20) makes his hurdle debut in the Maiden event and is hard to oppose having won his first couple of Bumpers before failing to give 10lbs to Irish raider Good Time Jonny at Musselburgh back in January. That form was franked when the winner finished ninth in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham and any rain would be a plus for the McCain trained five-year-old. I feel the 5/2 with bet365 is fair.
Vocaliser (5.00) only just got home over today’s C&D on his first start for Olly Murphy last month, but the form has been franked by the subsequent success of runner up Do You Know What. The selection is just 4lbs higher today in this conditional jockey’s event although he has been raised a further 3lbs from the weekend. Do note the 8-year-old is entered on Thursday at Ffos Las and Saturday at Fontwell and will escape a penalty if successful given this is a boys’ event. The 11/8 with William Hill looked fair but he was backed into a shade of odds on – 10/11 – in the opening salvos.
At Kempton, this evening Island Nation (7.30) is taken to defy a 6lbs penalty in the 1m 3f handicap having won over an additional furlong here last week. Heather Main’s three-year-old appreciate the return to polytrack and I do not think this slightly shorter trip will be a negative if in the same mood, given he was clear at the furlong pole last week.