Conditions at Carlisle were described as good on Wednesday with no significant rain forecast ahead of today’s eight-race card.
The feature race on the card is the Intermediate Hurdle which sees the 141-rated Ribble Valley try and give 6lbs to the 135-rated Nickolson (2.15) and I hope to see the latter return to winning ways for Olly Murphy.
The selection – 13/8 with BetVictor – lost his unbeaten record when runner up to an exciting prospect of Tom George – Hooligan – at Warwick when he was a shade too keen and paid for those exertions close home. That defeat was on soft ground but if he settles better this afternoon I feel he will have too much pace for Ribble Valley who lost his own unbeaten record over hurdles when a beaten market leader in an Ascot Grade 2 just before Christmas. His previous Wetherby success marked him down as a potential star and he was backed into odds on at Ascot.
There is no guaranteed pace in the four-runner race, but I expect Brian Hughes to dictate his own pace on Ribble Valley who has had his wind operated on since his last run and wears a first-time tongue-tie this afternoon. If Nickolson settles, however, I do feel he will have too much pace for the Nicky Richards’ gelding over the last couple of flights.
It could be a good day for Murphy who saddles Grandad’s Cottage (12.35) in the opener the first division of the Novices’ Hurdle over two-and-a-half miles. The selection – 5/4 with BetVictor – cost leading owner John Hales £200,000 at Goffs horses-in-training sale back in April 2019 having won his sole point in his native Ireland.
The gelding ran with promise in both Bumpers last season and may have been slightly unfortunate not to land the second of them at Stratford – met trouble in running around the final bend – behind Fergal O’Brien’s mare Hunny Bunny who is entered at Aintree on Sunday.
No Regrets has done us a couple of favours in recent weeks but he is 11lbs higher than when scoring at Stratford on his latest start and may find this drop back to an extended two miles a bit on the sharp side on good ground.
The each way vote goes to Kerry Lee’s Magic Dancer (2.50) who has dropped to a decent mark and ran a promising race at Plumpton last month. Lee has her string in good form and has entered this eight-year-old at Cheltenham tomorrow in the concluding conditional jockey’s hurdle. Note the selection – 8s with William Hill 4 places – was withdrawn from what was meant to be his chase debut here at last week’s meeting.
At Ludlow Ajero (1.25) is taken to go one better than when runner up Huntingdon on his hurdles debut behind Leroy Leroy. The selection – 4s with William Hill – ran third in his sole point in his native Ireland and has failed to settle in both starts to date. This sharp track should suit, and Kim Bailey fits his five-year-old with a first-time tongue-tie today.
There was rain forecast for the Shropshire area on Wednesday which tempers confidence in Monsieur D’Arque (3.10) who ran a terrific race at Newton Abbott last time when runner up to Scardura. A 2lbs rise is fair but he does need good ground to be seen at his best. Note Harry Skelton is required at Carlisle, so Conor Shoemark takes over in the saddle.The recommendation is 9/4 with Boylesports.
The Composeur (4.53) – 10/3 with BetVictor – gave the outside up to nobody when runner up at Perth last time and is taken to go one better with that outing under his belt. His Huntingdon success back in February was gained on good to soft ground, but do note he would not want too much overnight rain. Despite being 10lbs higher than when successful earlier in the year, I feel there are more races to be won with Jonjo O’Neill’s five-year-old.
Conditions are likely to be testing at Lingfield Park, but I hope the steadier of 12st will not prevent Faustinovick (2.57) from making a winning chase debut for Colin Tizzard. The six-year-old is built to carry weight and I would be surprised if he were still running in 0-120/2 grade chases by the end of the season. The recent form of the Tizzard yard is the one concern but the 11/4 with Unibet is fair despite trhat nagging doubt.