Soft ground at Wincanton for this afternoon’s eight-race card with further showers expected in Somerset.
The opening division of the Maiden hurdle is one of the worst races of its kind that I can remember but I do feel Baignard (12.05) can run a big race for Nick Mitchell who had a couple of novice chasers run big races at the weekend. The each way selection – 13/2 with Unibet – is a brother to the top class, but fragile former Nicky Henderson trained Grandouet who won the International Hurdle back in 2011.
Brewers Project (12.35) has been pulling too hard and failing to get home over further but Paul Nicholls reverts to the minimum trip with his 6-y-old – 11/8 with 10bet – who has been a beaten odds-on favourite in both starts so far this year. A winner of his sole point-to-point he cost connections £185,000 and I expect Harry Cobden to make plenty of use of his mount. The 2nd division is a much stronger race than the first, but I would be disappointed if the Nicholls runner did not go very close.
The Novices limited handicap chase is a belter with Grade 1 winning hurdler Messire Des Obeaux making his chase debut for Alan King from what looks a very attractive mark. This is just his second start in the last 1300 days, however, and he is overlooked.
Diese Des Bieffes has his first start for Paul Nicholls having his first start for 970 days. He has been given a wind operation ahead of his chase debut and his best form over hurdles for Nicky Henderson was on a sounder surface. Top Man only got as far as the first when coming down at Sandown earlier in the month but was well supported and the form of his previous Fontwell success is strong.
Coconut Splash (1.05) looked ready for a step back up in distance when third at Chepstow on his chase debut from this mark last month. That race turned into a bit of a sprint down the home straight and this point winner made a bad error at the last in the back straight which knocked him back. The first and second have been well beaten subsequently but the fourth and fifth have since won and the selection – 9/4 with William Hill – is entitled to come on for the run.
Sizable Sam (1.35) has been declared to run at Newbury on Wednesday but if he takes up today’s engagement then I feel he will be tough to beat. The selection has the scope and engine to make up into a top-class chaser in time, but he can take the 2m 3f+ novice hurdle. Iron Mike belied odds of 200/1 when third here behind Sizable Sam last time and that was over an additional quarter of a mile. Iron Mike travelled particularly well and the 2f drop down in trip is considered a plus. There was 7/4 available on Monday but he is Evens with Boylesports at the time of posting.
Vocaliser (2.35) has won all three starts since moving to Olly Murphy, but the handicapper has had his say and he is 21lbs higher than when scoring at Bangor-on-Dee back in August. All three successes in his current sequence have been gained on left-handed tracks but I feel he is at least as effective going clockwise. Amateur James King takes the ride, and he was excellent in the saddle aboard Dundrum Wood for the stable at Newcastle last week. He takes off a valuable 5lbs. The ew recommendation is 13/2 with BetVictor.
I am keen to take on market leader George Risdale over 12f in the Newcastle opener and the each way vote goes to Greengage (1.45) who bounced back to form when second at Wolverhampton last time and is 2lbs below her C&D success back in January. The mare – 8s with Boylesports – does not have the best of the draw in stall 13 but the hope is that jockey Phil Dennis can get her into a decent position. International Law and Zabeel Star are others to consider in a competitive heat.
Hoodwinker (6.10) can break her maiden tag at the third time of asking in the Fillies’ Median Auction Stakes for William Haggas. The selection finished second at Doncaster over 6f last month before taking the same position over 7f in Fontainebleau. She steps up to an extended mile this evening which ought to suit on breeding and Tom Marquand is back in the saddle. A draw in stall eight is the only concern.