Jumps racing is due to return in Britain and Ireland this afternoon although Musselburgh are due to inspect at 8am on raceday. Clerk of the course William Farnsworth did not sound overly optimistic on Wednesday morning with overnight frost the concern. With that in mind it might be sensible to concentrate on Ffos Las who, at the time of writing, do not anticipate any problems with the ground described as heavy with the prospect of further rain or snow showers.
In the opening Mares’ Novices Hurdle Sandaroc won a point on heavy ground and has had her wind operated on since disappointing on her Rules debut. The frustrating Sandymount Rose sets the standard but has finished runner up in her last five contests and drops back to the minimum trip for the first time over timber for Neil Mulholland.
The vote goes to Windswept Girl (12.58) who was weak in the market when third over an additional three furlongs at Lingfield on her hurdles debut. A soft ground Bumper winner, trainer Anthony Honeyball fits his mare with a tongue tie for the first time and the hope is that a return to the minimum trip, with that initial hurdling experience under her belt, will see her make the necessary improvement. That Lingfield form has taken a few knocks but this is also a weak contest. The mare is 7/4 with Unibet,
Ben Brody turned 11 last week but was having only his second chase start when scoring at Warwick on New Year’s Eve and he has every chance of following up under a 7lbs penalty. I am going to take him on, however, with No Quarter Asked (1.28) who jumped out to his left on his chase debut at Hereford back in November and may have failed to get home when fourth over an additional half-mile back over hurdles at Fakenham on Monday.
It is interesting that local trainer Peter Bowen sends him out again just 72-hours later and he does have chase winners in his pedigree. He gets the each way vote – 4s from 15/2 with William Hill – even though he has a bit to find with Astra Via through Pottlereagh Express.
Top-weight Thor De Cerisy has had a wind operation since finishing third on his seasonal reappearance and looks sure to run his race despite the steadier of 11st 12lbs. At the foot of the weights, however, the each way vote goes to Mere Anarchy (1.58) who has been given a six-week break since finishing second over an additional three furlongs at Chepstow on heavy ground. The 10-year-old – 9/2 with Boylesports – had previously finished second to Main Fact at Newbury on the level and we now know that was a near impossible task with the David Pipe horse now rated 18lbs higher on the flat.
The Novice handicap chase is the race of the day and would not be out of place at a Grade 1 track. Lieutenant Rocco is a short price to go one better than when runner up at Cheltenham when he jumped superbly, and he is an exciting novice chaser who could easily turn this into a procession. This is a deep race, however, and he must give a stone to Muckamore (2.28) and that might just be beyond him. The selection is 11/4 with BetVictor.
The selection may have found things happening too quickly at Market Rasen on his chase debut, but this dual winning hurdler looks potentially well treated from 123 and is a horse I have been waiting to run for some time. The Nigel Twiston-Davies yard had a welcome winner over the weekend after a quiet spell over the Festive period.
The gelding is a point-to-point winner and certainly has the scope for the larger obstacles. One slight note of caution the 7-y-old has yet to race left-handed under rules and jumped slightly right over timber. This is no two-horse race of course with Limited Reserve, Wagner, and Franky Du Berlais all likely to be winning over fences before the end of the season.
I am backing two in the 3m handicap Chase and preference for Don Berberger (3.28) over The Dawn Man is marginal. The selection is 7/2 with 10bet and I thought he should have won over a slightly shorter trip here last time when he finished with a flourish from a 5lbs lower mark. The 7-y-old has been given 7 weeks to get over that run, and he remains open to further progress after just eight career starts and only a couple over the larger obstacles.
In the finale at Wolverhampton this evening Thai Terrier steps up to 2m for the first time for Mark Johnston and gives every indication that he may improve again for the step up in distance. He has been raised 3lbs for finishing runner up over 1m 6f last time, however, and, including jockey’s allowances, he must give 21lbs to Nelson River (7.30) and Tony Carroll’s 6-y-old gets the vote at 9/4 with Boylesports.
The selection is rated 70lbs higher over hurdles and won a 12f handicap from a 1lb lower mark a couple of years ago. He has yet to prove his stamina for the trip on the flat, but a chance is taken on this dual winning hurdler.