Good ground forecast at Kempton this afternoon and a terrific seven-race card to look forward to.
The opening 2m 5f handicap is a belter and Diocletian could be thrown in on his handicap debut off an opening mark of 126 for Andrew Balding given he is rated 98 on the level. He pulled away his chance on his first couple of starts but was more amenable to restraint when scoring at Fakenham last time. He rates a big danger but there are form-lines which suggest Gunsight Ridge (1.15) may be very well treated from his current mark although he, too, will need to learn to settle if he is to fulfil his potential and improve for the step up in trip.
His 5L second to Gowel Road in receipt of 2lbs was franked when the winner scored back at Newbury from a 9lbs higher mark and he is likely to be rated circa 140 when reassessed. With that in mind Olly Murphy’s grey – a point winner on good ground from a horse now rated 133 – looks well treated off 122. There was 5s available on Friday but he is into 7/2 with 10bet at the time of posting.
Encore Champs had a wind operation back in June and has his first start in almost 12 months this afternoon. More significantly he has his first start for Dan Skelton and is entered in a couple of the Festival handicaps next month. The weights come out on Wednesday and he needs to go up in the handicap to be guaranteed a run.
Tritonic (2.25) took his time to get past Casa Loupi – reopposes today – at Ascot on good to soft ground on their hurdles debut but I expect him to confirm his superiority in the Grade 2 Adonis Juvenile Hurdle. The selection – 6/5 with Boylesports but uneasy – was a good horse on the level – placed at Royal Ascot – but cannot afford to give Casa Loupi too much rope given the latter jumped swiftly and accurately from the front at Ascot. The Skelton newcomer John Locke holds an entry in the Triumph Hurdle, and he is highly tried on his hurdles debut that is for sure.
I hope it’s a good day for the Olly Murphy stable as I hope to see The Butcher Said (3.35) improve for the return to decent ground in the valuable 3m handicap chase. The each way recommendation has had his wind tweaked since disappointing on ground softer than ideal at Doncaster last month but he has the scope to make up into a decent chaser and he carries just 10st 5lbs this afternoon. There was 14s available on Friday morning but he is into 11/1 with William Hill and BetVictor – 5 places.
Paul Nicholls applies first time blinkers to My Way (4.10), and I expect him to make a bold bid from the front in the 2m 4f+ handicap chase. The ew selection – 4s from 5 with William Hill – looked all over the winner off this mark at Wincanton in the Badger Beer earlier in the season until his stamina gave way. There is only a couple of pounds between the 10 runners and all have a realistic chance with Monsieur D’Arque and Awake At Midnight considered the main dangers.
I’m looking forward to the reappearance of Moss Gill (2.05) in the listed Hever Stakes at Lingfield over the flying five furlongs. The selection should have the race run to suit with Ornate likely to try to make all but I hope to see Moss Gill – third in the Nunthorpe back in August – pick them up close home. The selection’s all-weather record reads 21 although they were both on tapeta. There seems no reason why he should not be at least as effective on polytrack. The selection is 6/5 with Unibet.
The Game Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell on Sunday is a cracker with preference for McFabulous (3.10) over Brewin’upastorm marginal given the selection must give 6lbs to the Olly Murphy-trained hurdler who did us such a favour at Taunton last time. The Paul Nicholls’ trained 7-y-old looks sure to bypass Cheltenham to be kept fresh for Aintree although he does hold an entry in the Stayers’ Hurdle. Only one firm are betting on the race with the selection 5/4 with William Hill and the Murphy horse 9/4.
I am looking forward to the British debut of juvenile hurdler Raffles Gitane (2.50) at Hereford and will be disappointed if she doesn’t make a winning start for Harry Whittington whose string have just begun to hit form and are a stable, I suggest we keep on side in the next few weeks.