The ground was described as good to soft at Huntingdon on Monday morning with no further rain forecast. Conditions are drying out all the time and we could have genuinely good ground come post time. Do note with rail movements the distances of the races are slightly more than advertised with the 3.10 to be run over an additional furlong.
In the 2m Handicap chase Wisecracker (1.35) can run a big race returning from a 4-month lay-off under Bryony Frost. The selection has run well fresh in the past and his 2L second to Peterborough at Stratford back in July is good form in the context of today’s race given the winner is now rated 25lbs higher. The Ben Case yard lost a horse at Cheltenham last week, but Shanty Alley ran a cracker at Uttoxeter at the weekend and Wisecracker – 13/2 with William Hill – is taken to reward each way support.
Ajero (2.35) has been more amenable to restraint in recent starts and put up a career best when scoring at Market Rasen last time from a 5lbs lower mark. Flat right-handed tracks clearly suit and this half-brother to Charbel – Evens with BetVictor – can land his four-timer after wins at Ludlow, Kempton, and Market Rasen. Haafapiece is the obvious danger having travelled well when third at Wetherby last time from a similar mark.
At Wetherby Road Warrior will be tough to beat if Saturday’s exertions have not left a mark as I thought he was value for much more than the half-length he had at the line when scoring at Newcastle. He carries a 7lbs penalty for that success and is clearly going the right way over fences with form figures of 2211 over the larger obstacles since the start of December.
I hope to see today’s better ground, however, bring about an improved show from Big Chief Benny (3.55) who was a useful novice hurdler in his youth – finished second from a 20lbs higher mark over timber – and has the scope for the larger obstacles. His fourth at Bangor from a 6lbs higher mark back in November is useful form although I do believe this sounder surface is the key. The ew recommendation is 11/2 from 6s with MansionBet.
In the Bumper Hillcrest (4.55) can go one better than when runner up at Doncaster back in January. The selection – 13/8 with 10Bet – cost Trevor Hemmings £190,000 as a 3-y-old and was only beaten a nose on debut. Brian Hughes takes over in the saddle and Henry Daly would not have many inmates who cost so much. If he wins this afternoon, I expect him to line up at Aintree next month in their G2 Bumper.
At Taunton Harry Skelton takes the ride on Grandads Cottage (2.42) for Olly Murphy as he bids to reverse C&D form with Time To Tinker who is penalised 6lbs for finishing a short head in front of the selection earlier in the month. With the yard’s stable jockey Aidan Coleman also riding at the Somerset track I think it is safe to assume that owner John Hales has decided on a change of pilot. The selection is 8/11 with William Hill.
Coleman does get the leg up on the yard’s Copperless (3.47) who is fitted with a first-time tongue-tie for his handicap debut. The selection – 2s with Boylesports – has not seen the track since beating Nicky Henderson’s Hooper at Market Rasen back in October and that rival has finished 2211 in his four subsequent starts although he may have been a fortunate winner at Hereford 10 days ago – under Coleman.
Loughan and John Constable are big dangers, but I remember being disappointed that Copperless could not beat Fergal O’Brien’s Stoner’s Choice at Perth back in September. The latter is now rated 139 and with that in mind the selection looks fairly treated off 117.
Anthony Honeyball had a couple of winners on Saturday and the hope is that his Marilyn Monroe (5.15) will be ready to do herself justice having finished third over today’s C&D when last seen back in November. Some Like It Hot and the mare is certainly one of them as she is unable to handle soft ground and has missed the whole of the winter. The selection – 5/2 with BetVictor – gets further than today’s extended 2m 3f trip, but her latest run is sound form. She is one to keep on side this spring.