The ground was described as good to soft at Wetherby on Friday morning with further showers forecast for Saturday morning ahead of today’s seven-race card.
In the opener Gericault Roque won two of his three starts over timber last season for David Pipe and has always suggested that he would make a better chaser than hurdler. Stable jockey Tom Scudamore has decided to stay at Ascot, however, to ride Jonjo O’Neill’s Betfair Hurdle winner Soaring Glory in the listed hurdle and David Noonan takes over in the plate. He must have a leading chance although both successes last term were gained over the minimum trip and his stamina for todays additional half-mile must be taken on trust.
Jonjo O’Neill has his string in terrific form and Tedham (1.20) has dropped to a very attractive mark. He did not exactly look a natural in his one start over fences last season but is 8lbs lower this afternoon and went off just 3/1 for that Exeter race – a much stronger one than this afternoon’s. He gets the each way vote at 7s with Boylespots 4 places.
Miranda looks the one to beat in the listed mares’ hurdle, but I do believe there is more to come from Her Indoors (1.55) this season, and she ran a very promising race at Nottingham on the level earlier in the month. I was impressed with her Cheltenham win back in April when she readily picked up Joseph O’Brien’s Scholastic.
Molly’s Ollys Wishes looks sure to make it a decent test of stamina and that should suit the each way selection – 11/2 with William Hill -who is likely to get further this term. She was taken off her feet over 1m 6f at Nottingham before finishing best of all.
Thomas Darby ran a career best at Aintree when stepped up to 3m for the first time back in the spring in a race that Paisley Park (2.30) pulled up following a rare mediocre performance. The selection – 9/4 with William Hill – carries a 6lbs penalty this afternoon, but he has an excellent record fresh and trainer Emma Lavelle has her string in excellent form. The selection lost his Stayers’ Hurdle crown in March, but Master Tommytucker and Ask Dillon should ensure a good gallop and the 9-y-old can return to winning ways.
Over at Ascot I hope to see Boothill (2.10) land the listed handicap hurdle. The selection is unbeaten in two starts under rules – a Kempton Bumper and a Taunton hurdle – and, while he is not exactly thrown in from an opening mark of 135, he is taken to maintain his 100% record for Harry Fry. Both career wins have been gained on good to soft ground and do note he was taken out of a race at Exeter over the winter when the ground turned soft. The 11/4 with William Hill – 5 places – looks fair.
There is plenty of pace in the 2m handicap chase and it might suit those ridden with patience. My two against the field are Frero Banbou and Eamon An Cnoic (2.45) with the vote going to the latter at the foot of the weights. The ew selection – 18s with William Hill 4 places – has led in the past, but I hope to see Fergus Gillard take a lead from Editeur Du Gite and/or One For Rosie before making his feather weight count over the last couple of fences.
Vinndication has his optimum conditions in the 3m handicap chase, but he has been backed into 5/2 for the 3m handicap chase although I do feel he is up to defying a mark of 158. My two each way alternatives are Captain Chaos and Jerrysback (3.20) with the vote going to the latter.
Captain Chaos won over C&D from a 3lbs lower mark back in February although the promising amateur Tristan Durrell takes off a valuable 7lbs this afternoon. He does not have the best of records first time out, however, and I have always thought there was a big race in Jerrysback, and I am looking forward to Tom O’Brien taking over in the saddle for the first time.
The ew selection – 9s into 6s with 10Bet 4 places – has good course form – finished less than 2L behind Vinndication in a Grade 2 off level weights and now 20lbs better off – and he can put behind a modest season last when the Philip Hobbs inmates were largely out of sorts.
It could be another very good day for Charlie Appleby and William Buick at Newmarket and I hope to see Noble Dynasty (2.23) put behind a moderate effort at Haydock last time when he was constantly denied a run inside the last three furlongs. The 3-y-old – 2s with William Hill – had previously won at Thirsk from a 2lbs lower mark and Appleby fits his colt with cheekpieces for the first time today.
At Huntingdon on Sunday Crooks Peak (3.25) has been dropped 2lbs for finishing third at Uttoxeter on his reappearance but that does not tell the story as he jumped and lugged right-handed throughout the contest. Today’s track should suit, Harry Skelton takes over in the saddle and this three-time hurdles winner can get off the mark over the larger obstacles. Above Suspicion will be winning races over fences this term but he may just need further.
I will be keeping a close eye on the Venetia Williams’ trained runners on Friday and Saturday. She has a number of fancied runners at Lingfield on Sunday, but they cannot be supported without considering the form of the yard over the early part of the weekend.