The feature race at Catterick this afternoon is the North Yorkshire Grand National over 24 fences over 3m 6f on ground described as soft although it is likely to be cloudy but dry in the build up to one of their feature meetings of the year.
Almazhar Garde ran a tremendous race in the Borders National last time when he looked all over the winner for much of the race but ran out of steam over that extended four miles and was eventually well beaten. He has been dropped 1lb for that and looks sure to give it a good go from the front, but I think the key race might be the Lincolnshire National at Market Rasen on Boxing Day.
David Pipe’s Sidi Ismail has won all three starts so far this season for the yard and will likely be a short price to maintain his unbeaten record over fences from an 8lbs higher mark. He must go close, but I expect to see Who’s In The Box (2.40) finish much closer to the progressive Pipe horse on the revised terms although he is only 9lbs better off for the 14L he was behind the winner over Christmas.
The ew selection – 5 from 10s with MansionBet – is trained by Nick Kent and the yard landed a gamble at Doncaster on Tuesday. He has run indifferently in all three starts so far this term, but he was staying on strongly from the last at Market Rasen and today’s thorough test of stamina will suit. Charlie Hammond – who was in the plate when Erne River scored earlier in the week – takes over in the saddle.
Art Of Diplomacy (3.10) has been raised 5lbs for finishing runner up to a progressive inform stayer at Hereford last week but can race from his old mark this afternoon for Dr Richard Newland. The selection – 11/8 from 5/2 with William Hill – had previously won at Ludlow on his first start for the yard on good ground and he would not want the ground any worse than good to soft.
Bill Baxter is a horse who is held in high regard by Warren Greatrex and looks well treated for his handicap debut; but does he want this step up in trip to an extended 3m 1f?
The yard have gone over 30 runners without a winner and he must give 9lbs to the selection. He was given a poor ride at Ayr last time – went off far too fast – but he looked as if he would be beaten a distance when swallowed up. In the circumstances he did well to be beaten just 11 lengths.
A combination of soft and heavy ground at Bangor-on-Dee and in the 3m handicap chase I can’t desert One Fer Mama (2.00) who did us a big favour at Uttoxeter last time from an 8lbs lower mark. The selection – 10/3 with 10Bet – must go left-handed and could finish on the hurdles course if he repeats the antics of last time, but he looks sure to run another big race if staying on the right course for the father and son combination of Matt and Stan Shepherd.