Conditions were described as good at Wincanton on Wednesday morning for today’s feature card and in the conditional jockey’s handicap hurdle Lorcan Williams, who has ridden top-weight Champagne Court in four of his last six starts, is claimed by Paul Nicholls to ride Ecco. The 12-time champion trainer was quiet in January – as he often is – but he suggested his string would bounce back to form “sooner rather than later.”
He must go close, but I am prepared to give Champagne Court (1.40) another chance back over timber having been collared close home off this mark over fences last time. Jeremy Scott’s 9-y-old had previously beat an inform yardstick over hurdles at Exeter back in December but it was his previous third to Jesuitique and Beauport – both subsequent winners – which suggests he remains well handicapped from just a 4lbs higher mark. Charlie Todd takes over in the saddle this afternoon. The 7/4 with William Hill looks fair.
Sirocco Jo is likely to be all the rage for Ditcheat on his chase debut and the form of his juvenile hurdle success from Saint Palais and Herbiers suggests he is on a very attractive mark. He has a good record fresh, and he has been off the track since disappointing when plotted to give Megan Nicholls’ partner Kevin Stott a win in a flat jockeys’ hurdle race at Lingfield at the beginning of November.
He is bred to make a chaser and looks the one to beat, but he has been put in at 11/10 and the vote goes to another top-weight in Benny’s Bridge (2.10). The selection -3s with MansionBet – was keen and flew the first two fences at Newbury last time before overjumping and sprawling on landing at the water jump.
That “error” knocked his confidence, and he didn’t jump with the same fluency down the back straight having dropped back to fourth, but jockey Jonathan Burke looked after his mount when his chance had gone and pulled his mount up at the top of the straight. He is sure to have been schooled by Sam Drinkwater in the interim period, and the hope is that he attacks his fences with the same relish he did in the initial stages at the Berkshire track.
In the feature Dick Hunt Handicap Chase over an extended 3m 1f I hope to see French import El Paso Wood (4.10) follow up his fluent course win from a 10lbs lower mark last month when he could be called the winner from some way out. That was on good to soft ground and his ability to handle quicker conditions must be taken on trust, but he looked one worth following last time.
Jeremy Pass is fitted with cheekpieces for the first time by Nicholls and he looks the main danger with his fast jumping a big asset. There was 10/3 about with William Hill on Wednesday but he is a best price of 5/2 at the time of posting,
Over at Kelso and Phil Kirby has his string in very good form. I thought En Meme Temps (2.50) bumped into a well treated rival when second at Sedgefield last time and he has been dropped 1lb in the weights for that run.
That was the selection’s second start over fences, and he remains open to significant improvement in this new discipline. His jumping got better on the second circuit in County Durham, and I hope he can continue to progress over fences.
There is nothing between En Meme Temps and Upandatit at the revised terms on Ayr form from earlier in the season, but the Nick Alexander horse jumped poorly on a return visit to the same track last time when he did well to finish, having tried to take a number of the fences with him.
The market has put Without Conviction in as favourite, but I think it rests with the old rivals who are 11/4 joint second favs but En Meme Temps gets the vote.