Not surprisingly Taunton has succumbed to the drenching in the West Country leaving three meetings to peruse. Top of the shop is the National Hunt card at Doncaster, supported by Huntingdon (passed morning inspection). The only all-weather offering is at Wolverhampton from 5.00 through till 8.00.
Doncaster Tips –
1.50 – Doncaster – Gone Too Far simply found the two miles around Warwick too sharp for him when a distant, but not disgraced second behind Garde La Victoire and this more galloping track, allied to the extra half mile, should see him in a much better light.
Point to point winner Benzel is also interesting making his British debut here, but with Gone Too Far carrying the owner’s first colours this could merely be an opening sortie for the young horse and the edge could lie with VANITEUX.
Nicky Henderson’s charge improved on his Sandown Park debut win when beaten about eight lengths into fourth spot at Kempton Park last time out. On both occasions his jumping was hardly what you would call fluent and it certainly lost him an appreciable amount of ground when he fluffed the last at the Sunbury-On-Thames track. This extra distance will suit his style of racing I shall be disappointed if he can’t see off this lot, the best of which could be the progressive Portway Flyer.
BET NOW – VANITEUX
2.25 – Doncaster – Former smart flat stayer Electrolyser has come to hurdling late in life, but there was plenty to like about his run at Plumpton on ground softer than he would have cared for. He was a little bit hesitant at a number of his obstacles that day, but any improvement should see him in the mix here as long as the going doesn’t deteriorate dramatically.
The nine-year-old looks the biggest danger to my selection FIRST MOHICAN trained by Alan King. A smart performer on the level up to a mile and a half, his best performance came when a length second to Tres Blue in a Group Three at Deauville six months ago. I am normally reticent about backing classy flat horses over timber first time out, but this boy certainly has the size to make it at this game and I fancy he will prove too good for this lot on his debut.
The other player here could well be the penalised Allied Answer, although his winning form is nothing out of the ordinary and he has to give seven pounds to my selection.
BET NOW – FIRST MOHICAN
3.35 – Doncaster – This better ground will certainly suit Keltic Rhythm more than the soft going he has been racing one (on) and I wouldn’t put any of you off a small each-way play on him at betting odds of around 14/1 or bigger.
However, I am fairly keen on the Nicky Richards’ trained TOP BILLING to follow up his recent course and distance success off 89 even though the handicapper has taken retribution and pulled him up to 105. A young horse that needs kidding through his races, the five-year-old was delivered as late as possible to win on the bridle last time out and with plenty of pace elements in this admittedly better race, I expect the selection to double up.
One Conemara is the interesting horse in the contest having been off the track for two and a half months since unseating three out at Cheltenham in a handicap hurdle in November. He was never going to win that day, but ran sweetly through most of the contest and this is probably an easier affair.
BET NOW – TOP BILLING
Wolverhampton Tips –
5.30 – Wolverhampton – I don’t really think that TIGER REIGNS was given the best of rides last time out by George Baker, one of the few times you can criticise him this winter, but back at Wolverhampton and with little to worry him in the pace element of the race I fancy him to make all the running. Young Cameron Hardie takes a useful seven pounds off his back and I make him a sound investment to beat the likes of Arlecchino and Lean on Pete.
BET NOW – TIGER REIGNS
7.30 – Wolverhampton – It was unbelievable that Flow Chart was put up five pounds for his second here two outings back. You can forget his last run at Kempton where he was tucked in behind in a race not run to suit and any market moves would be significant for him here.
But I just prefer the claims of UPPER LAMBOURN, likely to be well suited to the way this race will pan out with no less than four front-runners/pressers in the field. The six-year-old has tumbled to an all-time low mark of 48 and I shall be backing him in running to surge down the home straight and hopefully reach the frame at the very least.
In such a poor race a chance can also be given to the likes of Marmot Bay, Red Shadow and Novalist. All three though like to be in at the sharp end which could compromise their chances.
BET NOW – UPPER LAMBOURN (e/w)
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