National Hunt fans were starved of racing on Tuesday, as the two scheduled jumps cards were claimed by the weather.
Other than a low-grade Southwell card and the Grand National weights being unveiled, it was a quiet afternoon. For the most part, we have done OK this season in terms of meetings lost, but there is a feeling in the air that a particularly cold, damp and gloomy can’t be replaced by Spring quick enough! Our mood and perhaps even our fortunes could take an upward turn on Wednesday, with Towcester and Musselburgh host a pair of interesting jumps cards, around their contrasting right-handed tracks.
The latter named Scottish venue hosts one or two disappointingly small fields and while the 4.00pm Novices’ Hcp Hurdle is probably in that category, a useful quartet of horses among the total field of five appear to have pressing claims for this race, which amusingly enough is run over 100 yards shy of the two miles we tend to see as the minimum distance over hurdles! Musselburgh is a test of speed and fluency and course form counts for a lot, which is a bit of a question mark for top weight and track newbie Charmant, who looked vulnerable off this mark last time out, albeit in Class 2 company.
Lucinda Russell saddles Ask The Tycoon, an unexposed type that – in due course – will benefit for fences and a sterner examination of stamina than this race will provide. He’s been off for 7 weeks and could show some improvement here, but really needs to in order to score.
Nendrum let down favourite-backers at Catterick last month when finishing second at 11/10f, but the 9yo did score a course and distance success before that and remains on a handy mark of 106 for the respected Sandy Thompson.
That horse is a threat, but the Kevin Ryan trained CANNY STYLE fits the bill for me as the most likely winner. A useful, experienced performer on the flat and indeed a course winner on the level, this well-built mare has enjoyed a respectable introduction to jumping in three runs so far, improving on the ratings a little bit with each effort. The ground at Sedgefield was pretty dire when she finished 3rd there in mid-January. But she went down on her shield to a couple of decent geldings in Black Art and Bulkov, and I think she can take another step forward here with a win, benefitting for a return to a suitable track at Musselburgh. Canny Style jumps pretty well and the sounder surface will also assist her chance.
Things are likely to be a bit more testing at Towcester on Wednesday afternoon. Their six-race card gets going at 2.10pm, where Dan Skelton’s CAFE AU LAIT knocks on the door again after a run of placed efforts of late. A repeat of his course and distance effort here last time may well be enough because this 2m3f Hcp Hurdle is not a strong contest.
In the 2.40pm Novices’ Handicap Chase, Lambourn trainer Warren Greatrex saddles CEANN SIBHEAL, a thorough stayer that handles soft ground very well, a point he proved when drawing clear of a decent field at Uttoxeter three days ago. If that effort hasn’t left its mark, a 7lb penalty probably won’t be enough to stop the 9yo scoring again, this time under 7lb conditional Tom Greatrex.
Perhaps the most interesting matchup on show at Towcester on Wednesday is at 3.40pm between Delire D’Estruval for Ben Pauling and Alan King’s Harefield, who fell at the last in a race won by Game On last month, after showing promise when winning at Warwick back in November. Delire D’Estruval also disappointed backers with a below-par effort at Plumpton when last seen on the 18th of December. Before that, however, the son of Youmzain won a Listed race at Haydock in gutsy fashion and perhaps that effort left its mark on him the following month. On the back of a 58-day break from the track, he makes plenty of appeal for this two-mile Novices’ Hurdle, racing for a recently in-form stable also boasting a 27% strike rate with Towcester runners in recent years.
Harefield is useful but needs to restore confidence after that fall and Delire D’Estruval may prove a little too hot for him on the day.
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