The yard of Michael Smith have been well below par of late after a good start to the season, but Imperial Vic (3.10) would be something to bet on in the Novices’ Chase at Wetherby over 3m 1f if he was anywhere near back to his best.
Only three go to post and the selection would be receiving 5lbs from Bit Of A Jig if this were a handicap but at his best I am convinced he is in a different league to the Donald McCain-trained runner who is blinkered for the first time and will be ridden by AP McCoy for the first time.
McCoy might have better luck in the next with Cool Sky (3.45) who was weak in the market when disappointing at Newcastle last time. He had won well at Musselburgh on his previous start and had given the impression he was improving over timber prior to that modest effort last time.
The McCain horses weren’t exactly firing at the time but they are in decent form of late and Cool Sky gets the vote although the lightly-raced Narcissist is one to keep an eye on in the market.
Rudemeister was a big disappointment at Haydock Park last time but, interestingly, was backed into favouritism and can race off a 3lb lower mark this afternoon.
This step back up in trip will suit and he is only 3lbs higher than when successful at Hexham earlier in the season and he must go close although further significant rain would be a concern.
I am going to give another chance to Mr Syntax (4.15) whose both career wins have come in the second half of the season and has run consistently well without getting his head in front in recent starts.
The selection has never been the most fluent of jumpers but his first win over fences came here on soft ground and he looks sure to run well for the yard of Tim Fitzgerald.
At Ludlow Talkonthestreet (3.00) looks to be going the right way for Philip Hobbs and can follow up his recent Stratford success in the feature event.
A winning point-to-pointer in his native Ireland good ground suits and battled on bravely when challenged over 3m 4f last time with the third horse home beaten a further 16 lengths.
Kingsmere (3.35) carries a 7lb penalty for winning at Cheltenham last week where he looked streets ahead of the handicapper.
Any significant rain would be a negative for a horse who many will want to leave alone because of the bounce factor (where a horse runs well following a break but poorly the second run back) but he did look a candidate for Haydock’s valuable 3m Hurdle next month and is taken to add this prize en route.
Robert Cowell will be hoping that Thumper (4.20) can make a winning start for Qatar Racing and retained jockey Jamie Spencer takes the mount on this grey son of Namid. Charlie’s Star looks sure to go off favourite having finished runner up in both starts including at Newbury last time when he ran into a useful John Gosden-trained newcomer.
Karl Burke’s string are in top form and Bold Prediction (6.25) ran well at Kempton on his first start since October; that effort should put him spot on for today and although he is not a regular winner on turf the same can be said for Sir Mike, Ocean Applause and Mr Red Clubs. In a wide open contest he gets the vote.