EXETER stage a hastily arranged jumps fixture this afternoon following the abandonment of Lingfield over the weekend and everyone concerned ought to be applauded for keeping the winter game on the road.
Ray Diamond will have his supporters in the opening handicap chase having been caught close home on his last start over fences from a 3lb lower mark, but I am going to give the vote to Ballincurrig (12.55) a winning point-to-pointer who is taken to improve for his chase debut when making several mistakes at Sandown.
With that experience behind he can go well although he does have an inexperienced 7lb claimer in the saddle.
I’m still not convinced that the David Pipe stable are firing on all cylinders but Tullyesker Hill (1.25) meets nothing of the calibre of Deputy Dan in the first division of the Novices’ Hurdle and can add a hurdle success to his previous point and bumper wins. Strollawaynow and Huntingdon winner Steel City are the dangers although the latter will do well to defy his penalty.
AP McCoy keeps the ride on Roseneath (2.35) and now that the champ has got to know the gelding I think the partnership can go one better than when runner up at Warwick on New Year’s Eve off the same mark.
Four of the gelding’s five career wins have been gained going right-handed and, although he would prefer better ground, he can give McCoy another success.
Allow Dallow (3.05) cost £100,000 when bought by connections at Cheltenham sales 12 months ago and he can break his duck under rules in the 2m 5f maiden hurdle; the selection has run into a couple of decent sorts on his last couple of runs and Royal Player could be a massive danger for the very much inform yard of Philip Hobbs who has his first start today for the stable having shaped with promise in points in his native Ireland.
The feature event is the Veterans’ Handicap Chase and I thought Tullamore Dew (3.40) caught a tartar at Wetherby last time in a much better race and can race off a mark 3lb lower this afternoon.
Yes he is an infrequent winner but the Nick Gifford/Tom Cannon combination had a winner at Plumpton yesterday and I think Ballyoliver is the danger for the Venetia Williams’ yard also among the winners again yesterday.
Ballyoliver is 5lb lower than at the start of the season and, at just 10, is the baby of the party along with Pipe’s Shaking Hands and the latter will love the ground, but has more letters than numbers next to his name of late having failed to complete the course in his last three starts.
Dungeness battled back gamely at Warwick at the weekend over the minimum trip suggesting this step up would suit but he had a hard race on Saturday and is 7lb higher in the weights today.
Preference is for Catcher Star (4.10) in the colours of the late Patsy Byrne who is only 5lbs higher than when scoring at Wetherby on Boxing Day. Trainer Nick Gifford suggested there was more to come when he scored in west Yorkshire where the first time cheekpieces worked the oracle.