I think it is fair to say that fans of all-weather racing are well and truly in clover for today’s racing with action from four tracks in Britain and Ireland including a jumper’s bumper card at Kempton. Kempton compensates for Chepstow’s abandonment and give us a full days racing, with some good national hut t racing (weather permitting) from Catterick complimented by Lingfield and further racing this evening from Wolverhampton and Dundalk.
Fingers crossed Catterick goes ahead because there are some fascinating runners, not least John Ferguson’s Aalim (1.40) who has already proved a useful recruit now hurdling and made a successful start in this sphere at the second time of asking. Previously with Godolphin on the flat, he should be far too good for his rivals and although likely go off at a skinny price, keep an eye on him with much better races on the 4-y-o’s agenda on spring ground.
Donald McCain farms novice handicap chases in the north and although his Blackwater King looks well handicapped he won’t be seen to best effect until the ground dries up, which should leave Fitandproprjob (2.10) with excellent claims after his win at Leicester 10 days ago. He was well backed before the off and duly landed the gamble by hacking up by ten lengths under Charlie Deutsch in an amateur riders handicap over two and a half miles. As such he runs unpenalised here and although the drop down to two miles is a concern, he is clearly very well handicapped and should handle the testing ground perfectly fine.
If Donald McCain and Jason Maguire aren’t celebrating a winner in the third race then they are likely to in the fourth with Tim Leslie’s classy novice Classic Move (2.45) in the two and a half mile novice hurdle. He receives 4lb from Henry Daly’s dual winner Vice et Vertu, who will be suited by the ground but Classic Move has the strongest form in the race, behind the pair of Spirit of Shankly and Urban Hymn at Haydock and duly followed up next time out at Bangor when his jumping was much improved and he looks to have much more to come.
Pam Sly’s Chicklemix (3.55) has been impressive in soft ground handicap chases at Towcester and Wetherby and should be able to defy a 6lb rise and complete the hat-trick. The 8-y-o beat the last time out winner Free World at Wetherby and although upped in class, is a mare thriving and looks more reliable than most of her rivals.
Spirit of Shankly (2.55) should be able to frank the form with Classic Move at Kempton in a ‘Jumpers Bumper’, impressive in this sphere with wins at Stratford and Market Rasen last season. Noel Fehily has an impressive record on Charlie Longsdon’s 6-y-o and the bid for the hat-trick after partnering the gelding to success at both Haydock and Market Rasen.
Nicky Henderson enjoys rich success in these events and isn’t scared sending some of his better horses here, Oscar Whisky being one of his more familiar ‘jumpers bumpers’ winners a couple of season ago. Henderson’s 150 rated chaser French Opera (4.05) will surely be suited by the severe drop in grade, after chasing home subsequent King George 3rd Al Ferof in a match at Ascot before running a belter to finish second off top weight in a competitive handicap chase at Cheltenham.
Lingfield will likely see more winners for the red-hot Mark Johnston stable, nine winners from his last twelve runners including Swivel winning at Southwell last week. The Shirocco colt will go off a warm favourite for the ten furlong handicap and is respected under a penalty; however David Simcock’s Can’t Change It (3.45) gets the nod after beating Johnston’s next time out winner Sir Charlie Kunz at the track last week. An opening mark of 78 looks fair for the son of Verglas and he is taken to upset the jolly.
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