15:10 Brandon Hill Capital Handicap Hurdle
The one who makes most appeal in a wide-open contest is the handicap debutant And The New, who was a very good performer in bumpers, finishing seventh in the Champion Bumper here in March 2017 behind Fayonagh and sixth to Lalor at Aintree. He’s won once from three starts over hurdles, but it’s his latest run when third under a penalty at Doncaster which makes him look of particular interest, as he came out as the best horse at the weights, and the second, fourth and fifth all won next time. The winner was placed in a Grade 2 on his next start before winning another novice, and the form looks rock-solid. And The New would have finished a clear second but for missing the last two hurdles and the way he rallied despite lugging left augurs well for him here.
More to the point, he has shown his best form on a sound surface, while the likes of First Assignment and Mr Antolini, while having decent form in the book, need to prove that they are not reliant on easy ground to show their form.
This isn’t a race to be staking heavily on, but double-figure quotes about And The New are certainly tempting enough to have a small interest.
Recommended: Back And The New @ 14.5 or bigger (1pt)
15:45 ‘Matchbook Time To Move Over’ Novices’ Chase
Shannon Bridge looks an interesting prospect for chasing based on the fact he was beaten in a photo in the Grade River Don Novices’ Hurdle at Doncaster last season, but that form really hasn’t worked out, with the best horse in the race, Calett Mad clearly not at his best on his first start after a wind-op, and the winner, Enniscoffey Oscar beaten a long way in three of his four subsequent starts, including on his chase debut at Chepstow. More importantly, the son of Flemensfirth has been kept to testing ground in his career so far and has plenty to prove tackling a sound surface for the first time here. He’s hardly covered himself in glory since Doncaster, pulling up in the Grade 2 Prestige at Haydock and never better than mid-field in a staying handicap on Grand National day.
The River Don run, taken in isolation, looks the effort of a high-class jumper in the making, but his other efforts tell a different story, and his prospects of beating Lil Rockerfeller look remote, and he’s not sure to win the battle for second by any means, with the others all having a fair degree of experience over fences.
I would certainly be happier siding with the experienced Pickamix under the conditions, and anything shorter than 2.5 looks value to lay. I’d almost certainly go a bit higher.
Recommended: Lay Shannon Bridge for a place @ 2.5 or shorter (3pts liability)
16:55 Ryman Stationery Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase
I started looking at this with the notion that Presenting Julio was laid out for the contest, having had three runs since finishing fifth when favourite a year ago, and the fact that the last of those came in a similar contest just over a week ago at Punchestown initially deepened that impression, and I expected to see a very tender ride when reviewing that contest. It’s true that his rider never got stuck into the 10-y-o on his latest start, but he came in for more vigorous riding than a few in the race, and I didn’t think he shaped with much promise.
Jamie Codd, aboard again here, rode the easy winner at Punchestown, which furthers the “laid out” narrative, but I just can’t have it when I consider his form in greater detail.
He’s only 1lb lower than he was a year ago, and although he has a flurry of 1’s on his card, handicap wins over hurdles and fences off marks between 84 and 99 aren’t that impressive in this company. He did win once off 106, but that was over hurdles and with the benefit of a very experienced 7lb claimer. Of course, there are few better at producing one for a handicap at this track, but I’m not sure that expecting Elliott to come up trumps with Presenting Julio after an interrupted campaign isn’t overstating the man’s genius, and the signs are that he faces a very stiff task on balance.
Recommended: Lay Presenting Julio for a place @ 3.0 or shorter (4pts liability)