10th February 2017

Exeter’s Sunday card looks a real cracker

Exeter Racecourse has received superlative entries for its Super Sunday meeting and its all credit to the course for putting on such a fantastic quality card that has been well supported. There are some very nice horses entered, some of which look like decent Cheltenham prospects.

The Free at 188Bet Novices Listed Hurdle race has one of the best hurdlers in the country entered with Colin Tizzard’s Finian’s Oscar set to line up. He’s following a similar path to the one taken by Melodic Rendezvous a few years ago who won the Tolworth and then beat Puffing Billy in this race.

All the races look ultra competitive and it will be hard to win down there. Its great for Exeter and local racegoers and it’s definitely a meeting to mark your card if you are planning to go to the Festival.

It will be interesting to see how the high class French stayer Alary fairs in the 188bet.co.uk Graduation Chase. He was highly regarded before his British debut at Haydock where he pulled up but I am sure we’ll see a better Alaray with time. But if he’s to put his name in the Timico Gold Cup picture, you’d like to think he’d win on Sunday. Fingers crossed the entries hold their ground as it will be a day of racing to savour.

Tomorrow it looks like I might ride Zubayr in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, which is the richest hurdle race of the season. As usual, it’s a highly competitive field with a few novices, including Move With The Times and Ballyandy, having their first runs in a handicap, which means they could be well handicapped. Move With The Times is well thought of in Paul Nicholl’s yard and looks well handicapped and the same could be said for the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Ballyandy, but it’s a very tough race to win.

I am sure Zubayr, who won the Grade 2 Adonis Hurdle at Kempton last season,  will win a big race, and hopefully if he brings his best form from last year he has a chance. But with every handicap you can never rule anything out because of the weights, and you need a lot of luck in running. You need a horse that has a bit in hand with the handicapper. I am hoping that Zubayr might have this as he has been slightly disappointing this season.

In the Denman Chase there’s a clash between Hennessy and Coral Welsh National hero Native Winner and Bristol De Mai, Haydock’s Peter Marsh Handicap Chase victor. Altior could be running in the Betfair Exchange Chase which will make for a really great day’s racing.

Last weekend there were a few ivery good winners. I was at Sandown where Iriving didn’t run his race in the Listed Contenders Hurdle but Buveur D’Air was hugely impressive and if he goes for the Champion Hurdle he has to be on everyone’s shortlist. Top Notch was also impressive in the Betfred TV Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase and is another for the Festival shortlist.

At Musselburgh, Victor Dartnall’s Dancing Shadow won the Edinburgh National with Noel Fehily in the saddle. It was a plan well executed because after I won on him at Doncaster, the target was always this race. Today I am at Kempton where I ride two for Victor – Sidbury Fair in the novices’ hurdle and River Bray, who makes his debut in the bumper. Sidbury Fair will get some more experience under her belt and is a horse for the spring. River Bray works very well at home, but it’s a hot race. It will be a learning curve for both horses.