1.00 Exeter – RUSSIAN HAWK (nb)
The opening novice hurdle on the card looks a fascinating event, with some highly promising bumper performers from last season taking on a last-time-out winner in this sphere in a race that is usually a decent contest.
The selection, trained by Colin Tizzard, is a son of Malinas who debuted in a bumper at Wincanton back in April (20/1 chance), close up but showing signs of inexperience from the outset, losing his position as the tempo lifted on the approach to the straight, running green off the bridle but beginning to respond entering the final furlong and finishing off strongly to take third behind Samarquand (beaten 6¼ lengths). This gelding was very much held back by greenness on that occasion, able to sit in behind the pacesetters from the outset but caught cold once the pace increased at the top of the home straight, looking borderline clueless off the bridle initially but putting in some pleasing late work to lead home the second wave behind the front two. The fourth and sixth placed horses have won in recent days, whilst the runner-up and one or two others in behind have shaped really well in defeat recently. He is entitled to prove a whole lot sharper for that initial experience, his pedigree suggesting there will be improvement for the switch to hurdling/step up in trip; represents a stable that won this with a smart type 12 months ago and has hit form in recent weeks, so a bold display from this gelding here wouldn’t at all surprise.
Stablemate Lamanver Pippin is a nicely-bred son of Apple Tree whose sole outing to date came in a bumper at Wincanton for Harry Fry in April (7/1 chance), close up/disputing until moving to the head of affairs at the top of the straight, ridden and soon challenged, responding well for pressure in a three-way battle but headed inside the final 100 yards and having to settle for a 1¼-length second to Unwin VC. The winner that day looks an above-average sort whilst the third (first three home clear of the rest) has won a bumper and novice hurdle since, although achieved only a fair level of form in doing so. Like his stablemate, this gelding is bred to come into his own over obstacles/this longer trip, a half brother to useful pair Lady Of Lamanver and Lamanver Odyssey; not be underestimated on this hurdling bow, and interesting to see where he figures in the market in relation to stablemate Russian Hawk.
The Fergal O’Brien-trained Time To Move On is a son of Flemensfirth who created a deep impression when making a winning start to his career in a bumper here last December, racing in mid-division until moving closer from halfway, challenging on the bridle two furlongs out and pushed into the lead approaching the final furlong, coming clear to score by 10 lengths from Caribert. He maintained his 100 per cent record in a bumper over the same course and distance a couple of months later, tracking the pace and leading over two furlongs out, driven out to assert and coming home 3¼ lengths clear of Bang On. A slowly-run race that day didn’t really allow this gelding to show what he was all about, still always in full control and his jockey not having go for everything to get the job done. His pedigree strongly suggests the additional distance and switch to hurdling will see him to even greater effect, so it isn’t too difficult to envisage this well-related son of Flemensfirth playing a leading role on his timber debut.
The David Pipe-trained Orchard Thieves is a son of Ask who belatedly built on the promise of his second place finish in a point-to-point in February 2016 with victory in a 2m 7f novices’ hurdle at Worcester in May (20/1 chance), patiently ridden in rear until moving closer at halfway, moving through strongly to challenge two out and responding well for pressure on the run-in to lead close home and see off The Bottom Bar by 2½ lengths. For all he was in receipt of 7lbs from the runner-up it was a commendable effort from this gelding, able to overcome a lengthy absence in what were pretty testing conditions. Has to concede weight all round in what is likely a stronger event, but equally this son of Ask is open to improvement after just two career starts; cheekpieces now applied.
Ben Pauling’s Nestor Park is a son of Walk In The Park who confirmed the good impression he created on debut at Bangor when landing a bumper at Ascot last November, soon leading and ridden at the top of the straight, joined not long after and even briefly headed by eventual runner-up Portrush Ted, responding well for pressure to regain the lead close home and score by a neck. He attempted to make all when fifth in a heavy-ground Listed bumper at Newbury in February and appeared simply out of his depth when 19th of 23 to Relegate in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham the following month, fading from prominence (beaten 38 lengths). For all he had his limitations exposed, he remains with potential for the switch to hurdling; interesting he starts out over this 2m 5f distance.
The Oliver Sherwood-trained Shaughnessy is a son of Shantou who shaped well on debut when finishing off strongly to take second close home in a bumper at Huntingdon on Boxing Day won by the potentially smart The Big Bite, and he found only The Flying Sofa too good next time when contesting a small field bumper at Fontwell some three months later. He didn’t need to improve to land a bumper at Towcester in May, making just about all and pulling clear from the two furlong marker, wandering around inside the final furlong but always doing enough as he came home 4½ lengths clear of Ask Dillon. The runner-up ran well in defeat in a useful bumper next time whilst the third has won a couple of novice hurdles since; very much bred to come into his own over obstacles, it would come as no surprise to see this son of Shantou prove capable of playing a leading role on his hurdling debut.
The Paul Nicholls-trained Densfirth is a son of Flemensfirth who shaped with distinct promise on debut when fourth to the re-opposing Time To Move On in a bumper here last December, but he failed to find the anticipated improvement when only fifth of 12 in a bumper at Chepstow in February (6/5 favourite), racing keenly and hanging under pressure. For all that was disappointing, this gelding’s pedigree is very much geared towards jumping and wanting trips in excess of 2m, his dam a half sister to connections’ brilliant chaser Denman. He is almost certain to do better at some point, but whether he’ll be ready enough to make an impact here remains to be seen.
3.50 Ayr – DO NOT DISTURB (nap)
The concluding bumper on the card looks a potentially informative one, a few of these showing promise already including a pair of Irish raiders, while there are also a couple from the point sphere and a handful of newcomers.
The selection, trained by Rose Dobbin, is a son of Mahler who shaped well in a point-to-point at Mainstown for Aidan Fitzgerald last December, waited with in behind the leaders and making ground on the approach to the straight, staying on well on the run-in to come home in third behind Global Jackpot (beaten 2¼ lengths). It was a highly encouraging performance in what was an above-average contest run in a decent time, with the first home a triple winner over hurdles now rated 141 and the runner-up a bumper/hurdle winner currently rated 126, whilst the fourth (also finished third in a bumper) and sixth won points next time out. This gelding was picked up by current connections for £85,000 at the Tattersalls Cheltenham December Sale not long after, coming from the same source as Bigirononhiship and Coole Hall, both of whom quickly made up into useful performers under Rules for these connections. He kicks off in a useful enough race and his stable hasn’t really got going as of yet, but this son of Mahler’s point performance allied with his pedigree (from a good jumping family that includes bumper winners) leave his credentials looking better than most; no surprise to see him make an immediate impact under Rules.
The Gordon Elliott-trained Dona Katharina is a daughter of Stowaway who has improved steadily with each outing in bumpers in Ireland, following a soundly-held fifth place finish on debut at Roscommon in July with a third to Curramore at Sligo a month or so later, one paced at the business end of matters. Her latest outing saw her contest a bumper at Ballinrobe 54 days ago (10/1 chance), tracking the leaders and pushed along passing the three furlong marker, carrying her head at an awkward angle and soon left behind by eventual wide margin winner Mt Leinster, battling on well in the straight to take second on the line but coming home 22 lengths adrift. She has shown just a fair level of form to date, kept to the smaller tracks in Ireland and looking one of her stable’s lesser lights despite boasting a good pedigree; has to be respected given the yard she represents, but likely vulnerable to improvers.
Ruth Jefferson’s Bally Conor is a son of Presenting who debuted in a bumper at Southwell back in May (100/30 chance), waited with in rear and racing wide, closing into midfield soon after halfway and shaken up to try and challenge on the approach to the straight, running green and making no impression as he came home in fourth behind Kitikat (beaten 18 lengths). This gelding shaped as though he’d be better for the experience on that occasion, travelling okay for a good chunk of the race but lacking the wherewithal to throw down a serious challenge; strength in the market beforehand that day allied with a useful pedigree suggests he’s capable of better.
The Jerry Cosgrave-trained Rhythm Divine is a daughter of Milan who fell and finished well beaten in a pair of point outings, but she has offered promise on both outings in mares’ bumpers, plugging on into fourth at Downpatrick in June and then travelling better than most when fifth of 14 to Kalanisi Og at Galway 17 days ago. The level of form she achieved is nothing out of the ordinary, rather flattering to deceive last time; her handler’s sole bumper runner in this country was a winner (similar profile to this mare), but one or two others make greater appeal here.
There are some interesting newcomers in the field, particularly Gordon Elliott’s Arion Sky, a daughter of Jeremy who is the first foal of a dual 2m 2f hurdle/2m 3f chase winner who was a sister to Grade 2-placed 2m-2m 1f hurdle/very smart 2m-2m 5f chase (including three times at Grade 1 level) winner Captain Chris and a half sister to useful 2m 3f-2m 6f chase winner Foundation Man out of a very smart 2m-3m chase winner (including three times at Grade 2 level) who was a half sister to 2m hurdle/2m-2m 3f chase winner One More Dream. This filly makes obvious appeal on pedigree, her dam nothing out of the ordinary but herself a sister to high-class jumper Captain Chris and the daughter of good jumper Function Dream. She commands respect given her stable, but, for all it’s a smart one, her pedigree does suggest she’ll excel once faced with obstacles; interesting to see how she goes in the betting.
Stuart Crawford’s Nothing Man is a son of Ask who is the first foal of an unraced daughter of an unraced half sister to bumper/high-class 2m-2m 4f hurdle (including at Grade 1 level)/smart 2m-2m 1f chase (including at Grade 2 level) winner Mister Morose, 2m-2m 1f hurdle/Grade 1-placed 2m chase winner Southolt, very useful 2m-3m hurdle/2m 7f chase winner The Proms, 2m 5f-2m 6f hurdle winner King Girseach, 2m 3f-3m hurdle/useful 3m 1f-3m 5f chase winner Fine By Me, two other winners and to the dam of high-class jumper Alberta’s Run. This gelding’s sales price rose from €2,000 as a foal to €16,000 last summer, making a fair amount of appeal on pedigree, nothing much happening in recent times but the grandam related to a handful of at least useful jumpers. He represents an Irish stable that has been a dominant force in this sphere in Scotland/northern England over the years, often able to ready its newcomers to strike at the first time of asking; no surprise to see this one figure in the finish on debut.
The Nicky Richards-trained Holme Abbey is a son of Fair Mix who is the first foal of a once-raced maiden half sister to bumper (debut)/2m 4f hurdle winner Miss Abbey out of a multiple point winning sister to 2m-3m 1f hurdle/high-class 2m-4m 1f chase (including at Grade 2/3 level) winner Grey Abbey and 3m 1f hurdle/2m 7f chase winner Mister Dave’s. This gelding is bred to come into his own with time and distance over obstacles, but his lightly-raced dam could count a first-time-out winner in this sphere among her relations and he represents a good northern stable more than capable at producing one to strike first time up. Under the highly-promising conditional Danny McMenamin, a prominent debut showing from this son of Fair Mix would come as no surprise whatsoever.
The Ruth Jefferson-trained Lemon T is a son of Sulamani who is a full brother to 2m hurdle winner Temple Man and a half brother to bumper (debut)/3m 1f hurdle/Listed-placed 2m 3f-3m 1f chase winner Mac Aeda, bumper/2m 3f hurdle/2m 5f chase winner Cape York and two other winners, out of an unraced half sister to 2m 4f chase winner Sparkle Wood out of a maiden half sister to smart chaser Marlborough. This gelding makes a fair amount of appeal on pedigree, ultimately bred to stay further/excel over jumps but related to a bumper debut winner whilst one or two other relations showed an aptitude for this sphere. It is a family this stable knows well and, for all it also fields the promising, once-raced Bally Conor, it will be interesting to see how this gelding goes in the market beforehand.