For my first selection today we head to Catterick for a novice handicap chase run over two miles.
At the head of the market we have the Charlie Mann trained nine year old Cody Wyoming. While the gelding is at the top of his game at the moment, I just get the feeling that the handicapper might have him in his grasp. He may return to winning ways here but I think one or two others in the lineup look better treated.
The best handicapped runner in the field on paper is Jonjo O Neills charge, Less Time. The six year old is open to plenty of improvement and starts off his chasing career on a very lenient mark. The main concern is the form of the yard at present, although they did have a winner in a bumper yesterday that offers hope. Another concern is that this will be the geldings first run in 226 days and he may just need the run on return.
The one that appeals most here is the John Spearing inmate, Pearls Legend. The eight year old is still a maiden over jumps after nine starts but has come close on a few occasions, to breaking his duck. While a mark of 117 does look high enough, he does have one piece of form that could see him achieve a mark in the 130 bracket. If the Jonjo stable has come back to form I think Less Time could prove hard to beat, but if still under a cloud Pearl Legend can capitalize.
Of the rest, Russborough appeals most.
Pearls Legend (WIN)
For my second selection we head to Leicester for another handicap chase.
This is a weak enough affair but a chance can be given to a few with Toowoomba heading the betting. Philip Hobbs seven year old is one of the least exposed runners in the field and looks open to plenty of improvement. While he may win this, it is a bit of guesswork on his ability as he has not shown a great deal so far. With that in mind, I would prefer to take a chance on something else at an each way price in this.
One horse that looks each way value is the Tony Carroll trained Thinger Licht. On the best of the form he showed in France I think he could be well ahead of the handicapper. That is the worry though, in that he has not come close to running up to the level he ran in France. Also the race he ran in last time looked a bit easier than this and he faded badly when asked for maximum effort. There is a chance that he has been brought along slowly and if connections are happy that he has now matured enough, he is on a very exploitable mark.
The horse I am going to take a chance on here is the Violet Jordan trained Wolf Hall. While tipping up a horse with form figures of Pu-Pu-Pu-U from his last four contests would seem like madness, he did show signs of encouragement last time out. The gelding also arrived in the UK with a mark of 122 and has seen his mark fall down to a more manageable mark of 96 now. The most eye catching thing here is that the hood makes an appearance for the first time and this could be a sign that a return to form is imminent here. While not one to go too mad on, it would not surprise to see him run a big race in what looks a relatively easy contest.
Of the remainder Carhue Princess is not without a chance, while the elder statesman of the group Thedreamstillalive has each way claims.
Wolf Hall (E/W)
For my last selection we head back to Catterick for a two mile bumper.
It is hard to get away from Verona Opera in this, given the yards strong record in these type of events when making the trip across the Irish Sea. The 4yo gets weight from everything in the lineup and ran with plenty of credit on debut, where she had Verni ten lengths in arrears. The form of that race has worked out well with the winner going in again since, so unless one of the newcomers is above average she should be taking this.
The most interesting of the newcomers is More More More, a rare runner under national hunt rules for Scott Dixon. While there is lots of speed in his pedigree, there is enough stamina in the dams side to suggest he should stay this far. He is worth a market check along with the Philip Kirby trained Dibble Bridge. Any strong market support would make them of interest but they will need to be above average to beat the selection here.
Verona Opera (WIN)