We start the day with a two-mile chase handicap with nine declared to go to post. Champagne James is the current market leader and will be the selection. This horse comes with a health warning as he is not the most straight forward. Finishing second five times from his eight runs (winning the other two). While he may not put his full effort in all the time I can’t get away from him off this mark. He makes his handicap debut of 126, which based on all known form looks to be lenient. Punted as if defeat was out of the question last time out it looks as if compensation for the local owner will be achieved in this weak affair.
Golden Ticket won on New Years day at Punchestown and has been raised sufficiently for that win. It’s hard to see where the additional improvement will come from for this nine-year old but is most likely to finish second.
If the top two fail to fire than Third Opinion could benefit however its hard again to trust this horse with his only win coming in a maiden hurdle race in 2012.
Champagne James is by far the most solid in this race and looks to have been well placed to get his head in front over fences.
Champagne James (WIN)
A very interesting contest in the Grade Two Novice Hurdle over two and a half miles which should be informative with an eye on the big festivals. No More Heroes leads the market after putting Shaneshill in his place last time out at Navan. He carried a penalty for that win which in my eyes makes him vulnerable.
Martello Tower beat Outlander on the bob at Limerick in a Grade Two race over Christmas with the later travelling much better into the race. The former also must shoulder a penalty and both will need to step forward to get involved.
Windsor Park won a traditionally good maiden hurdle at the course over the Christmas period however both the second and third that day have made the form look weak been beaten at long odds on.
The intriguing one for me is the Willie Mullins trained Killutagh Vic. Sixth and Fifth in the English and Irish champion bumpers last season, he readily won his maiden hurdle before a drop in trip against L’ami Serge saw him easily beaten. A step up in trip plus jockey and trainers record in this (won all of the last three running) suggest that he could be a contender at a price. Killutagh Vic is taken to cause a minor upset.
Killutagh Vic (E/W if 8+ runners and 5/1+)
We make a trip to the north of England for the last race of the day for a handicap chase over two-mile five. Big Water is the current favourite for Graham Swinbank and jockey Paul Maloney, he has won his last two outings and is looking for the hat-trick today. He has been raised eight pounds for that run in a weak Market Rasen contest. At present he is very short in the market and while he clearly improving, I’m not sure he can deal with top weight in a really competitive handicap.
Riskier is a big danger however while he appears well handicapped, his losing sequence goes back as far as October 2013 with his front running tactics vulnerable on this occasion. Shadrack for the Reveley team loves it round Sedgefield and is three from three here. However he doesn’t look overly well in here but should run his race into a place position.
The selection comes from a yard more known for Flat exploits in David O’Meara. His horse Rose of the Moon, looks to have a good chance at the weights. He has been dropped in distance and class for this race while the handicapper has also given him a chance with a rating below his last win. His last run was his best since winning and suggested to me that it will not be too far away. Rose of the Moon ran well for a long time in the Grand National getting in off a lowly weight and may well need to win this to get back in.
Rose Of The Moon (E/W if 5/1+)