There is the prospect of further showers on top of heavy ground at Haydock for today’s seven-race card which sees the return of a limited number of spectators after an eight-month break.
Only four go to post in the valuable Novices’ Chase and the market is headed by Kim Bailey’s recent Huntingdon winner Espoir De Romay who is rated 142 but received 10lbs from a 132-rated rival when scoring on his chase debut. He looks sure to appreciate today’s conditions – jumped slightly left at Huntingdon – but he must give 5lbs to his three rivals including Doc Penfro (1.15) whop was no match for The Big Breakaway on chase debut but jumped and travelled well until put in his place from two out.
I expect to see an improved show from Redford Road under today’s conditions while Venetia Williams’s French import Royal Pagaille cannot be dismissed despite finishing last – 3rd of 3 and second in a match – in both chase starts earlier in the year. He finished runner up in a listed 4-year-old chase at Auteuil a couple of seasons ago.
The Introductory Hurdle sees three promising unbeaten novices’ face-off and Qualismart created a most favourable impression when scoring at Market Rasen and is held in high regard by Harry Whittington. The stable are going through a quiet spell, however, and he must prove himself on soft ground.
Adrimel (1.50) did not jump particularly well when making a winning hurdles debut at Sandown but Richard Johnson looks sure to make this a decent test. Tom Lacey’s five-year-old has only lost once in four career starts and that was in the Champion Bumper. Ranch Hand – rated 106 – coped with soft ground on the level and got the job done at Exeter on his hurdles debut but heavy ground at Haydock is a different game altogether.
I’m looking forward to the seasonal debuts of The Dutchman and Seeyouatmidnight in the Valuable Veterans’ Chase, but preference is for Indy Five (2.20) who has race fitness on his side and carries just 10st over this extended 3m 1f trip. Tom Symonds has done very well with imports from the David Denis yard and this 10-y-old has been raised 4lbs for finishing second over this trip at Uttoxeter last month. Brian Hughes takes over in the saddle and they only got as far as the second on their only previous engagement in the Scottish National of 2018.
There is a valuable mares’ handicap hurdle at Ludlow, and I am loath to desert Midnights’ Gift who did us a favour at Fakenham last month. A 3lbs rise is fair. The nod, however, goes to Miranda (1.30) although she would not want the ground to dry out to anything other than the good to soft that conditions were described on Tuesday morning. Leading amateur Angus Cheleda takes off 7lbs and the mare has shown her wellbeing on the flat in recent months.
First time out might be the time to catch Over To Sam who has his tongue tied down for the first time for Harry Fry. Philip Hobbs saddled the winner of the corresponding race 12 months ago and he has two representatives this afternoon including Truckin Away (2.05) who gets the each way vote.
The selection was not knocked about when his chance had gone at Exeter on his reappearance, but he was still there four out when he received a slight bump. It was at a time when the Philip Hobbs yard were struggling for form and he has been dropped a couple of pounds for that effort. He is entitled to come on for the run.