Summer Jumpers

National Hunt racing expert, Andy Gibson looks forward to the upcoming jumps action, has a stable tour with Nigel Hawke and pinpoints a number of horses that caught his eye last week.

  • Friday 06 September
  • Blog
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See The Sea runs in the 2.15 at Stratford on Saturday and will presumably be the second favourite given the presence of the higher rated Pacify in the same race.

Donald McCain’s mare has enjoyed an easy lead in each of her three successes over hurdles. Despite having to find plenty on official ratings I would not be too worried about this variable as if she is allowed to dictate her own pace once again the higher rating of the likely favourite Pacify will be far less significant.

I have no strong feeling as to which of the two will come out on top; that said See The Sea may well offer a very simple trading opportunity; particularly as she is likely to be second best in the market.

Personally, I hope she makes-all and wins in impressive fashion once again. This could then offer an opportunity to oppose her on another day when she appears likely to be taken on for the lead in a handicap race.

As mentioned in week’s two and three I am of the opinion that Potterman might struggle to justify his elevated rating when asked to compete in handicap company.

He seems to have a fifty/fifty chance of taking the Grundon Waste Management Novices Chase (2.50) at Stratford on Saturday. As with See The Sea I hope Potterman wins with plenty to spare thus increasing the chances of him trading very short when having to compete off his chase rating on another day.

He was beaten off marks of 126, 126, 129 and 130 in his last four defeats over hurdles and may have to compete off a 140+ chase rating if he is successful tomorrow.

Play The Ace is entered in a competitive looking five-runner handicap chase at 4.00 on that same Stratford card. It is surely just a matter of time before the Bowen yard strikes top form again.

When they do, I suspect that Play The Ace will not be the only horse from the stable that turns out to be well handicapped. At the same time, I would not rule out backing him off bottom weight tomorrow.

If he is fourth or fifth favourite in the market, I might play him to small stakes. Whatever happens at Stratford I will keep him in mind when the Peter Bowen yard hits a purple patch.

At Fontwell on Sunday the Dr Richard Newland-trained Asylo returns to compete over hurdles after appearing to not fancy the job over the larger obstacles last time out. He remains on a competitive mark and might need good to soft ground to give him his best chance of success.

Gordon Elliott is three-handed in the opening novice hurdle at Perth on Monday. As mentioned in week five he has a fantastic record in non-handicap races over hurdles at the Scottish course.

According to official ratings the biggest danger to the chosen Elliott representative is the 135-rated Indian Temple from the Tim Reed yard. Personally, I suspect that this ten-year-old is a little flattered by his mark; consequently, the Gordon Elliott selected could be even more difficult to beat than the market on the day might suggest.

Of his three entries Carrie Des Champs appears to be his strongest contender and she should prove difficult to beat if taking her place in the line-up.

TRAINER IN FOCUS: NIGEL HAWKE

The Devon-based trainer has a dozen entries over the next few days and discussed his idea of their chances with me on Thursday evening:

ONBOARD – 2.25 Newton Abbot on Monday

 “He is entered in a novice contest at Newton Abbot on Monday; however, we may well wait for a handicap hurdle in a couple of weeks as we are hoping he has a workable mark”.

BELLA BEAU – 2.25 Newton Abbot on Monday

 “She has only had the two starts over hurdles and is yet to acquire a mark. She needs to gain more experience but will be a lovely filly in the long term”.

LORD BALLIM – 3.10 Perth on Monday 

“He might be better over hurdles than fences. He has everything in his favour on Monday so if he does not win or, at least run a big race, it will be difficult to know where to go next. He has not won over hurdles in a long while which has to be taken on board when assessing the chances of him performing to his best”.

LE MUSEE – 3.40 Perth on Monday

“He slipped at Southwell on his penultimate start and that probably dented his confidence for Worcester last time out. He does not have to lead but things do need to go right for him. Consequently his chances will be much more obvious if there are only a few runners on the day. He has to be one of my best two chances over the next few days”.

STORMY BLUES – holds two entries, 4.00 and 5.05 Newton Abbot on Monday

“He is the best work horse in the yard but has struggled to translate that homework onto the track. He has plenty of ability but has also had a lot of problems and as a consequence he is not one you could back with a lot of confidence”.

GUARDIA TOP – 5.05 Newton Abbot on Monday

“She could easily be thrown in here. The big question mark is her lack of experience. Therefore if things don’t go her way on Monday she is certainly one to keep a close eye on in the coming weeks. She is also one of my best two chances over the next few days”.

MALINA OCARINA – 4.10 Worcester on Tuesday

“She tipped up when going well two runs ago at Worcester then ran no race last time out at Southwell. She seems to be fit and well and on that Worcester form she would have a strong chance; that said her disappointing performance in August has to be at the back of your mind”.

FARMER BOY – 2.05 Uttoxeter on Wednesday

“He has had a good spring and summer and won at Market Rasen in April. He was possibly a little unfortunate not to add to the success at Cartmel at the end of June. On that occasion he probably hit the front too soon and did not know what to do due to his lack of experience. He is by Scorpion and they can tend to be a bit quirky”.

MEAD VALE – 2.05 Uttoxeter on Wednesday

“He has had a nice break but comes here fit and well. Both of mine should take their chance in this race and I could not split them”.

GREYBOUGG – 4.20 Uttoxeter on Wednesday

“He will need a drop of rain to show his best form. He runs here after undergoing wind surgery. Some of them improve and some don’t – hopefully he will be one of the improvers. He seems in good form at home and is a straightforward horse that always works well”.

POLA CHANCE – 4.55 Uttoxeter on Wednesday

“If she settles she could run well here. Her juvenile form is very good and I hope she can keep on improving with experience”.

LOOKING BACK: YOU NEED TO BELIEVE IT

I doubt we would accuse many nine year olds of showing improved form; however this does appear to be the case with Gentleman Moore who has been in a rich vein of form of late.

He certainly has his quirks and does seem to prefer to race away from the crowd; consequently it was probably a significant advantage for him when he was gifted an untroubled lead throughout at Uttoxeter on Wednesday.

He raced off a career high of 110 when in the care of David Bridgwater which offers further encouragement that his new rating will not be the variable that prevents him from remaining competitive next time.

He will still be eligible for 0-105 handicap chases after this latest success and he has a strong chance of picking up another prize before the winter sets in.

At Uttoxeter he competed over the same course and distance as Lovato who carried a similar weight when winning an hour earlier on the same card.

The fact that the rain was persistent in between these two races would not have been in favour of the 99 rated chaser Gentleman Moore; nonetheless, he still managed to finish about 10 lengths behind the 126-rated Lovato when comparing the races on separate screens side by side.

This comparison adds further weight to the possibility that this Natalie Lloyd – Beavis-trained nine-year-old can be competitive again in the near future when conditions are in his favour.

He will need a sound surface and a distance close to two and a half miles; moreover, if he appears likely to be gifted another easy lead this would be a major point in his favour.

At Newton Abbot last Saturday Can You Believe It finally got off the mark at the eighth time of asking and in his third outing since receiving wind surgery.

This was a significant improvement on his previous best form and was also the second time he has performed better than usual at Newton Abbot. Given that he started his winning ways from such a low bar there is probably a reasonably strong chance that he will be competitive again off his new 103 rating.

He had also shown improved form on his previous outing when staying on in the latter stages at Worcester.

I am hoping to see Can You Believe It continue on an upward curve until the winter ground (probably) sets in after October. This notion is supported by his time comparisons with the 132-rated Sizing Granite who carried slightly less weight when successful over the same course and distance on the same day.

On the day Can You Believe It was a few seconds quicker than Sizing Granite with a circuit to go before the Tizzard horse completed his race half a dozen lengths in front of Nicky Martin’s six-year-old.

Considering the fact that Sizing Granite is rated 29lb higher this does auger well for Can You Believe It’s chances in the short term; particularly as he was doing his best work from the last to the line and may improve again when stepped up to compete over three miles.

On the other hand Sizing Granite probably held a significant advantage by being allowed to dictate a relatively slow pace for the first half of his race. Consequently, I would be more inclined to favour the claims of the runner-up Majestic Touch on another day.

Philip Hobbs mentioned in his interview in last week’s blog that he thought his horse would improve for his previous run and also for the extra distance.

His performance at Newton Abbot was certainly a step forward and Majestic Touch may well improve again when competing in a similar race off a stronger pace.

Summer Jumpers
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