SWINTON PRINCIPLES IN CARTMEL REMATCH
The PSR Marquees Handicap Hurdle (2.35) at Cartmel on Sunday looks a very hot renewal at the early declarations stage. The second, third and sixth horses to finish in the valuable Swinton Hurdle at Haydock in May are set to renew rivalry this weekend and two of the three look especially interesting for Sunday.
On that day at Haydock I suspect that John Constable probably stayed too close to an overly aggressive pace; especially given how strongly the closers finished. My immediate thoughts post-race were that he may well have improved his finishing position if he had been held onto a little longer. He hit the front at the final hurdle before eventually just holding on for third place under a hard drive. He remains well-handicapped off 135 but has presumably not been straightforward at home given his long absence from the track prior to the Swinton Hurdle. I had marked him up as a horse being prepared for the Scottish Champion Hurdle and/or the Conditional Jockeys race at Aintree on Grand National day.
They were such obvious targets for him that it seemed inevitable that all was not well at home when his name was missing from the ‘decs’ for both races. Perhaps he may have just needed his run at Haydock and this factor played a part in him weakening on the long run to the winning line? Even if he was cherry ripe for the Swinton Hurdle, a reproduction of the quality of that performance would see John Constable remain competitive until the closing stages on Sunday.
Whatever happens at Cartmel, Evan Williams's horse will remain of interest for his next obvious target which is the listed race he won at Market Rasen in late July in 2017.
The Alan King-trained Dino Velvet finished sixth in the Swinton Hurdle and will have a chance on Sunday; however, it is the runner up at Haydock that I am more interested in.
Project Bluebook has been raised to 136 after that last performance which still looks to be a competitive mark. He will love the quicker conditions on Sunday and the likely big field could help provide the fast pace that will be in his favour. He made up a lot of ground from a long way back last time out and, consequently, I could see the extra-long finish at Cartmel also playing to his strengths.
John Constable is probably the most interesting of the pair; nevertheless, if both are trading at each way prices I will be keen to use them as a duo for each-way multiple purposes.
TRAINER IN FOCUS
Peter Bowen has tended to send a strong team from his Pembrokeshire base on the long journey to Cartmel in recent years. This weekend is no exception as he has made multiple entries for this two day fixture. I called in to see him on Wednesday morning to discuss the claims of a few of his runners for Friday and Sunday at the Cumbrian track.
BUCKEYE SHAN (2.20 Friday) – “He is in the best of form at home and I would be very hopeful of a bold showing on Friday”.
FRANCKY DU BERLAIS (2.55 Friday) – “There are two or three entries with much higher ratings than him. Consequently, I would like to see him jump round nicely and prove to be of more interest when competing in a handicap further down the line”
HIGHWAY STAR (4.35 Friday) – “He is another well handicapped horse and one that is worth a second look whichever race he lines up in at Cartmel”.
CURIOUS CARLOS (5.10 Friday) – “He is in a two mile plus handicap hurdle and won over the same course and distance in May 2017 off a mark of 119 (after taking James’s 7lbs claim into account). He has steadily come down the weights and, although he has not always been the most consistent of horses; providing he puts his best foot forward he should go close”.
FATEH (3.40 Sunday) – “I have no idea why he was made 6/4 favourite last time out. It was certainly nothing to do with us! He seemed to be going well enough when being brought down; nonetheless, this happened too far out to make any realistic assessment as to what might have happened”.
PLAY THE ACE (4.15 Sunday) - “He runs in the big handicap chase on Sunday and should be very competitive at an each way price. I always prefer his claims when he competes in a better race off a lower weight. He has been dropped very quickly for his three recent efforts in Hunter Chases and then finished well beaten on unsuitably soft ground by a progressive horse of Dr Newland’s (Ronava) last time out. As a result, he is now a very well handicapped horse and one that should sneak in at the bottom of the weights assuming the Paul Nicholls top weight is not asked to compete twice in five days”.
CODESHARE (4.50 Sunday) – “He would have been my idea of our best chance of the weekend; unfortunately it is possible he may be forced to miss his engagement on Sunday. Whether we see him at Cartmel or not, he is a horse that I expect to rate much higher over the coming months and he is one to keep a close eye on”.
JUDGE EARLE (5.25 Sunday) – “He won by 15 lengths last night at Newton Abbott and consequently, it might make sense to turn him out quickly under a penalty. You never really know how a horse will perform when returning to race so soon after a previous run; however, he should prove hard to beat on Sunday as long as last night’s success has not taken too much out of him”.
RONAVA HAS MORE TO OFFER AFTER SWITCH TO NEWLAND
The Dr Richard Newland trained Ronava won for the second time in five days when taking the Campbell & Rowley For Corporate Events handicap Chase last Sunday at Hexham. This 0-120 chase was run at a furious gallop and very few horses were able to stay with the pace. Ronava jumped well and appeared to have plenty in hand at the line. He will prove hard to beat if running under a penalty in the next few days; alternatively I can see him continuing to be competitive when reassessed.
This was only his third start for the Newlands yard and I suspect there is a good chance we will see further improvement in the coming weeks. He commenced his career with his new stable off a mark of 117 which was 9lbs lower than his previous best chase rating. A switch to the Dr Richard Newland yard can usually be viewed as a positive move; consequently Ronava has a strong chance of remaining competitive off his revised mark. Furthermore his hurdles rating of 112 could be exploited once his chase mark is raised beyond his ability level.
I previewed the Sick Children’s Trust Handicap Hurdle on 15th June in my most recent ‘Summer Jumpers’ blog. On reflection it was interesting to see how much Tickenwolf struggled from the final hurdle to the line when competing over almost three miles in that Hexham race. I am not sure that the going was actually any softer than when he had been successful over the same course over an intermediate trip on the 1st June.
Maybe his below par effort was more to do with the combination of the good to soft ground and the longer distance. Either way I will mark up Tickenwolf’s claims when he competes on a sound surface at any distance from two and a half miles to three miles; particularly if he returns to compete at Hexham. I suspect he remains well handicapped and he can go close again when he gets his ideal conditions.
The winner of that latest race at Hexham was the well handicapped Darling Miss and she followed up her success with another victory off a 7lbs higher mark at Uttoxeter just four days later. Her bid to extend that quick fire winning run was thwarted narrowly by Always Tipsy at Perth last Saturday.
The horse that finished back in third place on that last occasion was the Peter Bowen-trained mare Get An Oscar who is worth noting. She was only beaten by two in form horses at Perth and also finished 22 lengths clear of the rest of the field. She is rated 102 at the moment which makes her very interesting as she now qualifies for a 0-100 handicap hurdle. This would represent a significant drop in grade for her as she has performed consistently well of late in 0-115 and 0-120 handicaps.
Back to the 15th June at Hexham where the Alan King trained Fidux got the better of the Dan Skelton novice Notwhatiam. I strongly suspect that Fidux is flattered by the notion that he stayed on powerfully to the line to wear down the leader. Personally I feel confident that the Skelton horse stopped to nothing after the last fence once again and thus allowed Fidux to take the spoils close to the finish. Notwhatiam had done the same thing last time out at Worcester when allowing Potterman (another Alan King runner) to draw clear of him from the final fence to the line. Potterman has since finished well beaten at Ffos Las under a penalty which adds to the possibility that the form of Fidux, Potterman and Notwhatiam is not as good as their respective elevated marks would imply.