PC: Dawson City after winning the 2018 Devon National at Exeter Racecourse
1- 2:05 Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Series Qualifier)
2- 3:45 GG Fast Results Mares’ Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier)
3- 4:20 Healthy Pets Devon National Handicap Chase
1) The Pertemps qualifier sees a competitive race, which always ends up happening with these contests. The trip is just shy of 3 miles, and the going is Good to Soft. The favourite is currently Dragon D’Estruval for Nicky Henderson and Daryl Jacob. This 6-year-old is to have only his fourth run in Britain and his second crack 3 miles. He disappointed last time over 3 miles when finishing 7th of 12 behind the likes of Aux Ptits Sions, De Name Evades Me, Rockpoint and the winner, Vive Le Roi. He was 11/4 joined favourite that day but weakened away after 2 out, perhaps not quite getting the trip. However, his last run was much more promising over 2 miles 4 furlongs when finishing 3rd in a competitive Handicap Hurdle. There could be more to come over 3 miles, but he is a very weak favourite in my eyes. The next horse I want to look at is Boyhood. Tom George’s runner is a consistent horse who’s form figures read 141-2. His most recent appearance saw him come second to First Assignment who went on to be a close 3rd behind Shades of Midnight, last Saturday’s Rendlesham Hurdle hero and the Staying division’s most promising contender, Paisley Park. His form has panned out very well, and if he is up to it, he should have a chance. Another to look at is Robin Waters for Dan Skelton. He is a lightly raced 6-year-old who has shown considerable ability. His last run saw him finish a remote 2nd of 2 in a Novice Chase at Aintree. However, he may be excused for that as he bled from the nose and lost a shoe in-running. Now back to hurdles, with a recent wind op on his side, he may have a chance considering his 6th of 20 in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (grade 1) at the Cheltenham Festival last year. He’s a promising horse who may be best watched this time. Emma Lavelle has a runner in this field, Flemcara, who bounced back to form when 3rd of 16 in a hot Handicap Chase (grade 3) last time out. On his return to hurdles (for the first time since March last year), he seems to have a strong chance, although he would love the ground to be softer. Thomas Campbell is another interesting horse in this race who is returning to 3 miles after finishing 4th of 6 in the Relkeel Hurdle in January behind Midnight Shadow, Wholestone and Old Guard. 3 miles will suit him, and now he’s back to hurdles he should have no jumping concerns. 8/1 seems a good price for this horse as he could potentially go close if on his A-game. The highly in form team, Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden have Divin Bere who is trying 3 miles for the first time. This new trip could see him improving on but it’s hard to see him putting his head in front here. Other horses in the field include: For Good Measure (hasn’t won since 2015 but comes back to hurdles to try to change that), Buckhorn Timothy (won last time out but needs to justify a 5lb rise and improve on from that performance- workable), Culture De Sivola (showed great improvement in 2018, taking a couple of nice prizes, but needs to continue that progression to be involved here), Bailarico (first time in a handicap which could command improvement after River Don Hurdle flop), Minella Rocco (2nd in the 2017 Gold Cup but hasn’t performed since then- hard to vouch for), Poker Play (hasn’t won since 2016- hard to see this race being any different) and Lord of The Island (2nd run after a lay off of over a year- could be more in the locker but hardly convincing last time out).
2nd Thomas Campbell
2) The next race on the card I want to look at is the GG fast results Mares’ Handicap Hurdle, a qualifier for the challenger Mares’ Hurdle Series Final. The favourite is Annie Mc, a very popular mare on social media. She was an 18-length winner last time out at Chepstow (five weeks ago). However, she does have to cope with a mammoth 10lb rise at joined top weight (11st 10lbs). Connections think the world of this mare, she could go far. Next in the market is Aimee De Sivola for Nick Williams and Lizzie Kelly. This mare is having her first start in Handicap company but is very much open to improvement at a good weight. Another horse to mention is Love Lane. Henry Oliver’s mare was a winner here last year and is coming off of the back of two wins in handicap company. She’s one to watch. Dino’s Benefit is next. She was desperately unlucky in a qualifier for this division last time out, having been only touched off by a nose after drifting left. She carries joined top weight after receiving a 3lb rise for her effort last time. One to consider for each way chances. Giveaway Glance was disappointing behind some top-class Mares in December, but before that had shown considerable promise. I think she’s up against it this time but may be one to watch in future handicap competitions. Other horses in the race include: The Kings Baby (not performed since leaving Ireland, unlikely to show enough improvement to win here), Awesome Rosie (been off the track since last June when racing well below average- not backable), Vue Cavaliere (British debut will NEED to eek more out of this horse to be involved) and Legend Lade (currently completely out of form with no win since 2016- 40/1 seems kind).
1st Annie Mc
2nd Dino’s Benefit
3) The Devon National is the big race of the day at Exeter and is a 16-runner competition. Probably isn’t as strong of a race this year than in previous years, but still interesting, nonetheless. The current favourite is Jepeck, Anthony Honeyball’s 10-year-old. He was 3rd in this last year behind Dawson City who re-opposes. His win at Ffos Las last time out for his new stable creates serious respect in this contest. Next in the market comes an unexposed gelding of Richard Mitford-Slade’s yard, Samuel Jackson. He was fortunate to get off the mark over fences last time when the leader came down at the second last fence but remains an interesting prospect over this distance having never gone this far before. The runner up of the Lincolnshire National at Market Rasen, Zerachiel, comes here having not run since. Its interesting that he hasn’t yet managed to complete a race over 3 miles 6 furlongs but based on his last performance he could be in with a chance here if managing this time. Seamus Mullins sends I See You Well to this race after falling five out in the Sussex National at Plumpton when going nicely in 3rd. He has 5lb claimer, Daniel Sansom on board and, if he can perform like he did last time, could be up there in the closing stages, providing he stays on all fours. Calin Du Brizais was 2nd in the race that I See You Well came to grief in and is a highly consistent performer. However, he does struggle to get his head in front and could find this race difficult if he decides to jump left again. Courtown Oscar is a horse who was beaten a long way when put back over hurdles after 14 months off the track. If he can reproduce his efforts from late 2017, he could be a player, but his last race doesn’t fill me with enormous confidence in him. Next up is Aurillac who was 4th behind Samuel Jackson in a Novice Chase at Exeter in January. He looks to be up against it here. Popular grey chaser, Unioniste reappears here after winning three hunter chases last season. This is his first time back in handicap company for considerable time and may find this too competitive. Last year’s winner, Dawson City, is back here after a good 7th of 20 in the Grade 3 Coral Welsh National. He was ridden too far back that day, so could have finished further up the field. Nonetheless, he is worth considering this time despite being 4lbs higher this year. Other horses in this race include: Le Boizelo (loves Exeter and could have an E/W squeak if handling the trip), Chic Name (won a very similar race at Perth last April- if back to that form, he could be a player), Sandy Beach (hasn’t been the same since his come back win after a wind operation- unlikely to come back to life here), Another Venture (only in his second season of chasing- could be a nice prospect in time), Dancing Shadow (been poor this season, no reason to think he’ll figure) and Mountain of Mourne (a maiden over fences still- 100/1 tells the story of his chances).
1st Dawson City
2nd I See You Well
3rd Calin Du Brizais
Feel free to send in your picks for the races discussed and your reasons for them, I would love to hear what you think of this small, but competitive race meeting that is very close to my heart!
Thanks for reading!