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Chris Dixon's Sunday service: Richard Johnson and Philip Hobbs hold key to Exeter opener

By Chris Dixon@cdixon82
Sun 11 Feb 2018

By Chris Dixon

Ayr managed to pass a morning inspection so racing goes ahead on what will be very testing conditions, while it will also be very hard work at Exeter where the ground is also described as heavy.

Ability to handle conditions and see out the trip well will be at a premium so I have focussed on the proven mudlarks that stay well for Sunday’s three selections.

2.00 Exeter - Samburu Shujaa at 5-2 with Bet365:

Blu Cavalier is the one to beat with the form of his eight-length second to If The Cap Fits at Exeter last time working out very well.

However, he is a short price for a horse who is unproven on testing ground and has needed big gaps between his races so far and I think Samburu Shujaa looks the value call.

He looked a strong stayer when third on his hurdles debut at Taunton last time, a race which has been boosted by the subsequent success of runner-up King Of Realms.

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He looks like he should improve for this more galloping and stiffer track on an even more testing surface than last time.

3.05 Exeter - Present Times at 4-1:

This looks an open race but Present Times went through the race at Chepstow last time like a horse who still had more to offer from his rising handicap mark and is taken to notch a fourth win from his last five starts despite edging up another 1lb for that defeat.

He has nine lengths to find with Lovenormoney from their meeting at Chepstow but is 9lbs better off and the anticipated run of the race is expected to suit him better than his old adversary.

Lovenormoney was able to dictate the terms of the race at Chepstow but is likely to face some pressure on the lead this time, while he also took the shortest route at Chepstow whereas Present Times was kept wide and gave away lots of ground as a result.

A previous winner over course and distance, Present Times has been freshened up since that last outing and is expected to return in top form.

4.30 Ayr - Smuggler’s Stash at 4-1:

A few of these will relish the conditions and Smuggler’s Stash is certainly among that number.

It is never easy viewing if you have backed this lazy type but he is a thorough stayer and the emphasis on stamina should play to his strengths.

Consistency has not exactly been his strong suit, but three of his last four runs have suggested there is a race in him off this kind of mark, including when splitting a pair of well-handicapped horses in So Satisfied and Spirit Of Hale in a tight finish at Catterick last time.

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He would ideally want a decent gallop so that the leaders are coming back to him and there looks to be a chance of that happening, while his yard are in excellent form.

Favourite Finaghy Ayr was in front of him at Carlisle a few runs back but his jumping cannot be relied upon so I am hoping Smuggler’s Stash can reverse the form, though Sharney Sike, who is on a good mark on old form and ran well over a trip shy of his best last time, is worth a saver at 7-1.

Chris Dixon's Sunday tips:

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