Racing at Taunton and Saturday afternoons don’t usually go together, but it’s a good-looking card down at the Somerset track, featuring the Weatherbys Portman Cup.
My colleague Nick Luck will be reporting live from the course on Racing TV – he has been brave enough to admit that this is actually going to be his first visit, but I know he will be made most welcome
A big field here, but few obviously promising types and if there is one that is capable of stepping up, then hopefully it is the selection. He was relatively strong in the betting for his first run in a bumper on the back of his pedigree and connections, but has been less fancied since then and in truth hasn’t overwhelmed in terms of his talents.
However, he gave the strongest hint yet that better was to come when eighth of 20 in a good race at Newbury last time. Philip Hobbs has got him in a very lowly contest for his first start in handicaps now, and if there is any talent there, he will surely be able to show it in this grade.
2.40 Haydock: Prime Venture (each-way)
Still a maiden over fences, it is clearly asking a lot for him to break his duck in a prestigious race such as this, but he has been running well enough in contests such as the Welsh National - in which he was fourth last time out - to suggest he can at least get into a place again.
Evan Williams wins races at Haydock and I have no hesitation backing his jockey choice either. His daughter, Isabel, rode this horse in three good handicap hurdles back in 2018 and did well at such an early stage in her career.
She has progressed very well since then and is an accomplished claiming rider who takes Prime Venture’s weight down to 9st 11lb. That will definitely be an asset after three miles-plus around Haydock Park in very soft ground.
Third in the Welsh National for the second year running last month, while that race rather than this was clearly his main target, he has been given a chance here to run in a less competitive event and one where the race conditions favour him.
Remember this? Yala Enki wins the 2018 Grand National Trial at Haydock by 54 lengths!
He has won his races by galloping and getting into a strong rhythm and as a result of his positive style has probably found himself in the eye of the handicapper and therefore carrying too much weight against more progressive types nowadays. Here he is up against horses with a similar profile to his, but he is relatively fresh and I feel this track will suit him more than others. Along from the enigmatic Valtor, he is best in at the weights by a significant margin too.
Nicky Henderson has his team in great form and has been mopping up in novice events all week, which possibly means this mare might go off short, but if she builds on her Southwell debut over fences she is good enough to win off this mark.
She made much of the running there so a handy track like Taunton should suit her and only gave in after a mistake three out. It will be a surprise if she can’t take a step forward from that.
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