12.40 Thirsk: Sheepscar Lad
Hopefully it is not utter madness tipping up Sheepscar Lad, who seemingly contrives to get beat every time he runs by one way or another.
It seems ridiculous that his 7lb claiming jockey got a ban when beaten on him last time (and has not ridden in public here since). It did look bad and Sheepscar Lad is notoriously tricky to win with.
However, there are a couple of changes that might just work the oracle on Saturday afternoon. The cheekpieces are on obvious one and it seems surprising that different headgear has not been tried since 2016. Also, the last time he did win was after a considerable break so I will take the chance now that the yard is among the winners. He is fresh and Tom Eaves replaces an inexperienced claimer.
5.45 Thirsk: Kalma
Alan King has his team in fine form and this three-year-old filly went into the tracker after her reappearance with a note to pay attention when upped in distance.
She gets that here and the long straight at Nottingham may well suit her much better than Wolverhampton.
Kalma had three runs in maidens last term, when going off at big prices, and didn’t really show. However, she got a workable handicap mark and showed the benefit last time of a step into handicaps.
She could have gone close, too, with a clear run and an extra furlong, which she gets here. She runs off the same mark and one of those that finished behind her has already come out and won. It might be a race to keep an eye on at this lowish level.
6.15 Nottingham: Russian Virtue
Jamie Spencer presumably had the pick of a couple of fancied runners in this race but he definitely has unfinished business on this maiden four-year-old and looks to have chosen the right one.
Russian Virtue was at single-figure odds in a big field handicap at Doncaster on his reappearance, his price largely based on the run in a red hot July Newmarket maiden last term. He certainly signalled that he would be a winner soon, given a typical Spencer hold-up ride he was making up his ground smoothly when badly hampered just over a furlong out and having no chance thereafter.
He appears to be more than capable of winning off this mark. I fancy he might be one to stay with for a while.
7.15 Nottingham: Refuge
As regulars readers of this column know, I am drawn to anything ridden by Joanna Mason and though it is Refuge’s seasonal debut I feel he looks to be a lightly raced improver in a field of exposed modest sprinters.
It took experience and application of headgear to get Refuge to win last season, but he ended the campaign in good form and hopefully can progress again.
It goes without saying that I feel Mason claiming in an apprentice handicap is a free 3lb.
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