The cold snap has taken its toll over the past week, with a number of meetings called off due to frozen ground, but thankfully Hereford has been given the green light today following a morning inspection, and I like the chances of three running on the seven-race card, as well as one at Wolverhampton.
It's always a quieter month in January, but there is some decent racing coming up, with the rescheduled Grade One Lawlor's Of Naas Novice Hurdle the feature on Wednesday.
Warwick's biggest meeting of the year, featuring the Ballymore Leamington Novices' Hurdle, and also the Classic Handicap Chase, is the highlight on Saturday, and Festival Trials Day is also set to take centre stage at Cheltenham on January 30, all of which will be shown live on Racing TV.
Best of luck if you side with the selections below on Monday. For what it's worth, I would nominate Apple Rock as the nap.
This ten-year-old belatedly got off the mark at the 19th attempt when successful over course and distance in November and was in the process of going close again off an 8lb higher mark when falling at the second last at Ludlow last time out.
He was being challenged but would have been placed at least had he not fallen, and races off the same rating of 98 on Monday.
Conditional jockey Kevin Brogan was unable to claim when guiding the selection to his first victory, but takes a useful 7lb off here, so Jimmy Bell is able to race off just a 1lb higher mark than his cosy five-length success at Hereford.
Brogan has impressed in the saddle this season having recorded 15 wins from 62 rides since October (24 per cent strike-rate), and the young rider is certainly a name to look out for.
There is the possibility Jimmy Bell, who has raced prominently on his past two starts, could get his own way out in front as none of his rivals are confirmed front-runners, and proved he handles heavy ground when runner-up at Warwick last season.
He does need to prove that his mishap at Ludlow has not left its mark, but he will be in the mix if producing his best here and is worth chancing each-way at 11-1 with Paddy Power or Betfair, who are both paying four places.
This youngster was well-backed when making a successful debut in a bumper at Hereford in 2019, suggesting he was showing plenty of promise at home, and has found only two above-average rivals too good on his two runs over hurdles since.
He was not disgraced when second to Flic Ou Voyou, who is now rated 135, on his hurdling debut, and pulled clear of the third when runner-up behind Annual Invictus, who won his next two starts with ease, last time out.
He has room for improvement in the jumping department, but an opening rating of 120 probably underestimates The Mick Preston who is likely to improve again with those runs under his belt now handicapping.
His rivals on Monday are not in the same calibre as the horses who have beaten him so far, and he ought to prove hard to beat here as he has also shown he handles heavy ground.
The obvious danger is Song Of The Hunter who was in the lead when falling two from home over course and distance in December, and Kevin Brogan is booked to ride.
I am hoping Kevin Brogan will complete a double in this contest – and not in the 2.50pm! – as Apple Rock looks set to bounce back following a couple of below-par runs.
Ben Pauling’s charge pulled 17 lengths clear of the third when defeating Soyouthinksoagain, who bolted up on his next start, when getting off the mark on his handicap debut at Carlisle in October where he travelled well throughout the race.
His next start under a 7lb penalty can be excused as he never went with the same zest returning to a left-handed track eight days later and was probably still feeling the effects of his exertions at Carlisle.
Upped in trip to three miles at Ascot last time out, he travelled noticeably well throughout the race before joining the leaders and touched evens in-running on the exchanges until his stamina was stretched and he ended up fading into sixth.
He also raced a shade keenly at Ascot, which will have taken its toll late on, and the drop back in trip is a wise move as it should also enable him to settle better.
Apple Rock remains on a 9lb higher mark than his victory at Carlisle, but Kevin Brogan takes 3lb off his back, and his mount looks overpriced at 9-1.
Lihou has proved consistent over the past couple of seasons and ought to be capable of taking advantage of a drop in grade here.
David Evans’ sprinter went close in a 0-95 handicap when last seen, and was also not beaten far when fourth in a higher grade over course and distance in December where he pulled hard having been boxed in.
The five-year-old made all when successful at Lingfield in November and I would not be surprised if his rider, Darragh Keenan, attempts to grab the lead from stall six as none of his seven rivals are likely to lead.
Providing he breaks well, he could prove hard to peg back, despite being 4lb above his last winning mark, and Keenan again takes 3lb off.Fancy getting your hands on newly-designed Racing TV Gilet for FREE? Click here for more details!
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